In this podcast (video/audio), Dr David Fallon introduces the poetry, painting, and engraving of William Blake (1757-1827), focusing on the imaginative and visionary aspects of Blake’s work and his desire to break the public’s ‘mind-forg’d manacles’. Blake is best known for his Songs of Innocence and Experience and ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’.
Dr Fallon highlights Blake’s exposure to enlightenment thinking and the political radicalism of the 1780s and 90s through his work as an engraver for the Unitarian publisher Joseph Johnson. Johnson published works by Joseph Priestley (Unitarian minister and discoverer of oxygen), ground-breaking feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and Erasmus Darwin (grandfather to Charles Darwin), among others.
Blake’s unorthodox Christianity led him to challenge conventional notions of good and evil in his visionary ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’ (1790-93), in which dynamic energy is praised above all else. In the poem, Blake famously wrote ‘The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it.’