Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

David V. Erdman:

25) Blake. Prophet against Empire.

Princeton 1954

Erdman’s groundbreaking study on the political background of Blake’s art and writings was able to shift the focus of future research from the artist as an unworldly mystic to the contemporary witness who “felt the cannonfire and the mud of Valmy almost more acutely than did Goethe, who was on the scene.” The image, which is drafted from Blake’s conception of republican art and from his radical surroundings, was deepened and amplified by a series of seminal studies that followed, such as Iain McCalman’s Radical Underworld. Prophets, Revolutionaries, and Pornographers in London, 1795-1840 (1988), David Worrall’s Radical Culture. Discourse, Resistance and Surveillance, 1790 -1820. (1992) and Jon Mee’s Dangerous Enthusiasm. William Blake and the Culture of Radicalism in the 1790s (1992). But whereas the impression of the radical cultures of the “heroic” Jacobean and Regency periods became increasingly precious and vivid, the prospect of the subsequent revolutionary phases remained shallow and their culture in artistic respects undervalued.