WITH INTELLECTUAL SPEARS & LONG WINGED ARROWS OF THOUGHT
BLAKE AND HAYLEY IN WITTREICH’S Angel of Apocalypse
Richly illustrated and densely documented, this book on “Blake’s idea of Milton” by a Milton scholar has the appearance of an admirable and exciting performance. So it was reviewed by Purvis E. Boyette (Blake Newsletter 39), and so it first appeared to me. In fact, I took it for a guide to new territory, and navigating by its footnotes and bibliography I steered back through Wittreich’s previous books and articles to the obscure and sometimes rare works of William Hayley (1745-1820), the sometimes Miltonist and sometimes patron of William Blake. And my wages were exasperation.
A close reading of Angel of Apocalypse reveals double disaster: the evidence is not evidence, and the arguments won’t stand to a position. The two faults feed each other, at the expense of the reader, so when he leaves the text to trace a reference he finds only a tenuous or illusory connection where he expected solid evidence, and when he returns to the text he soon finds himself robbed of his scrupulousness—for the emphatic position of page 248 becomes abandoned territory by page 251. This book is a shell game.
The trick of the shell game is to make a move before the observer starts counting, so you are always a jump ahead of him. Wittreich gets the jump on his reader with the fallacy of the dubious assumption. A central point—persistently referred to, repeatedly elaborated—is never argued in its own right, but instead is passed off in the footnotes as if it were an established fact. An instance is the idea that Hayley was an important influence on Blake. Wittreich cites Frederick Pierce as evidence, in a begin page 131 | sleight-of-hand where a question of degree is passed off as a matter of fact:
Pierce’s conclusion is that Blake, profoundly influenced by Hayley’s Life [of Milton] took imaginative hints from it. (p. 231)We are referred to Pierce’s article of 1929.1↤ 1 Frederick Pierce, “The Genesis and General Meaning of Blake’s Milton,” Modern Philology, 25 (1927), 165-78. In that article, we find Pierce citing lines from Hayley’s Life of Milton (1797) that seem to provide the plot for Blake’s brief epic Milton (begun 1804). Says Pierce, “it is possible that the central theme of Blake’s poem was suggested by two passages in Hayley’s Life.” In one Hayley imagines that Milton might come back from the other world to give the lie to his misinterpreters. In the other passage Hayley imagines Milton coming back specifically to revenge Dr. Johnson’s Life of him by writing a worse account of Johnson. Pierce points out that Blake had every opportunity to read Hayley’s Life, since Blake moved to Hayley’s village, Felpham, to work with Hayley, in 1800. Pierce concludes that Blake took “imaginative hints” (Pierce’s term) from such passages.
Whether Hayley’s influence is here “profound” (as Wittreich says) is another matter. This is not Pierce’s conclusion. Plot, of course, is profound only in an architectural sense: it is the basis of the shape and structure of a work. Thought and skill enter after the plot has been fixed: in the elaboration and development of the work. There is no profound thinking in Hayley’s plot for Milton. A giant, maligned by his inferiors, returns. This is a formula for hundreds of stories and myths, an idea re-invented, probably, by every child who has muttered at a parent. That Hayley is the source of the idea is interesting, perhaps, for the same reason that it is interesting that Lady Hesketh suggested the Sofa for the theme of Cowper’s Task. No particular originality, thoughtfulness, or active participation is assigned to the source; the source is distinguished only by his or her proximity to the artist. Pierce himself is careful not to inflate Hayley’s influence here, and careful not to inflate Hayley’s capacity as a thinker. During Blake’s stay st Felpham, from 1800 to 1803, Hayley was “posing as a Miltonist,” says Pierce. The materials Hayley had assembled for an edition of Milton’s works were the important influence on Blake; from these (Pierce continues) we can infer a broad reading of Milton for Blake. Pierce certainly does not conclude that Hayley’s thinking or writing was a “profound influence” on Blake, as Wittreich’s reference might lead a reader to believe.
Efforts to further press Hayley into an original, thinking, active influence are not successful. Another note on the Hayley-influence issue refers readers to Wittreich’s 1972 article, “Domes of Mental Pleasure.” Here Wittreich has proposed that Hayley taught Blake a new theory of poetry. Statements of Hayley and Blake are juxtaposed: ↤ 2 Joseph Anthony Wittreich, “Domes of Mental Pleasure: Blake’s Epics and Hayley’s Epic Theory,” Studies in Philology, 59 (1972), 112.
The epic poem, in Hayley’s words, is a “dome of mental pleasure” that combines at its “different portals” the various arts . . . ; it is the “prime enobler of th’ aspiring mind” and the great “arbiter of space and time,” capable of penetrating and embodying the unknown. . . . Blake’s epic practice mirrors Hayley’s theory. He uses the epic form to transcend the time-world in whose center he finds the heavens of eternity; within the epic mode, he presents “Visionary Forms Dramatic . . . In Visions / In new Expanses, creating exemplars of Memory and of Intellect, / Creating Space, Creating Time according to the wonders Divine / Of Human Imagination.”2But when Hayley’s lines are seen in their context they have nothing to do with Blake’s unique ideas about time in narrative structure. In the immediate context of the phrases quoted by Wittreich, Hayley is simply comparing painting with poetry. In his view, a painting can only portray in instant in the visible world, whereas poetry can proceed through time, or makes jumps in it, or describe things of the invisible world. Painting “catches, with observance keen, / Her single moment of the changeful scene”; whereas poetry, the “Unquestion’d arbiter of space and time! / Can join the distant, the unknown create. . . .”3↤ 3 William Hayley, An Essay on Epic Poetry, 1782, reprinted Gainsville, Florida, 1968, p. 7. This praise of poetry over painting is contained in a broader context where Hayley encourages poetry to catch up with the successes of her sister art. I see no connection whatsoever between this and Blake’s “Visionary Forms Dramatic,” or any uniquely Blakean use of “the epic form to transcend the time world.” Yet, for Wittreich, “Blake’s sympathy with these precepts is so obvious as to preclude the necessity for lengthy discussion.”
Nonetheless, Wittreich does press the discussion a little further. The article continues to the effect that this is where Blake learned to eliminate sequential narrative time in Milton. That poem, of course, does eliminate conventional sequence. The text, says Frye, proceeds through a “series of lifting backdrops”;4↤ 4 Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1947), p. 332. the pictures, says Erdman, “converge upon the center” of a moment of revelation.5↤ 5 David V. Erdman, “The Steps (of Dance and Stone) that Order Blake’s Milton,” Blake Studies, 6 (Fall 1973), p. 73. Milton’s organization is more a concentric pattern than a narrative line connecting beginning and end. But to argue that Blake derived his non-sequential narrative from Hayley is not only to over-read Hayley out of context, it is to invert Hayley’s categories. What could be more conventional than Hayley’s idea of narrative time—unless it is his static theory of painting? It might have been better to look for the origin of Blake’s unconventional narrative time in painting, and the ways a painting can present multiple perspectives on a single moment.
So, even though the Hayley-influence idea is central to Angel of Apocalypse, the reader will have to turn to the earlier article, “Domes of Mental Pleasure,” to see that idea argued in its own right. The article concludes, “Hayley’s theory of epic as a revolutionary form—and the precepts related to that theory—are related, then, with meticulous clarity, to Blake’s epic achievements.” Angel of Apocalypse begins (logically speaking) at this point.
It should be remembered that Wittreich has been challenged before on this point, and on the habit of over-reading Hayley and quoting him out of context. This is the point of Judith Wardle’s 1974 article “Satan not having the Science of Wrath . . . ” in Studies in Romanticism. And the challenge is not fairly answered by Wittreich’s attempt to dismiss it begin page 132 | as a “difference in point of view,” or as a confusion on Wardle’s part of Hayley’s epic theory and Hayley’s epic practice. Nor is Wardle’s challenge given the attention it deserves when Wittreich buries his response to her in a footnote (p. 314). Wardle faults Wittreich for just the sort of errors I have found: for teasing tidbits of Hayley off the bone to make a thin soup. “By careful selection of quotations [Wittreich makes] it seem that Hayley’s attitudes were very close to Blake’s,” says Wardle; “Wittreich summarizes Hayley’s recommendations in the Essay in such a way that it appears valid to claim that Hayley provided theoretical support [for Blake].” And on Wittreich’s contention that Hayley presented Blake with an idea of “epic as a revolutionary form,” celebrating an idea of freedom, she finds, “when one examines more closely what this means to Hayley, the similarities are not so close.” In addition to this too-careful picking out of evidence, Wardle faults Wittreich for misreading Hayley: “He is deceived into believing” that Hayley condemns epic machinery, while in fact Hayley “vacillates” on this point (Hayley vacillates on most points: this is why he can seem to support almost any point one likes). Again, Wittreich “miss[es] the shift of tone” when Hayley makes a close pass at praise for Spenser, and so misreads Hayley’s negative reference to allegory for a positive one.6↤ 6 Judith Wardle, “Satan not having the Science of Wrath but only of Pity,” Studies in Romanticism, 13 (1974), 147-54.
I turn back now to the book proper, to consider closely some interpretations of Blake’s text and designs. Wittreich infers from a line in Milton (15:52) that Blake saw in Milton some change of heart, some shift from political to religious hopes, and some model for himself to console worldly disappointment with otherworldly hope:
The poet who lost God in his childhood returned to him in old age . . . this observation . . . is implicit in Blake’s reference to Milton’s “bright pilgrimage of sixty years.” (p. 40)
Milton lived 66 years; the idea is to account for the six years Blake drops here. The last six years must be when Milton returned to God, according to this reading of Blake. But if we turn to the line in Blake, the context supports precisely the opposite view. Here Milton descends to Blake’s “tarsus,” then “redounds” as a cloud over Europe. “Then Milton knew that the THree Heavens of Beulah were beheld / By him on earth in his bright pilgrimage of sixty years.”7↤ 7 The Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1965), p. 109. That is, Milton’s revelation comes in Milton’s afterlife, when he entered into William Blake. The “bright pilgrimage” is Blake’s way of referring to Milton’s lifetime, when he was “on earth.” In Milton Blake seems to think of a person’s allotted time on earth as “sixty winters”; in Jerusalem (published when he had passed that mark), he seems to prefer a “pilgrimage of seventy years.” Blake has only rounded off the number here.
Still, this reading of the “sixty years” is the textual basis in Blake for Wittreich’s idea that Milton celebrates a change of heart in Milton’s lifetime:
Blake’s Milton pursues a double purpose: one is to locate the decisive turning point in Milton’s life, which, we have already said, comes with the writing of Paradise Regained and then to mythologize it; the other is to relate that moment of redemption to the renewal of the entire human race which comes with “the great Harvest and Vintage of the Nations” promised in the poem’s final plate. (p. 243)The assertion persists: Blake brings Milton back, not to have him correct errors he made in his lifetime, not to correct errors made by his interpreters, not to assert political leadership once again in an England torn between republicanism and royal tyranny; but rather to dramatize a revelation Milton had during his lifetime. I am not taking issue with any tradition in Milton criticism that Milton may have experienced some religious conversion or re-conversion late in life, nor with any interpretation of Paradise Regained that takes such a conversion experience into account. The issue is whether, in Wittreich’s terms, such a “decisive turning point” is “located” in Milton’s lifetime in Blake’s Milton. By Wittreich’s own evidence, it is not.8↤ 8 Edward J. Rose arrived at the same theory from different evidence. See “Blake’s Illustrations for Paradise Lost, L’Allegro, and Il Penseroso: A Thematic Reading,” Hartford Studies in Literature, 2 (1970), pp. 40-67.
Nonetheless Wittreich uses this idea of Milton’s conversion to account for differences between designs in different copies of Milton. Both Plate 1 and Plate 16 of Milton give full page pictures of Milton. The engraving on the copper plate, of course, is fixed and permanent, but one print can and does vary from the next because the inking and coloring of the print vary. Here is a good place to look for changes of emphasis, even changes of mind in Blake’s mental picture of Milton. In copies C and D of Plate 1 the cross-hatching over Milton’s body is not so obvious as in A and B, because these lines, printed from the copper plate, are colored over with a more opaque pigment. Wittreich sees in this difference an indication that Milton has escaped from what Wittreich terms a “net of selfhood.” He says the cross-hatching has been “lifted”:
The alterations of this plate as we move from Copy A to Copy D, turn us from a darkened into a transfigured Milton. . . . Blake’s implication is clear: the journey Milton makes through the wilderness of self enables him to transcend the law and to embrace the spirit of prophecy. (pp. 26-27)
Now there is no way of knowing from this if Wittreich is saying that Milton changed his mind, or Blake. Remember, we are collating one plate from four copies. And note the implicit assumption about the relationship of these copies: that they constitute a complete series, A through D, separated by more or less equal periods of time, or at least equal portions of mental space, to correspond to an evolution in Blake’s thinking, or in Milton’s, whichever it is. In fact not much is known about when these copies were printed, beyond the watermark on the paper, which is dated 1808 on copies A, B, and C, and 1815 on D—which only means these copies were not printed before these respective dates. And to call cross-hatching a “net of selfhood” implies that cross-hatching has a special and negative meaning in Blake.9↤ 9 For a discussion of how to read Blake’s pictures emblematically see W. J. T. Mitchell, “Blake’s Composite Art,” in Erdman and Grant, eds., Blake’s Visionary Forms Dramatic (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1970), pp. 57-81. Mitchell is a sensible, undogmatic guide; “The image of evil in Blake’s designs . . . is not an arbitrary emblem, or simply a devil with horns, but the sight of the human body surrendering its unique form and dissolving into a nonhuman landscape, as in many designs in the Lambeth books and the later prophecies where bodies take root in the ground or sprout bestial appendages.” (p. 71). In fact, Blake would have been very foolish to adopt such a symbolism: cross-hatching is the engraver’s usual begin page 133 | method of giving body to an outlined figure. Blake would have to draw only benighted figures, or stick to simple line engravings. But most important, this interpretation overlooks the picture as a whole. Here Milton is stepping forth, pushing through his name, just as he steps through his literal “self / hood” in Plate 18. Wittreich is “quoting” the cross-hatching out of context, out of the context of the picture. We don’t need to collate A, B, C, and D to see that Milton escapes from his selfhood. He is doing it in every copy, by main strength of his left hand (traditionally his political hand) at that. Has Wittreich missed this because of his peculiar idea that Milton here “walks naked, Blake exhibiting Milton’s shame, exposing his faults?” (p. 36)— an unBlakean reading for a naked hero!
Wittreich applies the same interpretation, and the same method, to Plate 16. All copies show the hero standing naked, with a garment in his left hand and a belt in his right; both hands are held away from the body and the stance is broad. Wittreich maintains that in A and B Milton is taking off his clothes (a “garment of selfhood”), and in C and D he is putting them on (a “robe of righteousness”). His primary evidence is the pink-brown shading on the white garment of Copy D. He understands this to depict a bloody garment, which he associates with the bloody robes of Ololon. So Milton is putting on a “robe of righteousness” like Ololon’s, whereas in the other copies he is (or was) taking off some pristine, hypocritical covering. But in fact, the pink-brown shading is used generally in Plate 16 D, and not only on the garment; so there is no reason to assign the color any special meaning when it comes to the garment. Once again Wittreich is quoting out of context; the picture as a whole clearly shows the hero with naked beauty displayed. And with all this worrying about whether the clothes are coming off or going on, Wittreich has missed an alteration of some substance: in D the garment is extended so the end of it is now under Milton’s left foot. In Wittreich’s reading, Milton would be standing on the clothes he is about to put on!
Clearly Wittreich’s habits do not improve as he moves from Hayley to Blake. General rules, however arbitrary, come before any particular evidence; and any shred or flicker of text or design that might serve as an instance is pulled from its context to so serve, even if the whole context is tugging mightily in just the opposite direction. One more instance of this habit of holding evidence hostage to a formula may be instructive.
The formula will be familiar: different copies of a design reverse in meaning. The instance is prints of the engraving Albion Rose (the print Gilchrist called Glad Day). The interpretation: that the uncolored print of the engraving (the one with the caption from which we get the title) depicts a sinister, “selfish” Albion:
the line engraving portrays Albion in his fallen aspect; the color print depicts him as a redeemed man. (p. 54)
Readers will recall the design as Blake’s exuberant application of the traditional drawing-textbook picture of a man inscribed in a circle. Traditionally the design demonstrates the “exempeda” method of measuring a man’s proportions where his height is six times the length of his foot. Blake’s version is pleasing, and essentially Blakean, for the way the passive anatomy-lesson model is made active: human proportion, it seems to say, is found when a man measures the steps of the “dance of death.” The term is found in the caption; it means willing self-sacrifice:
Albion rose from where he labour’d at the Mill with Slaves / Giving himself for the Nations he danc’d the dance of Eternal Death“Eternal Death” in this sense of self-sacrifice is used in Milton: when Milton sacrifices his place in Heaven to return to earth, he says, “I go to Eternal Death,” because “The Nations still / Follow after the detestable Gods of Priam” (Milton 14:13-14).
How Wittreich can read this print as sinister and selfish is a troublesome problem. He confuses the dates of the engraving and the prints made from it until, at one point, he seems to date the color print earlier than the engraving from which it was printed; no matter, the Keynes book of Engravings10↤ 10 Geoffrey Keynes, Engravings by William Blake: The Separate Plates, (Dublin: Emery Walker, 1956), pp. 6-7. assures us that the two color prints and the two monochromes are from the same plate, because the lines that print on the monochrome have also printed on the color print, even if coloring has mostly hidden them. It shouldn’t matter; but Wittreich’s formula seems to demand some sequence of printing, over a period of time in which Blake had second thoughts about his republicanism. In the caption, it has been pointed out, “dance of Eternal Death” looks like an ironic inversion of Burke’s characterization of democratic revolution as a “death dance.”11↤ 11 David V. Erdman, Blake: Prophet Against Empire (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1969), p. 11. Somehow Wittreich gets his signs reversed, and reads all of the caption ironically, except for the “dance of Eternal Death,” which, he says, shows that Blake agreed with Burke. In the picture itself Wittreich finds the expression on Albion’s face to be “selfish.” which is probably not worth arguing about. And he finds the moth flying between Albion’s legs, which he calls “bat winged,” some symbol of universal pollution (this moth is not evident in the color prints). But we need only leaf through the reproductions in Wittreich’s own book to see worse monsters who do not signal a negative reading for the pictures they are in. Paradise Regained watercolors nos. 8 and 9, for example (plates 41 and 42 in Angel of Apocalypse), have monsters and creatures of the night, but certainly they have not made Jesus sinister or selfish. They seem to have troubled Jesus like bad dreams, but as he wakes and rises they flee offstage, rather like Albion’s moth.
This interpretation of Albion Rose as sinister and selfish is only one—the worst perhaps—of the troublesome interpretations to be found in Angel of Apocalypse. Clearly they do not begin with evidence and build toward a general formula—they work the wrong way around, by beginning with a formula and then finding instances wihch, taken out of context, might seem to fit it. How else explain the persistence of this conversion or reversal formula, when each instance Wittreich himself cites turns out to be testimony against it? Wittreich has put himself begin page 134 | in the position of a trial lawyer with a poor case, who knows in advance the position he must argue, who can offer only circumstantial evidence, and who can only hope to carry the jury by stubborn persistence.
I have already noted the theory, central to Angel of Apocalypse, that Hayley profoundly influenced Blake. This theory is constantly invoked in the book to support arguments to this or that point, but it is never presented and proved in its own right. I have shown important instances where it does not hold up, instances where Wittreich argues that Hayley’s thinking about Milton, and Hayley’s thinking about epic, were the sources of Blake’s ideas on the same matters. Now I want to consider Wittreich’s contention that Hayley perceived an important conversion or reversal of thinking in Milton, which occurred between Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, and that Hayley perceived Paradise Regained in a new and original way, and that Hayley strongly influenced Blake in this regard. The formula, that Hayley mediated an idea Blake held about an important change of heart Milton experienced in old age, is familiar. I want to show that this formula—which is at the core of the theory that Hayley was a profound influence on Blake—is unfounded, if remarkably persistent. It seems to give Angel of Apocalypse coherence, but it does so by mere persistence, and not by any evidence that holds up in this book, nor by any certain proof in Wittreich’s work before the book. I will trace the argument for Hayley’s perception of Milton’s change of heart to Wittreich’s earlier articles and sources, through his own citation of them, and demonstrate that this aspect of the Milton-Hayley-Blake theory is, literally, built on nothing.
To open the question of Hayley’s influence on Blake in Angel of Apocalypse, Wittreich confronts the tradition that Blake remembered Hayley as a nuisance. He cites what he calls Stuart Curran’s “proof” that Hyle—the character Blake cast as a damned nuisance in the inferno of his poetry—is not Hayley. Curran begins with the fact that “hyle” can be a Greek term for matter, and that there is a Gnostic tradition of personifying materialism as Hyle.12↤ 12 Stuart Curran, “Blake and the Gnostic Hyle,” Blake Studies, 4 (1972), pp. 117-33. Curran’s point here is well taken: there in more to Hyle than the historical Hayley; Blake has appropriated part of a Gnostic tradition to mold a symbolic character. But Curran is not reasonable when he declares that since Hyle is more than Hayley, he is no longer Hayley in any part. There are just too many instances in Milton and in Jerusalem where Hyle is grouped with other characters whose names are thin disguises for the real-life principals of Blake’s well-known sedition case, principals like his accuser, judge, and the prosecutor. In that case Hayley stood bail for Blake—Hayley being the “great man” of the village Felpham where the trouble took place. Perhaps Blake was not properly grateful for Hayley’s help, but in that role, and in his role of patron (where Blake assumed Hayley would come up with some profitable project for him), it is probable that Blake saw Hayley as an emblem of materialism of some sort—company in which a poet can come to worldly distress. To conclude from Curran’s article that the development and expansion of the character Hyle eliminates the historical Hayley as the basic material for Hyle is surely incorrect. But Wittreich does just that.
Next, he asserts that Blake follows Hayley in a new understanding of Milton:
Like Hayley, Blake found in Milton’s Paradise Regained a poem of “pure religion” accompanied by “greater force of imagination” than had been presented in Paradise Lost. (p. 128)Wittreich is quoting Hayley here, not Blake, and he cites a previous article of his to substantiate the idea: ↤ 13 Joseph Anthony Wittreich, “William Blake, Illustrator-Interpreter of Paradise Regained,” in Wittreich, ed., Calm of Mind . . . Essays for John S. Diekoff (Cleveland: Case-Western Reserve, 1971), pp. 93-133.
In the final estimate of both Hayley and Blake Milton’s distinguishing characteristic was his religious enthusiasm. It was the “prime director of his genius” as exhibited in Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, the latter poem representing “the truest heroism, and the triumph[e] of Christianity.”13Again the quotations are all from Hayley, not Blake. At this point in the Festschrift article Hayley’s Life of Milton is cited. But the reader who turns to the Life will find that Hayley is not promoting Paradise Regained as any advance of Miltonic genius beyond Paradise Lost. Nor does Hayley mention any conversion or change of heart that might have provided extra energy to write Paradise Regained, as Wittreich implies.
On the contrary, Hayley is defending Paradise Regained against the familiar, specious charge that it is less brilliant than Paradise Lost, by asserting its own virtues. Hayley points out that it is plainly moralistic instead of mightily imagistic like its big sister: “The splendor of the poet does not blaze, indeed, so intensely as in his larger production.”14↤ 14 William Hayley, The Life of Milton, 1976, reprinted by Folcroft Press (no city), 1970, p. 220. Wittreich implies that Hayley finds a “triumph of Christianity” in the theme of Paradise Regained, an expression of a new-found religious enthusiasm in Milton. But Hayley only says that the poem’s plain style represents a “spirit of self-command” in Milton: the mighty poet demonstrated modesty when he constructed a plain poem. Hayley everywhere is full of enthusiasm for the rhetoric of elaborate compliments; here he is only saying that such “self-command” might serve to teach modesty and plainess to “ingenuous youth”: in Hayleyan rhetoric such modesty is “the triumph of Christianity.” When the reader sees the context of these mighty-sounding quotations that Wittreich culls from Hayley, they prove to be no more than a rhetorical inflation of some dull prescription for modest oaks from mighty acorns.
Since there is nothing in Hayley that explicitly treats Paradise Regained as evidence of an important change in Milton’s thinking, and since Hayley says nothing at all of this supposed conversion or recantation of politics on Milton’s part, and certainly nothing of Milton achieving a more “pure religion” in any context that would make the phrase mean anything significant, what, at bottom, is the basis of Wittreich’s persistent assertion that Hayley perceived a new Milton which he passed along to Blake? Wittreich’s evidence, finally, is only a negative kind of evidence, which makes much of nothing. He says that Hayley did not treat Paradise Regained as if it were dependent on, or a sequel to, Paradise Lost: begin page 135 | ↤ 15 Wittreich, “Illustrator-Interpreter,” p. 107.
Hayley asserts the integrity of Milton’s brief epic, which is to say that he regards the poem as neither companion nor sequel to Paradise Lost.15Wittreich means only that, as an editor of Milton, Hayley did not arrange the poems so it would be inferred that Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained together make up an epic in sixteen books. For that matter, so didn’t editor Thomas Newton before Hayley.
It is not difficult to cite Hayley as evidence for an arbitrary formula, because Hayley, as Blake remembered him, and as Judith Wardle reminds us, was a great vacillator. And besides, no one much cares what Hayley said. It is a different matter with Blake, whose views were extreme and definite. To imagine Blake that “fleshed out” Hayley’s epic theories is to put Blake to school to the man he immortalized as a fool not to be endured. And it is to set Blake’s motto, “Particulars before Generals,” around backwards, to make Blake a willing producer of evidence post facto for Hayley’s theories, in defiance of Blake’s fierce originiality and jealous independence.