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Blake by Peter Ackroyd
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Blake (1996)

by Peter Ackroyd

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A hundred pages into this book, I was questioning my total acceptance that anything written by Peter Ackroyd would be superb. By the time that I reached the end, I was sad to be leaving an old friend. The reason for this sharp change of attitude to the book is caused, I believe, by the strange nature of Blake's life. He was not considered a great artist by most of the intelligentsia of his age and he wasn't always the most pleasant towards those who tried to help him. It took me a good one hundred pages to bend my mindset to that of Blake (at least Peter Ackroyd's Blake).

The work is lavishly illustrated with Blake's engravings and they still have an unworldly feel: it is not surprising that people were bemused. Add to this the fact that Blake insisted that his images were divine presentiments and that he 'saw spirits', and one begins to see the oddity of the man.

Ackroyd's admiration of the man shines through every page and, eventually, won me over, as Blake seems to have been able to gain forgiveness for his rudeness and quick temper towards his friends. He sold very few engravings and books during his life, but there always seemed to be a sponsor handing money to Blake. He was never rich,but he did keep the wolf from the door and in his last years, gained a glimpse of the fame that was to come posthumously.

This is another Peter Ackroyd winner: if like me, you struggle at the start, please keep going; you'll be sorry should you miss out on this fantastic biography. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Dec 18, 2012 |
40.00
  mbugler | Mar 6, 2011 |
This is an interesting and informative biography of Blake. A man whose talents were largely unrecognised in his own lifetime, but who is now perceived as a visionary and a great talent. As a biographer Ackroyd really tries to get to the man behind the myth and the Blake who comes across is immensely likeable - I particularly liked his criticism of Wordsworth's 'The Excursion', which 'had provoked in him a bowel complaint' - as well as driven by his art and his spiritual adventures. As Blake himself said, 'I should be sorry if I had any earthly fame for whatever nature glory a man has is so much detracted from his spiritual glory. I wish to do nothing for profit. I wish to live for art. I want nothing whatever. I am quite happy.' ( )
1 vote riverwillow | Aug 10, 2010 |
I like Blake's art a lot, and don't know much about his writings except that they were "visionary" (translation: nutty). This is a dense, serious, but very interesting biography that tries to explain his writings, art, and thought processes, while acknowledging that much of it will always be mysterious. I liked Blake the person a lot, too. ( )
  piemouth | May 25, 2010 |
Superb. Not just a biography but a telling of Blake's mind, his visions, his poetry and how he innovated his art throughout his life, brilliantly written. ( )
  echaika | Jul 22, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 067940967X, Paperback)

William Blake, a London hosier's son, began having mystical visions at the age of eight and came to see his life as a revelation of eternity. While eking out a living as an engraver, he offered, quite unsuccessfully, his great series of prophetic books, Songs of Innocence and Experience. For Ackroyd, biographer of both Charles Dickens and T. S. Eliot, Blake was a visionary, who long before Freud saw warfare as a form of repressed sexuality and believed there were eternal states of rage, desire and selfhood through which a man passes, keeping his soul intact. The tragedy was that he had the capacity to become a great public and religious poet, but instead turned in upon himself, gaining neither reputation nor influence in his lifetime.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

This is the first biography of William Blake to reveal the true affinities between his art and his poetry. The author recreates 18th century London in the course of Blake's history as a Cockney visionary, London tradesman, prophet and artisan.

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