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G. E. Bentley, Jr., William Blake in the Desolate Market

Mark Crosby

As an artist, engraver, poet, printmaker, and occasional publisher, Blake navigated a complex nexus of patronage relationships during his working life. These relationships included the various booksellers, such as Joseph Johnson, who employed Blake’s burin; Harriet Mathew’s salon, which financed the printing of Blake’s early poetry; and friends, such as John Flaxman, George Cumberland, and Henry Fuseli, who provided economic assistance through engraving commissions and initiated connections with other patrons. Ozias Humphry and Rebekah Bliss were early buyers of the illuminated books and Thomas Butts, Richard Edwards, Joseph Thomas, and Lady Elizabeth Wyndham, wife of George O’Brien Wyndham, the third Earl of Egremont, commissioned paintings and watercolor drawings. There was also the patronage of William Hayley and John Linnell, whose various commissions sought, in different ways, to establish a commercial platform for Blake’s creative output. In his latest study of Blake’s life and work, G. E. Bentley, Jr., draws on nearly all of these patronage relationships to set out in a concise and accessible manner how exactly “Blake earned his living” (3).

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