This study traces the links between William Blake's ideas and radical Christian cultures in late eighteenth-century England. Drawing on a significant number of historical sources, Robert W. Rix examines how Blake and his contemporaries re-appropriated the sources they read within new cultural and political frameworks. By unravelling their strategies, the book opens up a new perspective on what has often been seen as Blake's individual and idiosyncratic ideas. We are also presented with the first comprehensive study of Blake's reception of Swedenborgianism. At the time Blake took an interest in Emanuel Swedenborg, the mystical and spiritual writings of the theosophist had become a platform for radical and revolutionary politics, as well as numerous heterodox practices, among his followers in England. Rix focuses on Swedenborgianism as a concrete and identifiable sub-culture from which a number of essential themes in Blake's works are reassessed. This book will appeal not only to Blake scholars, but to anyone studying the radical and sub- culture, religious, intellectual and cultural history of this period.
’Drawing largely on printed sources, including some in Scandinavian languages, Rix steers clear of the tenuous connections and unsubstantiated claims that have marked some of the scholarship in this field to provide a careful and balanced reconstruction of an important aspect of Blake’s world.’ English Historical Review ’[Rix’s] book is lucid and readable, and in its exceptional grasp of the complex interrelations between religious traditions and reading communities in Blake’s age it sets an example that exposes the limitations of some earlier studies of influence, an example that others will be able to build on.’ Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly ’… this is a fine book, carefully and thoroughly researched, lucidly written, and most welcoming to anyone interested in William Blake and/or the theosophical tradition of late eighteenth-century England. William Blake will forever frustrate our efforts to put him in context, even as he and his work challenges us to do so. Hats off to Robert Rix, who has tangled him up with the Swedenborgians as well as anyone could.’ Christianity and Literature
Contents: Introduction; Religious themes and early contexts; Libertines, liberators and legislators; Swedenborgianism; From Swedenborg to radical politics; International Swedenborgians in London; The divine image; The Marriage of Heaven and Hell as satire; The visionary marketplace; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.