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of the same suggestive theme, is Let loose the Dogs of War-a Demon cheering on blood-hounds who seize a man by the throat; of which Mr. Ruskin possesses the original pencil sketch, Mr. Linnell the water-colour drawing.
During the summer of 1784, died Blake's father, an honest shopkeeper of the old school, and a devout man—a dissenter. He was buried in Bunhill Fields, on the fourth of July (a Sunday) says the Register. The eldest son, James,-a year and a half William's senior,—continued to live with the widow Catherine, and succeeded to the hosier's business in Broad Street, still a highly respectable street, and a good one for trade, as it and the whole neighbourhood continued until the era of Nash and the first gentleman in Europe.' Golden Square was still the town residence' of some half-dozen M.P.'s—for county or rotten borough ; Poland Street and Great Marlborough Street of others. Between this brother and the artist no strong sympathy existed, little community of sentiment or common ground (mentally) of any kind ; although indeed, James
- for the most part an humble matter-of-fact man—had his spiritual and visionary side too; would at times talk Swedenborg, talk of seeing Abraham and Moses, and to outsiders seem like his gifted brother'a bit mad'-a mild madman instead of a wild and stormy.
On his father's death, Blake, who found Design yield no income, Engraving but a scanty one, returned from Green Street, Leicester Fields, to familiar Broad Street. At No. 27, next door to his brother's, he set up shop as printseller and engraver, in partnership with a former fellow-apprentice at Basire's: James Parker, a man some six or seven years his senior. An engraving by Blake after Stothard, Zephyrus and Flora (a long oval), was published by the firm ‘Parker and Blake' this same year (1784). Mrs. Mathew, still friendly and patronizing, though one day to be less eager for the poet's services as Lion in Rathbone Place, countenanced, nay perhaps first set the scheme going—in an ill-advised philanthropic hour; favouring it,
if Smith's hints may be trusted, with solid pecuniary help. It will prove an ill-starred speculation ; Pegasus proverbially turning out an indifferent draught-horse. Mrs. Blake helped in the shop; the poet busied himself with his graver and pencil still. William Blake behind a counter would have been a curious sight to see! His younger and favourite brother, Robert, made one in the family ; William taking him as a gratis pupil in engraving. It must have been a singularly conducted commercial enterprise. No. 27 bears at present small trace—with its two quiet parlour-windows, apparently the same casements that have been there from the beginningof having once been even temporarily a shop. The house is of the same character as No. 28: a good-sized three-storied one, with panelled rooms; its original aspect (like that of No. 28) wholly disguised, externally, by all-levelling stucco. It is still a private mansion; but let out (now) in floors and rooms to many families, instead of one.
From 27, Broad Street, Blake in 1785 sent four water-colour drawings to the Academy-Exhibition, one, by the way, at which our old friend Parson Gardnor is still exhibiting—some seven Views of Lake Scenery. One of Blake's drawings is from Gray, The Bard. The others are subjects from the Story of Joseph: Joseph's Brethren bowing before him ; Joseph making himself known to them ; Joseph ordering Simeon to be bound. The latter series I have seen. The drawings are interesting for their imaginative merit, and as specimens, full of soft tranquil beauty, of Blake's earlier style: a very different one from that of his later and better-known works. Conceived in a dramatic spirit, they are executed in a subdued key, of which, extravagance is the last defect to suggest itself. The design is correct and blameless, not to say tame (for Blake), the colour full, harmonious and sober. At the head of the AcademyCatalogues of those days, stands the stereotype notification, The Pictures &c. marked (*) are to be disposed of. Blake's are not so marked : let us hope they were disposed of! The three Joseph drawings turned up within the last ten years in their original close rose-wood frames (a far from advantageous setting), at a broker's in Wardour Street, who had purchased them at a furniture-sale in the neighbourhood. Among Blake's fellow-exhibitors, it is now curious to note the small galaxy of still remembered names—Reynolds, Nollekens, Morland, Cosway, Fuseli, Flaxman, Stothard (the last three yet juniors)—sprinkling the mob of forgotten ones : among which such as West, Hamilton, Rigaud, Loutherbourg, Copley, Serres, Mary Moser, Russell, Dance, Farington Edwards, Garvey, Tomkins, are positive points of light. This year, by the way, Blake's friend Trotter exhibits a Portrait of the late Dr. Johnson, “a drawing in chalk from the life, about eighteen months before his death, which should be worth something.
Blake's brother Robert, his junior by nearly five years, had been a playfellow of Smith's, whose father lived near (in Great Portland Street); and from him we hear that · Bob, as he was familiarly called,' had ever been much beloved by all his companions. By William he was in these years not only taught to draw and engrave, but encouraged to exert his imagination in original sketches. I have come across some of these tentative essays, carefully preserved by Blake during life, and afterwards forming part of the large accumulation of artistic treasure remaining in his widow's hands : the sole legacy, but not at all unproductive, he had to bequeath her. Some are in pencil, some in pen and ink outline thrown up by a uniform dark ground washed in with Indian ink. They unmistakably show the beginner- not to say the child-in art; are naïf and archaic-looking; rude, faltering, often puerile or absurd in drawing ; but are characterized by Blake-like feeling and intention, having in short a strong family likeness to his brother's work. The subjects are from Homer and the poets. Of one or two compositions there are successive and each time enlarged versions. True imaginative animus is often made manifest by very imperfect means; in the composition of the groups, and the expressive disposition of the individual figure, or of an individual limb: as, e.g. (in one drawing), that solitary upraised arm stretched heaven-ward from out the midst of the panic-struck crowd of figures, who, embracing, huddle together with bowed heads averted from a Divine Presence. In another, a group of ancient men stand silent on the verge of a sea-girt precipice, beyond which they gaze towards awe-inspiring shapes and sights unseen by us. This last motive seems to have pleased Blake himself. One of his earliest attempts, if not his very earliest, in that peculiar stereotype process he soon afterwards invented, is a version of this very composition : marvellously improved in the treatment—in the disposition and conception of the figures (at once fewer and better contrasted), as well, of course, as in drawing; which was what Blake's drawing always was—whatever its wilful faultsnot only full of grand effect, but firm and decisive, that of a Master.
With Blake and with his wife, at the print shop in Broad Street, Robert for two happy years and a half lived in seldom disturbed accord. Such domestications however, always bring their own trials, their own demands for mutual self-sacrifice. Of which the following anecdote will supply a hint, as well as testify to much amiable magnanimity on the part of both the younger members of the household. One day, a dispute arose between Robert and Mrs. Blake. She, in the heat of discussion, used words to him, his brother (though a husband too) thought unwarrantable. A silent witness thus far, he could now bear it no longer, but with characteristic impetuositywhen stirred—rose and said to her: Kneel down and beg Robert's pardon directly, or you never see my face again!' A heavy threat, uttered in tones which, from Blake, unmistakably showed it was meant. She, poor thing! “thought it very hard,' as she would afterwards tell, to beg her brother-in-law's pardon when she was not in fault! But being a duteous, devoted wife, though by nature nowise