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Alexander Gilchrist’s Life of Blake (SE)

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This exquisite book was edited by Anne Gilchrist after the death of the author (her husband) before completion of the two volumes. Volume I contains a number of plates and illustrations from Blake’s works; and there are small designs or sketches at the ends or the beginnings of the chapters. Dante Gabriel and William Rossetti organised and collated volume II which contains the selection of works and an annotated catalogue of Blake’s pictorial works. Volume II also includes the 22 photolithographs by William James Linton from the Illustrations to the Book of Job. The images are called “Inventions to [sic] the Book of Job” in the course of the biography.

Anne Gilchrist sent a copy of The Life of Blake to Tennyson on 4 July 1863 and explained in the accompanying letter that she was fulfilling “an often expressed intention of my dear Husband’s”. (Letter 6802)

The pages of volume I of Gilchrist’s Life of Blake are cut and so are most of those of the second volume. This means that Tennyson at least skipped through William Rossetti’s catalogue of Blake’s works.

Tennyson would not only have seen plates from Blake’s illuminated books, he would also have encountered Gilchrist’s very own adaptations of Blake’s designs. Gilchrist, for example, uses two plates from America (1793), but while plate 5 appears unaltered on the right hand side, plate 11 has been altered, that is, Blake’s text has been replaced with that of Gilchrist’s.

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Last updated: 14 March 2013

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