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

Friday, August 29, 2014


Irene Langridge's 1911 biography of Blake, William Blake: A Study of His Life and Art Work, includes an image of Blake's final home - the rooms in Fountain Court to which William and Catherine moved in 1821. Frederick Shields out of admiration for Blake painted the room where he lived his last years. Shields was born six years after Blake's death so he worked from accounts he had read or heard. His friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti was moved to write a sonnet upon seeing Shield's sketch.

From the Langridge book:
Reproduced from the sketch by Mr. Frederic J. Shields, kindly lent by the artist

"Mr. Frederick Shields (who, like Blake and many other great artists, will doubtless be honoured as he deserves to be when nothing further can touch him, and this world may not lay at his living feet its due meed of recognition and gratitude,) made a sketch of the sombre little living room in Fountain Court. His friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti was so profoundly touched on seeing it that he eased his heart in a sonnet:

This is the place. Even here the dauntless soul,
The unflinching hand, wrought on; till in that nook,
As on that very bed, his life partook
New birth and passed. Yon river’s dusky shoal,
Whereto the close-built coiling lanes unroll,
Faced his work window, whence his eyes would stare,
Thought wandering, unto nought that met them there,
But to the unfettered irreversible goal.

This cupboard, Holy of Holies, held the cloud
Of his soul writ and limned; this other one,
His true wife’s charge, full oft to their abode
Yielded for daily bread, the martyr’s stone,
Ere yet their food might be that Bread alone,
The words now home-speech of the mouth of God.

The house in Fountain Court has been pulled down lately. The footprints of the great and gentle soul in his passage through this world to the “unfettered irreversible goal” have almost all disappeared in the dust and scurry of the last century. We can still think of him, and of those long rapt mornings he spent in our glorious Abbey. Full as it is—pent up and overflowing—with the associations of centuries, it will henceforth hold this one more—Blake worked there, Blake dreamed there, Blake caught inspiration from the enchanted forests of its aisles."

Library of Congress
Original Stories from Real Life

Blake himself seldom painted interiors but preparing to illustrate Mary Wollstonecraft's Original Stories from Real Life he created this water-color sketch of a simple interior not unlike the one painted by Shields.

Two colored versions of Shields' Fountain Court room are available: one at the Delaware Art Museum and one at the Manchester Art Gallery.

From his sickbed at Fountain Court Blake wrote this note of apology to Mrs Charles Aders who had purchased a copy of Songs of Innocence & of Experience. The Aders copy, printed and colored in 1826, is lettered AA and belongs to the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge.
Letters, (E 781)
"[To] Mrs [Charles] Ade[r]s, Euston Square

3 Fountain Court Strand 29 Decr 1826 

Mr Blakes respectful Compliments to Mrs Ade[r]s is sorry to say
that his Ill-ness is so far from gone that the least thing brings
on the symptoms of the original complaint. he does not dare to
leave his room by any means. he had another desperate attack of
the Aguish trembling last night & is certain that at present any
venture to go out must be of bad perhaps of fatal consequence  Is
very sorry indeed that he is deprived of the happiness of
visiting again & also of seeing again those Pictures of the old
Masters but must submit to the necessity & be Patient till warm
weather Comes

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