The Swedenborgian influence on William Blake

Chambers, Leslie (1995). The Swedenborgian influence on William Blake. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e03d

Abstract

The aim of the thesis is to examine the Blake-Swedenborg connection, and the influence this Swede's writings may have had on Blake's published work. In particular The Songs of Innocence and of Experience and The Marriage of Heaven and Hell are considered in detail to assess a Swedenborgian influence. Also discussed are the annotations Blake made to his copies of Swedenborg's works, namely Heaven and Hell, Divine Love and Wisdom, and Divine Providence. A survey is made of the important literature expressing the Blakean perspective and the Swedenborgian perspective on the relationship. Blake's ambivalence towards Swedenborg is noted in the various periods of his life. The principal Swedenborgian symbols used by Blake are analysed.

To set this examination in a Swedenborgian historical context, the development of the early New Church is briefly recorded, showing the links Blake had with Swedenborgian friends and Patrons. A detailed study is made of the Propositions placed before the first General Conference of the New Church and what might have been Blake's reactions to them as he attended the Conference.

The thesis concludes with a discussion of the use of the word 'influence', both directly and indirectly as it applies to the Blake-Swedenborg connection. It is accepted that Blake was influenced directly for at least a part of his life by his Swedenborgian reading, and that the ideas gathered were never completely dismissed by him.

As a contribution to the continuing study of the Blake- Swedenborg connection, archival material, and sketches and portraits of personalities known to Blake, who had strong Swedenborgian links, are gathered from many world wide locations.

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