Saturday, March 10, 2012

Blake's Annotations

Erdman's Section XII on pages 583-670 consist of 12 Annotations:
1. Lavaters' Aphorisms on Man (583-600):
Blake loved the Swiss philosopher and mystic and expressed approval of many of his sayings.

2. Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell (601-2)

3. Swedenborg's Divine Love and Divine Wisdom (602-09)

4. Swedenborg's Divine Providence (602-11)
(Since we have already posted considerable material on Swedenborg, let's press on to Annotation 5): 

5. An apology for the Bible by R. Watson (611-20)
Blake found Watson an irritant and felt it was insulting to have to apologize for the Bible, which he considered virtually the fount of all knowledge.

6. Bacon's Essays Moral, Economical and Political (620-33)
Bacon was another irritant for Blake, along with Newton and Locke, the three of whom he thought of as an Unholy Trinity.  He objected to much of what each one taught, although in his most mature work, at the end of Jerusalem he gave them honorable places along with Milton, Shakespeare and Chaucer (plate 98; Erdman 257)

7. Boyd's Historical Notes on Dante (633-35)
Blake had serious differences with Henry Boyd, a Church of Ireland clergyman.

8. The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, edited by Edward Malone (635-62)
Reynolds was consideraby older than Blake.  In Blake's youth he had an unfortunate relationship with this man, the maximum leader of painters, but his style of painting was diametrically opposite to Blake's.

9. Spurzheim's Observations on Insanity (662-63)
Blake was interested in phrenology which probably led to his reading by Blake, but this brief mention of the book actually concerns a quotation by a Mr. Haslam, who declared that although he thought that religion in general was mentally healthy, he confessed that most of his patients came from Methodists.

10. Berkeley's Siris (663-64)
Although his annotation was quite brief, Blake and Berkeley had a very similar viewpoint re the processes of the psyche.

11. Wordsworth's Preface to The Excursion (page (665-66)
Of all the early 19th century British Romantic poets Wordsworth may have been the closest.  But these annotations point out a serious disagreement over the natural man.

12. Thornton's The Lord's Prayer, Newly Translated (667-70)
Blake was extremely contemptuous of this work 

13. Celini(?) (670)
This 16th century book about the Pope's gift to the Emperor led to this comment from Blake:
"The Pope supposes Nature and the Virgin Mary to be the same allegorical personages, but the Protestant considers Nature as incapable of bearing a child."

14. Young's Night Thoughts (670)
Omitted  by Hazard Adams and untranslatable to me. If anyone knows the meaning of those hieroglyphics, please comment and enlighten the rest of us.

You may notice that these Annotations have varied extensions, from 1/3 page to ca 17 pages.

It might appear that the Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds were weightiest.  Reading any or all of these annotations would enhance our understanding of Blake's mind.

The contents of this post are very significantly expanded and improved on by 
this review, of Hazard Adams book called, Blake's Margins: An Interpretive Study of the Annotations.

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