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plainly enough what he meant, and treasured the few words he had spoken to her. Well might he sweetly and touchingly say of himself (I draw from the note-book again) :
The Angel who presided at my birth
Blake's mind was so sensitively strung, as in intercourse with others to give immediate response to the right appeals. All speak of his conversation as most interesting, nay enchanting, to hear, Copious and varied, the fruit of great, but not morbid, intellectual activity, it was, in its ordinary course, full of mind, sagacity, and varied information. Above all, it was something quite different from that of other men : conversation which carried you ‘from earth to 'heaven and back again, before you knew where you were.' Even a young girl would feel the fascination, though sometimes finding his words wild and hard to follow. To conventional minds, it often seemed a mixture of divinity, blasphemy, and licence; but a mixture not even by them to be quickly forgotten. In a walk with a sympathetic listener, it seldom flagged. He would have something pertinent to say about most objects they chanced to pass, were it but a bit of old wall. And such as had the privilege of accompanying him in a country walk felt their perception of natural beauty greatly enhanced. Nature herself seemed strangely more spiritual. Blake's mind warmed his listener's, kindled his imagination ; almost creating in him a new sense. Nor was his enjoyment of all that is great in Art, of whatever school or time, less genuine and vivid: notwithstanding an appearance to the contrary in some passages of his writings, where, in doing battle energetically for certain great principles, random blows not a few, on either side the mark, come down on unoffending heads; or where, in the consciousness that a foolish world had insisted on raising the less great above the greatest, he delighted
to make matters even by thrusting them as much too far below: 'I think I hear him say,' writes one of those friends whose congeniality ensured serene, wise moods on Blake's part, “As fine as ' possible, Sir. It is not given to man to do better;' (this when talking of the great examples of Art, whether antique or modern). 'He delighted to think of Raphael, Giulio Romano, Polidoro, and
others, working together in the chambers of the Vatican, engaged, ' without jealousy, as he imagined, in the carrying out of one great 'common object; and he used to compare it (without any intentional irreverence) to the co-labours of the holy Apostles. He dwelt on this subject very fondly. . . . Among spurious old pictures, he had met with many “ Claudes,” but spoke of a few which he had seen really untouched and unscrubbed, with the greatest ' delight; and mentioned, as a peculiar charm, that in these, when 'minutely examined, there were, upon the focal lights of the foliage, small specks of pure white which made them appear to be glittering with dew which the morning sun had not yet dried up. ... His description of these genuine Claudes, I shall never forget. He • warmed with his subject, and it continued through an evening 'walk. The sun was set; but Blake's Claudes made sunshine in ' that shady place.' . ...Of Albert Dürer, he remarked that his 'most finished woodcuts, when closely examined, seemed to consist
principally of outline ;—that they were “everything and yet 'nothing." .... None but the finest of the antiques, he held, equalled Michael Angelo.'
As we have seen, Blake's was no 'poetic poverty,' of a kind to excite the pensive interest of sentimental people without shocking their nerves; but real, prosaic poverty. Such appearances' as I have described tasked his whole income to maintain. And his was an honourable code: he was never, amid all his poverty, in debt.
Money,' says Mr. Palmer, ‘he used with careful frugality, but 'never loved it; and believed that he should be always supplied with it as it was wanted : in which he was not disappointed. ' And he worked on with serenity when there was only a shilling
in the house. Once (he told me) he spent part of one of these last shillings on a camel's hair brush. .... He would have laughed very much at the word status, which has been naturalized into our language of late years. Last shillings were, at all periods of Blake's life, a frequent incident of his household economy. For, while engrossed in designing, he had often an aversion to resuming his graver, or to being troubled about money matters. It put him out very much when Mrs. Blake referred to the financial topic, or found herself constrained to announce, “The ' money is going, Mr. Blake.' 'Oh, d— the money !' he would shout; "it's always the money! Her method of hinting at the odious subject became, in consequence, a very quiet and expressive one. She would set before him at dinner just what there was in the house, without any comment until, finally, the empty platter had to make its appearance: which hard fact effectually reminded him it was time to go to his engraving for awhile. At that, when fully embarked again, he was not unhappy; work being his natural element.
Allan Cunningham has talked of Blake's living on a crust. But, in these latter years he, for the most part, lived on good, though simple fare. His wife was an excellent cook-a talent which helped to fill out Blake's waistcoat a little, as he grew old. She could even prepare a made dish, when need be. As there was no servant, he fetched the porter for dinner himself, from the house at the corner of the Strand. Once, pot of porter in hand, he espied coming along a dignitary of Art-that highly respectable man, William Collins, R.A., whom he had met in society a few evenings before. The Academician was about to shake hands, but seeing the porter, drew up, and did not know him. Blake would tell the story very quietly, and without sarcasm. Another time, Fuseli came in, and found Blake with a little cold mutton before him for dinner; who, far from being disconcerted, asked his friend to join him. “Ah! by G- !'exclaimed Fuseli, 'this is the reason you can do as you like. Now I can't do this.' His habits were very temperate. It was only in later years he took porter regularly. He then fancied it soothed him, and would sit and muse over his pint after a one o'clock dinner. When he drank wine, which, at home, of course, was seldom, he professed a liking to drink off good draughts from a tumbler, and thought the wine glass system absurd : a very heretical opinion in the eyes of your true wine drinkers. Frugal and abstemious on principle, and for pecuniary reasons, he was sometimes rather imprudent, and would take anything that came in his way. A nobleman once sent him some oil of walnuts he had had expressed purposely for an artistic experiment. Blake tasted it, and went on tasting, till he had drunk the whole. When his lordship called to ask how the experiment had prospered, the artist had to confess what had become of the ingredients. It was ever after a standing joke against him.
In his dress, there was a similar triumph of the man over his poverty, to that which struck one in his rooms. In-doors, he was careful, for economy's sake, but not slovenly: his clothes were threadbare, and his grey trousers had worn black and shiny in front, like a mechanic's. Out of doors, he was more particular, so that his dress did not, in the streets of London, challenge attention either way. He wore black knee breeches and buckles, black worsted stockings, shoes which tied, and a broad-brimmed hat. It was something like an old-fashioned tradesman's dress. But the general impression he made on you was that of a gentleman, in a way of his own.
In person, there was much in Blake which answered to the remarkable man he was. Though low in stature, not quite five
feet and a half, and broad shouldered, he was well made, and did not strike people as short. For he had an upright carriage and a good presence; he bore himself with dignity, as not unconscious of his natural claims. The head and face were strongly stamped with the power and character of the man. There was great volume of brain in that square, massive head, that piled up brow, very full and rounded at the temples, where, according to phrenologists, ideality or imagination resides. His eyes were fine'wonderful eyes,' someone calls them; prominently set, but bright, spiritual, visionary ;-not restless or wild, but with 'a look of clear heavenly exaltation' The eyes of some of the old men in his Job, recall his own to surviving friends. His nose was insignificant as to size, but had that peculiarity which gives to a face an expression of fiery energy, as of a high-mettled steed, 'a little clenched nostril; a nostril that opened as far as it could,
but was tied down at one end.' His mouth was wide, the lips not full, but tremulous, and expressive of the great sensibility which characterized him. He was short-sighted, as the prominence of his eyes indicated ; a prominence in keeping with his faculty for languages, according to the phrenologists again. He wore glasses only occasionally.
Mrs. Blake, the artist's companion at almost every hour of the twenty-four, now, as of old, cheerfully accepted the lot of a poor man's wife as few gifted men's wives are prepared to do. “Rigid, punctual, firm, precise,' and, as I have said, a good housewife, she extracted the utmost possible amount of domestic comfort out of their slender means, which she, like her husband, was scrupulously careful never to exceed. She shared his destiny and softened it, ministering to his daily wants. Not that he put off everything menial upon her, willing though she were. For many years,' writes J. T. Smith, who knew both well, he made a constant practice of lighting the fire, and putting on the kettle for breakfast