Friday, February 6, 2009

Oh that Crazy Blake!

The Amateur Historian would like to apologize for the lack of updates and blames the demands of a college education. Speaking of education, here are a few Historical Tidbits about a man who recieved very little formal education, the Romantic poet, William Blake.

Blake was an odd character, whom all the other Romantic Poets found bewildering, and whom Wordsworth and Coleridge called "crazy Blake". Coleridge, reviewing Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, found fault with Blake's hand-drawn illustrations, in particular with the "I don't know whatness of the countenance, as if the mouth had been formed by the habit of placing the tongue, not contemptuously, but stupidly, between the lower gums and the lower jaw." Coleridge also diapproved of "the mood of the mind", i.e. the supposed sanity of the poet. Robert Hunt, a critic of the time, was highly upset that "the ebullitions of a distempered brain [were] mistaken for the sallies of genius... [in the] admirers of William Blake, an unfortunate lunatic, whose personal inoffensiveness secures him from confinement and, consequently, of whom no public notice would have been taken, if he was not forced on the notice and animadversion of the Examiner, in having been held up to public admiration by many esteemed amateurs and professors as a genius in some respect original and legitimate."

The Amateur Historian personally thinks that the best line from Hunt's review is as follows:

"The praises which these gentlemen bestowed last year on this unfortunate man's illustrations... have, in feeding his vanity, stimulated him to publish his madnesss more largely."

The fact that Blake amped up the crazy in order to get people who annoyed him to leave him alone probably did not help this impression.

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