An Analysis of William Blake’s Early Writings and Designs to 1790 Including Songs of Innocence

Author: Smith, Kenneth Edward
The study places Blake's Songs of Innocence in their historical context, and sites the poet within an historical work that bridges traditional, canonical categories of high culture versus popular culture. The author's aim was to return innocence to its original literary-historical context. Songs of Innocence and other early writings are included in the text.


“. . . a timely and original study informed by a thorough knowledge of Blake seen against the background of the ‘long eighteenth-century’. The study is timely in that the last decade has seen increasing critical questioning of long-held assumptions regarding period definition and the status of the canon. Throughout, Smith reminds us that the Blake of Songs of Innocence and Experience shares a century with Fielding, Hogarth and Sterne: the classification of Blake as a ‘romantic’ too often overlooks the form and content of satirical modes with which he is familiar. The book is original in two important respects. Firstly the re-assessment of Blake already referred to has simply not been undertaken previously. Astonishing as it is, no contemporary reader (other then those such as Viscomi whose primary interest is bibliographic) has chosen to place Blake’s Songs of Innocence in their historical context. . . Secondly, the study is original in siting Blake within an historical work that bridges traditional, canonical categories of high culture versus popular culture. . . . It is one of the fine achievements of this book that Smith has returned Innocence to its original literary-historical context and so has ensured that the reader will not view it in the same way again.” – Dr. Glynis Ridley

“It is difficult these days to write anything about Blake that is worthwhile as well as new. K. E. Smith’s work manages to be both, reaffirming a tradition of critical and scholarly analysis that literary theorists reject at their peril.” – Stewart Crehan, author of Blake in Context “But by bringing Blake’s development as a painter, by displaying a firm and very well-informed grasp of cultural contexts and a keen awareness of what is at stake in his own interpretative procedures, he brings fresh insight to some important areas of Blake’s work. . . . Smith’s ability to make suggestive connections and to clarify well-established links is one of the strengths of his study. . . . . This is a book that serves Blake well, the kind of book that will be useful to new readers and to experienced Blakeans – the kind of book that will keep Blake alive and well in the twenty-first century." – The Blake Journal

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Textual Note, List of Illustrations; Foreword by Stewart Crehan; Preface
1. Introduction
2. A Poetic Originality: Poetical Sketches
3. The British Antiquities: Blake’s Early History Paintings
4. All the People in the Book: An Island in the Moon I
5. A Cynic’s Innocence: An Island in the Moon II
6. His Pathless Way: Tiriel
7. The Poetic Genius: Songs of Innocence I
8. Our Immortal Day: Songs of Innocence II
9. Tangled Roots
10. Conclusion
Appendices: A – Blake, An Island in the Moon and the Mathew Circle; B – Music and Blake’s Songs; C – Auguries of Innocence
Notes, Bibliography, Index