Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

William Blake: The Gates of Paradise

William Blake: The Gates of Paradise

Michael Bedard
Nonfiction
For ages 14 and up
Tundra, 2006   ISBN: 978-0887767630

From an early age William Blake loved to draw and paint, and he saved money to buy prints which he would pore over and copy, always trying to improve his artistic skills. His father, who was proud of William’s abilities did he best to support his son’s interests and when the time came he encouraged William to chose a career as an engraver. William’s father felt that in this profession William could be artistic and he would also have the means to make a living.

So William went to live, learn, and work with an engraver. When his apprenticeship was over William took on engraving jobs that his friends sent his way. Indeed, had it not been for his good friends William would have been in dire straits many times over. William and his wife Catherine were always poor and yet William did not stop taking on projects that were dear to his heart. Such projects included writing poetry which William illustrated with his own artwork. William even went so far as to print several little books which included one lighthearted and joyful volume of poetry which was for children. In another darker volume of poems Blake included one called “The Tyger,” which many people read and enjoy today.

Though many of Blake’s artworks and pieces of poetry have been lost since his death, some of his original paintings and engravings have survived. Much of his poetry still delights today’s readers and readers who enjoy poetry will be intrigued to discover that Blake was a very singular man, a man who was grateful for his life despite the hardships and disappointments that he endured.

With understanding and sympathy, Michael Beddard beautifully tells the story of a man and an era. So much was changing in Blake’s world and the gentle spiritual man found that he did not care for many of the newer innovations. He felt that the faster pace of life and the eagerness of many to make money was whittling away the true creative spirit, “imagination,” and that both artists and craftsmen in the old sense were being forced out by machines and factories. He looked on in horror as more and more men, women and children were forced to work in horrific factories and to live in unspeakable squalor and misery. Blake rebelled against all of this ugliness, producing his art in the old way and refusing to compromise to suit the newer styles and tastes.

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