A brilliant new biography of the mystic poet and artist William Blake – and the first to explore both his struggle to make a name for himself in a society unable to appreciate his genius and his startlingly original quest for spiritual truth.
‘And did those feet in ancient time …’ The hymn ‘Jerusalem’, with its famous words by William Blake, stirs our hearts with its evocation of a new holy city built in ‘England’s green and pleasant land’. Equally popular, and adored by children, is the address to ‘Tyger Tyger burning bright,/ In the forests of the night.’ Writing of this calibre – heartfelt, vivid and profound – makes Blake one of the best-loved poets writing in English. Yet he was also a visionary artist. To follow Blake into his fascinating labyrinth of thought and feeling you need a guide who not only is deeply knowledgeable about Blake’s life and times, but also shares Blake’s values. That guide is Tobias Churton. Until now, Blake the guru has been lost under a myriad of inadequate biographies, college dissertations and arts commentaries, by people who have missed the luminescent keys to Blake’s symbolism and liberating spirit and the essence of his titanic spiritual effort. In Jerusalem Churton creates an enthralling tapestry out of the threads of Blake’s spiritual quest, as well as his struggle to put bread on his table. He conjures a superb portrait of Blake’s London, and in particular the rivalries of the cultural community in which the poet-artist was usually misunderstood, and often cruelly abused. For some, Blake is a ‘romantic poet’ whose plain language, simple verse forms and sympathy with everyday humanity is deeply moving. To others, he is a revolutionary, an angry Cockney rebel with ideas about free sex. This biography, the first to show Blake in all his glory, is essential for those who seek spiritual awakening and an antidote to both materialism and to the commercialization of wonder.