Sunday, January 09, 2011


Bishop Richard Watson’s An Apology for the Bible was published in 1796 and annotated by Blake in 1798.

When Blake annoted Watson's Apology for the Bible he expressd his unorthodox, inclusive views. He argued that man should realize he has direct access to God through the faculty of the imagination. He urged his reader to look within for the work of God in his own life and to be receptive to God's gifts.

Annotation to an Apology for the Bible (Bishop Watson)
E 615
"That the Jews assumed a right to the benefits
of God. will be a lasting witness against them. & the same will
it be [of] against Christians"

E 615
"The Bible or Word of God, Exclusive of Conscience
or the Word of God Universal, is that Abomination which like the
Jewish ceremonies is for ever removed & henceforth every man may
converse with God & be a King & Priest in his own house"

E 615
"It is strange that God should speak to man formerly & not
now. because it is not true"

E 615
"The Bible tells me that the plan of Providence was Subverted
at the Fall of Adam & that it was not restored till [we
in] Christ [?made ?restoration]"

E 616
"He who writes things for true which none could write. but
the actor. such are most of the acts of Moses. must either be the
actor or a fable writer or a liar. If Moses did not write the
history of his acts, it takes away the authority altogether it
ceases to be history & becomes a Poem of probable impossibilities
fabricated for pleasure as moderns say but I say by Inspiration."

E 617
"look over the events of your own life & if you do not find that
you have both done such miracles & lived by such you do not see
as I do True I cannot do a miracle thro experiment & to
domineer over & prove to others my superior power as neither
could Christ But I can & do work such as both astonish &
comfort me & mine"

E 617
"a Prophet is a Seer not an Arbitrary Dictator.
It is mans fault if God is not able to do him good. for he gives
to the just & to the unjust but the unjust reject his gift"

E 617
"for the facts are such as none but the actor
could tell, if it is True Moses & none but he could write it
unless we allow it to be Poetry & that poetry inspired"

Blake's heart was touched by man's failure to open the doors of perception. It grieved him that man had built walls to separate himself from the Divine. He showed us that the manacles we endure are forged in our own minds.

Book of Urizen, Plate 27, (E 83)
"5. And their children wept, & built
Tombs in the desolate places,
And form'd laws of prudence, and call'd them
The eternal laws of God"

Image from
Book of Urizen, Plate 26
Learn more about Blake's annotation in this review of
Blake's Margins: An Interpretive Study of the Annotations, by Hazard Adam (Reviewed by Morton D. Paley on 2010-05-22).


Susan J. said...

I finally got the young adults biographay of Blake by Michael Bedard, from the local library. Lovely! The part I've read so far, about Blake's childhood and apprenticeship, really makes this part vivid for me:

"He argued that man should realize he has direct access to God through the faculty of the imagination. He urged his reader to look within for the work of God in his own life and to be receptive to God's gifts."


Susan J. said...

I looked up Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" to see what Watson was responding to, and I think I have the general idea of (a) Paine's piece (b) Watson's response to Paine and (c) Blakes's response to Watson and Paine.

But I'm having trouble following the annotations you've linked to, as well as the bulk of Ellie's post.

How do I match up, say, "E611," with a particular page or line in Watson? Going down a little farther I can see Blake quoting snippets from Watson and replying to them... but I still wonder about the E611, E612 etc notation.

Thanks! This is fascinating reading, even though I'm having trouble following the details. I guess nowadays such back-and-forth would happen in blogs, or maybe talking heads on TV....

ellie said...

I'm pleased that you were able to get the Bedard biography from your library. It is now available in the Ocala library because I requested it and advocated for its purchase.

I was also pleaded to find a way to use the picture which I included in the post. Larry just told me that it is one Blake picture which he would like to have hanging on the wall of our home.

You may remember that C.S. Lewis said that the Chronicles of Narnia began as an image in his mind rather than as a story. I think images arose in Blake's mind and that he had to put them in picture or print before he could move on.

The boy and dog outside the door say a lot about our situation as humans.

ellie said...

Now I see how he did it. It is different from how it is done in Erdman.

On the left he tells if it is the text of the book or Blake's comments. The page numbers for the book being quoted are embedded in the text.

The numbers prefixed by E are page numbers in Erdman's Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake.

You probably figured it out before I told you.

Susan J. said...

no... no, I did not figure it out myself.... THANKS! :-)