Beastly Blake pp 253-291 | Cite as

News from the Thames (Blake! There’s Something in the Water)

  • Bethan StevensEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


Investigating the Thames, this chapter explores late eighteenth-century newspaper articles that narrate stories of animals, such as: a gigantic eel trapped in a coffin, eroticised swan-men, and blindfolded tigers arriving on the docks after Tipu Sultan’s defeat in Mysore. These articles provoke new ways of reading motifs of sexuality, empire and hell in works by Blake, including The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Urizen, the Large and Small Books of Designs, and illustrations to John Gabriel Stedman, Dante and the Bible. The chapter draws on writing by Walter Benjamin and J. Hillis Miller, developing the idea of the literary caption as an alternative form of academic writing. By using sensationalist animal stories as captions for Blake, we can discover new magical and ethical aspects of his work, within a circulation of fantastical narratives around the Thames. Human–animal relationships become a model for understanding the relationship between texts and images—intimate and visionary, infecting each other without directly touching.


  1. Benjamin, Walter. [1955] 1999. Illuminations, trans. and ed. Hannah Arendt, and Harry Zohn. London: Pimlico.Google Scholar
  2. Blake, William. 1988. The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, rev. ed., ed. David V. Erdman. New York: Doubleday. (Abbreviated as E.).Google Scholar
  3. Butlin, Martin and Robin Hamlyn. 2008. Tate Britain Reveals Nine New Blakes and Thirteen New Lines of Verse. Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly 42 (2): 52–72.Google Scholar
  4. Cixous, Hélène. [1993] 2005. Bathsheba or the Interior Bible. In Stigmata: Escaping Texts, 3–24. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Cole, Lucinda, Donna Landry, Bruce Boeher, Richard Nash, Erica Fudge, Robert Markley, and Cary Wolfe. 2011. Speciesism, Identity Politics, and Ecocriticism: A Conversation with Humanists and Posthumanists. The Eighteenth Century 52 (1): 87–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Davis, Lennard J. [1983] 1996. Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  7. Derrida, Jacques. [1978] 1987. The Truth in Painting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Derrida, Jacques. [1991] 1993. Memoirs of the Blind: The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. Derrida, Jacques. [1992] 1995. “Eating Well”, or the Calculation of the Subject. In Points… Interviews, 1974–1994, ed. Elisabeth Weber, 255–287. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Eaves, Morris, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi. 2017. Editorial Notes on the Small Book of Designs. The William Blake Archive.
  11. Erdman, David V. [1974] 1992. The Illuminated Blake. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.Google Scholar
  12. Gilchrist, Alexander. [1863] 1880. Life of William Blake: With Selections from His Poems and Other Writings, vol. 1. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Hamlyn, Robin, and Michael Phillips. 2000. William Blake. London: Tate Publishing.Google Scholar
  14. Hogarth, William. 1753. The Analysis of Beauty. Written with a View of Fixing the Fluctuating Ideas of Taste. London: J. Reeves.Google Scholar
  15. Horn, Roni. 2011. Another Water: The River Thames, For Example. Göttingen: Steidl.Google Scholar
  16. Lambe, William. 1828. An Investigation of the Properties of the Thames Water. London: Thomas Butcher and T. and G. Underwood.Google Scholar
  17. Lessing, Gotthold Ephriam. [1766] 1984. Laocoön: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry, trans. Edward Allen McCormick. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  18. MacNally, Leonard. 1780. Aquatic Sports. The Public Advertiser, 21 August.Google Scholar
  19. MacNally, Leonard. 1781. Sentimental Excursions to Windsor and Other Places. London: J Walker.Google Scholar
  20. Miller, J.Hillis. 1992. Illustration. London: Reaktion Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Phillips, Michael. 2014. William Blake: Apprentice & Master. Oxford: Ashmolean.Google Scholar
  22. Reidel-Schrew, Ursula. 1994. Freud’s Début in the Sciences. In Reading Freud’s Reading, ed. Sander L. Gilman, Jutta Birmele, Jay Geller, and Valerie D Greenberg, 1–22. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Schuchard, Marsha Keith. 1995. William Blake and the Promiscuous Baboons: A Cagliostroan Séance Gone Awry. Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 18 (2): 185–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Stedman, John Gabriel. 1796. Narrative of a Five Years’ Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam in Guiana, On the Wild Coast of South America…, 2 vols. London: Joseph Johnson.Google Scholar
  25. Sumpter, Caroline. 2008. The Victorian Press and the Fairy Tale. Basingstoke: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Swift, Jonathan. 1838. Voyages de Gulliver dans des Contrées Lointaines… Edition illustrée par Grandville. Traduction nouvelle, vol. 1. Paris: Fournier, Furne et Cie.Google Scholar
  27. Thomas, Julia. 2017. Nineteenth-Century Illustration and the Digital: Studies in Word and Image. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Wolfe, Cary. 2010. What is Posthumanism? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  29. Wood, Marcus. 2002. Slavery, Empathy and Pornography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SussexBrightonUK

Personalised recommendations