scattered cottages, a farm-house or two, a primitive little
antique church, and the comfortable modern ' great house,'
lying high, in the centre of lovely sheltered gardens and
grounds, commanding wide, varied views of purple vale and
gleaming sea. At Felpham, during the latter years of his
son's life, he had built a marine cottage, planned to his own
fancy, whither to retire and retrench, while he let his place at
Eartham. It was a cottage with an embattled turret ; with
a library fitted up with busts and pictures ; a ' covered way
for equestrian exercise,' and a well-laid-out garden ; all as a
first step in the new plans of economy. His son passed the
painful close of his ill-starred existence in it ; and here
Hayley himself had now definitely taken up his abode.
He continued there till his death in 1820; long before which
he had sold Eartham to Huskisson, the statesman ; whose
widow continued to inhabit it for many years.
On the eve of removing from Lambeth, in the middle of
September, was written the following characteristic letter
from Mrs. Blake to Mrs. Flaxman, ā the 'dear Nancy' of
the sculptor. I am indebted for a copy of it to the courtesy
-El-. 42ā 43-] A NEW LIFE. I47
of Mrs. Flaxman's sister, the late Miss Denman. Charac-
teristic, I mean, of Blake ; for though the wife be the
nominal inditer, the husband is obviously the author. The
very hand-writing can hardly be distinguished from his.
The verses with which it concludes may, in their artless
spiritual simplicity, almost rank with the Songs of
Innocence and Experience.
, From Mrs. Blake to Mrs. Flaxnian.
' My dearest Friend,
' I hope you will not think we could forget your services to
' us, or any way neglect to love and remember with affection
' even the hem of your garment. We indeed presume on
' your kindness in neglecting to have called on you since my
* husband's first return from Felpham. We have been in-
' cessantly busy in our great removal ; but can never think
' of going without first paying our proper duty to you and
' Mr. Flaxman. We intend to call on Sunday afternoon in
' Hampstead, to take farewell ; all things being now nearly
' completed for our setting forth on Tuesday morning. It is
' only sixty miles and Lambeth one hundred ; for the terrible
' desert of London was between. My husband has been
' obliged to finish several things necessary to be finished
' before our migration. The swallows call us, fleeting past
' our window at this moment. O ! how we delight in talking
' of the pleasure we shall have in preparing you a summer
' bower at Felpham. And we not only talk, but behold ! the
' angels of our journey have inspired a song to you : ā
To my dear Friend, Mrs. Anna Flaxman.
This song to the flower of Flaxman's joy ;
To the blossom of hope, for a sweet decoy ;
Do all that you can and all that you may,
To entice him to Felpham and far away.
148 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1799ā 1800.
Away to sweet Felpham, for Heaven is there ;
The ladder of Angels descends through the air,
On the turret its spiral does softly descend,
Through the village then winds, at my cot it does end.
You stand in the village and look up to heaven ;
The precious stairs glitter in flight seventy-seven ;
And my brother is there ; and my friend and thine
Descend and ascend with the bread and the wine.
The bread of sweet thought and the wine of delight
Feed the village of Felpham by day and by night ;
And at his own door the bless'd hermit does stand,
Dispensing unceasing to all the wide land.
'Receive my and my husband's love and affection, and
' believe me to be yours affectionately,
'H. B. Lambeth, 14 Sept. 1800.'
The labour of preparation and the excitement of eager
anticipation proved almost too much for the affectionate and
devoted Kate. September i6th, a few days before they
started, Blake writes to Hayley, ' My dear and too careful
' and over-joyous woman has exhausted her strength. , .
' Eartham will be my first temple and altar ; my wife is like
' a flame of many colours of precious jewels whenever she
' hears it named. '
A letter from Blake's own hand to Flaxman, penned im-
mediately after arrival in Sussex, has been put into print
by our excellent friend Smith. This very physiognomic com-
position, lucid enough to all who know Blake, needlessly
puzzled Allan Cunningham. It does not, to my mind,
separate, as he maintains, into two distinct parts of strongly
contrasted spirit ; nor does it betoken that irreconcilable
discord of faculties he imagines. The mingling of sound
sagacity with the utmost licence of imagination showed itself
at every hour of Blake's life. He would, at any moment,
speak as he here writes, and was not a mere sensible mortal
.ET. 42ā43] A NEW LIFE. 149
in the morning, and a wild visionary in the evening. Visionary
glories floated before his eyes even while he stooped over
the toilsome copper-plate. There was no pause or hiatus in
the life-long wedding of spiritual and earthly things in his
daily course; no giving the reins to imagination at one time
more than other.
And if immortality, if eternity, mean something, if they
imply a pre-existence as well as a post-mortal one, that which
startles the practical mind in this letter is not so wholly mad ;
especially if we make due allowance for the dialect, the un-
wonted phraseology (most very original men have their
phraseology), which long custom had made familiar and
anything but extravagant to him, or to those who have read
themselves into Blake's writing and design ; a dialect so
full of trope and metaphor, dealt with as if they were literal,
not symbolic facts.
' Dear Sculptor of Eternity,
' We are safe arrived at our cottage, which is more
' beautiful than I thought it, and more convenient. It is a
' perfect model for cottages, and I think for palaces of mag-
* nificence, only enlarging not altering its proportions, and
' adding ornaments and not principles. Nothing can be more
* grand than its simplicity and usefulness. Simple without
* intricacy, it seems to be the spontaneous expression of
' humanity, congenial to the wants of man. No other formed
' house can ever please me so well, nor shall I ever be per-
' suaded, I believe, that it can be improved either in beauty
* or use.
' Mr, Hayley received us with his usual brotherly affection.
' I have begun to work. Felpham is a sweet place for study?
' because it is more spiritual than London. Heaven opens
' here on all sides her golden gates : her windows are not
' obstructed by vapours ; voices of celestial inhabitants
' are more distinctly heard, and their forms more distinctly
' seen ; and my cottage is also a shadow of their houses.
150 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1799ā 1800.
' My wife and sister are both well, courting Neptune for an
' Our journey was very pleasant ; and though we had a
great deal of luggage, no grumbling. All was cheerfulness
and good humour on the road, and yet we could not arrive
at our cottage before half-past eleven at night, owing to the
necessary shifting of our luggage from one chaise to another ;
for we had seven different chaises, and as many different
drivers. We set out between six and seven in the morning
of Thursday, with sixteen heavy boxes and portfolios full of
' And now begins a new life, because another covering of
earth is shaken off I am more famed in Heaven for my
works than I could well conceive. In my brain are studies
and chambers filled with books and pictures of old, which I
wrote and painted in ages of eternity before my mortal life ;
and those works are the delight and study of archangels.
Why then should I be anxious about the riches or fame of
mortality .'' The Lord our Father will do for us and with us
according to His Divine will, for our good.
' You, O dear Flaxman ! are a sublime archangel ā my
friend and companion from eternity. In the Divine bosom
is our dwelling-place. I look back into the regions of remi-
niscence, and behold our ancient days before this earth
appeared in its vegetated mortality to my mortal vegetated
eyes. I see our houses of eternity which can never be
separated, though our mortal vehicles should stand at the
remotest corners of heaven from each other.
' Farewell, my best friend ! Remember me and my wife in
love and friendship to our dear Mrs. Flaxman, whom Ave
ardently desire to entertain beneath our thatched roof of
rusted gold. And believe me for ever to remain your grate-
ful and affectionate
' Felpham, Sept. 21st, 1800.
M^^'f^inifLf^j^ /.*>2. ii^^'f' iJ,M^'^>^t/&
Bl.AKHS COTTAGK AT I'l. I. PII AM ,
/ET. 42-43-] LETTERS. IS I
From this letter it appears the squire's method of travelHng
by post-chaise was adopted by the painter. His sister, nearly
seven years younger than himself, made one in the party and
in Blake's family during his residence at Felpham.
Blake also wrote, during this time, at frequent intervals, to
Mr. Butts, letters which in their full and frank utterance show
that this steady and almost life-long buyer of his works was a
sympathetic friend as well as a constant patron.
The first of these letters, after describing the journey and
the cottage in words almost identical with those used in the
letter to Flaxman just quoted, continues : ā
[Date of Post-mark, Sept. 23, 1800,]
Dear Friend of my Angel's,
The villagers of Felpham are not mere rustics ; they are polite
and modest. Meat is cheaper than in London ; but the sweet air
and the voices of winds, trees, and birds, and the odours of the
happy ground, make it a dwelling for immortals. Work will go on here
with God-speed. A roller and two harrows lie before my window.
I met a plough on my first going out at my gate the first morning
after ray arrival, and the ploughboy said to the ploughman, * Father,
the gate is open.' I have begun to work, and find that I can work
with greater pleasure than ever, hoping soon to give you a proof that
Felpham is propitious to the arts.
God bless you ! I shall wish for you on Tuesday evening as
usual. Pray, give my and my wife's and sister's love and respects
to Mrs. Butts. Accept them yourself, and believe me for ever
Your affectionate and obliged friend,
My sister will be in town in a week, and bring with her your
account, and whatever else I can finish. '
Direct to me ā
Blake, Felpham, near Chichester,
LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE.
[1799 ā 1800.
Belonging also to early days at Felpham is the following : ā
Felpham, Oct. 2, 1800.
Friend of Religion and Order,
I thank you for your very beautiful and encouraging verses,
which I account a crown of laurels, and I also thank you for your
reprehension of follies by me fostered. Your prediction will, I hope,
be fulfilled in me, and in future I am the determined advocate of
religion and humility ā the two bands of society. Having been so
full of the business of settling the sticks and feathers of my nest, I
have not got any forwarder with the Three Maries, or with any other
of your commissions ; but hope, now I have commenced a new life
of industry, to do credit to that new life by improved works. Receive
from me a return of verses, such as Felpham produces by me, though
not such as she produces by her eldest son. However, such as they
are, I cannot resist the temptation to send them to you : ā
To my friend Butts I write
My first vision of light,
On the yellow sands sitting.
The sun was emitting
His glorious beams
From Heaven's high streams
Over sea, over land ;
My eyes did expand
Into regions of air.
Away from all care ; '
Into regions of fire,
Remote from desire ;
The light of the morning,
Heaven's mountains adorning.
In particles bright.
The jewels of light
Distinct shone and clear.
Amazed, and in fear,
I each particle gazed,
Astonish'd, amazed ;
For each was a man
Human-formed. Swift I ran.
For they beckon'd to me,
Remote by the sea,
Saying : ' Each grain of sand.
Every stone on the land,
Each rock and each hill.
Each fountain and rill,
Each herb and each tree.
Mountain, hill, eaith, and sea,
Cloud, meteor, and star.
Are men seen afar.'
I stood in the streams
Of heaven's bright beams,
And saw P'elpham sweet
Beneath my bright feet,
In soft female charms ;
And in her fair arms
My shadow I knew.
And my wife's shadow too,
And my sister and friend.
\Ve like infants descend
In our shadows on earth.
Like a weak mortal birth.
My eyes more and more.
Like a sea without shore,
The heavens commanding.
Till the jewels of light,
Heavenly men beaming bright,
Appeared as one man,
Who complacent began
My limbs to infold
In his beams of bright gold ;
Like dross purged away,
All my mire and my clay.
Soft consumed in delight.
In his bosoni sun-bricrht
I remain'd. Soft he smil'd,
And I heard his voice mild,
Saying : ' This is my fold,
O thou ram, horn'd with gold.
Who awakest from sleep
On the sides of the deep.
On the mountains around
The roarings resound
Of the lion and wolf,
The loud sea and deep gulf.
These are guards of my fold,
thou ram, horn'd with gold!'
And the voice faded mild,
1 remain'd as a child ;
All I ever had known.
Before me bright shone :
I saw you and your wife
By the fountains of life.
Such the vision to me
Appear'd on the sea.
Mrs. Butts will, I hope, excuse my not having finished the portrait,
I wait for less hurried moments. Our cottage looks more and more
beautiful. And though the weather is wet, the air is very mild, much
milder than it was in London when we came away. Chichester is a very
handsome city, seven miles from us. We can get most conveniences
there. The country is not so destitute of accommodations to our
wants as I expected it would be. We have had but little time for
viewing the country, but what we have seen is most beautiful ; and
the people are genuine Saxons, handsomer than the people about
London. Mrs, Butts will excuse the following lines : ā
TO MRS. BUTTS.
Wife of the friend of those I most revere,
Receive this tribute from a harp sincere ;
Go on in virtuous seed-sowing on mould
Of human vegetation, and behold
Yqur harvest springing to eternal life.
Parent of youthful minds, and happy wife !
I am for ever yours,
' I have begun to work,' Blake writes ; on the plates to a
ballad of Hayley's, that is : ā Li'tt/e Tom the Sailor, written
and printed for a charitable purpose. The project had been
set going in Hayley's fervid head by an account his friend
Rose the barrister gave of the boy's heroism and the mother's
misfortunes, as celebrated in the poem. Hayley was at once
to write a ballad, Blake to illustrate and engrave it, and the
broadsheet to be sold for the widow's benefit to the poet's
154 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1799ā 1800.
friends, or any who would join in helping the ' necessities of a
meritorious woman ; ' in which the brochure, says Hayley's
Memoirs, proved successful.
The poem, like some others of Hayley's, has simplicity,
and perhaps even a touch of sweetness. At any rate, it is
brief If its author had not been cursed with the fatal facility
of words and numbers, he might have done better things. A
tinge of Blake-like feeling seems to have passed for once into
the smooth verse of the poet of Eartham. The ballad was
written 22nd September, 1800; Blake's broadsheet bears date
October 5th. Both verse and designs, of which there are two,
one at the head, the other at the foot of the page, are executed
on metal ā pewter, it is said ā the designs being graver work,
in the same manner as on wood, the ballad and imprint bitten
in with acid. The impressions were printed off by himself
and Mrs. Blake : ā ' Printed for and sold by the Widow Spicer
of Folkstone, for the benefit of her orphans.' The sheet is
now exceedingly scarce, as broadsheets always become, even
when far more widely circulated than this could ever have
been. I have come across but two or three copies.
The engravings are vigorous and effective, in an unpretend-
ing, rude style. The designs have all Blake's characteristic
directness and naivete. At the foot we see the future widow
leaving her humble cottage to seek her sick husband, and
turning her head wistfully round as she steps forth on her
way ; her little son rocking the cradle within. Around
stretches a landscape in the typical style of Poussin, ā wood,
and winding path, and solemn distant downs. It is a grand
and simple composition. The engraving at the head of the
sheet represents the sailor-boy aloft on the shrouds, climbing
to the top-mast, the embodied spirit of his father bursting
with extended arms from the midst of the storm-cloud and
forked lightnings. This picture also is full of high feeling.
To those disposed to judge a work of art vulgarly by what
the eye merely can see, instead of by the emotions aroused, it
may look like gross exaggeration to speak of grandeur in so
A NEW LIFE.
rude and slight a work. But the kindled imagination of the
artist can speak eloquently through few and simple strokes?
and with them kindle imagination in others. This is more
than the most skilful piece of mere artistic handicraft can do,
which as it does not come from, neither can it appeal to, the
mind. Hence we venture to claim for these designs, a place
among the genuinely great in kind, though not in degree, of
excellence. In truth, there are very few works by Blake for
which thus much, at least, cannot be claimed.
POET HAYLEY AND FELPHAM. 1800ā 1801. [.ct. 43ā44.]
Blake's life at Felpham was a happy one. In Hayley he
had a kind and friendly neighbour ; notwithstanding disparity
of social position and wider discrepancies of training and
mental character. Hayley, the valued friend of Gibbon in
one generation, of Cowper in the next, whose reputation, like
many another reputation then and since, was for a time in
excess of his literary deservings, has since been, even from a
literary point of view,, just as disproportionately despised, ā
sneered at with excess of rigour. By Allan Cunningham he
is never mentioned, in connexion with Blake or Romney, but
to be injuriously spoken of, and the worst construction put
upon his motives. This he does, swayed by the gratuitous
assertions of Romney's too acrimonious son, and giving the
rein to one of those unmeasured dislikes the stalwart Scot
was prone to take into his head ; witness his distorted portrait
of the amiable, urbane Sir Joshua.
As a poet, Hayley was no worse, if little better, than his
compeers ; Cowper and Burns standing of course apart. One
must judge him not as a literary man, but as a literary
country gentleman ; an amateur, whose words flowed a
thousand times faster than his thoughts. His Life of Cowper
was one of the earliest and best examples in that modern
school of biography wherein authentic letters form the basis,
and the hero draws his own portrait. Mason's Life of Gray
^CT. 43ā 44.] rOET HAYLEY AND FELPHAM. 1 57
was the first, but not an unexceptionable one ; Mason being
at the pains of mutilating and otherwise doctoring Gray's
lively scholarly gossip. Hayley's own part in the Life of
Cowper is well and gracefully written, in the smooth style, ā
in a style, which is something.
If Hayley was always romancing, as it were, which his
position in life allowed ; always living in a fool's paradise of
ever-dispelled, ever-renewed self-deceptions about the com-
monest trifles; seeing all men and things athwart a fog of
amiability ; it was not in the main a worse world than com-
mon, and sometimes it was a useful life to others. The
pension his bustling energy obtained for Cowper outweighs
many an absurdity and inanity. He was surely an en-
durable specimen, for variety's sake, among corn-law and
game-preserving squires. A sincere, if conventional love of
literature, independence of the great world, and indifference
to worldly distinctions, are, after all, not criminal foibles.
Pertinacious, wrongheaded, and often foolish in his actions;
weakly greedy of applause, as ready to lavish it ; prone to
exaggeration of word or thought ; without reticence : he
was also an agreeable companion, really kind-hearted and
generous ; though vanity mixed itself with all he did ; for
ever going out of his way to befriend some one, to set in
motion some well-intended, ill-considered scheme. For Blake,
ā let us remember, to the hermit's honour, ā Hayley con-
tinued to entertain unfeigned respect. And the self-tutored,
wilful visionary must have been a startling phenomenon to
so conventional a mind. During the artist's residence at
Felpham his literary friend was constantly on the alert to
advance his fortunes.
Another source of happiness for Blake at Felpham was
the natural beauty which surrounded him, and which the
transplanted Londoner keenly enjoyed. 'A cottage which
is more beautiful than I had thought it, and more convenient ;
a perfect model for cottages,' Blake had written of his new
home on his first arrival. It is still standing, and is on the
158 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1800ā 1801.
southern or seaward side of the village. It is really a
cottage ; a long, shallow, white-faced house, one room deep,
containing but six in all, ā small and cosy; three on the
ground-floor, opening one into another, and three above. Its
latticed windows look to the front ; at back the thatched
roof comes sweeping down almost to the ground. A
thatched wooden verandah, which runs the whole length of
the house, forming a covered way, paved with red brick,
shelters the lower rooms from a southern sun ; a little too
much so at times, as the present tenant (a coast-guardsman)
complains. The entrance is at the end of this verandah,
out of the narrow lane leading from the village to the sea. In
front lies the slip of garden (there is none at back), inclosed
by a low, flint wall. In front of that again is a private way,
shaded with evergreens, to the neighbouring large red brick
mansion, surrounded by ample gardens, in which Cyril
Jackson, Dean of Christ Church and Tutor to George IV.
once lived. Beyond, corn-fields stretch down to the sea,
which is but a few furlongs distant, and almost on the same
level, ā the coast here being low and crumbling. To the
right are scattered one or two labourers' humble cottages,
with their gardens and patches of corn-field. Further sea-
ward are two windmills standing conspicuously on a tongue
of land which shuts off adjacent Bognor from sight. The
hideous buildings now to be descried in that direction were
not extant in Blake's time. His upper or bedroom windows
commanded a glorious view of the far-stretching sea, with
many a white sail gleaming at sunset in the distance, on its
way betwixt the Downs and the chops of the Channel. The
wide and gentle bay is terminated westward by Selsea Bill,
above which the cloud-like Isle of Wight is commonly
visible ; eastward by Worthing and the high cliff of Beechy
Head beyond. Often, in after years, Blake would speak with
enthusiasm of the shifting lights on the sea he had watched
from those windows. In fine weather the waves come rippling
in to the gently shelving, sandy beach, but when rough, with
.ET. 43ā44-] POET HAYLEY AND FELPHAM. 1 59
SO bnuch. force as to eat away huge mouthfuls of the low,
fertile coast. Middleton Church and signal-house, on a point
of land a mile or so eastward, have disappeared bodily since
Blake's time. The village, a large but compact one, spreading
along two or three winding roads, still wears much the same
aspect it must have done then ; rustic, pleasant, and (as yet)
unspoiled by the close vicinity of a ' genteel ' watering-place.
It includes a few tolerably commodious marine residences of
the last century, and several picturesque old thatched cottages.
The church has within the last few years been restored, all
but its fine western tower of perpendicular date. Excellent
in proportion, strikingly picturesque in hue and outline, this
tower is at once well preserved and in good state for the
artist. It is a landmark for many miles, rising above the
thick foliage which in the distance hides yet distinguishes
the village from the surrounding flats. Several epitaphs of
Hayley's, ā in the composition of which species of poetry, it
may perhaps be still conceded, he was happy,ā are to be
met with in the church and adjoining graveyard.