‘A Slumber on the banks of the Ocean’

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


For a time Felpham was all that Blake might have hoped for when he arrived. The London he had left now seemed a dark dungeon, a ‘Web’ and ‘Veil’ that resisted ‘every beam of light’, or, as his wife put it, a ‘ter¬rible desart’.1 Although the countryside was not too far from the city’s centre and its scenes could still be glimpsed from within its developing wilderness of brick and stone, it was an exhilarating experience to have fields all about him now; still more to have light from the sea close at hand. They had passed through a country which they found ‘most beau¬tiful’ to reach a cottage which exceeded their expectations. To Flaxman he wrote uninhibitedly to express his belief that Felpham was ‘a sweet place for Study, because it is more spiritual than London’:

Heaven opens here on all sides her golden Gates her windows are not obstructed by vapours … voices of Celestial inhabitants are more distinctly heard & their forms more distinctly seen…2


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  1. 7.
    [Richard Dally], in The Bognor, Arundel and Littlehampton Guide (Chichester, 1828) 55, reported by Bentley: BSP 214.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    See his comment to Crabb Robinson in E. J. Morley’s Henry Crabb Robinson on Books and their Writers (1938) I 327; quoted in my Blake’s Visionary Universe (Manchester 1969) p. 29.Google Scholar
  3. 18.
    Quoted Morchard Bishop [Oliver Stonor], Blake’s Hayley (1951) pp. 278–9.Google Scholar
  4. 21.
    Byron, ‘English Bards and Scotch Reviewers’: Complete Poetical Works, ed. J. J. McGann (Oxford 1980) 1238.Google Scholar
  5. 22.
    Southey, Letters, ed. M. H. Fitzgerald, 1912, p. 57. Quoted Morchard Bishop, Blake’s Hayley, 20.Google Scholar

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© John Beer 2005

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  • John Beer

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