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MINUTE PARTICULAR

The Last Judgment by “B. Blake”

As is well known, William Blake exhibited three pictures at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1808. These are listed in the exhibition catalogue as “311 Jacob’s dream,—vide Genesis, chap. xxviii, ver. 12”; “439 Christ in the sepulcher, guarded by angels”; and “477 The Last Judgment.”11. The Exhibition of the Royal Academy MDCCCVIII. There is a peculiarity about the listing of the third that has been silently corrected in Blake scholarship. It seems indeed trivial, involving only one letter. The artist’s name is given as “B. Blake.”

Royal Academy catalogues were probably produced quickly and with little proofreading. Getting a letter wrong was nothing out of the ordinary. The miniature painter John Hazlitt’s name was, for example, given as “T. Hazlitt” in the catalogue of 1802 in conjunction with Hazlitt’s portrait of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.22. See my Portraits of Coleridge (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1999) 28. However, there is an important difference here. There was in 1802 no exhibiting painter named T. Hazlitt, while John Hazlitt had exhibited every year from 1788 through 1801. The public could easily guess the real name of the artist who showed the Coleridge portrait and three others. In contrast, Benjamin Blake was the name of a painter of landscapes and of game who exhibited “View at Dumford, near Amesbury” (171) in 1808, and whose address is given in the catalogue as 37 Broad Street, Soho.33. Some details about B. Blake, but not the confusion about The Last Judgment, are given in appendix 2, “Blake Residences,” in G. E. Bentley, Jr.’s Blake Records, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale UP, 2004) 737. By 1811, when B. Blake showed “View at Great Dunford, Wiltshire” (The Exhibition of the Royal Academy MDCCCXI, 146), his address was Great Dunford, near Salisbury. (William Blake’s address is correctly given as 17 South Molton Street, Oxford Street.) As the Royal Academy did not act as an agent for selling paintings, providing the artist’s address was a way for prospective buyers to gain contact, and so giving the wrong artist’s name for The Last Judgment was, though unintentional, a professional disservice. It is also an indication of how obscure Blake was as he entered what Alexander Gilchrist was to call his “Years of Deepening Neglect.”

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