20 March 1926. The Prime Minister and others wrote to the editor of The Times.
Sir, – On August 12, 1927, 100 years will have passed since there died, in a small room off the Strand, an obscure engraver, the inventor of designs for Blair’s “Grave,” and also known as the writer of songs for children admired by Lamb, Coleridge, and Wordsworth.
This strange genius, William Blake, we see at one time without food on his table, at another buying with his last shilling a camel’s hair brush. To-day, with the irony of fate, his works command the highest prices in two hemispheres, while the verses for which he despaired of any readers now even appear in advertisements in our streets and are sung at national gatherings.
For Blake, be he archangel or eccentric, is irresistible. For three generations critics and scholars have attempted in vain to place him and to produce his best in final form. As his living genius ever broke out in some new phase, startling the mind by the splendour and daring of a poetic design, the terse profundity of an epigram, the sweetness of a lyric, so, even a century after his death, he still disturbs all previous judgments by yielding new or forgotten beauties and meanings to research and scholarship, and there seems no end to the stream of careful and luxurious editions of his works and of exquisite reproductions of his designs.
The Dean and Chapter having given their consent to a memorial in the Cathedral of St Paul, the city Blake so loved and castigated will be the first to treasure the record of her prophet. Shakespeare rests by his Avon, Wordsworth among his lakes and fells, and Blake, whose body has long since returned to earth in an unknown common grave in Bunhill Fields, will be honoured by the city whose darkness he laboured to redeem by his vision of “Jerusalem.”
Those who would like to associate themselves with this memorial are invited to send their subscriptions to Barclays Bank Limited, 126, Bishopsgate, London, E.C.2, for credit of “The Blake Centenary Memorial Fund,” which subscriptions will be duly acknowledged.
J. Ramsay MacDonald
Pamela Grey of Fallodon
phrase “that extraordinary genius” in GC’s lecture becomes here “this
strange genius”, but the style is too florid for Clausen
and I doubt that he drafted this.
The incumbent and ex-prime ministers (this was a few weeks before the General Strike) and Elgar and Hardy don’t need introductions.
We’ve met Binyon already in the Oriental Prints and Drawings Department of the British Museum; he was also the poet who early in the war wrote: “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old”, and Pamela Grey was the wife of the former British foreign secretary who in 1914 had said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
Inge was the Dean of St Paul’s. Seaman was the editor of Punch from 1906 to 1932; he just saw in Thomas Derrick. AA Milne is said to have based Eeyore on him. Aitken was Keeper, then Director, of the Tate from 1911 to 1930. Muirhead Bone was an artist: I’ll do the next post on him. Housman was a dramatist and novelist and the brother of the poet. Image was an Arts and Crafts designer and a clergyman.
Clausen, Elgar and Hardy were also co-signatories of the 1906 Anglo-German letter.
The memorial was unveiled in 1927. The sculptor was Henry Poole, whom Clausen will have known, since he was Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy at the time and a member of the Art Workers Guild. In fact, Clausen is very likely to have commissioned him. He became an Academician in the same year and died in the following year.
Cf an earlier post, Anteros.
Poole, Blake memorial, St Paul’s