Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Wikimedia Commons
Self Portrait

There seem to be no other first hand accounts of William Blake being in the company of society members and the artistic community than this one by Lady Charlotte Bury. What is impressive to me about this account is Lady Charlotte's ability to recognize in Blake what made him distinctive and worthy of recognition. She knew nothing of Blake before they met at the dinner party and didn't follow his career after their encounter, but she saw that his absence of worldly acumen bespoke of inner radiance, a powerful mind, superior feelings, and beautiful imaginations. 

"Diary illustrative of the times of George the Fourth, interspersed with original letters from the late Queen Caroline, and from various other distinguished persons" 

Bury, Charlotte (Campbell) Lady, 1775-1861
Wikimedia Commons
Notebook, Page 67
Self Portrait

Page 345 -349
"Tuesday, the 20th of January, 1818. I dined at Lady C. L 's [Caroline Lamb]. She had collected a strange party of artists and literati, and one or two fine folks, who were very ill assorted with the rest of the company, and appeared neither to give nor receive pleasure from the society among whom they were mingled. Sir. T. Lawrence, next whom I sat at dinner, is as courtly as ever. His conversation is agreeable, but I never feel as if he was saying 346 what he really thought. He made some reference to the Princess of Wales, and inquired if I had heard lately from her Royal Highness. I replied that I had not; and, to say the truth, I did not feel much induced to talk to him upon the subject ; for I do not think he behaved well to her. After having, at one time of his life, paid her the greatest court, (so much so even as to have given rise to various ill-natured reports at the period of the first secret investigation about the Princess's conduct,) he completely cut her Royal Highness... 

Besides Sir T., there were also present of this profession Mrs. M., the miniature painter, a modest, pleasing person; like the pictures she executes, soft and sweet.Then there was another eccentric little artist, by name Blake; not a regular professional painter, but one of those persons who follow the art for its own sweet sake, and derive their happiness from its pursuit. He appeared to me full of beautiful imaginations and genius; but how far the execution of his designs is equal to the conceptions of his mental vision, I know not, never having seen them. Main d'aeovre is frequently wanting where the mind is most powerful. Mr. Blake appears unlearned in all that concerns this world, and, from what he said, I should fear he was one of those whose feelings are far superior to his situation in life. He looks care-worn and subdued ; but his countenance radiated as be spoke of bis favorite pursuit, and be appeared gratified by talking to a person who comprehended his feelings. I can easily imagine that he seldom meets with any one who, enters into his views ; for they are peculiar, and exalted above the common level of received opinions. I could not help contrasting this humble artist with the great and powerful Sir Thomas Lawrence, and thinking that the one was fully if not more worthy of the distinction and the fame to which the other has attained, but from which he is far removed. Mr. Blake, however, though he may have as much right, from talent and merit, to the advantages of which Sir Thomas is possessed, evidently lacks that worldly wisdom and that grace of manner which make a man gain an eminence in his profession, and succeed in society. Every word he uttered spoke the perfect simplicity of bis mind, and his total ignorance of all worldly matters. He told me that Lady C L had been very kind to him. "Ah !" said be, "there is a deal of kindness in that lady." I agreed with him, and though it was impossible not to laugh at the strange manner in which she had arranged this party, I could not help admiring the goodness of heart and discrimination of talent which had made her patronize this unknown artist. Sir T. Lawrence looked at me several times whilst I was talking with Mr. B., and I saw his lips curl with a sneer, as if he despised me for conversing with so insignificant a person. It was very evident Sir Thomas did not like the company he found himself in, though he was too well-bred and too prudent to hazard a remark upon the subject.
The literati were also of various degrees of eminence, beginning with Lord B , and ending with __. The grandees were Lord L , who appreciates talent, and therefore was not so ill assorted with the party as was Mrs. G and Lady C., (who did nothing but yawn the whole evening,) and Mrs. A , who all looked with evident contempt upon the surrounding company. I was much amused by observing this curious assemblage of blues and pinks, and still more so with Lady C L 's remarks, which she whispered every now and then into my ear. Her criticisms were frequently very clever, and many of them very true, but so imprudent, it was difficult to understand how anybody in their senses could hazard such opinions aloud, or relate such stories." 

Miscellaneous Prose, Autograph in Album of William Upcott, (E 698)
     "WILLIAM BLAKE one who is very much delighted with being in
good Company
                                  Born 28 Novr 1757 in London 
                                  & has died several times since
January 16 
     The above was written & the drawing annexed by the desire of
Mr Leigh how far it is an Autograph is a Question   I do not
think an Artist can write an Autograph especially one who has
Studied in the Florentine & Roman Schools as such an one will
Consider what he is doing   but an Autograph as I understand it, is
Writ helter skelter like a hog upon a rope or a Man who walks
without Considering whether he shall run against a Post or a
House or a Horse or a Man & I am apt to believe that what is done
without meaning is very different from that which a Man Does with
his Thought & Mind & ought not to be Calld by the Same Name.
     I consider the Autograph of Mr Cruikshank which very justly
stands first in the Book & that Beautiful Specimen of Writing by
Mr Comfield & my own; as standing in the same Predicament they
are in some measure Works of Art & not of Nature or Chance
     Heaven born the Soul a Heavenward Course must hold 
     For what delights the Sense is False & Weak 
     Beyond the Visible World she soars to Seek 
     Ideal Form, The Universal Mold

 Michael Angelo.  Sonnet as Translated by Mr Wordsworth"

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