A Brief Biography of William Blake

By Tim Lambert

His Early Life

William Blake was a famous poet, painter, and engraver of the late 18th century and early 19th century. Blake was a radical, anti-authority figure.

William Blake was born at 28 Broad Street in Soho, London on 28 November 1757. His father James Blake was a hosier. He and his wife Catherine had 6 children. Apart from William, they had 4 boys and 1 girl.

From an early age, William Blake was artistic. He also had ‘visions’ of things like angels. When he was 14 William was made apprentice to an engraver called James Basire. William served 7 years and became an engraver himself in 1779. Blake also wanted to paint and the same year he became a student at the Royal Academy of Arts.

On 18 August 1782, William Blake married Catherine Sophia Boucher at the Church of St Mary in Battersea. Blake also wrote poems. A book of poems called Poetical Sketches was published in 1783. In 1789 he published a book of poems called The Song of Innocence.

In 1793 Blake published Visions of the Daughters of Albion. The same year, in 1793 Blake published The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Also in 1793, Blake published America, a Prophecy.

The Great Poet

In 1794 Blake published a book of poems called Songs of Experience. It included the famous poem The Tiger. The Book of Urizen was also published in 1794. Also in 1794, William Blake published Europe, a Prophecy.

In 1800 William Blake moved to the village of Felpham near Bognor in Sussex. Then on 12 August 1803, Blake got into a fight with a soldier named John Schofield who entered his garden. Schofield later told a magistrate that Blake damned the king of England during the altercation. William Blake was tried for sedition (a serious charge) in Chichester in January 1804. However, he was acquitted.

Meanwhile in 1803 Blake and his wife returned to London. In the years 1804-1810, William Blake wrote and illustrated his work Milton A Poem in Two Books. The preface included the famous poem now known as Jerusalem, which was written in 1804. (Blake did not give it that title. It was originally called ‘And did those feet in ancient time’. Hubert Parry wrote music for it in 1916). In 1820 Blake painted The Goblin. He also painted a miniature called The Ghost of a Flea.

In 1825 Blake was commissioned to illustrate Divine Comedy by Dante but he died before he could complete the task. William Blake died on 12 August 1827. He was buried in Bunhill Fields in London.