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The Pickering Manuscript

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William Blake
(1757–1827)

The Pickering Manuscript

[Autograph fair copy].

ca. 1807

Gift of Mrs. Landon K. Thorne, 1971

MA 2879
Item description: 

This volume of ten poems in Blake's hand is the unique source for seven of his poetic works, including "Auguries of Innocence."

A dog starved at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.

The manuscript is named for a previous owner, B. M. Pickering, who acquired it in 1866 and published it for the first time that year. The poems probably date from about 1801 to 1804. As a "fair copy," it shows that Blake had copied all of the poems into a neat form with few corrections. Based on its paper stock and internal references, the manuscript has been dated to about 1807.

About this exhibition: 

William Blake (1757–1827) occupies a unique place in the history of Western art. His creativity included both the visual and literary arts. In his lifetime he was best known as an engraver; now he is also recognized for his innovative poetry, printmaking, and painting. Blake's keen perception of the political and social climate found expression throughout his work. His strong sense of independence is evident in the complex mythology that he constructed in response to the age of revolution.

Blake was already recognized as an engraver at age twenty-five, when his first volume of poems appeared. At thirty-three, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he audaciously claimed that his birth had marked the origin of a "new heaven" in which his own art would exemplify the creativity prefigured by Milton and Michelangelo. By that time, Blake, in one of his most productive periods, had already produced Songs of Innocence and was at work on a series of illuminated books. In 1818 he met John Linnell, a young painter and engraver, through whom a group of young artists became Blake's followers. Calling themselves the Ancients, they helped perpetuate Blake's influence for generations.

The Morgan's Blake collection—one of this country's most distinguished—began with purchases as early as 1899 by Pierpont Morgan. During the tenure of Charles Ryskamp, director from 1969 to 1986, major gifts almost doubled the size of its Blake holdings. In recent years Ryskamp's own gifts of engravings, letters, and related materials have significantly enriched its scholarly resources.

Transcription: 

The Smile

There is a Smile of Love
And there is a Smile of Deceit
And there is a Smile of Smiles
In which these two Smiles meet

And there is a Frown of Hate
And there is a Frown of Disdain
And there is a Frown of Frowns
Which you strive to forget in vain

For it sticks in the Hearts deep Core
And it sticks in the deep Back bone
And no Smile that ever was smild
But only one Smile alone

That betwixt the Cradle & Grave
It only once Smild can be
But when it once is Smild
Theres an end to all Misery

The Golden Net

Three Virgins at the break of day
Whither young Man whither away
Alas for woe! alas for woe!
They cry & tears for ever flow

Credits: 

This online exhibition is presented in conjunction with the exhibition William Blake's World: "A New Heaven Is Begun" on view September 11, 2009, through January 3, 2010.

This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Fay and Geoffrey Elliott.