The British Library Discovers Literature

Our dearest William Blake joins twenty one other Romantic and Victorian authors on the British Library’s newest online initiative: Discovering Literature. The site currently features only British authors from the Romantic and Victorian periods, but the museum has plans to expand the collection to include a vast range of literature spanning from Beowulf to contemporary British literature. The website “has been designed with British schools and students in mind — many of its selected texts support the GCSE curricula, for example — but is accessible to anyone: its broader aim is to connect classic literature with a wider audience” (McLaren). To this end, the collection includes 30 complete lesson plans.

In the building of the site, the British Library commissioned over 165 articles and 25 short films from scholars to contextualize and bring to life these literary treasures. The entire collection includes 1199 separate documents, images, and videos. Blake’s section, for example, includes the article “The Music of Blake’s Poetry” by Julian Walker and his entire one hundred twelve page notebook from 1787-1818, among other treasures.

This beautifully designed site is easy to navigate, colorful, and welcoming for readers. Articles can be searched by author, theme, or work. It is a joy for any lover of literature to have access to this intimate perspective on their favorite authors.

Enjoy browsing, and tell us what you most enjoyed in the comments!

An Island in the Moon

We are pleased to share this performance of Blake’s 1784 satire, An Island in the Moon, recently reposted on the Romantic Circles site.

The title of the work comes from the first words of a 16-page manuscript that Blake never published. At the time he wrote An Island in the Moon,  Blake was 27 years old, five years a professional engraver, two years married, and a new co-proprietor of a print-selling business, hoping, as he makes clear in Island, to make money and a reputation, but also, no doubt, to buy time for his other loves, poetry and painting.

As written, Island has five different settings, a narrator and 15 characters.The characters and scenes parodied in Island are almost certainly drawn from the salon environment of Mrs. Mathew’s and the gatherings Blake and Mrs. Blake attended at the houses of his other friends. The boisterous Quid, one of three philosophers and a self-professed cynic, represents Blake himself.

This performance is an adaptation written by Joseph Viscomi of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during 1977, after he initially encountered the satire while a graduate student at Columbia University, in Geoffrey Keynes’ Blake Complete Writings (Oxford U. P. 1966). In his adaptation, Viscomi consolidated the action into one place, a tavern, over one evening, where they “try’d every method to get good humour” and used 14 characters instead of 15.

Island was performed in Cornell’s Kaufmann Auditorium, 7-8 April 1983, as part of “Blake: Ancient and Modern,” a two-day symposium (8-9 April) at Cornell featuring lectures by Karl Kroeber, Morris Eaves, Albert Roe, Peter Kahn, Robert Essick, John Stallworthy, Reeve Parker, and myself. For the symposium I had organized three exhibitions, Blake, Illustrator and Poet at Olin Library, The Art of Illuminated Printing at the Art History Gallery, and Prints by Blake and his Followers at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum. Cornell was awashed in Blake events that spring, but of them all, I am sure the exuberant performance and music of An Island in the Moon stole the show. Its success enabled an encore presentation on 11-12 May in Cornell’s Drummond Studio, which we videotaped with two cameras each night.

Enjoy this romp!

Much of this post comes directly from the introduction by Joseph Viscomi, found at

Subscriptions giveaway

This is what I call “subscriptions” time of year: it’s the period when we receive most of our renewal orders for libraries from the subscription agencies such as Harrassowitz, Swets, and Ebsco. Most (95%) of the university libraries go through a subscription agency, but a few handle their own orders.

All of our library subscriptions start in July to coincide with the first issue of the volume year. Individual subscriptions can start at any time, but in honor of “subscriptions” time we’re giving away two one-year individual subscriptions, one for a current subscriber and one for someone who is not a current subscriber.

If you are a current subscriber, please enter here (if you are the lucky recipient, your subscription will be extended a year).

If you are not a current subscriber (and have not been a subscriber in the past twelve months), please enter here. The subscription is for online access to the journal at our web site from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015.

Please enter only once. The giveaway will run until June 20th.

PS: My apologies to those who got a WordPress automatic notification about this post a few days ago and then couldn’t find it. It was up briefly but taken down for repairs (you can’t run a giveaway if the giveaway part is not working).

Continuing the conversation

Roger Whitson has called our attention to a post on his blog discussing the phenomenon of traditional scholarly media responding to new digital forms. Whitson contributed to Blake 2.0: William Blake in Twentieth-Century Art, Music and Culture, edited by Steve Clark, Tristanne Connolly, and Jason Whittaker, which was recently reviewed in the spring issue (vol. 47, no. 4) of Blake.

Event: “The Political Economy of Book Illustration” June 6, 2014 London

The Romantic Illustration Network invites you to the Network’s opening event:

The Political Economy of Book Illustration
Friday 6th June, 2014
British Academy, London

William St Clair (London IES): ‘Towards a Political Economy of Book Illustration’

Brian Maidment (Liverpool John Moores): ‘Comic Illustration in the Marketplace 1820-1840′

Workshop: ‘Digital Humanities and Romantic Illustration’: run by Anthony Mandal, Julia Thomas, and Michael Goodman (Cardiff) digitizing visual artifacts – working with large image corpora – illustrations and the digital archive


The event is free, but spaces are limited, so please contact Mary L. Shannon at as soon as possible to secure your place. Any queries can be sent to this address, too.

We suggest this exciting event for any readers in London! Enjoy and report about your experience in the comments!

Illustrating Blake

One of our subscribers, Uwe Löb, has commissioned from the artist Caitlin Hackett a series of paintings inspired by Blake poems.

Caitlin has just finished the first, which is based on “Night,” particularly the stanza

And there the lions ruddy eyes,
Shall flow with tears of gold:
And pitying the tender cries,
And walking round the fold:
Saying: wrath by his meekness
And by his health, sickness,
Is driven away,
From our immortal day.


The artist explains that “the lion is black to represent the night, from his red eyes stream tears of gold, and below him are the skulls of lambs for whom he weeps, already taken by the beasts of the night. From their bones grow poppies to symbolize both death and dreams, but also rebirth and hope.”

Caitlin intends to draw inspiration from “Auguries of Innocence,” “The Tyger,” and the “Proverbs of Hell” from Marriage for future paintings in the series.