Choosing Textbooks for Blake Courses: A Survey & Checklist
The publishing industry is now sufficiently aware of attention given Blake in a variety of courses to offer more than one choice of college textbooks for each. More and more people are preparing to teach Blake for the first time, or to teach more of Blake than they did last year, to a growing audience of new readers.1↤ 1 Teachers of Blake have a special responsibility during these boom years when the poet is almost too well liked, when “Children of the future Age” are in love with their idea of Blake even if they haven’t studied his work, when there are two journals and three MLA seminars devoted to this figure, and when according to a membership survey reported in the MLA Newsletter, March 1974, Blake is among the ten writers most frequently cited as the “major interest” of those who participated in the survey. The teacher’s extra responsibility in the 1970’s is to resist simply riding the swell or connecting Blake exclusively with dominant interests of this age. One hopes, as Brian Wilkie has remarked in correspondence, that students will not say in ten or twenty years, “Oh, yes, Blake—I used to like him a lot when I was in college; everybody was reading him then.” Nevertheless, in a review for this journal (#27), Hazard Adams found just this error of spurious “trendiness” in an essay on The Four Zoas by Wilkie and me. Our informal style made it appear that we wanted to trivialize Blake; instead we wished to suggest a way of helping new readers study this poem through a process of self-examination (as in Milton 14:30 and 40:37) and also to persuade veteran Blakeans that this method of introspective reading is productive of a richer understanding of the work. It is not necessarily a mistake to explicate Blake through analogies with current intellectual and social fashions; the mistake would be to limit Blake’s meaning to what is ephemeral. Still, the issue Adams raises is important: teachers and essayists should be aware that, for some, the eternal reverberation of Blake’s Word is muffled in the language of these times. In choosing texts and planning courses, a teacher should bear in mind that Blake’s prophecy should not be lost in its own timeliness. This is a good time to ask how well Blake is served by the makers of college editions, and how well these books work as textbooks. Courses in Blake create a demand for new textbooks, and the availability of textbooks in turn influences the attention paid to Blake in the curriculum. Some anomalies remain: no conscientious teacher of a general course in English Romanticism would now omit Blake without explanation, as was commonly done until the early sixties, yet there remain several anthologies containing little or no Blake. Finding the right textbook has in some ways become more difficult than it used to be when there were fewer books and special needs to consider. Neoclassical scholars frequently tell me that instead of stopping gratefully with Johnson they now make time for Blake in their courses simply because they enjoy working with him; then they ask what they should use to supplement the venerable eighteenth-century anthology. Sometimes sophomores whose courses begin with Blake and Burns and are supposed to end with Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes show great reluctance to move out of the first phase of their study, partly because they like their textbook so much that they study even the notes to unassigned poems. In any course—in my university, even in a graduate seminar devoted exclusively to Blake—the student is likely to be encountering at least the later work for the first time; the teacher soon learns that any text in Blake serves partly as an introduction.
Since obviously the student spends far more time with the textbook than with the teacher, and stubborn misconceptions may set in early, the chooser of textbooks must learn to read with students’ eyes as well as his own. Sometimes the half-wrong interpretation or the subtle error of annotation causes the worst headache later; by the time its effect shows up in a term paper, neither teacher nor student can tell what went wrong. A minor additional consideration of recent years is how the editor’s tone strikes students who have various things to unlearn before they read the first poem—these days not just the notion that “The Lamb” is a nursery rhyme but also half-understood opinions picked up in other courses, to the effect that Blake is enjoying a tremendous vogue for no discernible reason unless perhaps Romanticists have exhausted the more worthwhile poets as fodder for their publications (during more than one opening class session such attacks on Blake studies have been repeated for my benefit, as serious utterances, and attributed to other teachers).
I offer here a survey and an annotated checklist of texts and other materials for most courses in which Blake is taught: undergraduate major-writer or literary-history courses, graduate and undergraduate courses in Romanticism, seminars in Blake. Textbooks designed for introductory courses in poetry and special courses in themes or genres are omitted, even though such books often include many of Blake’s lyrics. The survey section deals with the most important competing books for each kind of course, but it omits eighteenth-century anthologies, which are invariably chosen on some basis other than how well Blake fares in his meager space, even when the selections are as generous as those in the Tillotson-Fussell-Waingrow begin page 10 | ↑ back to top anthology. Included instead are small, inexpensive selections of Blake’s works, because the real question for the eighteenth-century teacher of Blake is which supplementary text to use. In reviewing anthologies designed for courses in Romanticism and sophomore literature, I have tried to consider only the Blake sections, not the overall merit of each book. The annotated checklist includes all books that might be considered by a teacher preparing to teach Blake—negative entries as well as positive ones: anthologies of Romanticism with poor Blake sections and noteworthy books which have gone out of print. Such entries appear in order to spare teachers the trouble of ordering unusable examination copies and the shock of finding out too late that a favorite book is no longer in print.
In reconsidering what I value in each kind of textbook, I have been thinking of real students, those I have known during the last decade in medium and large state universities in the south, midwest, and far west, as well as those I have heard of from colleagues in other sorts of colleges and universities in this country and abroad. But I have made no systematic survey. My impressions are personal. I haven’t attempted a report from the provinces, an exercise in consumer advocacy, or a poll of students and teachers, though I suppose elements of all these are present in my remarks.
I do have an ideal editor in mind: one who focuses on his poet, not himself. (For ease of sentence construction, the gender remains masculine—with due notice, in the checklist, to Raine and Ostriker.) The good editor should really care about his non-specialist reader. In an attractive introductory essay, he should present his poet in the best possible light, as an artist worthy of study and appreciation. (There is no good reason for an editor, with all the poetry in English available to him, to choose to work on a poet he does not admire and respect.) The introduction should put the student in touch with major critical issues; it should simplify without falsifying. Editorial notes should clear up historical and verbal obscurities and illuminate the text by selecting and synthesizing the best work done on the poet; always, the editor’s lucid and unmistakable purpose should be to help the student read the text on his own, either for his own pleasure or in preparation for time well spent in class. Like any good teacher, the editor should take care to make himself transparent whenever he has to step between the poet and the student.
By the standard of transparency, the basic Blake book for any except a survey course (and then to be offered as supplementary reading) is Erdman’s The Illuminated Blake, in which the reader can see for himself each of Blake’s etched plates in black and white. Although an accompanying letterpress edition is necessary as a reading text, Erdman’s book should be considered fundamental because it will lead to everything else needed, all in the right sequence and relationship. Anyone who owns and handles this book without wanting to know more about Blake’s thought and work is only wasting his time in a course on Blake.2↤ 2 This point is made too emphatically, I find after one term’s experience with The Illuminated Blake in an undergraduate class. When I ordered the text, I was no doubt supplying color from memory; when students began using it, they were only slightly impressed with the pictures but perked up after seeing color slides. Ironically, Doubleday’s beautiful cover, raising expectations of color, makes the interior appear drab by contrast. Yet anyone prepared to recommend that an undergraduate spend his $7.95 on Keynes’ color facsimile of the Songs instead of on The Illuminated Blake must take note that Viking has just raised its price on the Orion Press (Grossman) edition—the only one available in America—to $10.00. For scholars and advanced students, The Illuminated Blake is a necessity and the Keynes Songs is a luxury worth its price; for undergraduates The Illuminated Blake ought at least to be considered as a supplementary text. As of January 1976 it looks as though Keynes’ Songs is off the market in America. Every illuminated page is here, many chosen from copies that have never before been reproduced. The general commentary is lively (though sometimes irritatingly so, as if propelled by its own perpetual momentum), the bibliography is full, the detailed notes are usually accurate and stimulating. Occasionally left is confused with right, or the reproductions are foggy or muddy, or a plate-by-plate scenario takes on an independent character growing out of Erdman’s enthusiasms instead of Blake’s. From cover to cover, there[e] is no explanation of the ubiquitous asterisk, which—the reader is left to assume—means most copies, or no particular copy, or copies too numerous to mention, as opposed to specific copies lettered according to the Census. With the letter designations of the various copies to keep straight, longer abbreviations of the titles would have been easier to recognize, such as ARO, GoP, NNR, particularly since they are already in general use. Erdman is scrupulous in acknowledging his debts, but his use of last names does not always make it possible to follow up a reference. Who, for example, is “Sevcik” who comments on “The Ecchoing Green,” p. 48? Presumably “Mitchell” in Erdman’s Milton Commentary refers to W. J. T. Mitchell’s article in Blake Studies, 1973, and probably to private correspondence, not to Mitchell as identified in the “Key to References” with his article on Urizen in Eighteenth-Century Studies; and “Grant” (not in the “Key” but prominent in the Acknowledgments) apparently refers less to specific articles than to correspondence. Obviously (and commendably) Erdman was trying to save space, but students and other readers of Blake outside the “Blake establishment,” as outsiders sometimes call it, will wonder where to pursue points of interest. The oblong shape, though a bit clumsy (one brash reviewer has suggested squeezing the covers to hide the commentary and expose only the pictures) is an imaginative solution to the problem of keeping annotations and pictures together. In spite of minor problems, this $7.95 paperback is the first thing anyone who wants to study Blake should buy. If this price isn’t right, the $3.50 Dover paperback facsimile of Songs of Innocence, in color, can serve as the first book, to introduce the reader to one of Blake’s works approximately as he meant it to be seen.
The undergraduate, after reading a little Blake in an introductory literature course, usually gets his first inkling of the larger pattern of Blake’s thought and work in a historically-arranged course of the sort that fat anthologies are designed for. Now that the Norton monopoly on English literature survey textbooks has been cracked by Oxford, with its distinguished commentators, abundant illustrations, glamorous format, and streamlined typeface, the sheer mass of the dazzling material in the Oxford anthology can dull one’s impression of how its treatment of any individual writer differs from that in the Norton. But what M. H. Abrams does for Norton on Blake is so unlike what Harold Bloom does for Oxford that a basis for choice is clear. Abrams’ attention never wanders from the student’s need. For example, both Abrams and Bloom use the Erdman text, but Abrams repunctuates it. Abrams’ introduction is factual and clear, with only one hidden allusion to Natural Supernaturalism that seems to shove Blake aside as an unwitting upholder of a thesis developed in German philosophy (p. 44). Except for the phrase “As Los said” (p. 42), introduced begin page 11 | ↑ back to top before this character has been mentioned or identified, and an implication that Blake himself arranged the printing of Poetical Sketches (p. 41), the introduction contains nothing that would mislead or confuse and much that will attract and clarify. Abrams’ notes provide what an interested and intelligent but uninformed student needs without swallowing the student and the poem in pedantry. His brief identifications of allusions are neither condescending nor esoteric. His fuller comments provide several possible starting points for discussion and a literary and cultural context for difficult passages without over-directing the teacher’s or the student’s response. By broadening the selections and deepening the commentary in successive editions, Abrams has kept the Blake portion of the Norton at the high level of the improved sections on Wordsworth and Shelley, and far ahead of almost any conceivable competitor. The major drawback of the Norton anthology is that there are no pictures.
In contrast, the Bloom of the Oxford anthology is more doctrinaire than the Bloom of the Commentary in the Erdman-Doubleday Blake, and neither is as winsome and exhilarating as the earlier Blooms of Shelley’s Mythmaking, The Visionary Company, and Blake’s Apocalypse, each of whom offered himself to the reader as a guide, companion, friend, and teacher. In these early books, Bloom’s enthusiastic admiration for Blake attracted and educated a whole new audience. His extravagance could easily be taken as wholesome vigor and lack of affectation, and reviews that warned of his wildness seemed fussy and mean-spirited.[e] Bloom has now rejected his earlier aims and methods, and apparently his earlier audience as well. The forbidding introduction to the Oxford Blake section depends for full communication on arguments developed in Bloom’s recent essays and in The Anxiety of Influence and A Map of Misreading. As an introductory lecture for a Blake course given by Bloom himself, to be followed by a school term of elucidation, qualification, amplification, and illustration, this essay would serve well. But to a student who must rely on the printed text as an introduction to Blake, the words are mystifying. At first, the loose comparisons of Blake with Freud and Hegel seem suggestive, but what intended purchaser of the Oxford anthology is ready to assent to—or capable of denying—the proposition that Blake was “primarily an intellectual revisionist, even as Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, in the longest perspective, seem most important as revisionists of the European Enlightenment” (p. 11)? A good student, a bright and honest student, at this point in his studies knows very well that he is only beginning to learn about the Enlightenment, and the psychological and political connotations of revisionism as applied to Freud and Marx instantly distract him from his pressing questions about Blake. Bloom’s way of throwing off novel theories as if they were truisms, in the voice of one addressing an audience of book-weary academics, disorients a person at the very time he is struggling to get his bearings. Keeping the student off balance is an acceptable teaching technique, granted, and complacency is a great enemy of learning; but the kinds of courses which would adopt the Oxford anthology exist for the purpose of helping the student get oriented in unfamiliar terrain before challenging him to re-draw the road maps.
Even the most sophisticated students need help with Blake’s Milton, for instance, including (perhaps especially) those who have been informed in Bloom’s general introduction that the “major Romantic questers . . . are all engaged in the extraordinary enterprise of seeking to re-beget their own selves, as though through the imagination a man might hope to become his own father, or at least his own heroic precursor” (p. 4). Supplied only with the information that Blake “resolved to break through every net, external and internal, that had blocked his precursors from joining themselves to Milton’s greatness, even the net of Milton himself” (p. 13), Bloom’s reader finds in the headnote to Milton that Blake “had sought not only to weather Milton’s influence upon him, but to swerve away from Milton by creatively ‘correcting’ his Sublime precursor” (p. 99). The student is given no hint that this is a special vocabulary for an idiosyncratic if brilliant view of literary relationships. Bloom is not concerned with making his theories available as practical criticism, in language understandable wherever English literature is studied, among readers whose anxieties are mild and non-literary.
Bloom’s gloss on Los’s bodily death (“Blake’s subtle indication of the contemporary low state of the arts,” p. 76) is inconsistent with his warning against allegorizing the Zoas (p. 72). His footnotes, when they depart from routine identification, are likely to go wrong as learned but irrelevant excursions into distant analogues (Bloom adopts from Fearful Symmetry an equation of Oothoon’s Marygold with the golden apple tree of the Hesperides, p. 45) or ingenious but heterodox speculative interpretations (the derivation of Golgonooza from the Hebrew for “hidden hub or center,” p. 78). The unfortunate printing of Bloom’s title “The Vision of Beulah” in the same type-size as the main title, Milton (p. 98)—which will cause Bloom’s subtitle to be misread as the name of a new poem—is a problem concocted primarily by the designer. To no one but the editor, however, can be attributed the decision to make textbook-writing a form of self-expression, like Bloom’s recent work on critical theory, with Blake as the stimulus and occasion but not the main point.
For those who prefer an anthology for the junior-senior course in Romanticism, the question is, Perkins or Heath? Perkins has dominated this field so long that the question is, more frankly, would changing to Heath be worth the effort? As a mid-western friend wrote me last year, “Heath looks good, but my mind is in the margin of Perkins.” A class in Blake—to leave aside consideration of the other Romantic poets—will be, on the face of things, better pleased with Perkins. After running through the anecdotes of Blake’s otherworldliness and commenting briefly on Blake’s imagery, Perkins devotes section three of his introduction to the important matter of salvation through imagination. A helpful bibliographical essay, clear identifications, crisply phrased commentary, attractive type begin page 12 | ↑ back to top and spatial arrangement, and line-reproductions (some slightly enlarged) of four plates from the Songs entice the reader to reconsider the familiar poems and smooth his way into the Lambeth and Felpham books. Much of the work of introducing Blake is done in the headnotes to separate works. Improvements in the Keynes text have not been incorporated in Perkins’ reprintings (but “That cause” instead of “What cause” in Milton is not so gross a problem as Perkins’ misprints like “you beanfield” in “The Eolian Harp” and “Thus with a sign I leave thee,” which replaces the Byronic “sigh” at the end of Childe Harold, III). If Perkins’ general introductions were everywhere reduced to the type-size of the poetry, the anthology would be better proportioned and the psychological effect of the Perkins presence would be reduced, so that areas of rhetorical inflation and thin spots in the intellectual and critical history would be easier for students to detect.
What is lacking in the Heath book is neither intelligent and sensitive commentary nor a good (but unpunctuated) Erdman text. What is lacking is the reader’s energy when confronted with the book itself. Although both major anthologies are bulky, with double columns and fine print—and I am aware that teachers demand large selections—the Heath book is so overweight that it could pass for a holdover from the thirties. It is exhausting even to look at. I attribute this sensation to the page layout, for which Heath takes full credit or responsibility (p. x). His purpose was to remain faithful to the poets’ nineteenth-century styling, and teachers will appreciate having the other writers’ original prefaces and notes, along with Heath’s. But since nineteenth-century typographical settings are irrelevant in the Blake section, there are no compensations for the unsuitable design. On the tall page (over 9 ¾ in., or 1 ½ in. taller than Perkins’) Blake’s lyrics are oddly strung out and the prophecies look particularly formidable. With Heath’s brief headnotes in fine italics and his scanty footnotes set off by a full-column ornamental rule, the page is both busy and dull. It is good to have the entire first book of Jerusalem, but one needs to know more about Ulro than that it is “Blake’s hell” (p. 135) and more about Rahab and Beulah than that they are Biblical names (pp. 67, 68). Heath’s stripped-down bibliography, with first names lopped off to initials, is less useful than Perkins’ annotated bibliographical section, even though Heath includes entries as late as 1971.
In contrast to Perkins, Heath sensibly warns in his introduction that no anecdotes are “less trustworthy than those attempting to describe an eccentric” and recounts only the Schofield affair. Heath emphasizes Blake’s concern with creating an audience, a good point obscured in his roundabout description of the “process” of relief etching as a “device” for “producing a medium” to bring artist and reader together. Heath sees the illuminated page as something that forces the reader to remain conscious of the medium and to notice the discrepancy between word and thing, but since no pictures are reproduced, this interesting point is not brought home to the reader. In inviting us to “imagine the world inhabited by a child and re-create the simplicity of its dimensions (big, little, light, dark), the immediateness of its hopes and fears (to stay up late, to get lost), and its chaotic freedoms of time and space, where anything can happen next” (p. 8), Heath successfully evokes the underlying consciousness of Innocence. But his conclusion falls into some puzzling locutions which suggest to me that he is casting about for an inoffensive way to register serious misgivings about Blake:
However hard he tries to terrify (in London for instance), the exultation of having brought a vision to life overcomes the poet and sympathetic reader alike. Keats and Wordsworth, who found that the imagination exposed as well as liberated the self, might be pardoned for seeing in Blake more eccentricity than art. For all the complexity of its expression, Blake’s sense of the world is finally permeated with an optimism that can seem almost childlike in its naiveté. (p. 11)Heath winds up his introduction with the familiar inspirational aphorisms, but the damage has been done. He has left Blake’s new reader with the vague impression that Blake meant to make “London” terrifying but merely made it wonderful because he was less an artist than a naif. A beginning student should be pardoned if he understands Heath to mean that both Keats and Wordsworth read Blake, discussed his poetry in relation to their own theories of self and imagination, and decided that Blake was eccentric.
For a teacher who wishes to stop with Urizen and do without America or samples from the major prophecies, Marius Bewley’s Modern Library Giant, The English Romantic Poets, is a decent possibility. The 28-page introduction says all the important things clearly, in non-technical language. There is too much talk of Thomas Taylor to suit me; however, no passage discussed in the long headnotes and footnotes receives a narrowly neoplatonic reading. Bewley’s few boners stand out and are easily corrected. For example, on the basis of Blake’s “system” (always in quotation marks), Bewley argues for the reinstatement of “rustling beds of dawn” (instead of “birds”) in “Mad Song” to suggest the fitful stirring of the rationalist sleeper as he struggles against awakening into the dawn of imagination. Bewley prints Visions of the Daughters of Albion, not usually included in brief selections, and compares it, without explanation, with Thel (not anthologized). A winter-term or single-quarter course in the Romantics should be able to live comfortably with the Blake section of this book. Its closest competitor would be Bloom’s Doubleday anthology, which has no editorial commentary but is designed for use with The Visionary Company, or Bloom and Trilling’s Romanticism section from the Oxford (printed as a separate paperback).
Teachers who use a collection of paperbacks for the course in Romanticism can order a wide array begin page 13 | ↑ back to top of “selected” Blakes for examination, but the real choice is between the two most generous selections, the Modern Library Frye and the Rinehart Adams. In both, the introductions are sound and readable, the works selected are plentiful and appropriate (although Adams omits America in favor of the far more difficult Europe), with later poems well represented. Both contain a modest assortment of pictures (all together in Frye, scattered in Adams without a table of illustrations); only about half in either text are pedagogically useful in showing what to look for in Blake’s interrelated text and design. “The Schoolboy,” for instance, is Frye’s choice from Songs of Experience—quite an attractive page, but “Nurse’s Song,” “The Fly,” “The Garden of Love,” or “Infant Sorrow” offer much more to go on in a beginning class. Although Adams’ inclusion of separate prints and paintings probably encourages a student to learn more about Blake as an artist, these designs are of little direct help with the poetry. Frye’s text is derived from Keynes (Nonesuch); Adams’ is eclectic but put forth with a candid and well-argued justification (pp. xx-xxi). Like most publishers, Modern Library and Rinehart are unable to adapt their preferred type-size and their normal page proportions to the best presentation of Blake’s prophetic lines. They resort to printing the prophecies with one-or two-word carryovers in nearly every line. An adjustment to slightly wider pages—or slightly smaller type, widely spaced between lines—would allow Blake’s whole fourteener to appear intact, in an attractive setting requiring fewer pages for the same number of words, as in Doubleday’s successful accommodation of its layout to the Erdman text or Oxford’s beautiful design for the Anthology. Though the glued pages have long since fallen out in my paperbound copy of Frye’s edition, old clothbound copies still hold up, and Modern Library has recently improved its paper binding. The Adams book has its own drawbacks as a physical object: the quality of the reproductions ranges from fair to dismal (“Infant Joy” and “The Sick Rose” are printed without credit lines—were they taken from facsimiles? disowned by self-respecting museums?), and the thick volume resists lying flat enough, especially near the covers, for easy note-jotting.
Most people who have come to know Blake well look back on Frye’s introduction to the Modern Library edition with great affection and gratitude. But while actually experiencing their first reading of Blake, so my students tell me, they are not sure whether Frye is part of the problem or part of the solution. After reading the excellent biographical section, they long to seize on the last three pages of Frye’s introduction as a short, readable prose prophecy, a surrogate for the real Blake—just as mystifying in content but more familiar-looking in form. But how true, and how helpful to a new reader, are such statements as “‘The marriage of heaven and hell’ means that some day man’s ‘hell,’ or buried furnace of desire, will explode and burn up ‘heaven,’ or the remote and mocking sky,” or “This world of ‘single vision and Newton’s sleep’ has retreated to the stars, but is still watching us, and waiting its chance to return,” or “[I]f we could think away the external or nonhuman world,” then “Clearly” the whole universe would “have the shape of a single infinite human body,” and “Everything that we call ‘real’ in nature would then be inside the body and mind of this human being”? Exactly what do such cosmic statements mean, and in what context do they have meaning? How does Frye know, my students ask—or, as those obtuse ones in the Heavens of Albion asked the Bard in Milton, “Where hadst thou this terrible Song?” I could tell them that Frye is inspired and knows “it is Truth.’” or that Frye knows everything and if they don’t believe it talk to me again after they have read Fearful Symmetry a few more times—and I would be right. But I wouldn’t be giving them the kind of help they need at the time they need it. And I would have a harder time then explaining what is wrong with worshipping Mystery and revering priestcraft and kingship. Frye has earned his knowledge and is master of his wisdom; even so, some of his explanations are done with mirrors, sleights-of-words like those italicized in the following passage:
Or, varying the psychological symbols [i.e., from paternal to maternal], we may say that an isolated intelligence wholly surrounded by nature is, in a sense, unborn. The body of Mother Nature surrounds us like an embryo [“like a placenta”? or “as if we were embryos”?]. Hence our sexual desires [both men’s and women’s], as long as they are directed toward something outside us [as opposed to what, self-love?] are really desires for a mother, and in the final analysis are desires for a death which is complete identification with Mother Nature. Blake’s lyrics [most of them, or only those in the Pickering Ms.?] are full of symbols, crystal cabinets, golden chapels and nets, cups of gold, and others, which represent both Nature and the womb. We note that Nobodaddy’s habitation in the Old Testament, first in the ark of the covenant and then in the Temple, had a feminine touch—curtains. Natural religion, then, leads to a mother as well as to a father.Frye’s tone is so authoritative that it takes an uncommon beginning student to go patiently through the steps that connect Blake’s text with Frye’s first sentence and lead from Frye’s first sentence to his last. Yet only by helping students take these steps and then break free of Frye’s pronouncements can one teach these souls to fly.
For practical academic use, Frye’s text is under-annotated. His brief end-notes supply facts about copies and dates, but not about literary and bibliographical allusions or points of critical consensus on major problems. The absence of plate-numbers is a serious inconvenience, especially for a student who is trying to use The Illuminated Blake or to follow any critical essay written in the last ten years, or for a teacher who supplements Frye’s selections with laboriously typed and mimeographed begin page 14 | ↑ back to top handouts and needs a standardized reference system to explain where the insertions fit in. And after twenty years, the bibliographical section is badly in need of revision.
The inspiriting and unequivocal phrase in Adams’ first sentence, “one of the greatest geniuses England has produced,” is the right way to get started (as Bateson’s statement that after Blake was 33 or 34 he wrote “no more poetry that is indisputably first class”—except for “Ah: Sunflower,” the Introduction to Experience, and the lyric in Milton—is the wrong thing to put in an introduction). Adams gracefully works in general information through Blake’s three obituaries in the daily press and tells the life story simply, with no rhetorical heightening. Adams’ remark that during Blake’s lifetime “only two of his works were actually printed,” Poetical Sketches and A Descriptive Catalogue—which leaves out of account The French Revolution—is a good illustration of how difficult it is to formulate even the simplest factual statement about Blake that will hold together on a second reading. (It is not as easy as it should be to find a biographical summary that identifies Blake’s early patron as the Rev. A. S. Mathew.3↤ 3 Although in 1951 H. M. Margoliouth corrected Henry Mathew (from J. T. Smith’s Nollekens and his Times, 1828) to Anthony Stephen Mathew (N & Q, 196:162-63), the Tillotson-Fussell-Waingrow Eighteenth Century English Literature in 1969 was faithful to Henry Mathew, as was John Holloway in his 1968 critical introduction. Gardner, Pinto, and Adams overcorrect the name to “A. S. Matthews,” as does Todd in his Dell edition (keeping things straight in his Blake the Artist). Bateson caught the “Henry” in his 1957 edition and corrected it in subsequent reprintings. ) In the critical discussion suddenly the straightforward exposition bogs down. All Adams says to introduce Urizen (whom he calls “Blake’s tragic figure” and “the man trapped in the cave,” without explanation) is that he is “isolated in a brutalizing mechanistic philosophy of nature and man, seeking frantically to impose abstract moral codes upon apparent chaos” (p. x). Adams goes on to outline Blake’s general views on mind and nature, space and time, fall and regeneration, very clearly, but he over-organizes the relationships among these ideas, the Zoas, and the states from Ulro to Eden. This rigidity is especially obvious in the right-side-up and upside-down stick figure who is supposed to represent unfallen and fallen Albion, with his Zoas in right and wrong states of existence. Although I continue to use the Adams text, I have given up on this diagram because it never seems to mean anything to students outside class, and in class it draws attention away from Blake to what Adams may have meant. A contrary witness, though, is my colleague at a neighboring university, who claims that when each class masters his standard exercise of drawing and labeling the diagram from memory, its general comprehension of Blake is almost miraculously improved.
In the end-notes, Adams has exactly the right idea. He avoids detailed commentaries on shorter poems and limits himself on the prophecies to “a helpful brief running commentary that will guide the reader through the major events of these difficult poems. . . . Unless the commentaries are to become prohibitively long, they must remain superficial.” Everywhere there is evidence that Adams cares about his intended audience; he stays with the mainstream of Blake criticism and rarely lets slip an unchecked fact or an unidentified opinion. Still better, he provides up-to-date references for further reading, not only in the general bibliography, but also where they are needed most, in the notes to each poem, as problems arise. Only Adams, among editors of selections, publishes the whole of Jerusalem—but I would gladly give up a few passages in this poem, those on a par with the “begats” of the Bible, in return for the unwisely omitted America.
Which scholarly edition to use is the toughest decision of all. Keynes has revised his poetry text to assimilate Erdman’s new readings;4↤ 4 David V. Erdman, “A Temporary Report on Texts of Blake,” in William Blake: Essays for S. Foster Damon, ed. Alvin H. Rosenfeld (Providence: Brown, 1969), p. 399. he normalizes the punctuation; he prints all the letters. Furthermore, the great body of older criticism is keyed to this admirable edition, as are Damon’s Dictionary and Erdman’s Concordance. But Keynes’ punctuation eliminates certain meaningful ambiguities, like double-jointed modifiers that swing between two nouns. It decides questions like assignments of speeches and plurals versus possessives before a student even sees that there is a problem. Keynes’ condensed textual notes make up a neat, compact edition; on the other hand, Erdman’s fuller notes allow a student to follow editorial decision-making. Keynes’ blending of critical and textual notes is more convenient for the reader than the constant shuffling between Erdman’s textual notes and Bloom’s Commentary necessary in the Doubleday book. The Keynes edition is arranged chronologically, while the Erdman edition separates works in illuminated printing from other works; there are obvious advantages to both systems. Erdman’s retention of Blake’s punctuation, or its near-equivalent in letterpress, satisfies the scholar’s and the advanced student’s special needs, but the absence of some letters is a serious inconvenience. The unevenness of Bloom’s Commentary presents another problem: the teacher probably wants advanced students to know Bloom’s provocative and influential opinions on each point without adopting his slant on everything, but no general warning can convey the right degree of judicious mistrust of this Commentary (or of Damon’s Dictionary, for that matter). The rumored solution of at least one distinguished (but non-Blakean) Romanticist—a flat instruction to avoid the Commentary—would be unacceptable to most of us; there is too much good in these pages to throw out, although much of the good is available in coherent essay form in Bloom’s books. With my students, I do what I suspect most of us end up doing: I use the Erdman-Bloom text in graduate courses, dealing with its limitations as they become problems; for tutorials, I show and describe the major texts and let the student decide which one he wants; for theses, I suggest that the advanced student buy both Keynes and Erdman-Bloom.
Stevenson’s edition (with Erdman’s text, published by Longman and Norton) is in some ways a good alternative to both Keynes and Erdman-Doubleday, but not in enough ways. In accordance with Bateson’s principles as general editor of the series, Stevenson repunctuates the Erdman text, removing Blake’s characteristic ampersands (except in the later works, to save space), free capitalization, and odd spelling. He prints no letters, no manuscript prose at all. His footnoted descriptions of the designs serve no purpose that I can see. They are set up as verbal substitutes for the pictures, though Stevenson omits the title page of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, neglects to mention significant details (like the differences in scale of the figures in the frontispiece to America), and assigns fixed meanings to certain features (hair worn in a bun means orderliness begin page 15 | ↑ back to top and propriety, according to the note on Urizen 2, despite the facts that timid Thel wears her hair loose and the free-spirited Oothoon on Visions iii wears hers in a knot). At any rate, descriptions of designs are now unnecessary to those who own The Illuminated Blake. To make use of scholarly research on re-dating and re-arranging some of the non-illuminated works and de-canonizing certain illuminated pages, Stevenson publishes unfamiliar new entities like Four Zoas, Night VII A + B (in sequence), Milton with the six latest plates appended in reduced type (i.e., the Milton of Copies A and B, with a simpler version of the Bard’s song, fewer descriptions of female cruelty, and no statement on the distinction between States and Individuals), and The French Revolution in the plausible Halloran order. The strict chronological arrangement of Songs breaks up aesthetic units like the three-flower sequence.
Stevenson’s glosses in headnotes and footnotes, especially the identification of Biblical allusions supplied by Michael J. Tolley, save hours of searching and permit students to cut through quickly to important problems of interpretation. Stevenson’s notes are the best feature of his edition: they are to the point and usually as simple as anyone could make them. Now and then an offbeat or controversial interpretation masquerades as a well-accepted explanation, like the definition of the limit of translucence as “the very farthest point a human being can go [toward opacity], and still live,” in the note to Four Zoas, IV, 270, without a reference to “But there is no Limit of Expansion’. there is no Limit of Translucence” in Jerusalem 42:35 (an unfootnoted passage). The comment on “The Human Abstract” that “the image runs away with B[lake]’s imagination and distracts his pursuit of the poem” is probably an outgrowth of the odd remark that “A Poison Tree” is interesting “in the light it throws on B. ’s feelings of horror about trees . . . ” But Stevenson makes up for many faults by refraining from programming the reader’s response to such poems as “The Tyger,” allowing the questions to remain questions. His choice of passages from Swedenborg in the notes to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is the best I’ve seen in editions of Blake; they really help a student enjoy the elements of parody instead of just learning that they are present. The maps of London and the Holy Land are helpful. The “Index to Notes,” p. 876, is a fine solution to the problem of annotating fully but not repetitively, and it serves as a brief index of themes and images. The “Note on Names and Key-Words” is a good idea, but it should be longer and less opinionated, without arbitrary instructions on the pronunciation of Blakean names.
All three editions that print all of the poetry print few of the pictures. Without providing a list of illustrations, Keynes inserts line-reproductions of designs for “To Tirzah,” Milton II (half-title), Milton’s track, Jerusalem 41 , 54, 72, 81, 93, and Gates of Paradise (For Children, without the additional designs in For the Sexes). Erdman prints flat-finish photographs of America 10, “The Last Judgment,” “The Laocoön,” and Blake’s autograph in the Upcott album (listed in his table of illustrations) and exactly the same line-reproductions as Keynes (not listed). Stevenson prints severely reduced glossy photographs of one of Linnell’s sketches of Blake, Europe 11, Vala, p. 9, Jerusalem 97, and “The Laocoön” (all listed in his table of illustrations). The narrowness of the Longman-Norton page, in proportion to its height, apparently accounts for the excessive reduction of the prints in Stevenson, which leaves disproportionate margins at the bottoms of the pages. A slightly wider page would have been more suitable for the pictures—as for Blake’s long lines—since the ratio of width to length in the pictures is not compatible with a long, narrow format. One other feature would be helpful in a complete Blake: it would be convenient to have a quick-reference concordance in the back—not a computerized printout of every and and the, but a short, fine-print, practical concordance of important words.
Two good Blake selections still sell for under a dollar: Gleckner’s 195-page book for Crofts Classics (now AHM), 95£, and Todd’s 159-page book for the Laurel Poetry Series, Dell, 75£; either would be just right for a supplementary text in an eighteenth-century course. In outlining Blake’s myth, Gleckner quotes “I must create a system” without identifying Los as the speaker—but after making appropriate qualifications he succeeds in covering all the major ideas in a clear, coherent, and compact way. His standardizing Blake’s capitalization and punctuation is easily justified but his substantial liberties with the text are questionable. For example, “in view of Blake’s constant changing of the order,” Gleckner publishes his own arrangement of the Songs. The footnotes, kept brief, are not always satisfactory: Rintrah is said to be “in Blake’s mythology a lion, usually signifying wrath.” To call the Rintrah of the Marriage a lion (in the air and over the deep) is probably less confusing for the student than to call him Pitt, as many editors do in deference to Erdman’s political identification of the Rintrah of Europe, but the best preparation in notes to the Marriage for later encounters with Rintrah in Milton and Europe would be to confine the discussion to Rintrah’s wrath and indignation, his prophetic and cleansing outrage, while alerting the reader to the shifting values taken on by Blake’s characters in various contexts. Urthona in “A Song of Liberty” is called “one of Blake’s four Zoas, representing spirit,” as if no one had ever identified him with imagination. Albion and Marygold (not Urizen or the sociopolitical allusions) receive the only two footnotes in Visions. Urizen appears in full, and the lyric from Milton and selections from Prefaces to Jerusalem encourage further reading. Todd, on the other hand, makes no gestures toward the later Blake, except to concede in his introduction that “large passages of the so-called Prophetic Books are fascinating reading indeed for those who have the time and the knowledge to study them carefully.” Todd thinks that many references “must remain forever obscure” and that for long stretches “there is just not enough poetry to carry the obscurity” (pp. 11-12). To Todd’s ear, even Blake’s “lyrical poems are often rough and pay little attention to the niceties of prosody” (p. 21). In general, however, the introduction is warmly appreciative; begin page 16 | ↑ back to top it appears almost that Todd registers his complaints because these are the kinds of things one is (or was) expected to say against Blake, particularly, perhaps, to a British audience.
In the category of critical handbooks, Nurmi’s William Blake has appeared in London just in time to take its rightful place, all alone, in this survey. The only successful work of its kind, it answers a need recognized officially in 1964 in the Bentley-Nurmi Bibliography (p. 30). Until now, there has been no reader’s guide that would not do as much harm as good. Guides by Gardner and Gillham, despite occasional real merits, are so hostile to Blake’s major work and so full of random errors that students are much better off without them. Harris’s Monarch notes are refreshingly unpretentious, but extensive help with the major prophecies is beyond the scope of the Monarch series. Raine’s lavishly illustrated and consistently esoteric Thames and Hudson/Praeger book is a feast for the eye but a trouble to the mind. The non-verbal emphasis of Todd’s excellent William Blake the Artist is evident from its title. Margoliouth’s still available introduction, remarkable though it is for its clarity and comprehensiveness, would have to brought up to date to restore its full usefulness.
Alone among the writers of guidebooks, Nurmi dares roundly to assert that in The Four Zoas “Blake’s myth suddenly explodes. Though often confusing because it is unfinished, it is nevertheless one of the very greatest works of literature and an essential work for anyone who wants to know Blake” (p. 26). After a helpful introduction to this work at the beginning of its own separate chapter, Nurmi is unable to keep from sliding into a sort of plot summary that depends on Blake’s own terms instead of opening up the poem for the student and general reader. Almost everywhere else though, Nurmi manages to blend his own ideas with the insights developed by Blake’s foremost expositors in order to provide fresh restatements of difficult critical insights. As Nurmi explains Urizen, for example, in the conflict between Orc’s raw vitality and Urizen’s efforts at repression, “the fallen world necessarily embodies the very oppositions which Urizen had set out by denying. The whole process of creation . . . has been that of the construction of a disorganized and debased shadow of the eternal world of mind, a shadow which preserves the contrariety of Eternity, but does so in the dangerous and unstable form of negations” (p. 113). The simple reminder that the events of America were in Blake’s past, that the subtitle “A Prophecy” is clearly not a forecast but a visionary perspective on these events (p. 23), is an invaluable introduction to the meaning of prophecy in Blake. The musical notations devised by Ruth Nurmi should lead to further work on Blake’s versification. I strongly endorse, by the way, Nurmi’s brief comparison of Oothoon with Hardy’s Tess, “a pure woman, though experienced” (p. 102); for years I too have found this comparison useful in class, pressed further than in Nurmi, even down to the points on the triangle occupied by Bromion (and Alec D’Urberville) and Theotormon (and Angel Clare). Hester Prynne’s difficulties with the men in her life, which Frye mentions as a parallel in Fearful Symmetry, are less distinctly similar.
Nurmi describes the movement of the Songs as a spiral from “simple Innocence into and through Experience and then on to a different, complex Innocence, which, without rejecting Experience, transcends it in imaginative vision” (p. 57). This statement is commendable because it does not teach students helplessly to rely on the critically-invented term “higher Innocence” or betray them into a denigration of the state of Innocence on account of its ironic reversals in Experience; similarly clear and enlightening remarks appear on almost every page. With Nurmi’s help, the student should be able to read the Songs, indeed all of the poems, with understanding, without worrying them into a system less flexible than Blake’s own. One unfortunate and unaccountable flaw should be corrected: the adjective “the late” applied to Sir Geoffrey Keynes (p. 99) should, we all hope, be marked out of each copy of Nurmi’s book for a long time to come.
This survey concludes not in a general reassessment but in the checklist that follows.begin page 17 | ↑ back to top
The purpose of this checklist is to present the distinguishing points of books and materials on Blake in a form that a teacher can take in at a glance when ordering examination copies for courses dealing with Blake. The annotations emphasize extremes of good and bad features; consequently, I have little to say about excellent comments made by many writers on Blake or features common to most textbooks. I have noted statements about Blake’s pictures and major prophecies because I consider such statements to be indicators of the depth and currency of the scholarship underlying a textbook or an introductory critical work. I have been alert to statements that might confuse, repel, or otherwise discourage students. I have noted useful aids like maps, indices of terms, and lists of museums and libraries with substantial Blake holdings. In calling attention to controversial and unusual features I hope to provide assistance unavailable elsewhere—in publishers’ catalogues, reviews, and the like; my annotations should not be taken as thumbnail summaries and evaluations because I do not deal with the noncontroversial material that makes up the bulk of most works on Blake.
Statistics on page-distributions are included because in some editions the author’s preface and other sections are paginated in Roman numerals (not necessarily beginning with i) while in others even the title page is part of the Arabic foliation. Thus a standard bibliographical formulation such as “xix + 100 pp.” is not sufficiently informative. Information is incomplete for a few entries, but only a very few statistical entries and no evaluative comments are based on catalogue descriptions. In preparing this checklist, I have had to change some prices several times, and I have no confidence that specified prices will still be in effect at the time this checklist comes into use. I have listed prices of the cheapest editions, usually paperback when available, and I have tried not to list recently published works with prices over $10, except for large anthologies.
Some readers may find the boundaries and categories of the checklist arbitrary. Obviously, I had to stop somewhere. I decided, from weariness, not to list all the anthologies of eighteenth-century literature that I knew about—as I had done in the nineteenth-century category—but to cite only the larger and better known ones with sections on Blake. Books of interest primarily to juveniles or to the general public are omitted. Throughout, I have confined myself to what might be ordered for a course, ignoring what might be ordered for the college library or the teacher’s own library—hence no microforms, expensive facsimiles, or advanced books of criticism. Graduate students are glad to know about the Kraus Reprint—once $23.50, recently changed to $28.00—of the Keynes-Wolf Census, for example, but I didn’t consider it a book that would be ordered for a course, and I have made no provision for special items needed in thesis research.
Out-of-print and forthcoming editions are listed so that readers can keep up with the appearance and disappearance of useful books. The search through Books in Print for this information is a frustrating and eye-straining task that only one person should have to perform. Anthologies of or about Romanticism that exclude Blake are omitted.
An asterisk (*) indicates that an entry in this checklist has been discussed in the survey section above. The appendix lists addresses for publishers so that the survey and checklist can be used as a mail-order catalogue for teachers writing for examination copies for their courses. I regret that I have not carried the project far enough to list Canadian and Australian editions and addresses of Commonwealth book-distributors for British and American firms. The hard work done in the summer of 1975 by Cara Marris, research assistant and cheerful drudge, enabled me to bring my efforts to a stopping-point only twelve months after the editors of the Newsletter had originally expected a final draft; but even with her help I have not done all that needs doing.
This survey suggests two further projects that someone else may wish to take up. One is a history of how Blake has been presented in textbooks since 1900, for which a useful reference would be Morse Peckham, “A Survey of Romantic Period Textbooks,” CE, 20 (October 1958), 49-53. Another is a survey of reference books—guidebooks on Romanticism (represented in the checklist only by editions in paperback), literary histories, compendia of literary criticism, and art encyclopedias—in order to learn what kinds of information and opinion are being disseminated through them. There is need also for a periodic checklist of books in print by and about Blake; anyone who has tried to use Books in Print is aware that the system of cross-referencing isn’t reliable: if the author is known, the title can usually be found, but it may not be cross-listed under subject and title headings. A book without “Blake” in the title will not be found under “Blake” as subject. Useful complements to the present checklist are Everett Frost, “A Checklist of Blake Slides” [includes posters and postcards], Blake Newsletter 33, 9 (1975), 4-28, and Peter Roberts, “A Review Essay on Blake Music and a Checklist: On Tame High Finishers of Paltry Harmonies,” Blake Newsletter 28, 7 (1974), 91-99.begin page 18 | ↑ back to top
|Ah||Book of Ahania|
|Am||America a Prophecy|
|ARO||All Religions are One|
|E||Europe a Prophecy|
|Experience||Songs of Experience|
|GoP||Gates of Paradise|
|Innocence||Songs of Innocence|
|Island||Island in the Moon|
|MHH||Marriage of Heaven and Hell|
|NNR||There is No Natural Religion|
|Sexes||For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise|
|Songs||Songs of Innocence and of Experience|
|Thel||Book of Thel|
|Urizen||Book of Urizen|
|VDA||Visions of the Daughters of Albion|
|VLJ||Vision of the Last Judgment|
I. Anthologies of 19th-Century British Literature or of English Romanticism
* Abrams, M. H., ed. “The Romantic Period,” in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2. 1962; N. Y.: Norton, 3rd ed., 1974. Pp. 40-111, 864-65. Paper, $9.25; Major Authors ed., $10.95.
Introduction, 40-44; selections, with headnotes and footnotes, 45-111; MS. revisions of “The Tyger,” 864-65. Erdman text, repunctuated, with plate numbers. Fuller selections and notes in each new edition; added in the third are “The Mental Traveller” and the opening and conclusion of J.
Anderson, George K. and William E. Buckler, eds. The Literature of England, Vol. 2. An Anthology and a History: From the Dawn of the Romantic Movement to the Present Day. 1958; Glenview, 111.: Scott, Foresman, 5th ed., 1966. Pp. 139-49. $12.95.
Blake section, in “The Approach to Romanticism,” includes selections from Songs, Thel (Motto), “Auguries,” and M (Hymm). According to the introduction (p. 9), many now place Blake “among the greatest of English poets,” and he was “one of the first of English engravers.” “Both the innocent and sinister forces of nature are set before the reader in inspired symbolic poetry, often of crystalline simplicity, and again of murky obscurity.” Blake was Romantic in his humanitarian instincts, his literary approach, and his myth-making, but—apparently because he gives “the impression that he would have written as he did no matter what his age or his environment”—he is classified with Burns as a forerunner of the Romantics.
Auden, W. H. and Norman H. Pearson, eds. Romantic Poets: Blake to Poe. N. Y.: Viking (Viking Portable), 1950. Pp. 1-25. Paper, $5.95.
Selections from Sketches, Songs, MSS., hymn from M, Thel; hardly any mention of Blake in introduction.
Bernbaum, Ernest, ed. Anthology of Romanticism. 1929; N. Y.: Ronald Press, 3rd ed., 1948. Pp. 111-34, pp. 1085-134. $10.50.
Blake is with the Romantics, not Pre-Romantics. Bibliography revised just in time to list Fearful Symmetry (1947). Good notes for its era, based on Damon, Percival, and others. “Today [Blake’s] reputation resembles that of the founder of a religious cult, and it is clear that he offers something which to many moderns is of fascinating interest.” The usual early works, plus very brief excerpts from FR, MHH, VDA, Am, FZ, M, and J.
* Bewley, Marius, ed. The English Romantic Poets: An Anthology with Commentaries. N. Y.: Random House (Modern Library Giant), 1969. Pp. 1-105. $5.95.
Introduction, 3-30; bibliography, 30-31; selections from Sketches, Songs, MSS.; all of MHH, VDA, Urizen, hymn from M, 31-105.
* Bloom, Harold and Lionel Trilling, eds. “Romantic Poetry and Prose,” in The Oxford Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2: 1800 to the Present. N. Y., London, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1973. Pp. 10-124. Vol. 2, paper, $7.95; Romantic section only, paper, $4.95. Major Authors Edition, 1975, paper, $6.95.
Bloom’s hand is apparent in the introduction to the poetry sections (at his best in the moving introduction to Wordsworth); Trilling is apparently the editor of the prose division, which omits Blake. Selections from Sketches, Songs, MSS., FZ, M, J, GoP, VLJ, letters; all of Thel, MHH, VDA, Am. (The Major Authors Edition pp. 10-72, omits selections from FZ, M, J, GoP, VLJ, and letters.)
Foakes, R. A., ed. Romantic Criticism, 1800-1850. London: Edward Arnold, 1968; Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1970. Pp. 17-22. $2.25; £1.15.
Letters to Trusler, Butts; selections from Annotations to Reynolds, Wordsworth, VLJ.
Grigson, Geoffrey, ed. The Romantics: An Anthology. 1942; rpt. N. Y.: Somerset. $15.50.
Short excerpts from the major Romantics are arranged thematically, not by author. Includes 23 entries by Blake from Sketches, Island, Songs, MHH, MSS., Am, VDA, marginalia (Reynolds, Wordsworth), M, VLJ, J.
Hayward, John, ed. The Oxford Book of Nineteenth Century English Verse. 1964; Oxford: Clarendon, 1965. Pp. 18-47. $12.00; £4.25.
Selections: Sketches, Songs, MSS., FZ, M, J, Epilogue to GoP.
* Heath, William, ed. Poetry of the British Romantic Movement. N. Y.: Macmillan; London: Collier Macmillan, 1973. Pp. 7-161. $12.95.
Introduction, 7-11; chronology, 12-13; bibliography, 13-14; selections: Sketches, MSS., FZ, J (ch. 1); whole works: Songs, Thel, FR, MHH, VDA, Am, Urizen, M, Island; 3 letters, Memorandum for trial, annotations to Wordsworth, 14-161.
Hugo, Howard E., ed. The Portable Romantic Reader. 1957; N. Y.: Viking, 1960. Pp. 415-19, 463-65, 488. Paper, $3.50.
In this anthology of English, continental, and American Romantics, Blake rates three entries: “Nurse’s Song” from Innocence under “Romantic Primitivism” and the prose part of the Preface to J and the hymn from M under “The Romantic Revolution.” Hugo is also responsible for the “Romanticism” section of World Masterpieces, ed. Maynard Mack (N. Y.: Norton, 3rd ed., rev., 1973), an anthology which falls outside the bounds of this checklist but should be mentioned nevertheless. The third edition of World Masterpieces (1973) includes Blake for the first time (selections from Songs, all of MHH, “Mock on,” and the hymn from M); according to Hugo’s introduction in World Masterpieces (pp. 345-49), Blake opposed “Man-forg’d manacles” (my italics), and his mythic identifications of Britain and Israel “strike modern minds as absurd.”
Milford, Humphrey S., ed. Oxford Book of English Verse of the Romantic Period, 1798-1837. 1928; London, N. Y.: Oxford University Press, 1935. Pp. 25-49. $13.00; £4.00.
No early works; selections from M, J, “Everlasting Gospel,” other MSS. poems.
Nabholtz, John R., ed. Prose of the British Romantic Movement. N. Y.: Macmillan; London: Collier Macmillan, 1974. Pp. 1-38. $16.95.
Outline of events, bibliography (uneven: cites Gilchrist 1863, not 1880 or Todd’s Everyman, but does list Hugh Luke, ed., Swinburne’s William Blake, 1970); no general introduction. Selections: NNR, ARO, 2 of the Prefaces to J, annotations to Reynolds and Wordsworth, Des C, VLJ, 5 letters. Headnotes and footnotes explain things omitted in most editions—Blake’s use of a passage from Thomas Tickell,[e] for example, or information about Charles Wilkins, the subject of the lost painting, “Mr. Wilkin, translating the Geeta.”
Noyes, Russell, ed. English Romantic Poetry and Prose. N. Y., London: Oxford University Press, 1956. Pp. 192-233. $9.95; £5.75.
No Blake text listed in “Acknowledgments of Copyrighted Materials.” Chronology, introduction, headnotes. Sketches, Songs, Thel, MHH, MSS., VDA, Am, FZ, M, J, letters. Blake’s life and work, as described, sound vaguely disreputable: “He fell in with a band of intellectual revolutionaries and became their most daring spokesman. . . . By rash deeds and forth-right utterances Blake condemned himself to a life of poverty” (p. 194). After “a bitter incident in his own life” led him into the state of Experience, from which he emerged with a clearer perception, Blake wrote the prophetic books. Though begin page 19 | ↑ back to top “the commentaries are increasing year by year and little by little the light breaks through the darkness, it is unlikely that there will ever be a standard codification of Blake’s thought” (p. 197); yet “today he stands among his admirers in danger of overpraise.”
* Perkins, David, ed. English Romantic Writers. N. Y.: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967. Pp. 37-168. $13.95.
Keynes text. Introduction, 37-44; bibliography, 44-46; headnotes, footnotes, poems, prose, 46-168. Pictures (some slightly enlarged): Songs 8, 11, 42, 49. All of NNR, ARO, Songs, Thel, MHH, Am, Urizen, Ah, and M; selections from Sketches, FZ, Pickering MS., prefaces from J, MS. prose and letters.
Spender, Stephen, ed. A Choice of English Romantic Poetry. 1947; rpt. Freeport, N. Y.: Books for Libraries, 1969. Pp. 31-44. $16.00.
Thel, selections from Sketches, Songs, MSS., FR.
Woodring, Carl, ed. Prose of the Romantic Period. Boston: Houghton Mifflin (Riverside), 1961. Pp. 557-61. Paper, $2.95.
Headnote mentions Swinburne, Frye, and Nurmi. Selections from MHH (Proverbs only), annotations to Reynolds, and Des C.
Woods, George Benjamin, ed. English Poetry and Prose of the Romantic Movement. 1916; Chicago: Scott, Foresman, rev. ed., 1950. Pp. 166-98, 1258-63, 1408-10. $15.95.
Pictures: two designs for Blair’s Grave, Songs 3, 5, 8, 15, 40, 42, 46, 49, and Am 11 (lettering retouched as in some of the Yeats-Ellis facsimiles). Preserves Blake’s spelling; source of text not acknowledged. New features of 1950 ed. are “reproductions of original illustrations from the Romantic period and a large number of new selections from William Blake” (p. vii). In an essay on “Romanticism and Illustration,” Karl J. Holzknecht recommends Blake’s pictures for study in relation to the text. Among the “Eighteenth Century Forerunners,” Blake is represented by the usual selections from early works and by short excerpts from Am, FZ, M, and J. Critical notes quote Symons, Wallis, Berger; publications dated 1890-1930 predominate, but Percival, Bronowski, Todd, Davies, Frye, and Schorer with others less noteworthy from 1930-1950 appear as well.
Wright, David, ed. The Penguin Book of English Romantic Verse. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Baltimore: Penguin, 1968. Pp. 67-93. $3.95; £0.40.
Selections from Songs, epigrams, Pickering MS. In a general introduction Blake is called “the greatest vatic poet of the Romantic movement.”
II. Prominent 18th-Century Anthologies
Bredvold, Louis I., Alan D. McKillop and Lois Whitney, eds. Eighteenth Century Poetry and Prose. 1939; N. Y.: Ronald Press, 3rd ed., rev., John M. Bullitt, 1973. Pp. 1445-77. $12.25.
Introduction and bibliography, 1445-47; selections and headnotes: Sketches, Songs, Thel (complete), FR (complete), Pickering MS., hymn from M, 1447-77. In McKillop’s original general introduction which still stands in this third edition, Blake “stands apart as the poet of rebellion and anarchy; he is not interested in saving tradition by modifying it” (p. xxvi). Bullitt has modernized the bibliography (without changing earlier entries—so that Rudd is both M. E. and Margaret, for example, and there are two entries for J. G. Davies, one as “Davis”) and revised the general attitude toward Blake: “the more his difficult prophetic books are studied, the more stimulating the pattern of thought in them becomes.” Lack of concern with texts makes it appear that Blake spelled his most famous creature’s name “Tyger” in his notebook and “Tiger” in his final version. When an ampersand is misprinted as a dash, Blake seems to say (in the introduction) that his works “are the delight—Study of Archangels.”
Quintana, Ricardo and Alvin Whitley, eds. English Poetry of the Mid and Late Eighteenth Century. N. Y.: Knopf (Borzoi Series), 1963. Pp. 307-21. $4.95.
Selections: Songs only. Chronology, introduction, long interpretive footnotes, shrewdly selective bibliography. Small factual errors in biography. The essentials of Blake’s system “emerge plainly enough from his writings” (p. 309); the fall and return is “one of the central myths in our cultural tradition, accessible to all of us. . . . Blake sought only to elucidate, never to confuse, nor does he confuse [concerning] the simple things he sets forth: love, forgiveness, the realization of self through the annihilation of narrow selfhood; the death-wish expressed as jealousy and a desire to exert power over others; the imaginative and creative reality which we find within ourselves and which is Christ” (p. 309).
Tillotson, Geoffrey, Paul Fussell, Jr., and Marshall Waingrow, with the assistance of Brewster Rogerson, eds. Eighteenth-Century English Literature. N. Y., London: Harcourt, 1969. Pp. 1490-517. $13.95; £5.50.
Selections: Sketches, Songs, short poems, annotations to Reynolds, letters to Trusler and Flaxman. Keynes text. Brief commentary, with one paragraph explaining that Blake wasn’t really insane. List of basic books omits Erdman’s text and the Keynes-Wolf Census. Mentions Erdman, Schorer, Bronowski, and Frye but not Bloom, Gleckner, Adams, or Damon.
III. Complete Editions of Blake
* Erdman, David V., ed. The Poetry and Prose of William Blake; Commentary by Harold Bloom. 1965; Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 4th printing with corr., 1970. xxiv + 908 pp. Paper, $7.95.
Preface, xxiii-xxiv; poems and prose, 1-708; textual notes, 709-806; Bloom’s commentary, 807-89; index, 893-908. Pictures: 4 full-page photographs and 24 small reproductions in line.
* Keynes, Geoffrey, ed. Complete Writings of William Blake, with Variant Readings. 1966; London, N. Y.: Oxford University Press (Oxford Standard Authors), rpt. with corr., 1974. xvi + 944 pp. Paper, $7.95; £2.50.
Twenty-four small illustrations; “Infant Joy” on 1974 cover, sepia tone. Prefaces, viii-xvi; poems and prose, 1-880; textual and critical notes, 883-936; index, 937-44.
Plowman, Max, ed. Blake’s Poems and Prophecies. 1927; London: Dent; New York: Dutton (Everyman’s Library), rev., Geoffrey Keynes, 1970. xxxvi + 439 pp. Paper, $2.95; £0.80.
Introduction, vii-xxvi, supplement, xxviii-xxviii (1959); rev. bibliography, xxiv-xxxi (1963). Exciting corrective to common misconception that nobody really understood Blake until recent times. Serious content, chatty style. Only Philistines, Plowman says, ridicule those “with the temerity to believe Blake always intended deeply, mattered greatly, and would eventually prove explicable down to the vagaries in his punctuation” (p. xi); “the efforts to punctuate Blake go to show that those who cannot read his lines as he wrote them will not be able to do so with the aid of the most skillful compositor” (p. xxvi). Separates Blake’s canon (“poems Blake approved, engraved, illustrated, printed, and coloured with his own hand”) from both the important work remaining in MS. (FZ is excluded from this edition because of its length and the “prentice work which Blake quickly put behind him.” Prints plate numbers. Beyond being genially appreciative, Plowman also gets down to cases, as in his succinct and perceptive description of the structure of MHH: a poem as prologue, a central text in six chapters (each with designs for headings and colophons, each with dogmatic statements followed by fanciful illustrative sections), and a song as epilogue.
* Stevenson, W. H., ed. The Poems of William Blake. London: Longman, 1971; N. Y.: Norton (Annotated English Poets), 1972. xxiiii + 877 pp. $14.95; £3.95.
Preface, xi-xxiii; chronology, xv; poems, 3-864; index, 865-75; Index to Notes, 876; Note on Names and Key-words, 877. Pictures: Linnell’s 1825 sketch of Blake (with hat; artist not identified); E 11; FZ, p. 9; J 97; Laocoön; maps of Palestine and London.
IV. Editions of Selected Works by Blake
* Adams, Hazard, ed. William Blake: Jerusalem, Selected Poems and Prose. N. Y.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1970. xxv + 747 pp. Paper, $2.50.
Introduction, v-xix; note on text, xx-xxi; chronology, xxii-xxiv; bibliography, xxv-xxvii; shorter poems, 1-106; selected prophecies, 109-511 (omits Am), selections from prose, marginalia, letters, 515-89, notes, 685-747. Illustrations: frontispiece to E, “Infant Joy,” “Sick Rose,” Ezekiel (and on cover), Urizen 10 (Rosenwald), Job 15 (Morgan), J 70 (B.M.), “Elohim Creating Adam” (Tate).
Bateson, F. W., ed. Selected Poems of William Blake. 1957; begin page 20 | ↑ back to top London, Melbourne, Toronto: Heinemann Ltd. (The Poetry Bookshelf), corr. ed., 1969. xxx + 144 pp. £0.65.
Introduction, xi-xxx; poems, 1-89; notes, 91-144. Illustration: frontispiece to Songs (in color). Psychological speculations about Blake and his siblings. Guide to symbols: innocence symbols, energy symbols, sexual symbols, corruption symbols, and oppression symbols (p. 92). The designs “are normally unhelpful if not actually misleading” (p. 105). Although usually a “chronological framework is the indispensable preliminary to the understanding of Blake’s work,” Bateson ignores both chronology and “Blake’s own haphazard arrangement of the plates” of the Songs and prints matching poems of Innocence and Experience face to face. Selections reflect Bateson’s disdain for the prophetic books, which are represented only by the epilogue from MHH and three lyrics from M and J.
Bronowski, Jacob, ed. William Blake: A Selection of Poems and Letters. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Baltimore: Penguin, 1958. 251 pp. $1.95; £0.50.
Stunning new cover for the 1975 reprinting: “Good and Evil Angels Struggling over a Child.” Introduction, 9-13; poems 16-212, annotations to Thornton and letters, 213-45. Keynes (1957 Nonesuch) text. Blake was neglected for several reasons: he was a difficult man—odd, sensitive, single-minded; self-taught, he made both penetrating and childish judgments; in his visual imagination everything was larger than life, disturbingly unreal because too real. In the “immense commonplace book” of his prophecies, his subject is always man’s distortion by rigid law and convention and his liberation by his own energies. Bronowski includes more than only his own favorite poems because “to ignore the more difficult manner in which he chose to write his later prophetic books (as of course every reader is tempted to do) would be an insult to him and a caricature of his work” (p. 13).
Carr, J. L., ed. William Blake. Mini Anthology of Poems. (Florin Poets) 2 illus. £0.10.
Erdman, David V., ed. William Blake: Selected Poetry. N. Y., Scarborough, Ont.: New American Library (Signet Classic Poetry Series); London: New English Library, 1976. 303 pp. $2.50.
Textual note, xiii; chronology, xv-xvi; selected bibliography, xvii-xviii; introduction, xix-xxix; Sketches, 1-22; Island, 24-43; ARO, 44; NNR, 45-46; Songs, 47-59, 134-48; Thel, 60-65; MHH, 66-80; FR, 81-95; VDA, 111-20; Am, 121-33; Urizen, 149-64; SoL, 165-69; MSS., 23, 43, 97-110, 170-71, 180-84, 264-302; M (shorter text), 186-263; GoP, 303; designs for “To Tirzah” and M (half-title for Bk. II and Milton’s track). Erdman text, with only occasional insertion of commas or periods. Introduction places a critical commentary in context of Blake’s life and times; excellent observations on the privacy of Blake’s notebook invectives. Generous but not intrusive footnotes.
Everett, Ruth E., ed. Songs of Innocence and of Experience, William Blake. N. Y.: Avon (Bard Books), 1971. 160 pp. $0.70.
Cover: frontispieces for Innocence and Experience, copy Z (in color, reduced). Introduction, pp. 7-25; notes and commentary interleaved with poetry, 28-135; famous quotations from Songs, 136-43; questions for study, locations of major collections, additional reading, audio-visual materials, pp. 144-60. Relies on Damon and Hirsch; maintains that Blake “like the Bard of Innocence” hears the Holy Word (p. 22). No. 16 of the questions that “would challenge a Blake scholar to try to give a serious answer”: “How was Blake influenced by each of the following: the Bible, Neoplatonism, Swedenborg, Boehme, the French Revolutionary writers?”
* Frye, Northrop, ed. Selected Poetry and Prose of William Blake. N. Y.: Random House (Modern Library), 1953. xxx + 475 pp. $2.95.
Introduction, xiii-xxvii; bibliography, xxix-xxx; lyrical poems, 3-94; minor prophecies, 99-189; major prophecies and later works, 193-334; prose, 337-458; notes, 459-65; index, 467-75; 8 plates (from Harvard and Morgan).
Gardner, Stanley, ed. William Blake: Selected Poems. London: University of London Press, 1962; Chester Springs, Pa.: Dufour Editions, 1964. 188 pp. $3.75; £0.60.
Introduction, ii-30; lyrics and short prophecies (“Song of Liberty” as a separate work, extracts from Urizen and Song of Los), 52-135; notes, 136-87. Quotations and anecdotes are detached from sources; an allusion to the Johnson circle is unexplained; Og is said to be one of Blake’s place-names. The great virtue of the notes and introduction is Gardner’s evocation of the physical presence of London in Blake’s works. Major prophecies are omitted because Gardner believes that “Blake’s mythology . . . was private, secret and intended to confuse” (p. 33); “a convincing critical justification of the final books has not been written; and to my mind such a justification could not be written” (p. 49). Although this edition was published in 1962, the section on Blake’s critics (pp. 41-50) refers to Gardner’s Infinity on the Anvil and Erdman’s Prophet Against Empire, both 1954, as the “two most important recent books.”
* Gleckner, Robert F., ed. William Blake: Selected Writings. N. Y.: Appleton-Century Crofts (Crofts Classics), 1967. xxvi + 195 pp. $0.95.
Standardized spelling and punctuation. Introduction, ix-xxii; chronology, xxiii-xxvi; early poems and annotations (through Experience), 1-121; Urizen, later annotations, MSS. poems, letters, prefaces to J, 122-92; bibliography, 193-95.
Kazin, Alfred, ed. The Portable Blake. 1946; rpt. N. Y.: Viking, 1961; London: Chatto and Windus, under title The Essential Blake. 713 pp. $3.95; £1.25.
Keynes text. Introduction, 1-55; the whole of major works up through Song of Los, 56-122; MSS. poems, 123-67; introduction to letters, 171-75; letters, 175-246; selections from FZ, 369-410 (editorial titles, without references to Night numbers); from M, 411-44; from J, 445-93 (with “I must create a system” as “Blake’s Motto”), prose selections, Robinson’s anecdotes, 675-94; chronology, 695-99; index, 703-13. Illustrations: Orc in flames (Am) on cover, Job designs (severely cropped, softened lines); GoP: Sexes (lacks Epilogue). Blake’s “absolute” isolation was that of a “temperament run on fixed ideas; and incidentally, of a craftsman who could not earn a living” (pp. 2-3). Blake combines “the formal devotional qualities of the English dissenters with the intellectual daring of Nietzsche, the Marquis de Sade, and Freud” (p. 5). Kazin’s rhetoric is flashy but often pointless, as in the following passage that inverts, perhaps unconsciously, an expression proverbial since Thomas a Kempis and then uses “nothing but” at the climactic point: “For Blake accepts nothing—not the God who is supposed to have proposed it this way, or the man who is constrained to dispose it in any way he can. Blake begins with a longing so deep, for all that is invisible and infinite to man under the dominion of God, matter, and reason, that he tears away the shell of earth, the prison of man in his own senses, to assert that there is nothing but man and that man is nothing but the highest flights of his own imagination” (p. 8). Kazin does not disguise his contempt for Blake’s major works: they are “rant” (p. 6), “wreckage and incoherence” (p. 27), all “ugly in the same way—as a series of passionately eloquent self-assertions, so burning in their exaltation that they seem to spring out of deep griefs of private misery and doubt” (p. 30); “a jungle, but it is possible—if you have nothing else to do—to get through them” (p. 49). Kazin’s reading of “The Tyger” is especially good on sound and rhythm (pp. 43-47). His discussion of the complex of Accuser-Satan-Spectre is very clear. His reading of the text of “London” is excellent; in commenting on the accompanying design, however, he does not look closely at the plate. He sees, in the right margin, a sweeper struggling before a black fame and, at the top, another sweeper standing in defiance before an old man, who represents the fossilized church, and “seems to be pouring out fresh soot” (pp. 12-16).
Kennedy, R. B., ed. William Blake: Songs of Innocence and of Experience, and Other Works. London: Collins (Collins Annotated Student Texts), 1970. 272 pp. £0.50.
Erdman text, modernized. Preface, 10-12; chronology, 13-14; Songs, Thel, MHH, VDA, “Everlasting Gospel,” MSS. poems, 15-140; notes, 143-248; critical extracts (since 1920, only Eliot and Bateson), 249-62; bibliography, 263-68; index, 269-72. Thoroughly, sensitively, and intelligently annotated, with much attention to MS. variants.
Pinto, Vivian de Sola, ed. William Blake. London: Batsford; N. Y.: Schocken Books, 1965. 194
Raine, Kathleen, ed. A Choice of Blake’s Verse. London: Faber and Faber, 1970. 151 pp. £0.95.
Introduction, 11-19; selections from early works, MSS., and minor prophecies, 21-86; lyrical passages from major prophecies, 87-133; other poems, 134-47; index, 148-51. Illustration: frontispiece, GoP (enlarged). Blake’s thought is not akin to that of the political left of today: “Far from being a forerunner of those atheist materialist ideologies which in our own society have attained such power and prestige, he waged against materialism his lifelong mental fight” because he believed that man’s enslavement “results precisely from those materialist ideologies, both in England and in France, of which Marxism is the ultimate triumph” (p. 13). In Raine’s printing the “Keys of the Gates” are more scrambled than Blake left them, and the marginal direction “Vox Populi” in FZ is interjected into the actual lines of verse.begin page 21 | ↑ back to top
* Todd, Ruthven, ed. Blake. N. Y.: Dell (Laurel Poetry Series), 1960. 159 pp. $0.75.
Introduction, 11-21; bibliographical note, 22-23, chronology, 24-25; judicious selection of poems and some prose, including Island with very brief selections from the later works, letters, 27-156; notes, 157-59.
Yeats, William Butler, ed. The Poems of William Blake. 1905; rpt. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1969. xlix + 277 pp. $3.25; £1.40.
Introduction, xi-xlix; poems and prose, 3-257 (selections from all periods); notes, 261-77. Apparently uses his own text. Biographical information includes Irish ancestry. Blake’s early works show the influence of Boehme, the Kabbalah, medieval magical philosophers like Agrippa; all these taught Blake to “free” himself from “the spectral and formal intellect of Swedenborg” and to think about the meaning of his own visions. He may also have known of the magic and mysticism of a secret society working in London under three brothers named Falk (p. xxix). Straightforward factual and textual notes.
V. Guidebooks, Introductions, & Study Aids
Clark, Kenneth (Baron). Blake and Visionary Art. University of Glasgow Press (W. A. Cargill Memorial Lectures), 1973. 22 pp. £0.40.
Damon, S. Foster. A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake. 1965; New York: Dutton, 1971; London: Thames & Hudson, 1973. Paper, $4.45; £1.95.
A nearly indispensable aid, particularly since there is no low-priced concordance. Keyed to the Keynes ed., 1957. Damon’s opinions are blended with received opinion. Clear maps, diagrams, pictures. Paperback ed. is easier to use than large hardbound ed., which in the second printing includes several small changes and a few new entries.
Daugherty, James. William Blake. N. Y.: Viking, 1960. 128 pp. $4.95.
Illustrated. For grades 9 and up. Intended as an inspirational biography for young readers, this book has one feature valuable for specialists: information on the present location of Blake’s major works in public collections—not just the illuminated books but important illustrations and independent designs as well.
Gardner, Stanley. Blake. London: Evans Bros. (Literature in Perspective), 1968; N. Y.: Arco (Literary Critiques), 1969. 160 pp. $1.95; £0.90.
Cover: Linnell portrait (with hat); illustrations: from FZ, Notebook, and Songs 6-7. Text, 5-156; bibliography, 157-58; index, 159-60. Excellent on Blake’s London milieu; wrong on many earlier works (calls Har and Heva the daughters of Tiriel); resistant to later works and to all critics except Erdman, Frye, and Gillham, as noted in my review in Blake Studies, 3 (1970), 94-98.
Garnett, Richard. William Blake, Painter and Poet. 1895; rpt. N. Y.: Folcroft, 1973. $8.75.
Interesting historically, but more anecdotal and less critically acute that Garnett’s work on Coleridge. Lavishly illustrated, with many full-page color facsimiles.
Gillham, D. G. William Blake. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (British Authors: Introductory Critical Series), 1973. x + 216 pp. $4.95; £1.75.
Cover: Phillips portrait (engr.); illustrations: frontispieces to Innocence and Experience. Introduction, viii-x; text, 1-213; index, 215-16. Five chapters on Songs (from Gillham’s earlier book), one on longer works, and one each on Thel and VDA. Gillham ignores or rejects the heroic critical labors of the last three decades: “Blake, in the longer prophecies, does not carry conviction; he is overassertive, abstract, and the agonies of his titanic figures are symbolic, intellectual and cold. . . . As poetry these works fail” (p. 162). Despite his close attention to the Songs, he frequently misses their spirit. The tone of “The Little Vagabond” is “self-righteous and accusatory”; “it[e] is to be doubted that a church of drinking parsons and permanently elated congregations would be an improvement” over churches of fasting and birch (p. 133). Gillham is gentlemanly enough to warn the reader that his analyses have “no warrant of general acceptance” (p. ix), a warning that should be affixed to the work of other critics inclined to be peculiar or perverse in their readings. No footnotes, no bibliography.
Harris, Eugenie. The Poetry of William Blake. N. Y.: Monarch, 1965. 111 pp. $1.25.
Text, 5-109; bibliography, 109-11. Generally factual (however, “a bitter incident in his own life” led into Experience; “Blake identifies himself with the ‘prince of love,’ Eros, who is enticed into a silken net and shut in a golden cage by Phoebus . . . ”; and MHH is “fragmentary in form”—some of the wording evidently picked up from Noyes). Questions and answers on most poems. Summary and comment even on later work. Suitable for its intended audience.
Holloway, John. Blake: The Lyric Poetry. London: Edward Arnold (Studies in English Literature, 34), 1968. 80 pp. Paper, £0.45.
Text, 10-76; bibliography, 77-79 (much on children’s hymns of Blake’s time); one illustration (from Smart’s Hymns for the Amusement of Children). For “the advanced sixth former and the university student.” Provocative readings of some of the Songs, from the premise that Blake remained close to the spirit of the Bible and of popular literature; but after attacking Wicksteed and Gillham for a narrowly sexual interpretation of “The Blossom,” Holloway declares that the poem is spoken by a young girl, not necessarily mature, but “old enough to know where her bosom is and what it is going to be for”; elsewhere as well he disregards his own sound admonition that we violate Blake’s lyrics “unless we start from the position of their radical simplicity.”
Lister, Raymond. William Blake: An Introduction to the Man and to his Work; Foreword by G. E. Bentley, Jr. London: G. Bell, 1968; New York: Unger, 1969. vii + 200 pp. $7.50; £2.45.
Thirty-two illustrations, one colored. Many of the illustrations are taken from originals in the collection of Mrs. Raymond Lister. Particularly informative on technical matters having to do with Blake’s career as an artist, with succinct interpretative comments on the poetry from all periods; serviceable, plain biography.
Margoliouth, H. N. William Blake. 1951; rpt. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books (Shoe String), 1967. 184 pp. $7.50.
Four illustrations. Vigorous style, sensitive readings of poems. Anecdotes about Robert’s spirit clapping his hands, Blake’s wearing cap of Liberty and warning Paine to flee for his life. Attempts to draw parallels between Blake’s four siblings and Wordsworth’s, also to compare the effect of Robert’s death with the effect of Tom Keats’s on his brother. Factual information needs correcting by recent scholarship: for instance, Blake and his partner ran a print shop for only one year; Butts was not Muster Master-General but only a clerk in that office.
* Nurmi, Martin K. William Blake. London: Hutchinson University Library, 1975. 175 pp. + 4 plates. Paper, £1.95.
Illustrations: Grave title-page (on cover); Linnell portrait (profile), “The Sick Rose,” Urizen, J title-page. Preface, 9; biographical facts, 11-34; early works (not etched), 35-49; Songs and other early illuminated books, 50-69; MHH, 70-84, political prophecies, 85-104; shorter prophecies, 105-10; FZ, 119-45; last prophecies, 146-61; notes, 162-66; bibliography, 167-69; index, 170-75.
Plowman, Max. An Introduction to the Study of Blake. London: Cass; N. Y.: Barnes & Noble, 2nd ed., Introduction by R. H. Ward, 1967. xxiv + 13-160 pp. 8 illus. Paper, $2.50; £0.60.
Raine, Kathleen. William Blake. 1951; British Council: Longmans, and National Book League; N. Y.: British Book Centre (Writers and Their Work #12), 1969. 39 pp. Paper, $1.50; £0.20.
Commentary, 3-32; bibliography, 33-39; 4 plates: Job (whirlwind), E frontispiece, Dante (hell-gate), Wise and Foolish Virgins. Blake’s work is “the most viable archetypal symbolism available to us.” Blake’s creations are “unmistakably English; gods and goddesses, they yet belong to the modern world; they include in their range the rationalism of Bacon, Newton, Locke, and the Industrial Revolution . . . , and they are rooted, besides, in the tradition of Christianity. Once familiar with these figures, they come to seem as native as Hamlet, King Lear, or Milton’s Satan” (p. 16). The only Americans in the long bibliography are Damon, Percival, Lowery, Schorer, Frye, Erdman, Fisher, and Rosenfeld.
Raine, Kathleen. William Blake. London: Thames and Hudson, 1970; N. Y.: Praeger, 1971. 216 pp. Paper, $5.25; £1.50.
156 illustrations, 28 in color. Cover: God Judging Adam. Text, 7-207; chronology, 208; bibliography, 208-09; list of illustrations, 210-14; index, 215-16. Worth having because of the pictures; though purists object that the color is not true, begin page 22 | ↑ back to top it is certainly pleasing to the untrained eye, and all illustrations are carefully chosen to convey a clear idea of the whole range of Blake’s work. The commentary bears the stamp of Raine’s well-known views on Blake’s Neoplatonism and occultism. Having a bias need not be a fatal error if a commentator is willing to declare the position taken, but Raine simply entitles the Arlington Court Picture De Antro Nympherum, without a word about other interpretations and gives no signal elsewhere that she is parting company with most other students of Blake. As for the hard facts, Raine gets at least 90% straight. Every word is written with love and appreciation for Blake.
Swinburne, Algernon Charles. William Blake: A Critical Essay. Hugh J. Luke, ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1970. xx + 319 pp. Paper, $4.75.
Facsimile of first edition, 1868, and of author’s note added in 1906, with full introduction by Luke; notes (pp. 309-19) identifying quoted passages by reference to Keynes and Erdman editions. Still worth reading, for its pioneering efforts: “If the ‘Songs’ be so good, are not those who praise them bound to examine and try what merit may be latent in the ‘Prophecies’?” Swinburne dared “take a blind header into the midst of the whirling foam and rolling weed of this sea of words,” and he emerged with an awareness that Blake’s vision is mythic, not allegorical, as well as a grasp on Blake’s fundamental theology: “not the assumed humanity of God, but the achieved divinity of Man; not incarnation from without but development from within; not a miraculous passage into flesh, but a natural growth into godhead.” The “Note Added by the Author” (1906), provoked by objections to Swinburne’s commentary incorporated in the Ellis-Yeats edition, contains a disgraceful attack on the Irish, which attributes Blake’s flaws to his Celtic ancestry.
Todd, Ruthven. William Blake the Artist. London: Studio Vista-Dutton, 1971. 158 pp. Paper, $2.25; £0.80.
110 illustrations, none in color. Covers: front, NT, p. 95 (the goddess Truth); back, Los and the Globe of Blood. Introduction, 7; chronological survey of Blake’s life as an artist, 9-152; acknowledgments, 154; bibliographical notes, 155-56; index, 157-58. Todd is concerned with Blake as a professional artist; the illuminated books appear rarely in the illustrations and commentaries. A compact, informative account, well balanced and lucid; excellent as an introductory book and interesting also to specialists.
Wolf-Gumpold, Kaethe. William Blake: Painter: Poet: Visionary: An Attempt at an Introduction to his Life and Work. Trans. Ernest Rathgeber, with Peter G. Button. 1969; rpt. Spring Valley, N. Y.: Anthroposophic, 1973. 164 pp. + 24 illus. $4.95; £1.25.
Introduction by A. C. Harwood (on the author), 7-9; “Golden Square, London—1757,” 11-49; “Revelation,” 50-118; “The Water of Life,” 119-52; index of quotations 153-58; bibliography (sans Americans), 159-60; acknowledgments, 161; index, 162-63. Color plates: Phillips portrait, Agony in the Garden, MHH title-page; Temptation of Christ, Four and Twenty Elders, Death of Virgin Mary, Soldiers Casting Lots. Commentary on poems blended with spiritual biography: e.g., Thel descends from pre-natal existence, “deeper and deeper into the hardness of stone”; at the same time, the poem hints at something in the biography of William and Catherine.
VI. Facsimiles & Reproductions Inexpensive Enough for Classroom Use
Bentley, G. E., Jr., ed. William Blake. America: A Prophecy. Normal, Ill.: American Blake Foundation (Materials for the Study of William Blake, Vol. 1), 1975. 21 pp. + 22 illus. Paper, $5.00.
Checklist of secondary materials by Roger R. Easson. Commentary contains serious factual errors or discrepancies with the Census.
Blake, William. America. Copy E. Albuquerque, N. M.: Blake Newsletter, 1975. Paper, unbound, $2.50.
Short editorial comment on one page. Excellent line-reproductions; would be even better if half-tone reproductions on reverse did not show through.
Blake, William. Songs of Innocence: Color Facsimile of the First Edition with 31 Color Plates. N. Y.: Dover; London: Constable, 1971. iv + 55 pp. Paper, $3.50; £0.70.
Publisher’s note, i-ii; 31 color plates of Innocence, copy B from the Rosenwald collection, 1-32; letterpress text with added punctuation, 34-35. Apparently conceived as part of the Dover Books for Children Series, this edition is triumphant proof that well-printed color facsimiles can be made to sell cheaply. Fortunately for children and adults, the Dover people decided to do everything right: the paper is off-white (but not quite the same color as the off-white background of the designs themselves), the pages are the same size as in the original; the plates are printed on facing pages, as Blake chose to do in this copy. Almost all the text is readable on the color plates. The book is sturdy, with a promise on the back cover that it has been made to last.
Blake, William. Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Facsimile of Sixteen Original Plates. London: Academy Editions, 1972. £0.60.
Blake, William. Blake’s Illustrations to Blair’s The Grave. 1804. Seattle: Double Elephant (San Vito Press, #3), 1969; London: Wildwood House, 1973. Paper, $6.00; £2.50.
No commentary or editorial notes. Includes advertisement and original notes but not Blair’s poem.
Damon, S. Foster, ed. Blake’s Job: William Blake’s Illuminations of the Book of Job. 1966; rpt. N. Y.: Dutton; Toronto: Clarke, 1969. 66 pp. Paper, $2.45.
Introduction, 3-8; commentary and illustrations on facing pages, 10-53; inscriptions on the illustrations, 55-66. Heavily systemized cycles, states, eyes for each design. Reproductions (full size in 1966 Brown Univ. Press ed., reduced in Dutton) are sharp enough for all but the most advanced study.
Easson, Roger R. and Robert N. Essick. William Blake: Book Illustrator, Vol. 1. Normal, Ill.: The American Blake Foundation, 1972. xv + 55 pp. Paper, $8.00.
97 illustrations. Preface, vii-xii; descriptions of plates, 1-53; plates, 59-189. Factual and clear; carefully printed. Subtitle: “A Bibliography and Catalogue of the Commercial Engravings.” No subsequent volumes have appeared.
Emery, Clark, ed. William Blake. The Book of Urizen. 1966; Coral Gables: University of Miami Press (U. of Miami Critical Studies No. 6), 3rd printing, 1970. 54 + 27 pp. Paper, $3.00.
Introduction, 1-47; description of illustrations, 49-51; bibliography, 53-54. Bibliography is heavily Jungian and occultist. Photographs from Blake Trust facsimile, by permission—tolerably clear, though text is usually illegible. A nine-point outline of the action, pp. 30-31, 33-34, may be helpful for students; the rest of the commentary has to do either with Gnosticism or with, as Emery admits, a psychology neither Freudian nor Jungian “but a kind of mish-mash.”
Emery, Clark, ed. William Blake. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. 1963; Coral Gables: University of Miami Press (U. of Miami Critical Studies No. 1), 3rd printing, 1970. 104 + 27 pp. Paper, $2.50.
Photographic reproductions, uncolored but clear, from Plowman’s Dent facsimile, with permission from the Fitzwilliam and from Dutton and Dent. Long-winded, disorganized commentary, with some useful outlines (one distinguishing stuffy and superficial conceptions of heaven and hell satirized in MHH from Blake’s own notions of genuine perfection and misery, or true heaven and hell, pp. 22-23). General outline of MHH is based, without direct acknowledgment, on Plowman’s analysis of the structure. Reproductions are sharp enough to make a letterpress supplement unnecessary. Pages tend to fall out.
* Erdman, David, ed. The Illuminated Blake. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday-Anchor, 1974. 416 pp. Paper, $7.95.
Key to references, 8-9; introduction, 10-21; pictures and annotations, 24-399; index of visual motifs, 400-15; acknowledgments, 416. Second edition due in 1976. Despite the fact that some of the commentary may strike readers as far-fetched and arbitrary, this book will do more for the teaching and study of Blake than anything I know of, particularly for people without access to the rare and expensive facsimilies, let alone the originals.
Essick, Robert N. and Jenijoy La Belle, eds. Edward Young. Night Thoughts. Illus. by William Blake. N. Y.: Dover, 1975. Paper, $4.00.
Introduction, iii-iv; commentary, v-xviii; bibliography, xix-xxi; 43 illustrations. A welcome reunion of text and design, with helpful editorial aids.
Keay, Carolyn, ed. William Blake: Selected Engravings. London: Academy Editions; N. Y.: St. Martin’s Press, 1975. 80 pp., 4 in color. Paper, $9.95; £2.95.
Introduction, 5-7; chronology, 8; selected designs, 11-80. Only the color reproductions of the Gray designs are acceptable begin page 23 | ↑ back to top facsimiles. Most of the designs have been retouched as crudely as the Thel designs in the Ellis-Yeats edition.
Keynes, Geoffrey, ed. William Blake. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. London, N. Y.: Oxford University Press, in association with the Trianon Press, Paris, 1975. xiv + 27 color plates and unnumbered facing pages of commentary. Paper, $7.95.
Color facsimile of Copy H (Fitzwilliam), printed in 6- and 7-color offset on cream paper, under the direction of Arnold Fawcus. Title-page from Keynes’ own copy E, which is also used for enlargements of the interlinear designs. Breathtakingly beautiful.
Ryskamp, Charles, ed. William Blake. The Pickering Manuscript. N. Y.: Pierpont Morgan Library, 1972. 4 (unnumbered) + 22 pp. $3.00.
Informative introduction; clear photographs. No pictures, of course, but perhaps useful in a graduate course for the purpose of discussing the editorial problems presented by “Auguries of Innocence.” That is, the MS. is obviously a fair copy; what is the justification for the editorial practice of rearranging the lines? The only major verbal changes are in “Long John Brown & Little Mary Bell.” What a help it would be if the British Library were to issue a simple photographic facsimile of the Notebook, without commentary, in a cheap paperback edition!
Thorpe, James, ed. William Blake. Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Selected Plates Reproduced in Facsimile from Originals in the Huntington Library. San Marino, Ca.: Huntington Library and Art Gallery, . 16 color plates. Paper, $1.00.
Introduction, 3-4; 16 unnumbered plates interleaved with letterpress transcriptions. Front and back covers (enlarged to 6-3/4 × 4-1/4 in. and 6-5/8 × 4-1/4 in.): general title-page and frontispiece to Innocence, Copy E. Inside (enlargements varying from 4-7/8 × 3 in. to 5-1/4 × 3-3/8 in): Innocence title-page, “Introduction,” “Infant Joy,” “The Lamb,” “Laughing Song,” “Nurse’s Song,” Experience title-page, “Introduction,” “The Sick Rose,” “Nurse’s Song,” “A Poison Tree,” “Infant Sorrow,” all from Copy E, as well as “The Clod and the Pebble” and “The Tyger,” Copy N. Bright colors, sharp outlines, legible printing, off-white paper.
Todd, Ruthven, ed. William Blake. Songs of Innocence and Experience. 1947; rpt. N. Y.: Folcroft, 1974. $6.50.
Introduction, i-iv, 54 plates. Well-printed from the uncolored posthumous copy (B) in the Houghton Library.
VII. Casebooks & Essay Collections
Bottrall, Margaret, ed. William Blake. Songs of Innocence and of Experience: A Selection of Critical Essays. London: Macmillan, 1969; Nashville: Aurora (Casebook Series), 1970. 245 pp. Paper, $2.50; £0.75.
Introduction, 11-23; selections from Blake’s aphorisms, letters 27-30; contemporary impressions, 33-54; Victorian and Edwardian opinion, 57-90; recent studies (Eliot, Wicksteed, J. Harvey Darton, S. F. Bolt, Wolf Mankowitz, Bowra, Frye, Bateson, Gleckner, Nurmi, Raine), 93-233; bibliography, 234-36; notes on contributors, 237-40; index, 241-45. A convenient collection, though sparse in significant recent criticism.
Essick, Robert N., ed. The Visionary Hand: Essays for the Study of William Blake’s Art and Aesthetics. Los Angeles: Hennessey and Ingalls, 1973. 558 pp. + 165 illus. Paper, $7.95.
Excerpts from Cumberland, J. T. Smith, Rees’s Cyclopaedia (1819), Dossie’s Handmaid to the Arts (1764); reprinted articles (mostly standard essays) on Blake’s visual art by Todd, Binyon, Blunt, Alan R. Brown (on Enoch designs), Collins Baker, Nanavutty, Frye, Erdman, Adams, Roe, Moelwyn Merchant, Joseph Burke, Butlin, Rose, Mitchell, Helmstadter, Grant, Judith Rhodes, Simmons and Warner, Essick; a previosuly unpublished essay by Jenijoy La Belle.
Frye, Northrop, ed. Blake: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966. 183 pp. Paper, $1.95; £1.05.
Introduction, 1-7; selections from Gleckner, Nurmi, Frye (“Introduction to Experience”), Grant, Keith, Chayes, Adams, Erdman, Bloom, Frye (“Poetry and Design”), Blunt, Hagstrum, Fisher, 8-178; chronology, 179-80; notes on the editor and contributors, 181-82; bibliography, 183.
O’Neill, Judith, ed. Critics on Blake: Readings in Literary Criticism. Coral Gables, Fla.: University of Miami Press, 1970; London: Allen and Unwin, 1971. 120 pp. Paper, $3.95; £0.85.
Straightforward introduction. Avoids explications of shorter poems, but provides a wealth of full-length and abridged essays and letters by Malkin, Hunt, Southey, Coleridge, Lamb, Robinson, Carey, Smith, Cunningham, Gilchrist, Rossetti, Swinburne, Yeats, Symonds, Eliot, Wicksteed, Damon, Murry, Percival, Hungerford, Schorer, Frye (“Blake’s Treatment of the Archetype,” complete), Erdman, Gleckner, Digby, Blunt, R. D. Laing, Fisher, Herbert Read (a charming personal account), Price; bibliography, list of libraries where originals can be seen (leaves out the Huntington), list of facsimiles. Certainly the most criticism for the money.
Paley, Morton D., ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Songs of Innocence and of Experience: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969. 115 pp. Paper, $1.25.
Introduction, 1-9; “interpretations” by Ostriker, Damon, Price, Erdman, Frye (“Blake’s Introduction to Experience”), Paley, 10-92; brief excerpts (called “viewpoints”) by Wicksteed, Gleckner, Bloom, Schorer, Adams, Nurmi, Hirsch, 98-110; chronology (including a parallel table of historical events), 111-12; notes on editor and contributors, 113-14; bibliography, 115. The most useful introductory collection of criticism, since Songs is taught in most Blake courses.
Weathers, Winston, ed. William Blake. The Tyger. Columbus: Charles E. Merrill (Merrill Literary Casebook Series), 1969. xiii + 126 pp. Paper, $2.25.
“General Instructions for a Research Paper,” v-xii; introduction, 1-5; essays by Damon, Roy P. Basler, Jesse Bier, Gardner, Nurmi, Adams, Hirsch, Philip Hobsbaum, Paley, Baine, Kay Park-hurst Long (Easson), 8-121; suggestions for papers, 122-24; bibliography, 125-26. One illustration (Orion facsimile of Tyger).
VIII. Essay Collections & Guidebooks on Romanticism
Abrams, M. H., ed. English Romantic Poets: Modern Essays in Criticism. 1960; N. Y.: Oxford University Press (Galaxy Book), rev. ed., 1975. Paper, $5.95.
Essays on Blake by Frye, Erdman, Gleckner, and Bloom, pp. 55-111. Frye is now represented by “Blake’s Treatment of the Archetype” and Bloom by his commentary on J in The Visionary Company.
Bernbaum, Ernest. “William Blake,” in Guide Through the Romantic Movement. 1930; N. Y.: Ronald Press, rev. ed., 1949. Pp. 42-52. $6.95.
Commentary, 42-49; bibliography, 49-52. Now so far out of date that it is absolutely useless. For example, Bernbaum concedes that Blake should not be considered insane and appreciates Blake’s celebration of the creative power of imagination, but finds his range too narrow: “His interpretations of Nature were limited to a few lovely aspects; and his conception of mankind seemed visionary, because he proffered no suggestions as to how the chasm between actual conditions and his paradise of complete freedom might be bridged” (p. 49). The bibliography is of no help in 1975.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Romanticism and Consciousness: Essays in Criticism. N. Y.: Norton, 1970. Paper, $5.95.
Essays on Blake by Frye and Price, pp. 233-73.
Bowra, C. M. The Romantic Imagination. 1949; London, N. Y.: Oxford University Press (Galaxy Book), 1961. Paper, $2.95; £1.30.
Genial, appreciative chapter on Songs, pp. 25-50, with occasional references to later works.
Chew, Samuel. “William Blake,” in The Nineteenth Century and After, rev., with Bibliographical Supplement by Richard D. Altick. Literary History of England, Vol. 4, ed. Albert C. Baugh. 1948; N. Y.: Appleton-Century Crofts, rev. ed., 1967. Paper, $6.25.
Essay, 1128-35; bibliographical supplement in appendix, “[1128-32].” Altick has not done anything to Chew’s essay but has usefully revised the bibliography. Chew divides Blake’s life into three periods: 1727-83, apprenticeship; 1783-1803, maturity as artist; 1803-27, decline as poet followed by 20 years of silence. The “laughter and glee which ring and tinkle” through Innocence are soon silenced in MHH: “without qualification or reserve and with an almost terrifying downrightness begin page 24 | ↑ back to top this strange work denies the validity of the moral law” (p. 1130). To Chew, though Am is somewhat incoherent, its general drift is clear; in Urizen “the incoherence [is] more pronounced, the action more tumultuous.” Blake’s Gothic models did his genius harm: “His mind was undisciplined; it lacked the balance, scope, and tolerance which a classical training might have provided” (p. 1133). Graduate students preparing for Ph.D. preliminary examinations should be warned against filling their minds with the Chewed-up Blake of the forties.
Halsted, John B., ed. Romanticism. N. Y., London: Harper & Row (Harper Torchbooks:[e] Documentary History of Western Civilization), 1969. Paper, $3.95.
Sections on Aesthetics, Religion, Politics, History, Personal Ideals, with fairly full selections from Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Landor, Scott, and Carlyle. The last entry, “brief selections from three authors that seem to me to epitomize most tellingly some of the themes exemplified in this book,” includes a few Proverbs of Hell and choice Annotations to Reynolds (p. 354), along with snippets from Goethe and Novalis.
Harding, D. W. “William Blake,” in From Blake to Byron: The Pelican Guide to English Literature, Vol. 5, ed. Boris Ford. Harmondsworth, Baltimore: Penguin, 1957; rev. and rpt., 1969. Pp. 67-84; bibliography by Hilda D. Spear, pp. 288-89. Paper, $1.45; £0.50.
Despite his dislike for “the commentators’ quasi-religious exegesis,” Harding recognizes the power and suggestiveness of a “symbolic treatment that still fascinates good minds and seems worth struggling to comprehend.” Harding emphasizes Blake’s “extraordinarily fine handling of language,” his “forceful and supple” rhythms, his “immense compression of meaning,” and his reworking of familiar themes so that their ordinary associations are “recalled but unexpectedly modified.” Thus in the first two poems in Songs of Experience one finds “an unexpected handling of the Fall, with its sexual aspects, in a way that links God’s relation to the world with that of men to women, associates the Creator with the jealous patriarch and with the selfish fear in us all, and at the same time shows him helplessly defeated by the refusal of his creation to submit to jealous control and accept atonement on his terms” (p. 77). In the later works Blake fails “to achieve sufficient control of his readers’ response,” although in isolated passages “states of mind and dramatic situations are given expression of a fully intelligible and effective kind. Unexpectedly, too, the verse of the long books has a cumulative appeal in spite of so much that repels” (p. 82). In Spear’s short bibliography the only American critics published after 1960 are Hagstrum and Harper; Harding cites only Gardner and Wicksteed.
IX. Visual Aids
As a Man Is—So He Sees (American title: An Essay on William Blake). Movie. BBC: NET and Radio Center. Released by Indiana University: Audio-Visual Center, 1970. Color, 52 min. Script and commentary by Jacob Bronowski, music by Dudley Simpson.
Rev. by Morton D. Paley, Blake Newsletter 25, 7 (1973), 16.
William Blake: Poetry and Pictures. Filmstrip. Audiovisual Instructional Devices, 1971.
William Blake in Romantic Rebellion series. Movie. Written and narrated by Kenneth Clark. NET. Released in U.S. by Pyramid Films, Box 1048, Santa Monica, Ca. 90406. 26 min., color. Rental: $25.00.
Blake’s admirers will wince to see a Mental Prince being patronized, but seeing the pictures and repeating favorite annotations to Reynolds is a consolation. Rev. by Hagstrum, Blake Newsletter 32, 8 (1975), 143-44.
William Blake. Filmstrip. London: Visual Publications, 1964. Released in the U.S. by McIntyre Visual Publications, 1970.
Blake’s America. Videotape. Produced and directed by Janet Warner, John Sutherland and Robert Wallace. Toronto: York University, 1970. 50 min.
Blake’s Visions of the Daughters of Albion. Videotape. Toronto: York University, 1971. 50 min.
Both videotapes rev. by Morris Eaves, Blake Newsletter 25, 7 (1973), 20-23. U.S. distr.: Great Plains National Instructional Television Library, University of Nebraska, P. O. Box 80669, Lincoln, Neb. 68501.
The History of the Graphic Arts; Set 33, William Blake. Filmstrip. Budek Films and Slides of California, 1969.
On Reflection: Adrian Mitchell on William Blake. Movie. London Weekend Television. Distributed in the U.S. by Richard Price Television Associates LTD., 145 W. 58th St., N. Y. 10019. Color, 27 min. Rental: $50.00.
Rev. by Morris Eaves, Blake Newsletter 32, 8 (1975), 139.
Tyger, Tyger. Movie. London: BBC-TV, 1969. Released in the U.S. by Time-Life Films, 1271 Avenue of the Americas, N. Y. 10020. 50 min. Written and directed by Christopher Burstall.
Rev. by Morton D. Paley, Blake Newsletter 25, 7 (1973), 16.
The Vision of William Blake. Movie. London: Blake Film Trust; in association with British Film Institute, 1958. Released in the U.S. by Contemporary Films, McGraw Hill. Color, 55 min. Rental: $40.00.
Music composed especially for this film produced for Blake’s bicentennial: Ralph Vaughn Williams’ 10 Blake Songs for tenor and oboe. Poor color. Portentous, heavily Christian commentary. Fewer illuminated books than separate watercolors and book illustrations; many shots of the Dante series. Familiar works look different projected on this scale, with closeups and panning shots. Suddenly when the camera moved back it became clear to me that the total design of the Petworth Last Judgment is a giant face under a huge headdress, with a moustache over a devouring mouth. Even the sunflower design of J looks like a bat-mouthed monster (mouth where Vala’s elbows and knees meet) wearing a neck-ruff (the sunflower petals). I think the Petworth effect is intentional and the J 53 effect probably accidental. Apparently a satisfying Blake movie has not yet been made. Perhaps Pyramid Films of California will someday produce or distribute a work on Blake as sensitively and carefully considered and as beautifully executed as its film on Coleridge; meanwhile, it distributes Clark’s Romantic Rebellion series.
1: Out-of-Print Books
Bloom, Harold, ed. English Romantic Poetry, Vol. 1: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge & Others. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday-Anchor, 1963. Pp. 4-114. Paper, $2.45.
Selections from Sketches, “Island,” Songs, Rossetti and Pickering MSS.; all of Thel, MHH, VDA, Urizen; lyrical selections from FZ, M, and J, Ghost of Abel, Epilogue to GoP. Sensitive, well-written introduction contrasting Blake and Wordsworth on nature and imagination; no notes.
Grant, John E., ed. Discussions of William Blake. Boston: Heath (Discussions of Literature), 1961.
Introduction (with List of Recent Criticism), vii-xi; letters from Lamb, Coleridge, Tatham, essays by Frye (“Blake’s Treatment of the Archetype”), Erdman, Fisher, Frye (“Poetry and Design”), Adams, Grant, Mark Van Doren, Sutherland, Nurmi, Kiralis, 1-102. The entire Heath Discussions series is now defunct.
Hughes, William, R., ed. Jerusalem: A Simplified Version . . . with Commentary and Notes. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1964. 235 pp. £1.50.
Foreword, 7-17, “On the Chief Difficulties . . . in ‘Jerusalem,’” 18-20; “How Blake Beheld Things,” 20-26; theme of the work, 26-29; “Blake’s Religious Conceptions,” 30-33; “Blake and his own Times,” 33-34; “Blake’s own Introduction to ‘Jerusalem’”; 34-40; excerpts from J, arranged in a sequential narrative pattern, with editorial subtitles, 51-161; commentary and notes, 162-229; appendices analyzing pl. 56 and discussing analogues in M and FZ, 230-35. Although the writing occasionally becomes offensive (“Understandest thou what thou readest?”), this guide to J is just the thing to give the person not enrolled in a course who knocks on the office door and asks for some sort of handbook on the prophecies. Hughes is usually direct, plain-spoken, faithful to Blake’s themes and aims; his remarks on the four states of being and the relationship of Spectre and Emanation are exemplary.
Keynes, Geoffrey, ed. William Blake. Songs of Innocence and of Experience. N. Y.: Orion, 1967; London: Oxford University Press in association with The Trianon Press, Paris, 1970. xvii + 55 color plates and unnumbered facing pages of commentary. begin page 25 | ↑ back to top Hardbound in U.S. last sold for $10.00; paper in U.K., £1.50.
Printed in 6- and 8-color offset on cream-colored paper, the reproductions are rich in color though somewhat blurred in outline. In the introduction on Blake’s life and his printing method, critics cited are Wicksteed, Erdman, Damon, and Hirsch. Annotations are often helpful, but Wicksteed’s phallic interpretation of the “Blossom” design is repeated as simple fact; all water—even that drunk by the sheep and cattle in “The Clod & the Pebble”—is the water of materialism; Lyca’s Lion is, without qualification, the Angel of Death. Bern Porter, 106 High St., Belfast, Maine 04915, has listed a color facsimile of Songs for $12.50, possibly a re-issue of this Keynes facsimile?
Moore, Cecil A., ed. English Poetry of the Eighteenth Century. N. Y.: Holt, 1935. Pp. 883-99.
Selections: Sketches, Songs, Preface to M. Samples of commentary: “Apart from all great literary movements, he is unquestionably farthest from that which dominated the century preceding his birth, neo-classicism. Yet he is hardly a romanticist in any of the commonly accepted meanings of that term. He defies classification” (p. 883). “Valiant as the work of interpretation has been, one should not overlook the ironical paradox that while Blake despised and condemned reason, and made it the villain in his dramas, yet this very fact becomes clear only through a painstaking process of ratiocination. Altogether, . . . despite the apostolic fervor of recent interpreters, . . . the largest part of the prophetic writings will remain a curiosity of literature” (p. 886).
Pinto, Vivian de Sola, ed. William Blake. London: Batsford; N. Y.: Schocken Books, 1965. 194 pp. Paper, $1.95; cloth, 12/6.
Introduction, 1-58; poems, 59-180; notes, 181-90; index, 191-94; 8 illustrations. Adopts Frye’s distinction between visionary and mystic. Prophecies are “highly organized works of poetic art based on a thoroughly consistent and harmonious complex of ideas, carefully constructed, constantly revised, and intricate and difficult because they deal with extremely intricate and difficult subject matter” (p. 3). Carefully documented, even to the sources of famous anecdotes. Jungian, Lawrentian, and Nietzschean parallels, among which the Neoplatonic interpretation of Thel is an anomaly. The ramifications of J can be studied in the commentaries, but the commentators “should not be allowed to alarm the reader unduly.” Blake’s system, like Yeats’s, was “a scaffolding round which the majestic structure” of the poetry is built. (Pinto, not de Sola Pinto, is the correct surname.)
2: Works in Progress
Bentley, G. E., Jr., ed. William Blake: Complete Poems. Clarendon Press.
Noted by Erdman, “A Temporary Report on Texts of Blake,” in William Blake: Studies for S. Foster Damon (Providence: Brown, 1969), p. 397.
Grant, John E. and Mary Lynn Johnson, eds. Blake: Selected Writings and Designs. N. Y.: Norton (Norton Critical Editions), 1977. 600 pp.
Will include short introduction, notes, excerpts from criticism, bibliography, study aids, numerous black and white reproductions, and 32 color plates. Text based on selected originals, sparsely repunctuated. (Undertaken after this survey was completed; Johnson therefore experienced no conflict of interests in reviewing potential competitors.)
Ostriker, Alicia, ed. Complete Poetry of William Blake.
Harmondsworth and Baltimore: Penguin, 1976.
Includes NNR and MHH but excludes letters and other prose. Probably no pictures; no introduction. Bibliography, glossary, chronology. Non-modernized text by Ostriker.
Paananen, Victor N. William Blake. N. Y.: Twayne. [Announced, Blake Newsletter 15, 4 (1971), 73]
Stevenson, W. H. A Critical Introduction to Blake. [Announced, Blake Newsletter 12, 3 (1970), 109]
3: Addresses of Publishers
AHM Publishing Co., 1500 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook IL 60062
Academy Editions, 7 Holland St., London W8
Allen & Unwin Ltd., 40 Museum St., London WC1
American Blake Foundation, Dept. of English, Illinois State University, Normal IL 61761
American University Publishers Group, 70 Great Russell St., London WC1B 384
Appleton-Century Crofts Inc.: see AHM
Arco Publishing Co. Inc., 219 Park Ave. S., NY 10003
Archon Books: see Shoe String Press
Edward Arnold Ltd., 25 Hill St., London W1X 8LL
Aurora Publishers Inc., 118 16th Ave. S., Nashville TN 37203
Avon Book Division—The Hearst Corp., 959 8th Ave., NY 10019
Barnes & Noble Publishers: see Harper & Row
G. Bell & Sons Ltd., York House, Portugal St., London WC2A 2HL
Books for Libraries Press, 1 Dupont St., Plainview NY 11803
Boston Book & Art Publisher, 655 Boylston St., Boston MA 02116
Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA 02115
British Book Center, 153 E. 78th St., NY 10021
Brown University Press, Providence RI 02912
Cambridge University Press, Bentley House, 200 Euston Rd., London NW1 2DB; 23 E. 57th St., NY 10022
Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 67 Great Russell St., London WC1R 3BT
Chatto & Windus Ltd., 40-42 William W. St., London WC2N 4DF
Clarendon Press: see Oxford
Collier Macmillan, 35 Red Lion Sq., London WC1R 4SG
Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., 215 Park Ave. S., NY 10003; 14 St. James Pl., London SW1A 1PS
Constable & Co. Ltd., 10 Orange St., London WC2H 7EG
Columbia University Press, 562 W. 113th St., NY 10025
Dell Publishing Co. Inc., 1 Dag Hammerskjold Plaza, 245 E. 47th St., NY 10017
J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., Aldine House, 26 Albemarle St., London W1X 4QV
Double Elephant, distr.: Book People, 2940 7th St., Berkeley CA 94710
Doubleday & Co. Inc., 501 Franklin Ave., Garden City NY 11531
Dover Publications Inc., 180 Varick St., NY 10014; UK distr.: Tiptree Book Services Ltd.
Dufour Editions, Chester Springs PA 19425
E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc., 201 Park Ave. S., NY 10003
Evans Bros. Ltd., Montague House, Russell Sq., London WC1B 5BX
Faber & Faber Ltd., 3 Queen Sq., London WC1
Falcon Books, Falcon Court, 32 Fleet St., London EC4Y 1DB
Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. Inc., 250 Park Ave. S., NY 10003
Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich Inc., 757 3rd Ave., NY 10022; 24-28 Oval Rd., London NW1 7DU
Harper & Row Publishers Inc., 10 E. 53rd St., NY 10022begin page 26 | ↑ back to top
D. C. Heath & Co. College Editions, 125 Spring St., Lexington MA 02173
Heffer & Sons Ltd., 20 Trinity St., Cambridge CB2 3NG
Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., 48 Charles St., London W1X 8AH
Hennessey & Ingalls Inc., 8321 Champion Dr., Los Angeles CA 90045
Holt, Rinehart & Winston Inc., 383 Madison Ave., NY 10017
Houghton Mifflin Co., 110 Tremont St., Boston MA 02107
Huntington Library & Art Gallery Publications, San Marino CA 91108
Hutchinson University Library, 3 Fitzroy Sq., London W1P 6JD; US distr.: Hillary House, Humanities Press Inc., Atlantic Highlands NJ 07716
Knopf: see Random House
Longman Group Ltd., Longman House, Burnt Mill. Harlowe, Essex
The Macmillan Co., 866 3rd Ave., NY 10022; 100-A Brown St., Riverside NJ 08075
Macmillan Publishers Ltd., Little Essex St., London WC2; US distr.: St. Martin’s Press, 175 5th Ave., NY 10010
Manchester City Art Gallery, Mosley St., Manchester M2 3JL
Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1300 Alum Creek Dr., Columbus OH 43216
Meredith Corp., Consumer Book Division, 1716 Locust, Des Moines IA 50336
Methuen Publishing Co., New Fetter Ln., London EC4; US distr.: Barnes & Noble
Milford House Inc., 85 Newberry St., Boston MA 02116
Modern Library: see Random House
Monarch: see Simon & Schuster
National Book League, 7 Albemarle St., London WIX 4BB
The New American Library Inc.: see Signet
New York Public Library, 5th Ave. and 42nd St., NY 10003
W. W. Norton & Co. Inc., 500 5th Ave., NY 10036
Norwood Editions, P. O. Box 38, Norwood PA 19074
Orion Press: see Viking
Oxford University Press Inc., Ely House, 37 Dover St., London W1X 4AH; 1600 Pollitt Dr., Fair Lawn NJ 07410
Penguin Books Inc., 7110 Ambassador Rd., Baltimore MD 21207; 17 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1
The Pierpont Morgan Library, 29 E. 36th St., NY 10016
Philadelphia Museum of Art, P. O. Box 7646, Philadelphia PA 19101
Praeger Publishers Inc., 111 4th Ave., NY 10003
Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs NJ 07632; 4700 S. 5400 W., Salt Lake City UT 84118
Random House Inc., 201 E. 50th St., NY 10022
The Ronald Press Co., 79 Madison Ave., NY 10016
G. Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 68 Carter Ln., London EC4V 5EL; US distr.: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 9 Park St., Boston MA 02108
Rudolf Steiner Press, 35 Park Rd., London NW1 6XT
Albert Saifer, Town Center, Box 56, W. Orange NJ 07052
San Vito Press: see Double Elephant
Schocken Books Inc., 200 Madison Ave., NY 10016; UK distr.: Bailey Bros. & Swinfen Ltd., Warner House, Folkstone, Kent
Scott Foresman & Co., 1900 E. Lake Ave., Glenview IL 60025
Seely Service & Co. Ltd., 39 East St., Shaftesbury Ave., London WC2H 8JL
Shoe String Press Inc. (Archon, Linnet), 995 Sherman Ave., Hamden CT 06514
Signet, 1301 Ave. of the Americas, NY 10019
Simon & Schuster Inc., 630 5th Ave., NY 10020
Somerset Publishers, 200 Park Ave., Suite 303 E, NY 10017
Studio Vista Publishers, 35 Red Lion Sq., London WC1R 4SQ
Tate Gallery Publications Dept., Millbank, London SW1 P4RG
Thames & Hudson Ltd., 30 Bloomsbury St., London WC1B 3QP
Twayne: G. K. Hall & Co., Agent, 70 Lincoln St., Boston MA 02111
University of Glasgow Press, Publications Office, Glasgow G128QG
University of London Press Ltd. (also The English University Press Ltd.), St. Paul’s House, 8-12 Warwick Ln., London EC4P 4AH
University of Miami Press, P. O. Drawer 9088, Coral Gables FL 33124
University of Nebraska Press, 901 N. 17th St., Lincoln NE 68508
University of South Carolina Press, Columbia SC 29208
University Tutorial Press Ltd., 9-10 Great Sutton St., London EC1V 0DA
The Viking Press Inc., 625 Madison Ave., NY 10022
Westminster City Library, Marylebone Rd., London NW1 5PS
Wildwood House, 3rd floor, 1 Wardour St., London W1V 3HE; Orders: Book Centre Ltd., Neasden