The Marriage of Heaven And Hell

Dialogue and “Imposition”


In the Descriptive Catalogue, William Blake writes, “Tell me the Acts, O historian.… Tell me the What; I do not want you to tell me the Why, and the How; I can find that out myself, as well as you can, and I will not be fooled by you into opinions, that you please to impose, to disbelieve what you think improbable or impossible” (E 544). In this passage regarding interpretations of history, Blake wants historians to tell him only “the Acts,” the events that have occurred in the past, but not the historians’ opinions on why or how those events might have occurred. He does not want to be told what to think; rather, he wants the freedom to respond to the events themselves to develop his own understanding of them from his own unique perspective. Blake distrusts the historians’ theories because they tend to “impose” their theories on their readers as truth, even though their claims that events are “improbable or impossible” are nothing more than unproven “opinions.” Instead of passively accepting the historians’ imposed theories, their “already found, ready-made irrefutable truth,” as Bakhtin would call it (PDP 110), Blake prefers to discover his own version of the truth by responding directly to the events that the historians present, the “What,” in order to develop his own, equally valid, understanding of causes and means, the “Why, and the How.”


Unique Perspective Sense Impression French Revolution Arbitrary Sign Paradise Lost 
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© John H. Jones 2010

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