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Gothic Romance

Brahma in the West : William Blake and the Oriental by Blake, William; Weir, David; Blake, William

By Blake, William; Weir, David; Blake, William

Argues that the myths and beliefs of William Blake's poetry have been seriously encouraged by means of the Oriental Renaissance - the British discovery of Hindu literature

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Sample text

In his first discourse to the Asiatic Society in 1784 William Jones had proposed that the papers read at the meetings of the Society be printed in the form of an “Asiatick miscellany” for the benefit of “the literary world” (Jones, Asiatick Researches 1: xv). This plan was not realized until 1788 with the publication of the first volume of the Asiatick Researches. By that time Jones’s original title for a publication of the proceedings of the Society had been usurped by Francis Gladwin, who published two volumes of 38 Brahma in the West the Asiatic Miscellany privately in Calcutta in 1785 and 1786.

There is also the tantalizing possibility that Blake might actually have seen some of the original volumes of the Asiatick Researches after they had been reviewed by Johnson’s readers. This possibility is strengthened by the likelihood that one of the readers Johnson employed to write reviews of the Asiatick Researches was Blake’s friend Henry Fuseli. Reviews of the premier volume containing the transactions of the Asiatic Society were spread over several issues of the Analytical Review. –Dec. 1789]: 202).

If in his early years Blake has something in common with Paine, Priestley, Wollstonecraft, and Joseph Johnson, in his later years he comes to resemble those great revolutionary artists and thinkers of his age who moved from radical republicanism through political disillusionment and into mysticism, introspection, and even madness: Wordsworth, Beethoven, Goya. Not surprisingly, previous studies of Blake and Hindu mythology have dwelt on the late, post-revolutionary work of the poet, or, rather, have taken that work as the visionary evidence of an undifferentiated and ahistorical consciousness that can comprehend the esoterica of both the East and the West.

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