|Library of Congress
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."
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.
Whom your Friendship has Magnified:
Rending the manacles of Londons
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"
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
 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, SussexAn enhanced and improved Blake's Cottage is presently on the market for sale for the first time since 1928.