History

William Blake

History

On 24 November 1957 a larger than life size bronze bust to the poet, painter and engraver William Blake was unveiled in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. It is fixed to a pillar and is by the sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein. The inscription reads simply:

"William Blake 1757-1827".

Blake was born on 28 November 1757 in London, a son of James Blake (d.1784), a hosier, and his wife Catherine. He was an apprentice engraver to James Basire, the antiquarian, and came to the Abbey to sketch many of the royal tombs and works of art. It was while he was working there in 1774 that he was an onlooker at the opening of the tomb of Edward I and drew pictures of the body in the coffin. In 1782 he married Catherine Boucher but they had no children. His earliest poems were published in 1783. The words of "Jerusalem" were set to music in 1916 by Sir Charles Parry. Blake and his wife are buried at Bunhill Fields, Finsbury, London.

A photo of the bust can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Further Reading for William and his wife:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

"Blake Studies: essays on his life and work" by Sir Geoffrey Keynes, 1971

"William Blake and Westminster Abbey" by M.E.Reisner in Man & Nature: proceedings of the Canadian Society in 18th century studies, vol. 1, 1982.

The Society of Antiquaries in London and Bodleian Library in Oxford hold drawings by Blake.

 

© Dean and Chapter of Westminster