Monday, March 29, 2010


From Blake's Notebook (E 480)

"I have Mental Joy & Mental Health
And Mental Friends & Mental wealth
Ive a Wife I love & that loves me
Ive all But Riches Bodily"

William Blake's wife Catherine seems to have been a reliable companion to him, a support, an assistant, and a necessary ingredient for his happiness. She is not often mentioned or alluded to in his writing. Below are quotes from his letters and the two mentions in Milton in which Blake himself appears as a character and speaks of his 'Shadow of Delight'.

In the drawing by her husband Catherine appears modest and gentle. In the video about Blake and Paine, Catherine is portrayed as feisty and protective toward William. All these characteristics (and more) must have been a part of a woman who could live in harmony with a man of such genius and such other-worldliness.

William Blake and Thomas Paine Video

(E 709):
"To William Hayley Esqre at Miss Pooles, Lavant
near Chichester, Sussex
H[ercules] B[uildings] Lambeth Sept 16. 1800
Leader of My Angels
My Dear & too careful & over joyous Woman has Exhausted her strength to such a degree with expectation & gladness added to labour in our removal that I fear it will be Thursday before we can get away from this---- City I shall not be able to avail myself of the assistance of Brunos fairies. But I invoke the Good Genii that Surround Miss Pooles Villa to shine upon my journey thro the Petworth road which by your fortunate advice I mean to take but whether I come on Wednesday or Thursday That Day shall be marked on my calendar with a Star of the first magnitude
Eartham will be my first temple & altar My wife is like a
flame of many colours of precious jewels whenever she hears it named Excuse my haste & recieve my hearty Love & Respect
I am Dear Sir
Your Sincere
My fingers Emit sparks of fire with Expectation of my future labours"

(E 723):
"[To] Mr Butts, Great Marlborough Street,
Oxford Street, London
Felpham Jany 10. 180[3] t
Dear Sir
Your very kind & affectionate Letter & the many kind things you have said in it: calld upon me for an immediate answer. but it found My Wife & Myself so Ill & My wife so very ill that till now I have not been able to do this duty. The Ague & Rheumatism have been almost her constant Enemies which she has combated in vain ever since we have been here, & her sickness is always my sorrow of course"

(E 725):
"[To] Mr Butts, Great Marlborough Street,
Oxford Street, London
Felpham Jany 10. 180[3]
My wife desires her kindest Love to Mrs Butts & I have permitted her to send it to you also. we often wish that we could unite again in Society & hope that the time is not distant when we shall do so. being determind not to remain another winter here but to return to London

I hear a voice you cannot hear that says I must not stay
I see a hand you cannot see that beckons me away

Naked we came here naked of Natural things & naked we shall return. but while clothd with the Divine Mercy we are richly clothd in Spiritual & suffer all the rest gladly
Pray give my
Love to Mrs Butts & your family I am Yours Sincerely

(E 726):
"[To James Blake]
Felpham Jany 30--1803.
Dear Brother
But My Wife has undertaken to Print the whole number of the Plates for Cowpers work which she does to admiration & being under my own eye the prints are as fine as the French prints & please every one. in short I have Got every thing so under my thumb that it is more profitable that things should be as they are than any other way, tho not so agreeable because we wish naturally for friendship in preference to interest.--The Publishers are already indebted to My Wife Twenty Guineas for work deliverd this is a small specimen of how we go on. then fear nothing & let my Sister fear nothing because it appears to me that I am now too old & have had too much experience to be any longer imposed upon only illness makes all uncomfortable & this we must prevent by every means in our power"

Milton, Plate 36, (E 137):
"Walking in my Cottage Garden, sudden I beheld
The Virgin Ololon & address'd her as a Daughter of Beulah[:]
Virgin of Providence fear not to enter into my Cottage
What is thy message to thy friend: What am I now to do
Is it again to plunge into deeper affliction? behold me
Ready to obey, but pity thou my Shadow of Delight
Enter my Cottage, comfort her, for she is sick with fatigue"

Milton, Plate 42 [49] (E 143):
"Terror struck in the Vale I stood at that immortal sound
My bones trembled. I fell outstretchd upon the path
A moment, & my Soul returnd into its mortal state
To Resurrection & Judgment in the Vegetable Body
And my sweet Shadow of Delight stood trembling by my side"

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