William Blake in the Desolate Market

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McGill-Queen's University Press, Apr 8, 2014 - Art - 244 pages
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Experience taught William Blake that "Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy." His brilliant achievements as a poet, painter, and engraver brought him public notice, but little income. William Blake in the Desolate Market records how Blake, the most original of all the major English poets, earned his living. G.E. Bentley Jr, the dean of Blake scholars, details the poet's occupations as a commercial engraver, print-seller, teacher, copperplate printer, painter, publisher, and vendor of his own books. In his early career as a commercial engraver, Blake was modestly prosperous, but thereafter his fortunes declined. For his most ambitious commercial designs, he made hundreds of folio designs and scores of engravings, but was paid scarcely more than twenty pounds for two or three years' work. His invention of illuminated printing lost money, and many of his greatest works, such as Jerusalem, were left unsold at his death. He came to believe that his "business is not to gather gold, but to make glorious shapes." William Blake in the Desolate Market is an investigation of Blake's labours to support himself by his arts. The changing prices of his works, his costs and receipts, as well as his patrons and employers are expertly gathered and displayed to show the material side of the artistic career in Britain's Romantic period.

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About the author (2014)

G.E. Bentley Jr is professor emeritus of English at the University of Toronto.

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