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with intellectual spears & long winged arrows of thought

A Reply to Martin Butlin

I refer to the note by Martin Butlin printed in the Spring 1986 issue of Blake/ An Illustrated Quarterly. I regret if in my review I unintentionally misrepresented what Mr. Butlin said about the Keating forgeries; I of course accept his version. But so far as I know he did not at the time nor at any subsequent time publicly deny the Times report (his alleged comments were printed in The Times on 16 July 1976; Keating’s admission appeared there on 20 August 1976).

As a principal prosecution witness at the Keating trial I saw most of the newspaper and other reports, but I do not recall seeing a denial, so my assumption that the report was correct was natural. If, however, a denial was published, it would be helpful if Mr. Butlin would state when and where it appeared. I suggest this in no hectoring spirit, but simply, if the record is wrong, to get it right.

My main point is not invalidated: that some members of the British art establishment, both trade and curatorial, were badly taken in by the forgeries (perhaps it would be more accurate to say by the forged provenance). I do not agree with Mr. Butlin that I have accorded the affair more attention than it deserves. Under all circumstances what I wrote was mild enough; it is a good thing to be reminded that such things are possible, even among the well informed. Surely, too, it is proper that reference to the Keating affair should be made in a scholarly journal, the main subject of which is so closely related to Samuel Palmer.

Mr. Butlin is kind enough to refer to what he calls “the reviewer’s cleverness.” I make no claim to have been clever; little perception was required, if one looked at the forgeries properly, to see them for what they were.

As for being an “enthusiastic amateur,” I can only say that I agree. There is nothing wrong with having enthusiasm for one’s subject; and as an amateur I am in excellent company.

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