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Vol. 45 no. 2: Fall 2011

Hazard Adams, Blake’s Margins: An Interpretive Study of the Annotations

  • Alexander S. Gourlay
11 October 2011
04 Sep. 2022


Hazard Adams modestly introduces Blake’s Margins by describing it as “less for scholars … than for people who want to know more about Blake’s thought … and for students in the early stages of study of his work” (3). Beginners will find most of this eminently sensible and learned book edifying, but in fact there are very few Blake scholars anywhere who would not benefit from reading it straight through. In some ways, Blake’s annotations are among the least ironic of his writings, but every Blakean marginalium is a tail that wags a very substantial dog: we can’t really understand a given one without attending to the interplay with the full annotated text and with the broader contexts that contributed to Blake’s response. Since even the best Blake editions inevitably misrepresent the marginalia by supplementing them with (at most) snippets of the annotated texts, many of which are unfamiliar and/or out of print, it would be a good thing if Blakists were in the habit of reviewing the relevant chapter in Adams before quoting anything written in a margin. Of course it would be even better if we all reread, say, the last third of Berkeley’s Siris with care before repeating “God is not a Mathematical Diagram,” but if that is not to happen, Adams’s judicious summaries will help us much more with the nuances of that declaration than, for instance, the two barely relevant sentences from Berkeley quoted by David Erdman in his edition (E 664).