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BLAKE'S ANNOTATIONS TO SWEDENBORG'S HEAVEN AND HELL G. E. BENTLEY, JR. Now hear a plain fact: Swedenborg has not written one new truth. Now hear another: he has written all the old falsehoods. So Blake asserted about 1793 in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Apparently Blake had spent some energy in searching in vain through "all the old falsehoods" in Swedenborg's works for "one new truth." We know little about this reading, though it must have been quite extensive. Blake's copy of Swedenborg's Divine Love and Divine Wisdom (I788), with voluminous sympathetic notes, has survived, as has his copy of the Divine Providence (I790), with rude comments about Swedenborg's "Cursed Folly." No other Swedenborgian book with Blake annotations has turned up for forty years, and the total number of books with Blake marginalia is only a dozen. Indeed, altogether only some seventeen books from Blake's library can be traced today. No one doubts that Blake read more Swedenborg than the two works above, but there has been little clear evidence to support speculation. Undaunted by this dearth of information, some authors have apparently invented evidence when convenient. For instance, H. N. Morris had heard that Blake's father [d. 1784] is said to have possessed a copy [of "Arcana Caelestia," first English edition 1783], also the Divine Love and Wisdom [1788] and the Apocalypse Revealed [1791] though only one of these was printed in English during his father's lifetime . In a similar vein Morris went on: We know that there were in existence a few years ago copies of Swedenborg's Divine Love and Wisdom, Heaven and Hell, and Apocalypse Revealed with Blake's marginal annotations....1 No one has actually quoted the "marginal annotations" to any of these works except the Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, and it has been assumed that the second passage above was almost as much a product of wishful thinking as the first. Volume XXXIV, Number 3, April, 1965 BLAKE'SANNOTATIONS TO SWEDENBORc'S Heaven and Hell 291 There may, however, have been a more factual basis for Morris' claims than has been commonly allowed. Recently Houghton Library of Harvard University received hom M. Kennedy a copy of A/ TREATISB / CONCERNING / HEAVEN AND HELL, / AND OF THE / Wonderful Things therein, / AS / HEARD AND SEEN, I BY THE HONOURABLE AND LEARNED EMANUEL SWEDBNBORG, / Of the SENATORIAL ORDER of NOBLES in the Kingdom of SWEDEN. / - / TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL LATIN. / - / The Second Edition. / - / Where there is no Vision, the people perish. Prov. xxix. 18. / The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly / seen, being understood by the things that are made. Rom. i. 20. / He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Luke xiv. 35. / - / London: Printed by R. HINDMARSH, No. 32, Clerkenwell-Close; / And Sold by T. EVANS, and T. BUCKLAND, Paternoster-Row; / ]. DENIS and SON, New-Bridge-Street, FleetStreet ; / J. CLARK, Manchester; T. MILLS, Wine-Street, Bristol; / s. HAZARD, Bath; and by all the other Booksellers in Town / and Country: / M.DCC.LXXXIV [1784]. On the flyleaf is "Louise Kennedy / 1897," and on the title-page is the signature in old ink of 'William Blake" in what appears to be the hand of the poet. It seems probable that the volume has stayed in the Kennedy family during most of the years in which interest in the poet developed, and that it has not previously been reported or seen by Blake scholars. There are annotations in the poet's hand on the half-title, and on pages 339 and 389. In the first of these he mocks what someone else had written On the same page, perhaps indicating that Blake was not the first owner, and in the second he refers to a book first published in 1787. Since the comments are sympathetic to Swedenborg, and consonant with those in Blake's copy of Divine Love and Divine Wisdom (1788), it seems likely that they were made not long after 1784 when the book was published, and before 1790 when Blake became so angry with Swedenborg's spiritual predestinarianism. A guess of 1787 will probably not be far wrong...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 290-293
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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