This week in the wonderful virtual world there has been a bit of a ruck about readers/ reviewers and authors. I’m not for un-scabbing old wounds, and others far more capable than me have said it way better – . but it got me thinking.
I have started to walk part of the way to work, started because of the tube strike, but carried on because it passes Broad Street, the birthplace of William Blake.
Blake was probably my first literary hero, a visionary who was at best ignored,and at worst vilified in his lifetime but who became recognized as one of the great poets of the romantic age. He was a visionary in both senses if the word.
Unlike many of his contemporaries he was a working man, an engraver, writing and illustrating his poetry in-between (and sometimes instead of) engraving. Blake had to print, engrave and hand tint his own work, often with the help of his wife, the majority of which did not sell. One of his most famous illuminated works Jerusalem took 19 years to complete, the only copy he managed to hand colour did not find a buyer. A review of Blake’s paintings stated that they were a display of “nonsense, unintelligibleness and egregious vanity,” and referred to Blake as “an unfortunate lunatic.” He continued to work, writing, engraving and painting until his death – his obituary described him as “one of those ingenious persons … whose eccentricities were still more remarkable than their professional abilities.” He died in 1827.
Yes, it was 200 years ago and yes things have changed massively, but in our era of immediate blogging, unrelenting self publicity on Twitter and Facebook how would he have fared ? And conversely would any of us have survived creatively in his times ?
Have we progressed ?