All text copyright Stephen Coates 2006 - 2015


Last week with Louis on part one of a Blake walk through London. We began at St Mary' church in Battersea - one of the older and surely most beautifully sited churches in the city and the one where, in 1782 William Blake married Catherine Boucher. It floats in a little garden just above the Thames facing Westward up-river and at low tide on a sunny day is a stunningly romantic (and relatively unknown) rendezvous. I can publish the full itinerary of this walk if anybody fancies it. It begins in this churchyard and ends in the grave yard where William and Catherine were buried. It takes up much of a leisurely day and although most of the buildings associated with the Blakes are gone (sadly, some fairly recently) it is a wonderful way to see the city and takes in much of interest.

Blake only left London once in his life - for a short period at Felpham - and the city figures greatly and mythologically in his work. A little exhibition is just beginning at Tate Britain to recreate his failed exhibition of works of 1809. I think a lot of people who like his work, particularly artists, resonate with the fact that he had little commercial success or recognition but doggedly kept on at it year after year. He seemed to generally have been regarded as loveable but mad, even by his friends, and he was supported by a few devoted followers, by his marriage and by working sporadically as an engraver.

With regard to his 'madness', it's very difficult to know what to think. God at the window of his childhood bedroom, an angel in Peckham, the ghost of a flea. What does one make of such apparitions now? A contemporary reading would perhaps put them down to some sort of mild psychosis and his eccentric temperament to one of manic depression governed by some bi-polar cycle, but who cares when the work is so luminous and passionate? I've often thought that being of rather a melancholic, even awkward, disposition is no disadvantage if it can be somehow turned to creative means - one reason why I have never favoured legal pharmacology in that area.

Blake is said to have died singing jubilantly, fired up with a vision of what was to come.

If that's madness, I'll have a bit.


Cygnus said...

Sounds like a wonderful place. I'd love to see it one day.

I'd say a lot of us artists are considered at least a little bit "unbalanced".

What's genius without a bit of madness, hmm?

Michael S. said...

According to your description, Stephen, the place is great and worth visiting. If I am in London one day, I'd surely go there.
And it's very interesting when a place (like this) is not just a beautiful sight, but rather a part of some story that you read or heard from someone.
I treasure your podcast "I Love London" (as well as all the rest). Sometimes when I just feel like walking alone and breathe fresh air at the seaside, I take my iPod and listen to your podcasts. They are perfect. Thank you!

clerkenwell kid said...

Thanks Michael - that's good to hear.

Working on a new city based series at the moment. More soon..

Jonathan said...

Good description, also interesting bringing in the Smiths into a post about William Blake.

This 'city based series at the moment' has piqued my interest.

If I'm going to look into it, The Smiths - Manchester - Morrissey?

Morrissey featuring on the new album?

spillyjane said...

A Blake walk -- how lovely! Yet another reason why I have to make it back to London one of these days!

Cygnus said...

I have a question:

If you could be any animal, what would you choose to be?

clerkenwell kid said...

I have slightly odd relationship with animals. I don't eat them but I collect dead stuffed ones.

I supposed, if pushed, I'd quite like to be a nightingale

Matt Tragic said...

Hoping to see you play next week.May also combine it with a visit to Tate Modern and also St Mary's church.

clerkenwell kid said...

For St Mary's - check the church opening times if you want to see inside:

and tide times if you want the beach
Add about 45 minutes onto theses:

Anonymous said...

it would be great if you could publish route of walk.

Daria said...

If you could give me the route before you leave, that would be swell, Sir!

clerkenwell kid said...

For sure.

Just checking something first

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