The Notebook of William Blake - Folio N50 and N51
Copyright © The British Library Board
N50 & N51
The text on this folio is extensive. Below the image, Blake added a short verse, which he later partially erased. David Erdman states that the first line read 'Epitaph for William Cowper Esq'. Cowper was a poet and hymn writer who was known to suffer from depression, which might explain the inclusion of this poem below the emblem.
This folio is one of the most closely filled in the notebook. In the centre, we see a naked figure of a man, on the point of stabbing himself with a dagger held in his right hand. In a later emblem in the notebook, Blake suggests that those who take their own lives cannot go to heaven, yet here the man is turning his face towards heaven with a hopeful - and possibly ironic - gaze.
In the verse Blake declares that fellow artist Henry Fuseli was the only man who did not make him 'almost spew'. We should remember that Blake was little admired by many of his artistic or poetic peers, and was often treated with suspicion. It was only during the later years of his life that he found himself part of a group of admiring younger artists, who were known as 'The Ancients'.
We see a group of five fairies dancing in a circle, moving to the sound of a trumpet shaped like a serpent played by a sixth fairy. This same trumpet-blowing fairy was used in reverse by Blake in Visions of the Daughters of Albion.
In the text at the bottom of the page, Blake discusses his style of engraving and drawing. He states that drawing is a vital skill for engraving, and implies that some of his contemporaries might be lacking in this fundamental respect. Blake picks up on this theme a number of times in the notebook.