Tuesday, October 08, 2013

BLAKE'S COTTAGE

Library of Congress Milton
Plate 40, Copy D
 

The reasons for Blake to leave London in 1800 were numerous, including personal, political and financial. We get an idea of the political pressures in this passage from a genealogical website by D.W. Martyn Bone.

 

Historical Summary - Great Britain 1790's
"The revolution in France sparks fierce debate over the freedoms and inherent rights of humanity, leading to thoughts of manhood suffrage, more effective governance, lower taxes and aid for aged and poor. France declares war on Britain, whose challenges are increased by a revolt in Ireland eventually put down through brutal violence, and a rebellion within the British navy which resulted in better conditions and continued sea defense plus a blockade of French ports. Economic depression caused by war leads to rioting at home among the disenfranchised workers. Smuggling is rampant. Government responses to internal upheavals include banning trade unions, censoring the press, and rounding up subversives. An attempt to abolish slavery across the empire fails. Canada is divided into an upper English half, and lower French half to maintain loyalty in this age of revolution." 



Rosetti Archive
 

As William and Catherine were preparing for their move from London to Felphan, Blake wrote to his friend George Cumberland a letter mentioned in William Blake, published by the Tate, and edited by Peter Ackroyd, Marilyn Butler, Robin Hamlyn and Michael Phillips. The letter in the collection of Robert N Essick includes verses in a postscript which reveal Blake's perception of his previous decade in London and his expectations of new situation in Felpham. (Page 154)
"Dear Generous Cumberland nobly
solicitous for a Friend's welfare.
Behold me
Whom your Friendship has Magnified:
Rending the manacles of Londons
Dungeon dark
I have rent thee black net & escap'd. See My
Cottage at Felpham in joy.
Beams over the Sea, a bright light over
France, but the Web & the Veil I have left
Behind me at London resists every beam of
light;hanging from heaven to Earth
Dropping with human gore.Lo! I have left
it!I have torn it from my limbs
I shake my wings ready to take my flight!
Pale,Gastly pale:stands the City in fear" 
British Museum
Blake's Cottage
1915
 




After their arrival in their new home, Blake wrote ecstatically to John Flaxman about their journey and the cottage near the sea which they would occupy.  

 

Letters, (E 710) 

[To] Mr [John] Flaxman, Buckingham Street, Fitzroy Square, London 

Felpham Septr. 21. . 1800 Sunday Morning 
Dear Sculptor of Eternity
     We are safe arrived at our Cottage which is more beautiful
than I thought it. & more convenient.  It is a perfect Model for
Cottages & I think for Palaces of Magnificence only Enlarging not
altering its proportions & adding ornaments & not principals.
Nothing can be more Grand than its Simplicity & Usefulness.
Simple without Intricacy it seems to be the Spontaneous Effusion
of Humanity congenial to the wants of Man.  No other formed House
can ever please me so well nor shall I ever be perswaded I
believe that it can be improved either in Beauty or Use
     Mr Hayley recievd us with his usual brotherly affection.  I
have begun to work.  Felpham is a sweet place for Study. because
it is more Spiritual than London   Heaven opens here on all sides
her golden Gates   her windows are not obstructed by
vapours. . voices of Celestial inhabitants are more distinctly
heard & their forms more distinctly seen & my Cottage is also a
Shadow of their houses.  My Wife & Sister are both well. courting
Neptune for an Embrace
     Our journey was very pleasant & tho we had a great deal of
Luggage.  No Grumbling all was Chearfulness & Good Humour on the
Road & yet we could not arrive at our Cottage before half past
Eleven at night. owing to the necessary shifting of our Luggage
from one Chaise to another for we had Seven Different Chaises &
as many different drivers   We s[e]t out between Six & Seven in
the Morning of Thursday. with Sixteen heavy boxes & portfolios
full of prints.  And Now Begins a New life. because another
covering of Earth is shaken off.  I am more famed in Heaven for
my works than I could well concieve   In my Brain are studies &
Chambers filld with books & pictures of old which I wrote &
painted in ages of Eternity. before my mortal life & whose works
are the delight & Study of Archangels.  Why then should I be
anxious about the riches or fame of mortality.  The Lord our
father will do for us & with us according to his Divine will for
our Good
     You O Dear Flaxman are a Sublime Archangel My Friend &
Companion from Eternity in the Divine bosom is our Dwelling place
I look back into the regions of Reminiscence & behold our ancient
days before this Earth appeard in its vegetated mortality to my
mortal vegetated Eyes.  I see our houses of Eternity which can
never be separated tho our Mortal vehicles should stand at the
remotest corners of heaven from Each other
     Farewell My Best Friend Remember Me & My Wife in Love &
Friendship to our Dear Mr Flaxman whom we ardently desire to
Entertain beneath our thatched roof of rusted gold & believe me
for ever to remain
Your Grateful & Affectionate
WILLIAM BLAKE

from Stannings Bed and Breakfast
mid 20th century
We can conjecture that Blake was thinking of this Bible verse while writing the above letter:



Romans 8
[28] And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.


Blake didn't neglect to tell his friend and benefactor Thomas Butts of the ideal situation in which they found themselves just a few days after their arrival.


 
Letters, (E 711) 
[To] Mr [Thomas] Butts, Gt Marlborough Street
near Oxford Street, London

[Postmark: Sep 23 1800]
Dear Friend of My Angels
     We are safe arrived at our Cottage without accident or
hindrance tho it was between Eleven & Twelve OClock at night
before we could get home, owing to the necessary shifting of our
boxes & portfolios from one Chaise to another.  We had Seven
different Chaises & as many different drivers.  All upon the road
was chearfulness & welcome tho our luggage was very heavy there
was no grumbling at all.  We traveld thro a most beautiful
country on a most glorious day.  Our Cottage is more beautiful
than I thought it & also more convenient. for tho Small it is
well proportiond & if I should ever build a Palace it would be
only My Cottage Enlarged.  Please to tell Mr Butts that we have
dedicated a Chamber to her Service & that it has a very fine view
Of the Sea.  Mr Hayley recievd me with his usual brotherly
affection.  My Wife & Sister are both very well & courting
Neptune for an Embrace, whose terrors this morning made them
afraid but whose mildness is often Equal to his terrors The
Villagers of Felpham are not meer Rustics they are polite &
modest.  Meat is cheaper than in London but the sweet air & the
voices of winds trees & birds & the odours of the happy ground
makes it a dwelling for immortals.  Work will go on here with God
speed--.  A roller & two harrows lie before my window.  I met a
plow on my first going out at my gate the first morning after my
arrival & the Plowboy said to the Plowman.  "Father The Gate is
Open"--I have begun to Work & find that I can work with greater
pleasure than ever.  Hope soon to give you a proof that Felpham
is propitious to the Arts.
     God bless you.  I shall wish for you on Tuesday Evening as
usual.  Pray give My & My wife & sisters love & respects to Mr.
Butts, accept them yourself & believe me for ever
Your affectionate & obliged Friend
WILLIAM BLAKE

My Sister will be in town in a week & bring with her your account
& whatever else I can finish.  Direct to Mr Blake: Felpham
near Chichester, Sussex

An enhanced and improved Blake's Cottage is presently on the market for sale for the first time since 1928.

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