Years of Resentment, Hints of Paradox

  • John Beer
Part of the Literary Lives book series (LL)


It was not likely that two such men as Blake and Fuseli would remain close friends permanently. Although he was an immediate source of fas¬cination for Blake, who wrote in 1800, ‘When Flaxman was taken to Italy, Fuseli was given to me for a season’,1 the exact phrasing of that tribute probably covers an indication that the ‘season’ had now passed, at least in its fullness. He may even have picked up some hint of Fuseli’s opinion, voiced to Farington in 1796, that he had ‘something of mad¬ness about him’.2 His grateful acceptance of the fact that Flaxman’s bounty was now to include a share in the friendship of William Hayley was accompanied by acknowledgement of a recent slighting, imagined or otherwise, on the part of Fuseli, among other associates: the year before he had written to Cumberland bitterly that since his illustrations to Young’s Night Thoughts had been published, ‘even Johnson & Fuseli have discarded my Graver’.3 What kind of falling out this may or may not cover is impossible to know, but the believed lack of employment, however boldly greeted by an ‘I laugh at Fortune’, meant that he was relieved when offered the chance of going to Sussex for a time to live under Hayley’s patronage. Two years later he was still mindful of his gratitude — even if it was now tempered by the growing belief that he was being hindered from pursuing his prime artistic aims by demands that he devote himself to other tasks already quoted:

As my dependence is on Engraving at present … & I find on all hands great objections to my doing any thing but the meer drudgery of business, & intimations that if I do not confine myself to this I shall not live, this has always pursud me. You will understand by this the source of all my uneasiness This from Johnson & Fuseli brought me down here & this from Mr H will bring me back again, for that I cannot live without doing my duty to lay up treasures in heaven is Certain…4


Public Address Wild Flower Exact Phrasing Descriptive Catalogue Mental Traveller 
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© John Beer 2005

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  • John Beer

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