William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827)

William Blake

Background Information

William Blake was a Romantic poet in the late Seventeenth, early Eighteenth Century. His only formal education was in Art. He studied at the Royal Academy of Arts, and eventually became an apprentice to an engraver at the age of fourteen. In his freetime, Blake honed in on his poetry writing skills. He married Catherine Boucher at the age of 24, though he never had children with her. When he met her she was illiterate, however he taught her to read, and she eventually began to help him with his work engraving and illustrating.

In 1803 there was an event that sparked his career as a writer (though he would not be widely recognized until long after his death). It was in 1803 that Blake was accused of vocally disrespecting the King, a violation which was a hanging offense at the time. Blake ended up being acquitted of the charges, which caused quite the uproar. This event inspired blake to begin writing. From the ages of 26-60, Blake wrote many works, notably “Jerusalem” and “Songs of Innocence and Experience”. At the age of sixty, Blake narrowed his work to just pictoral art. He produced hundreds of paintings and engravings.

He was not greatly recognized until the 19th century, long after his death. During his lifetime Blake was sometimes viewed as insane or demented, though he was still accepted as a part of London’s literary circle. “Though it is hard to classify Blake‚Äôs body of work in one genre, he heavily influenced the Romantic poets with recurring themes of good and evil, heaven and hell, knowledge and innocence, and external reality versus inner”( http://www.online-literature.com/blake/). Blake believed in equality for all of the human race despite gender or skin color, and he reveals this within his poems, specifically his works of “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience”. These poems are reflected upon and annotated to give an in depth look into the meaning of his poetry.

Songs of Innocence & Experience

William Blake was an illustrator and often included his art in correlation with his poems. The YouTube video below includes some of his many illustrations.

Video by Brendafohio

Information from: http://www.online-literature.com/blake/
Norton Anthology: Eighth Edition: Volume 2. Website: http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/18century/welcome.htm

By: Elisa Lala, Danielle Allen and Natalie Johnson