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The Notebook of William Blake - Folio N14 and N15

Image Folio N14 and N15
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N14 & N15

On folio N14 Blake has created a simple scene showing a man and woman rising from bed. This sparsely furnished room may have been Blake's own, and some commentators have dated this sketch to the year of Blake's own marriage in 1782. It is, however, more probable that Blake is parodying James Gillray's 1788 cartoon, 'The Morning after Marriage', a humorous depiction of the secret marriage of the Prince of Wales and Mrs Fitzherbert.

The drawing partly obscures an earlier line of text - 'Ideas of Good & Evil' - that serves as a title for the series of sixty-four emblems that follow (folios N14-N101). From these emblems, Blake chose seventeen designs that he engraved and published in For Children: The Gates of Paradise (1793), and some of the remaining designs were adapted for Songs of Experience (1794). It is thought that the first emblem to be entered in the notebook dates from 1787, and is found on folio N75.

Although, strictly speaking, an emblem is a tripartite form combining a motto, a symbolic picture, and an epigram, the whole intended to be read as the expression of an overarching truth, we employ it here in its more general sense as the integration of text and image.

At the top left of folio N14 is a pencil sketch; though a mere suggestion, it looks like the beginnings of a self-portrait, with the line of the brow reminiscent of Blake's own. Adjacent to this is another man's profile sketched in pencil. There is an element of shading around the eyes and mouth.

The textual element of the emblem on folio N15 reads:
'Thus the traveller hasteth in the Evening.'
A traveller walks determinedly through a wood, his use of the walking cane adding to the dynamic quality of the image, propelling him towards his destination. In the top left of folio N15 the traveller is sketched urinating beside a door.

The flying beasts that also appear on this folio menace the traveller. Seemingly half-human, half-bird, these beasts carry bodies in their mouths as they fly. The human features of these beasts are more apparent in the close up to the right of the emblem. The eyes are terrifyingly hollow seen at a distance, yet here in close-up, the detail renders them sad and weary. Diametrically opposed themes are a leitmotif of Blake's lyrical and his visual works, and here the beast encompasses both fear and sadness simultaneously.

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