early exponent of the non-material and anti-establishment values
for which they stood. Swinburne picked up this interest and
wrote "A Critical Essay" on Blake lavish in its praise of the poet.
In the Victorian era Swinburne played the role of devil, and it was
Blake's deviltry (nonconformism) that most appealed to him. He
mistakenly perceived Blake as an exponent of art for art's sake,
which was his own game at the time. Obviously art meant
something far different to Blake than it meant to Swinburne.
Swinburne's "Critical Essay" was an outrage against the
establishment and a distortion of Blake's art.
Nevertheless it helped to keep Blake's name alive
through a dismal philistine age.
The mainstream of Blake's legacy comes down through
the Irish poet, Yeats. Yeats derived much of his own imagery
from the Blake; his poems breathe with the Blakean spirit.
With E.J.Ellis Yeats wrote what became at the turn of
the century the primary Blake study. Yeats explained Blake
with his own language and thought forms, and Mona Wilson
found his interpretation of Blake "often more obscure than
Blake's own text".
Be that as it may, Yeats kept the flame burning and prepared
the way for the explosion of interest in Blake that came in the
twenties. ii In 1910 Joseph Wicksteed worked out some of
the basic principles of Blake's symbology and made them
public in his volume, Blake's Vision of the Book of Job.
Speaking for his generation of Blake scholars Northrup Frye
said they had all learned their Blake symbology from
Wicksteed. Wicksteed's Job in fact provides an excellent
beginning for the serious Blake student.
Sir Geoffrey Keynes' three volume work, Blake's Complete Writings
appeared in 1925; with revisions it has remained the
definitive text. Two years later Mona Wilson's biography
appeared, based upon the earlier works of Gilchrist and Symons:
Her biography remains for the ordinary student the best source
of information about Blake's life.
Foster Damon's William Blake: His Philosophy and Symbols appeared about the same time. This work is hard to find today,
but most of the interpreters who worked in the following decades
acknowledged a debt to Damon. His Blake Dictionary, published in
1965 and still available, is an extremely useful source of information
The year 1938 saw a creative and valuable interpretation of Blake
at the hands of Milton Percival. His book, Circle of Destiny, is a
systematic, cogent, and readable introduction to Blake's thought.
Percival became the primary Blake interpreter for C.G.Jung and for
In 1946 Wiliam Purcel Witcut wrote a little book relating the Four Zoas to Jung's four psychic functions, entitled Blake, A Psychological Study.