Blake seeks to provide the Golden String which can lead us through the labyrinth of our experience or his own poetry.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Not long after Blake and Linnell met they cooperated in engraving a commission which Linnell had for an image of a Baptist minister. Blake as a youth had been trained in traditional engraving techniques during his apprenticeship. He was resistant to some of the methods of engraving which were later introduced to save labor.  Linnell was less trained and less experience in engraving but had been introduced to techniques which Blake could see were valuable. Because the two men respected one another personally and acknowledged the artistic abilities of the other, they were able to work together as a team.

Linnell's journal includes references to several occasions when the two men attended exhibitions or visited museums. The pleasure that they had in viewing and critiquing artwork together would have been multiplied when they visited the home of Thomas Butts, Blake's primary patron. There Linnell would have seen for the first time hundreds of images which Blake had produced for Butts including the illustrations to Paradise Lost, dozens of illustrations to the Old Testament and to the New  Testament, illustrations to Milton's Comus and On the Morning of Christ's Nativity and more. The set of illustrations from 1805-6 to the Book of Job so impressed Linnell that he commissioned a copy be produced for him. 

In 1821 Linnell and Blake traced the outlines from the Butts images in order for Blake to make the copies. The Linnell set of Job images can be viewed in the Blake Archive, and compared to the Butts set. Here is the fourth image from the Linnell set as found on Wikimedia.

Illustrations to the Book of Job
Linnell Set, 1821
The Messengers Tell Job of His Misfortunes

We can be sure that Blake was conveying his ideas about visionary art to his friend during the time they spent together.

Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 554)
    " The Nature of Visionary Fancy or Imagination is very little
Known & the Eternal nature & permanence of its ever Existent
Images is considerd as less permanent than the things of
Vegetative & Generative Nature yet the Oak dies as well as the
Lettuce but Its Eternal Image & Individuality never dies. but
renews by its seed. just the Imaginative Image
returns the seed of Contemplative
Thought the Writings of the Prophets illustrate these conceptions
of the Visionary Fancy by their various sublime & Divine Images
as seen in the Worlds of Vision
  This world of Imagination is the World of
Eternity it is the Divine bosom into which we shall all go after
the death of the Vegetated body   This World is
Infinite & Eternal whereas the world of Generation or Vegetation
is Finite & Temporal    There Exist
in that Eternal World the Permanent Realities of Every Thing
which we see are reflected in this Vegetable Glass of Nature
     All Things are comprehended in their Eternal Forms in the
Divine body of the Saviour the True Vine of Eternity
The Human Imagination who appeard to Me as Coming to Judgment.
among his Saints & throwing off the Temporal that the Eternal
might be Establishd. around him were seen the Images of
Existences according to a
certain order suited to my Imaginative Eye"
From the Victorian web we find a quote from Linnell about Blake published in The Life of John Linnell by A. T. Story in 1892:
"I soon encountered Blake's peculiarities, and was sometimes taken aback by the boldness of some of his assertions. I never saw anything the least like madness. I never opposed him spitefully, as many did. But being really anxious to fathom, if possible, the amount of truth that there might be in his most startling assertions, I generally met with a sufficiently rational explanation in the most really friendly and conciliatory tone. Even to John Varley, to whom I had introduced Blake, and who readily devoured all the marvellous in Blake's most extravagant utterances — even to Varley Blake would occasionally explain, unasked, how he believed that both Varley and I could see the same visions as he saw — making it evident to me that Blake claimed the possession of some powers, only in a greater degree, that all men possessed, and which they undervalued in themselves, and lost through love of sordid pursuits, pride, vanity, and the unrighteous Mammon."  

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