Love, Marriage and Sexual Lore

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


Throughout his career William Blake enjoyed the supporting presence of his faithful wife, Catherine. According to Gilchrist, their relationship began shortly after a period of depression following his rejection by another young woman.1 One of his early biographers, Frederick Tatham, gave a more elaborate account of their first encounter:

He became ill & went to Kew near Richmond for a change of air & renovation of health & spirits & as far as is possible to know lodged at the House of a market Gardener whose name was Boutcher. The Boutchers appear to have been a respectable & industrious family. He was relating to the daughter, a Girl named Catherine, the lamen¬table story of Polly Wood, his implacable Lass, upon which Catherine expressed her deep sympathy, it is supposed in such a tender & affectionate manner, that it quite won him, he immediately said with the suddenness peculiar to him ‘Do you pity me?’ ‘Yes, indeed I do’ answered she ‘Then I love you’ said he again. Such was their courtship. He was impressed with her tenderness of mind & her answer indicated her previous feeling for him. For she has often said that upon her mother asking her who among her acquaintances she could fancy for a Husband, she replied that she had not yet seen the man & she has further been heard to say that when she first came into the Room in which Blake sat she instantly recognized (like Britomart in Merlins wondrous glass) her future partner, & was so near fainting that she left his presence until she had recovered. After this interview, Blake left the House having recruited his health & spirits, & having determined to take Catherine Boutcher to Wife. He returned to his Lodgings, & worked incessantly that he might be able to accomplish this End at the same time resolving that he would not see her until he succeeded. This interval which she felt dolefully long was one whole year, at the expiration of which with the approbation & consent of his parents he married this Interesting beautiful & affec¬tionate Girl. Nimble with joy & warm with the glow of youth, this bride was presented to her noble bridegroom. The morning of their married life was bright as the noon of their devoted love, The noon as clear as the serene Evening of their mutual equanimity. Although not handsome he must have had a noble countenance, full of expression & animation, his hair was of a yellow brown, & curled with the utmost crispness & luxuriance. His locks instead of falling down stood up like a curling flame, and looked at a distance like radiations, which with his fiery Eye & expansive forehead, his dignified & cheerful phys¬iognomy must have made his appearance truly prepossessing. After his Marriage he took lodgings in Green St Leicester Square.2


Golden Gate Married Life Affectionate Manner Supporting Presence Future Partner 
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© John Beer 2005

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  • John Beer

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