Joyce Cary: Getting it from the Horse’s Mouth



It is well known that Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth is possibly the most Blakean literary work in the language, at least on a straightforward definition, outside those of Blake himself. In any case, that is one way of describing a novel in which most of the thoughts of the central character — Gulley Jimson, a painter — are buttressed by quotations from the master, many of them of some length. It is not surprising to find that Blake was a formative influence, read, studied and admired long before Cary had meditated the composition of this novel or indeed had written any published novels. As he said, later in life, in a letter to the Blake Society when sickness prevented his attending one of their meetings, ‘I still possess the two volumes of the Ellis edition which I used at College, heavily annotated. He is for me the only philosopher, the only great poet, who had a real understanding of the nature of the world as seen by an artist.’1 It is interesting to note that he refers to the ‘two volumes of the Ellis edition’, for this must mean the three-volume edition by Edwin Ellis and Cary’s fellow Anglo-Irishman, W. B. Yeats. This means that Cary was familiar with a reading of Blake informed by esoteric traditions such as were bread and butter to these editors, fellow members of the Golden Dawn. And this was not even the only edition which Cary annotated: he did the same thing to Max Plowman’s Everyman edition of 1927.2


Modern Literature Fellow Member Formative Influence Academic Philosophy Great Poet 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Quoted in Alan Bishop, Joyce Cary: Gentleman Rider (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 87.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Annette S. Levitt, ‘“The Mental Traveller” in The Horse’s Mouth: New Light on the Old Cycle’, in William Blake and the Moderns, Robert J. Bertholf and Annette S.Levitt, eds (Albany: SUNY Press, 1982), 186–211 (p. 211, n. 20).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Joyce Cary, The Horse’s Mouth, Carfax Edition, (London: Michael Joseph, 1951), 46.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Compare Dennis Hall, Joyce Cary: A Reappraisal (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1983), 74.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Edward Larrissy 2006

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations