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Title: William Blake in contexts : family, friendships, and some intellectual microcultures of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England
Author: Davies, Alan Philip Keri
ISNI:       0000 0001 3409 4904
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2003
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Biographical discussion of William Blake (1757-1827) has long been dominated by unexamined assumptions regarding his family background, his early religious allegiance, and his supposed rejection of the publishing world of his time. This dissertation presents biographical and other discoveries relating to Blake and his milieu that challenge some long-established commonplaces. The dissertation is shaped by a concentration on the individuals indicated in the chapter titles (Rebekah Bliss, William Muir, Alexander Tilloch, Richard Twiss, Samuel Varley, Catherine Wright). I claim priority of discovery for the date of Blake's mother's first marriage, the identity of her first husband (Thomas Armitage, 1722-1751), and her true maiden name (Wright). I suggest an unexpected political allegiance for Blake's father, indicated by his vote in the 1749 Westminster by-election. I present the identity of Blake's first known collector (Rebekah Bliss, 1747-1819), and uncover evidence of the commercial availability of Blake's illuminated books in the 1790s. I link Blake to contemporary book-collecting circles and in particular to those in which Richard Twiss (1747-1818) participated. Ibring to light Blake's friendship with Alexander Tilloch (1759-1825), and show how access to Tilloch's library would have compelling consequences for the interpretation of Blake's work. I identify Tilloch with a character in An Island in the Moon, and make further suggestions for the real-life counterparts of other persons caricatured in that work. I demonstrate how Blake's posthumous reputation was fostered by the facsimiles produced by Tilloch's great-great-nephew William Muir (1845-1938), and show how this contributed to Blake's influence on art and design in the later nineteenth century. Further discoveries relating to Blake's mother disclosing her provincial birth, the names of her parents and siblings, and her association with the Moravian sect, conclude the study.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature