Again to the Life of Eternity: William Blake's Illustrations to the Poems of Thomas Gray

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This work postulates that the set of 116 designs by William Blake, illustrated herein, is not a series of individual responses to the pieces of text they accompany, nor is it a series of responses to the individual poems of Thomas Gray. The designs are also more than illustrations, or corrections, of Gray's speakers or of Gray himself. In the Gray designs, Blake was using the opportunity given him by John and Ann Flaxman in 1797 to explore and explain visually the reformist malaise in the reactionary nineties ...
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Overview

This work postulates that the set of 116 designs by William Blake, illustrated herein, is not a series of individual responses to the pieces of text they accompany, nor is it a series of responses to the individual poems of Thomas Gray. The designs are also more than illustrations, or corrections, of Gray's speakers or of Gray himself. In the Gray designs, Blake was using the opportunity given him by John and Ann Flaxman in 1797 to explore and explain visually the reformist malaise in the reactionary nineties when the general economic well-being and optimism had been replaced by the effects of war and fear. For Blake, the collapse into the later 1790s is the failure of the imaginative will to sustain the impetus that the American and French Revolutions had begun. Blake saw several causes for this failure of will and created a set of designs rich in allusions and dense with visual conventions. These visual topoi are personal, topical, classical, biblical, and literary. Thus, there is a need for a study of the Gray designs that sees them as they are: a unity rich with visual conventions partaking of Blake's revolutionary pattern of development and desire to reshape in specific ways the mind of his audience.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780945636748
  • Publisher: Susquehanna University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1995
  • Pages: 250

Table of Contents

Preface 7
1 Introduction 11
The Milieu of the Gray Designs 11
Blake and the Flaxmans 15
Blake and Gray 18
Some Physical and Thematic Attributes 22
The Gray Designs as a Unity 28
2 The Preludium 35
Spring: The Prelude 35
Favourite Cat: Beginning of the Fall 43
Eton: Learning in the Fallen World 48
Long Story: The Descent into Flippancy 55
Adversity: The Place of Pain and Desperation 61
3 The Potential for Regeneration 66
Progress: The Movement Onward 66
The Bard: The Progress away from Wrath 74
4 The Movement through the Nadir 84
Fatal Sisters: The Evolution of Fate 85
Odin: The Descent into Doubt 91
Owen: Moments of Despair and Moments of Charity 96
Music: Real Fame 99
5 Clarke and Elegy: A Movement from Nostalgia 105
Clarke: Leaving Arcadia 107
Elegy: A Movement from Nostalgia 108
6 Conclusion 116
Notes 118
Bibliography 126
Index 135
Plates 141
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