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|National Gallery of Art, Washington
Among the younger men who became Blake's friends later in his life, John Linnell (1792-1882) stands out. He was introduced to Blake in 1818 by a son of Blake's good long term friend George Cumberland. The two men, both artists, found that they enjoyed one another's company in spite of the difference of 35 years in their ages. One evidence of the regard they felt for each other is revealed in the copy of The Marriage of Heaven & Hell which Blake produced for Linnell in 1821. According to a statement in the Blake Archive, Blake took particular time and care in coloring and detailing a copy which he had printed thirty years previously. The effort Blake put into it was not reflected in the discount price at which the copy was sold to Linnell. Copy H of Marriage of Heaven & Hell can best be viewed at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
It was to Linnell that Blake entrusted the manuscript of Four Zoas. Blake had worked on the manuscript for about ten years and developed much of his system of thought through writing it. Although Blake discontinued work on the Four Zoas in about 1808, he wanted to see it preserved not lost. Linnell and his descendants fulfilled their obligation and the manuscript resides in the British Library.
Letters, (E 778)
"To John Linnell Esqre, N 6 Cirencester Place, Fitzroy Square [Postmark: 2 July 1826] My dearest Friend This sudden cold weather has cut up all my hopes by the roots. Everyone who knows of our intended flight into your delightful Country concur in saying: "Do not Venture till summer appears again". I also feel Myself weaker than I was aware, being not able as yet to sit up longer than six hours at a time. & also feel the Cold too much to dare venture beyond my present precincts. My heartiest Thanks for your care in my accomodation & the trouble you will yet have with me. But I get better & stronger every day, tho weaker in muscle & bone than I supposed. As to pleasantness of Prospect it is All pleasant Prospect at North End. Mrs Hurd's I should like as well as any--But think of the Expense & how it may be spared & never mind appearances I intend to bring with me besides our necessary change of apparel Only My Book of Drawings from Dante & one Plate shut up in the Book. All will go very well in the Coach. which at present would be a rumble I fear I could not go thro. So that I conclude another Week must pass before I dare Venture upon what I ardently desire--the seeing you with your happy Family once again & that for a longer Period than I had ever hoped in my health full hours I am dear Sir Yours most gratefully WILLIAM BLAKE"