Wednesday, August 17, 2011

David Erdman

David Erdman is our subject.

"Blake: Prophet Against Empire: A Poet's Interpretation of the History of His Own Times is a 1954 biographical book by David V. Erdman whose subject is the life and work of English poet and painter William Blake.[1] Northrop Frye has described the book as a work full of knowledge of the meaning of Blake's Prophecies and the first to make a consistent use of the primary sources of historical scholarship.[2] The book tries to re-tell the social history of England as seen through Blake's eyes starting with the peaceful years of the 1760s, which Blake regarded, in his childhood, as time of innocence. Then moving forward to all the major events such as the American Revolution, the Gordon riots, the French Revolution, the policies of the Pitt government and the famine in England. Erdman explains that Blake was far from being an abstract or vague poet, but one whose social environment helped shape both his most famous and obscure works."
(from wikipedia

Our knowledge and understanding of Blake stems from a great many scholars of his works.  One of the foremost of these is David Erdman. Less gifted perhaps than Kathleen Raine or Northrup Frye, he was first in commitment to Blake.

Robert Rix has given this comment on Erdman's place among them:

"One branch of Blake studies (originating with another great poet of the occult, W.B. Yeats, and reaching its apex in Kathleen Raine), sees Blake primarily as a researcher of mystical sources; whereas a line fathered by David Erdman glosses over the mystical influences in order to draw a picture of a political Blake, whose writings reflect directly on contemporary events in a straightforward manner."

Erdman published work included 

And the BLAKE BOOK that is the Bible for all Blake scholars. It appears in several forms; here are two of them published electronically:
another electronic one
But if you want hard copy it's here.

All the above are text based books, but for those who are visually oriented he published The Illuminated Blake.  With this Erdman may have gotten closer to the nitty-gritty William Blake than we can find anywhere else.

(You can find much the same material of course in The William Blake Archive)

David Erdman published many other works, almost all of them about Blake. He was anxious for us all to learn about Blake, much more than make a profit with his personal profit; he substantially put much of it in the public domain.  You could only call him our benefactor.

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