My travel in September has been very William Blake heavy, mainly due to Himself having just written a book about Blake.
If you’re not familiar with Blake, you will definitely know his work, since he wrote the words to the hymn Jerusalem and the poem The Tyger. Come on, ‘Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night’, I bet you know that one from English class at school. I do, and I’m not even English.
There is absolutely tons more to Blake’s work as a writer, artist and visionary and it’s currently being showcased at Tate Britain.
If you go along, definitely book in advance and allow yourself plenty of time to visit. The exhibition is huge, tracing all of Blake’s career, and it’s attracting massive crowds.
My theory is that since Blake did a lot of commercial work, he was always working to somebody else’s deadline, hence he was much more prolific than other artists of his time. Deadlines really are the antidote to procrastination.
This is the first exhibition I’ve seen that comes with a warning that the imagery is “strong and sometimes challenging” including “some depictions of violence and suffering.” It’s not going to frighten the kids, but yes, it might give you nightmares (in a good way). If you like heavy metal album covers then you will be fine.
Essentially, there’s a lot of hell magic crazy ass stuff in there. It’s almost too much to take in. I spent a couple of hours in there and would happily go back for another soak. Don’t rush it, is all I’m saying. It’s pretty mind-blowing and very accessible even if you don’t know much about Blake before you go.
And yes they have Himself’s book in the gift shop so that was another treat to see. Reader, I married him.
After that we scooted off to an altogether more restful destination – William Blake’s cottage. Blake lived for most of his life in London, apart from a few years spent in Sussex near Bognor Regis. This was pre-Butlins days, so there was a lot less going on in Bognor and pretty soon he scuttled back to London. Though not before writing his poem Milton and getting arrested for sedition.
William Blake’s cottage is still standing and is now owned by The Blake Society. You can’t go inside, but this doesn’t stop people making a pilgrimage, including celebrated Beat Poet Allen Ginsberg who turned up here and gawped from a hedge.
The village itself is quite an interesting place to wander round. This is where Blake was staying when he wrote his famous lines about “England’s green and pleasant land” which later became the hymn Jerusalem (tuck that fact away; you may need it in a pub quiz one day).
William Blake’s cottage: How to get there
William Blake’s cottage is in the village of Felpham, West Sussex, not far from Bognor Regis
The William Blake exhibition is at Tate Britain from now until 2nd February 2010. Admission is £18 for adults. If you are aged 16 to 25 then you can register for Tate Collective and get access to all exhibitions for £5.
Himself’s book, William Blake Now is on sale now in all the usual formats
I am visiting somewhere new every month this year. Check out my previous adventures here.