William Blake and Revolutionary Prophecy

Part of the Romanticism in Perspective: Texts, Cultures, Histories book series (ROPTCH)


The central difficulty of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is the problem of who it was written for. In his ‘An Audience for The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, John Howard offers one solution. Blake wrote a satire on Swedenborgianism designed ‘to amuse the Johnson circle’, that is, the group of writers including Erasmus Darwin, Joseph Priestley, Mary Wollstonecraft and Tom Paine who gathered around the London publisher Joseph Johnson, attended his Tuesday dinners, and wrote, many of them, for his The Analytical Review.1 In the years from 1789 to 1792 The Analytical repeatedly attacked the New Jerusalem Church of the Swedenborgians, and Priestley himself was engaged in a public controversy with its leader, Robert Hindmarsh. In the same period Blake did more engraving work for Johnson than any other publisher and it was Johnson who printed his The Trench Revolution.


French Revolution True Friendship Boxing Match Radical Enthusiasm Radical Intellectual 
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  1. 1.
    John Howard, ‘An Audience for The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, Blake Studies, 3 (1970), 39–52.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    David V. Erdman, Blake: Prophet against Empire (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1954), p. 161.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Peter Ackroyd, Blake (Minerva, London, 1996), p. 100.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Robert Hindmarsh, Rise and Progress of the New Jerusalem Church (Hodson, London, 1861), p. 142.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Michael Scrivener, ‘A Swedenborgian Visionary and The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, Blake An Illustrated Quarterly, 21 (Winter, 1987–8), 102–4.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Jon Mee, ‘The Radical Enthusiasm of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 14 (Spring, 1991), 51–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 8.
    Mee is developing an argument first offered by Morton D. Paley in his ‘William Blake, the Prince of the Hebrews, and the Woman Clothed with the Sun’, in William Blake: Essays in Honour of Sir Geoffrey Keynes, ed. Morton D. Paley and Michael Philips (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1973), pp. 260–93.Google Scholar
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    On the proverbial tradition see John Villalobos, ‘William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell” and the Tradition of Wisdom Literature’, Studies in Philology, 87 (1990), 246–59.Google Scholar
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    On the Radical usurpation of the Tory jibe that ‘the first Whig was the devil’ see Peter A. Scock, ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Blake’s Myth of Satan and its Cultural Matrix’, ELH, 60 (1993), 441–65.Google Scholar
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    On Blake and Paine’s reading of the Bible see Robert N. Essick, ‘William Blake, Thomas Paine, and Biblical Revolution’, Studies in Romanticism, 30 (1991), 189–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    On Blake’s illustrations, see David V. Erdman with Tom Dargan and Marleve Deverell-Van Meter, ‘Reading the Illuminations of Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, in William Blake: Essays in Honour of Sir Geoffrey Keynes, ed. Morton D. Paley and Michael Philips (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1973), pp. 162–207.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Jon Mee, Dangerous Enthusiasm: William Blake and the culture of radicalism in the 1790s (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1992)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Terence A. Hoagwood compares Priestley’s dictum, ‘powers of attraction and repulsion are necessary to its very being’, English Language Notes, 15 (1978), 87–90.Google Scholar
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    Terence Allan Hoagwood, Prophecy and the Philosophy of Mind: Tradition of Blake and Shelley (University of Alabama Press, Alabama, 1985), p. 7.Google Scholar
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    Joseph Priestley, Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religion (1772) in The Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley, ed. J. T. Rutt, 12 vols (Hackney, 1816–31), 2, p. 370.Google Scholar
  17. Christopher Burdom, The Apocalypse in England: Revelation Unravelling, 1700–1834 (Macmillan, London, 1997), pp. 112–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard Cronin 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GlasgowUK

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