An inoffensive, unfortunate lunatic

A certain Robert Hunt (who along with his brothers Leigh and John controlled the Examiner) writing a review of William Blake’s exhibition on September 17th, 1809.

If beside the stupid and mad-brained political project of their rulers, the sane part of the people of England required fresh proof of the alarming increase of the effects of insanity, they will be too well convinced from its having lately spread into the the hitherto sober region of Art. […] Such is the case with the productions of William Blake, an unfortunate lunatic, whose personal inoffensiveness secures him from confinement, and, consequently, of whom no public notice would have been taken, if he was not forced on the notice and animadversion of The Examiner, in having been held up to public admiration by many esteemed amateurs and professors as a genius in some respect original and legitimate. The praises which these gentlemen bestowed last year on this unfortunate man’s illustrations of Blair’s Grave, have, in feeding his vanity, stimulated him to publish his madness more largely, and thus again exposed him, if not to the derision, at least to the pity of the public.

William Blake's Europe a Prophecy

But,” answers Northrop Frye in Fearful Symmetry, “that Blake was often called mad in his lifetime is of course true. Wordsworth called him that, though Wordsworth had a suspicion that if the madman had bitten Scott or Southey he might have improved their undoubtedly sane poetry.

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