[Flaxman and Blake on Wordsworth’s “Jehovah... I pass... unalarmed”]begin page 105 | ↑ back to top
1. Can anyone produce a convincing explanation of the following curious coincidence? It is reported in a footnote on page 443 of the revised edition of Erdman’s BLAKE: PROPHET AGAINST EMPIRE (paper & cloth):
. . . a curious pair of entries in Crabb Robinson’s diary . . . suggest that critical opinion somehow got from Flaxman to Blake at least as late as the latter part of 1814, after the publication of Wordsworth’s Excursion. On Dec. 19, 1814, Flaxman heard Robinson read aloud some passages out of the Excursion and “took umbrage at some mystical expressions . . . in which Wordsworth talks of seeing Jehovah unalarmed. ‘If my brother had written that,’ said Flaxman, ‘I should say, “Burn it.”’” Flaxman and Lamb and Robinson debated the passage. Eleven years later, Dec. 10, 1825, when Robinson first met Blake, the begin page 106 | ↑ back to top latter, evidently primed by the earlier debate, asked about Wordsworth’s Christianity and “said he had been much pained by reading the Introduction to ‘The Excursion.’ It brought on a fit of illness. The passage was produced and read . . . This ‘pass them unalarmed’ greatly offended Blake . . . Wordsworth was finally set down as a Pagan; but still with high praise, as the greatest poet of the age.”
Does this mean that (as Erdman deduces) Flaxman told Blake what he thought of the passage? Or that Blake read the Excursion when it came out and told Flaxman? Or neither? What a brother’s keeper Flaxman was!