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Unusual SuspectsPitt's Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s$
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Kenneth R. Johnston

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.001.0001

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Blake’s America, the Prophecy that Failed

Blake’s America, the Prophecy that Failed

William Blake (1757–1827)

Chapter:
(p.307) 18 Blake’s America, the Prophecy that Failed
Source:
Unusual Suspects
Author(s):

Kenneth R. Johnston

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.003.0018

William Blake was arrested for seditious utterance at Felpham in Sussex in 1803, amid fears of a French invasion all along the English Channel coast. He was acquitted in a trial presided over by the third Duke of Richmond, but the experience terrified him, increasing his already strong personal feelings of paranoia. He returned to London and completed his masterwork, Jerusalem, peopling its visionary cast with the names of individuals involved in this ‘incident of the soldier’ at Felpham. The esoteric nature of Jerusalem contrasts markedly with Blake’s confident public address in America ten years earlier, which envisioned a triumphant rebound of the American Revolution upon King George III and his ‘Guardian Angels.’ This ‘internalization’ of Blake’s visionary politics represents another cost to English literature of William Pitt’s domestic policies of alarmism.

Keywords:   Blake, Sedition, Charles Lennox, American Revolution, Political paranoia, Entrapment

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