The Notebook of William Blake - Folio N1b and N1
Copyright © The British Library Board
N1b & N1
On Blake's death in 1827, the notebook was given by Blake's wife, Catherine, to William Palmer (brother of painter Samuel Palmer), who subsequently sold it to Dante Gabriel Rossetti for ten shillings on 30 April 1847. Rossetti's inscription on folio N1b tells us how he came to purchase the book, which was for many years commonly known as the 'Rossetti Manuscript'. After Rossetti's death, the notebook was sold at auction, eventually ending up in the possession of William Augustus White of Brooklyn, New York. After White's death in 1927, it was bequeathed to his daughter Mrs Frances Hillard Emerson, who presented it to the British Library in 1957, where it is listed as Additional Manuscript 49460.
This poem dates from around 1800. It was written in response to the German poet Klopstock's declaration that the English language was incapable of epic poetic grandeur. In this verse Blake defiantly revels in his English tone: some of the language is reminiscent of an epic poem, while the subject matter is defiantly indelicate.
The poem has been written on top of illustrations attributed to Blake's brother, Robert. A Druid figure is visible in the centre of the folio, with four more Druids partially erased on the top left-hand side.