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well, but frequently he chose to draw one of form, but it is to impossibilities impossibilities—heads and legs in im- of drawing not less wonderful than the possible attitudes, muscles developed impossibility of colouring a. tiger blue beyond all possible tension. In this and green that we ventured to refer he was supposed to resemble Michael when just now speaking of the supposed Angelo; but the great Italian, if he resemblance of his style to that of strained to the utmost degree the appear Michael Angelo. Neither for colouring ance of muscular action, never repre- nor for drawing, however, should Blake sented actions which the muscles were be judged by only a few of his works. incapable of performing. Blake often Much of his art looks like mere nightoutdid nature in this way. Sometimes, mare, and oppresses one sometimes too, he seemed to have no idea of what with the oppressive hideousness, somecomposition is. The first glance at many times with the oppressive loveliness, of of his designs is so far from exciting night-mare. To understand the man expectation of any good thing, that it well he ought to be studied as a whole, is bewildering. The details of the and his admirers ought to make some picture are tossed about in hopeless attempt to bring his innumerable works confusion, which it takes some little time together. Then we should see the enorto understand. Yet, notwithstanding mous energy of the man ; his prodigious these defects, there is scarcely a drawing power of invention; how grand and how of Blake's in which close study does not graceful he could be in design ; how detect rare beauties and suggestions. spiritual and poetical were all his He was wonderfully suggestive, and it thoughts and views of life. He is best is not without reason that the authors known by his illustrations to Blair's and editors of the present biography Grave; but the volumes of coloured attribute to Blake's influence much that designs are even more interesting. Some is peculiarly impressive in the style both of these will be found in the Print-room of Flaxman and Stothard. His angels of the British Museum. But still finer are among the finest things we have examples belong to the collections of ever seen, and his treatment of angelic Lord Houghton and Captain Butts. In forms is famous for originality. His the possession of Captain Butts are three sense of colour, too, is most remarkable, works which we have never seen ; but and receives high praise from a colourist, Mr. William Rossetti is a competent Mr. Dante Rossetti, than whom no living judge, we accept his opinion of them painter is better able to judge. The without misgiving, and we shall quote painters who are known among us as that opinion as a remarkable testimony pre-Raphaelites are most excellent of all to the wonderworking faculty of Blake's in their sense of colour, and Blake may pencil. Mr. Rossetti has made a debe regarded as the herald and forerunner scriptive catalogue of every one of Blake's of the pre-Raphaelite system of colour, works of which he could find a trace“in which tints laid on side by side, no matter how slight; and the three “ each in its utmost force, are made by works to which we refer bear in his “masterly treatment to produce a start- catalogue respectively the numbers 18,44, “ling and novel effect of truth.” Mr. and 54. Here is what Mr. Rossetti Rossetti admits, however, that now and says :then an unaccountable perversity may be apparent in Blake's colour, as when a
ELOHIM CREATING ADAM. “ tiger is painted in fantastic streaks of
The Creator is an amazingly grand figure, “ red, green, blue, and yellow, while a
worthy of a primeval imagination or intuition. “ tree stem at his side tantalizingly He is struggling, as it were, above Adam, who "supplies the tint which one might lies distended on the ground, a serpent twined “ venture to think his due, and is perfect
around one leg. The colour has a terrible
power in it; and the entire design is truly a * tiger-colour !” A mistake of this kind
mighty one--perhaps on the whole the greatest in colour is more easily detected than monument extant of Blake's genius.
THE SACRIFICE OF JEPHTHAN'S DAUGHTER. reap the vine of the earth, and the
The loveliness and pathos of innocent girl. ploughman to plough up the cities and hood could not be more gloriously expressed towers." It is in such titles as these, than in this figure of the fair young creature, and in some parts of the artist's conduct. perfectly naked and rose-chapleted, kneeling upon a lofty altar, full-fronting the spectator.
that the indications of insanity are reSwathes of rushes for burning are behind her: cognized. For conduct, what should at either side, her tambourine and lyre. Two we say of the man who would take his maidens stand sorrowfully at each angle of the little back garden in this grimy metroaltar. Jephthah kneels in front, his back
polis for the Garden of Eden, and, to the turned, his arms wide-spread, invoking the divine sanction upon the tremendous deed. horror of all his neighbours, might be To right and to left, clouds, here louring in seen in the costume of our first parents brown, there blue, droop like heavy folds of
sauntering about it, his wife bearing him curtain. This ranks amongst Blake's noblest designs.
company ? Mr. Butts called one day FIRE.
upon Blake, and found him with his Blake, the supreme painter of fire, in this
wife in the summer-house, all innocent his typical picture of fire, is at his greatest; of clothing. “Come in,” cried Blake, perhaps it is not in the power of art to trans “it's only Adam and Eve, you know.” cend this treatment of the subject in its essen
Husband and wife had been reciting tial features. The water-colour is unusually complete in execution. The conflagration,
passages from the “Paradise Lost,” and, horrid in glare, horrid in gloom, fills the back to enter more fully into the spirit of the ground; its javelin-like cones surge up amid poet's verse, they had dressed, or rather conical forms of buildings (Langham Church
undressed for their parts. Blake had a steeples,' they may be called, as in No. 151). In front, an old man receives from two youths
great opinion of the gymnosophists, and a box and a bundle which they have recovered ; would insist on the virtues of nakedness. two mothers and several children crouch and Nor was he alone in his views. He got shudder, overwhelmed; other figures behind his wife to accept them undoubtingly : are running about, bewildered what to do next.
and we are told of a family in the upper Blake was not a practical man, and, ranks of society, contemporary with very much owing to his impracticability, Blake, though unknown to him, who had to struggle all his life with poverty had embraced the theory of “philoand neglect, notwithstanding his genius. sophical nakedness.” Believing in the He was greatly beloved by his friends, speedy coming of a golden age similar to but he had queer notions ; he was apt the pristine state of innocence, the elders to quarrel, and the subjects which he in this family taught the children to run chose for the exhibition of his art were naked about the house for a few hours not likely to allure the public of his every day, and in this condition the day. The title of one of his pictures little innocents would run and open the was, "A Spirit vaulting from a Cloud to door to Shelley. Their mother followed turn and wind a fiery Pegasus. The the same practice more privately, lockhorse of intellect is leaping from the ing herself in her room; but she declared cliffs of memory and reasoning; it is a to her friends that the habit of going barren rock; it is also called the barren about every day for a time in a state of waste of Locke and Newton.” Is any- nudity did her much moral good. “She body likely to be attracted by such a felt the better for it-so innocent during title? Another picture is entitled “The the rest of the day.” spiritual form of Nelson guiding Levia. It will be readily understood that the than, in whose wreathings are enfolded man who could thus defy public opinion the nations of the earth.” The com- had but a low opinion of his contempopanion picture to this is described as raries, and had a very high opinion of “The spiritual form of Pitt guiding himself. He had a great contempt for Behemoth : he is that angel who, pleased many men whom the world has conto perform the Almighty's orders, rides sented to hold in high estimation. on the whirlwind, directing the storms Stuthard, his friend, he could speak of of war; he is ordering the reaper to as a fool; he could also accuse him of
theft-of stealing his ideas. Having addressed his friend Flaxman once in these terms,—“You, O dear Flaxman, “are a sublime archangel-my friend “and companion from eternity. In the “ Divine bosom is our dwelling-place," he could turn upon him at another time and call him a blockhead. This, how. ever, was but tit-for-tat. He was under the impression that Flaxman had called him a madman, and so he retaliated in the couplet~ I mock thee not, though I by thee am
mocked : Thou call'st me madman, but I call thee
blockhead. When he wanted to say a thing, he said it in no mincing terms. Thus he observed: “They say, there is no straight line in nature. This is a lie.” And so he thonght nothing of calling men fools and blockheads—even his friends. It was in this way, as we have seen, that he hit Flaxman and Stothard, both his friends; and so also he flew at another friend. Hayley had been very kind to him, and he addressed Hayley in the following epigram :Thy friendship oft has made my heart to
ache; Do be my enemy for friendship’s sake. He said that Rembrandt, Correggio, and Rubens were manifest fools. Lord Bacon he described as the little Bacon—a fool, a liar, a villain, an atheist. He winds up his opinion with the assertion, “ he “ is like Sir Joshua, full of self-contradic" tion and knavery.” In another place he says: “Reynolds and Gainsborough “ blotted and blurred one against the “ other, and divided all the English “ world between them. Fuseli indig16 nant almost hid himself. I am hid.” Speaking of Rubens and Reynolds together, he says : “ Can I speak with too “ great contempt of such contemptible “ fellows? If all the princes in Europe “ were to patronize such blockheads, I, “ William Blake, a mental prince, would “ decollate and hang their souls as guilty “ of mental high treason.” He had an inordinate opinion of himself. He despised the flesh colour of Titian, Cor.
reggio, and Rubens, but said of himself that he defied competition in colouring. On another occasion he wrote, “I do not “ pretend to paint better than Raphael “or Michael Angelo or Giulio Romano, " or Albert Dürer, but I do pretend to “ paint finer than Rubens or Correggio, “ or Rembrandt or Titian." On yet another occasion he said, “I know and “ understand and can assuredly affirm " that the works I have done for you are “ equal to the Caracci or Raphael, and I “ am now some years older than Raphael “ was when he died.” Although it is not pleasant to read or hear opinions of this sort, let it not be supposed that he who held them was a cantankerous, hateful being. He was only a visionary, and, with all his inordinate self-admiration, and contempt for others, the friends who came much into contact with him found in him, and had a hearty love for, a very gentle, simple-minded man.
Before we conclude, we must say & word or two about Blake's prose writings. They display all his characteristicsforce, truth, wrongness, oddity, earnestness. But his remarks are always suggestive, and sometimes very original “ If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.” This was one of his favourite maxims, and it is sufficiently suggestive. Here, again, is a clear incisive remark : “ Names alter, " things never alter. I have known “ multitudes of those who would have “ been monks in the age of monkery, " and are deists in this deistical age.” Then, for oddity, look at this :-“ Moral “ virtues do not exist; they are allegories “and dissimulations. But time and “ space are real beings, a male and a “ female. Time is a man, Space is a “ woman, and her masculine portion is “ Death. We do not ask whether this be true or false. We ask what does it mean? Turning a few pages we come upon a passage which has a clear meaning, though a heretical one. “The fool “shall not enter into heaven, let him “ be ever so holy; holiness is not the “ price of entrance into heaven." He had a great horror of stupidity, and, liko Thomas Carlyle, seemed to regard it as
the unpardonable sin. Speaking of the for enabling us to become better acstupidity of the Church, he says : “ The quainted with Blake. In saying so “modern Church crucifies Christ with much, however, it is not necessary that " the head downwards.” He talks we should share the opinion of Mr. about heaven and hell as if he had been Dante Rossetti and his friends that there, and knew all about them. “In the world is unjust to its great men. “hell,” he says, “all is self-righteous. If Blake was a great man, and yet was “ness ; there is no such thing there as not appreciated in his generation, it is not " forgiveness of sin." So of the angels necessary to blame the world. The blame he observes, “ It is not because angels dies generally in the artist himself, and " are holier than men or devils that we are amazed to read the list of great “makes them angels; but because they unknowns whom Mr. Dante Rossetti “ do not expect holiness from one has discovered. It is a list which fills “ another, but from God only." Next us with a profound sense of our living we come upon a sentence which will in a world that is choke full of inglorious strike the women with consternation :- Miltons and guiltless Cromwells. Mr. "In eternity woman is the emanation Dante Rossetti is less known to the " of man; she has no will of her own; public than he ought to be. He has " there is no such thing in eternity as never exhibited his pictures, and he is " a female will." In that case, however, known to the world chiefly through his eternity must be very different from least important works. It is no secret, time. Blake probably took his notion Showever, that in the opinion of a large of eternity from Mrs. Blake's unvarying circle of friends, well able to judge, he acquiescence in his whims. He was in is regarded as a man of extraordinary glory when he could get people to agree power of rare accomplishment, and cerwith him. In general he could not get tain to take a foremost place in the people to agree with him. He found art records of our time. But even from himself sadly out of joint with the time, such a man we refuse to accept, as and in most of what he did there is an applied to Blake, the epithets “inevident sense of pain. Ever and anon comparable," "unparalleled,” and the he seemed to be oppressed with night rest. Blake was a mighty being, but he mare. What we mean by nightmare is was great as a saurian, or a mammoth a vision of this kind :—He imagines that has little felt relation to the time himself descending into an infinite abyss, in which he lived. We are interested in fiery and smoky. In the far distance him with an intense interest, but it is the sun, though shining, is black; and the sort of interest we should feel in found it are fiery tracks, on which seeing one of the vast creatures of a revolve vast spiders, crawling after their prior epoch of the world suddenly come prey. Their prey are terrific shapes of to live among us. We recognise his animals sprung from corruption; the greatness, we wonder at the strength of air being full of them and apparently his thews and the weight of his stride; composed of them. And when Blake, but we do not wonder that Behemoth is descending into this horrible abyss, misplaced in this present world, and we inquired where was to be his eternal do not believe that, though his form is lot, he was told, “ Between the black unwonted, one can fairly speak of it as and the white spiders.”
incomparable. Our pre-Raphaelite friends Altogether, this biography of a man are fond of superlatives, and their style who, though continually wrong, was would be improved if they learnt to never weak, is one of the most curious keep ever at hand a little pepper-box studies of human life that we have ever full of “buts” and “ifs” and “percome across ; and we are grateful to hapses" with which to sprinkle their Mr. Gilchrist and to the Messrs. Rossetti pages
No. 61.–POL. XI.
THE LAST WISH.
OLD friend, you know I trust you. You have heard
See, somewhat rich must surely be contained
The case for you, so you but do my will.
You marvel. Yes, it seems a worthless prize,
They did not know 'twas this I prized above
Think you for wealth of titles or of gold
Upon the heart where once he laid this flower,
And I have kept my troth. God knows that jest