Yeats’s Blake criticism of the 1890s hinged on his knowledge of the
esoteric and occult systems that he used as his framework for interpretation of
the Romantic poet. This article examines The Works of William Blake:
Poetic, Symbolic, and Critical (1893) and Yeats’s 1890s
reviews of his contemporary Blake critics, as well as his relationship with the
mystic poet and artist George William Russell (Æ), whom he repeatedly
compared to Blake. Yeats’s emphasis on the importance of Boehme and
Swedenborg in Blake’s system had a major influence on Blake’s
critical legacy in the twentieth century, such as S. Foster Damon’s
approach to Blake in William Blake: His Philosophy and Symbols
(1924) and Kathleen Raine’s Blake and Tradition (1969).
Yeats’s engagement with Blake in the 1890s also contributed to the
popular conception of Blake as a mystic and visionary artist which still
This article explores the more detached and ironic view of Blake that emerged in
the 1970s compared to appropriations of him in the 1960s, as evident in three
science-fiction novels: Ray Nelson’s Blake’s
Progress (1977), Angela Carter’s The Passion of New
Eve (1977), and J. G. Ballard’s The Unlimited Dream
Company (1979). In adopting a more antagonistic posture towards
Blake, all three of these books reflect increasingly ambivalent attitudes
towards the countercultures of the 1960s, and can be read as critical of some of
those very energies that the Romantic movement was seen to embody. Thus Nelson
rewrites the relationship of William and Catherine, in which the engraver comes
under the influence of a diabolic Urizen, while Carter recasts the Prophet Los
as a Charles Manson-esque figure. Even Ballard, the most benign of the three,
views Blakean energy as a release of potentially dangerous psychopathologies. In
all the novels, we see a contrarian use of misprision, rewriting Blake as Blake
had rewritten Milton.
In this article, written in his signature style, Michael Horovitz reflects on his
longstanding fascination with William Blake. He recalls how the spirit of Blake
loomed large at the International Poetry Incarnation at the Albert Hall in the
summer of 1965, where his fellow travellers, among them Adrian Mitchell, were
driven by the nineteenth-century poet. Horovitz recounts the ways that Blake has
continued to inform his artistic practices, which cut across from poetry to
music and visual art.
The first part of this article focuses on previously unstudied materials relating
to the critical recuperation of William Blake in the period between
c.1910 and 1930. It notes how commentators utilised ideas
of citizenship and hospitality when they attempted to modernise Blake’s
interests and concerns. It explains how these distinctive critical idioms were
constructed, what they had in common and how they situated Blake in larger
public arguments about the social significance of cultural creativity. The
second part of the article traces the ramifications of this new way of thinking
about Blake by noting his appearance in modernist and neo-romantic art criticism
in the 1930s and 1940s.
Corruption and economical reform in Jamaica, 1783–91
Between 1781 and 1793 the British government embarked on a programme of what contemporaries called ‘economical reform’, which aimed to address problems of political and administrative corruption revealed by successive defeats in the American Revolutionary War. It triggered a process that would, arguably, root out entrenched or Old Corruption from the British political system by the mid-nineteenth century. The underlying factors for its success have been debated, and one of the suggestions is that the campaign was no mere bureaucratic exercise but involved a series of dialogues between popular demands, political practicalities and administrative realities that made for effective, long-term change. Focusing on a comparable process of economical reform undertaken at the same time but on a smaller scale in Jamaica during the 1780s, this chapter shines some much needed light on the experience of anticorruption initiatives in colonial settings, and contributes to the wider literature by reinforcing the importance of the interplay between political support and administrative direction. It argues that reforms in Jamaica lacking such support failed, but where that support existed, it had to be channelled in productive directions, since the political ideology – Old or Country Whig – that gave the movement its edge could work both for and against effective change. The experience of Jamaica, for all the differences from Britain in its society and economy, also shared some important similarities and helps to clarify what enabled and inhibited successful programmes of anticorruption reform at this critical juncture for the British imperial state.
Economical reform and the regulation of the East India Company, 1765–84
The early development of the British Empire in India was decisively shaped by concerns for the domestic constitution, and, conversely, the East India Company was an important feature in debates on ‘economical reform’ in Britain. Studies of corruption in the East India Company have frequently focused on the allegations levelled against their overseas employees, dubbed ‘nabobs’, culminating in the spectacle of Warren Hastings’s impeachment trial. This chapter, however, uncovers the intersections between various forms of Old Corruption in the British state and those in the East India Company at a time when the Company was undergoing a metamorphosis from a private mercantile corporation into a quasi-independent imperial agency. Whereas Hastings’s impeachment took place after the passage of Pitt’s India Act of 1784, which settled the major contours of the relationship between the state and the Company until well into the nineteenth century, the corruption analysed in this chapter was intimately connected with the process of reform, and thereby had a far more significant impact on the development of the British Empire in India. In particular, the chapter argues that the legislative reforms imposed on the Company during the 1760s and 1770s, which aimed to curtail certain forms of corruption, inadvertently opened the door to many others, as the domestic and imperial became structurally entangled.
The Scottish crisis and the Black Legend of the House of Stuart, 1650–2
Shortly after the execution of Charles I and the establishment of the new Free State, authors sympathetic to the republican regime began developing increasingly lurid tales not simply about the dead king, but also about his extended family. It highlighted the Stuarts’ political misrule and religious indifference, but it also advanced a remarkably detailed, and eye-catching, account of their sexual depravity. Charles preyed on court ladies; James was addicted to lithe young men; Anne of Denmark – not surprisingly – had a marked preference for Nordic males; Mary Queen and Scots was sexually voracious, just as her mother Mary of Guise had been. All paid a steep religious and political price for their unchecked libidos, for by 1649, God – these authors all argued – had marked the entire family was destruction. This systematic denunciation of the Stuarts in the early 1650s, furthermore, corresponded almost exactly with the Third Civil War in which the Free State faced off against the unholy alliance of Charles II and the Scottish Covenanters. The direct political relationship between the emerging Black Legend and the Republic becomes even clearer since it was partly written and almost certainly coordinated by John Milton, Marchmont Nedham and their protégés. This chapter examines this development of the rhetoric of an Accursed Family in the early 1650s, and in the process, it underscores the utility of Ann Hughes’ work of printed culture and sexual politics during the English Revolution.
Westminster scandals and the problem of corruption, c. 1880–1914
This chapter argues that the problem of corruption mutated in some key respects during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In particular, it argues for the development of a new and essentially vigilant culture of reform, based on the assumption that all public office-holders, of whatever party-political stripe, were: (a) inevitably sustained by – and at the very least exposed to – networks and relations of financial self-interest; (b) thus always and necessarily at risk of acting corruptly; and (c) as such, constantly exposed to a speculative, cynical watchfulness on the part of the press and their political opponents. In short, though few regarded corruption as inevitable, it was at this juncture that the culture of liberal-patrician reformism that had done away with Old Corruption was surpassed by one that took it for granted that corruption formed an ever present object of party-based agitation and public cynicism. One example of this, the chapter suggests, is the new premium placed on ‘conflicts of interest’ and ensuring that there were no grounds whatsoever even for public suspicion (the ‘rule of Caesar’s wife’). But the argument is also developed through an examination of three key scandals centred on the Westminster elites: the Hooley affair (1898), the Kynoch affair (1900–01) and the Marconi scandal (1912–13). Overall, it suggests that the turn of the twentieth century should be seen as a key moment of transition in the politics and politicisation of corruption in public life.
This chapter examines the finances of the so-called ‘General Rising’, a scheme by militant parliamentarians to raise the populace for all-out war against the king in the summer of 1643. Drawing upon heretofore unknown manuscript accounts, this article dissects the General Rising from the ground up, attempting not only to understand who was responsible for driving the scheme forward, but also why the plan ultimately ended in failure. In the process, the chapter illuminates the composition of the coalition that came together behind this radical program, allows for an assessment the contribution of women to the mobilisation, and helps to make sense of the emergent divisions that were coming to destabilise parliament’s war effort.