Sunday, September 28, 2014


During the America Revolution, which freed Americans from the taxes and other forms of oppression, William Blake was one of many English referred to as patriots. Many french people understood and applauded. In 1789, shortly after the successful end of the first revolution in America the French Revolution broke out. Blake approved it, and at one time he was known to wear a red cap, worn by the revolution.

From Wipedia:
Blake felt that there was a strong connection between the American and French revolutions and that these revolutions had a universal and historical impact.[1] The French Revolution was intended as a poetic history of these current events in Blake's life and was supposed to be an account of Blake's understanding of the French Revolution described in seven books of poetry first published in 1791.[2] Although Blake was not part of any radical political organizations in England at the time of the French Revolution, his works suggest a connection to revolutionary thought and the poem serves as his involvement in the debate over the merits of the French Revolution.[3]
In reaction to the French Revolution and the support of it in England, there was a series of attacks upon the supporters which led to the imprisonment of Joseph Johnson, the printer of French Revolution. This possibly disrupted the completion of the books, as Johnson was just starting to print the first book, and the project was discontinued. The only pages that survived are the original proofs for the first book, which are now in the collection of the Huntington Library.[4] Although it cannot be known why Johnson stopped printing Blake's poem, he did print other works by Blake including For Children and Songs of Innocence.[5]The poem currently appears in only one proof copy, and there are few references to The French Revolution until the 20th century. One of these is from Samuel Palmer, a follower of Blake, who wrote on 10 October 1827 that he wished to find a copy of the poem. The other is from Alexander Gilchrist, an early biographer of Blake, who wrote on 24 November 1860 to John Linnell, a collector of Blake's works, requesting to see the manuscript of The French Revolution[6]

Romanticism originated in the second half of the 18th century at the same time as the French Revolution.[1]Romanticism continued to grow in reaction to the effects of the social transformation caused by the Revolution. There are many signs of these effects of the French Revolution in various pieces of Romantic literature. By examining the influence of the French Revolution, one can determine that Romanticism arose as a reaction to the French Revolution. Instead of searching for rules governing nature and human beings, the romantics searched for a direct communication with nature and treated humans as unique individuals not subject to scientific rules.

Blake  was an English painter, poet and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language".[2] His visual artistry led one contemporary art critic to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced".[3] In 2002, Blake was placed at number 38 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.[4] Although he lived in London his entire life (except for three years spent in Felpham),[5] he produced a diverse and symbolically rich oeuvre, which embraced the imagination as "the body of God"[6] or "human existence itself".[7]

Although Blake was considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, he is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterised as part of theRomantic movement and "Pre-Romantic",[8] for its large appearance in the 18th century. Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England (indeed, to all forms of organised religion), Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American Revolutions.[9] Though later he rejected many of these political beliefs, he maintained an amiable relationship with the political activistThomas Paine; he was also influenced by thinkers such asEmanuel Swedenborg.[10] Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake's work makes him difficult to classify. The 19th-century scholar William Rossetti characterised him as a "glorious luminary",[11] and "a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors".[12]

1 comment:

Susan J. said...

wow. this is so interesting, Larry. somehow I don't think I'd ever noticed or thought about the connection between the American & French Revolutions on the one hand, and Romanticism on the other. And I certainly didn't know about Blake's "The French Revolution."

"Direct communication with nature" sounds a lot like "Direct communication with God/Spirit" -- doesn't it? :-)