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Vol. 46 no. 1: Summer 2012

Robert N. Essick, ed., William Blake. Songs of Innocence and of Experience

  • Alexander S. Gourlay
26 June 2012
03 Jul. 2012


This book is an intellectual and critical gem that is also a great bargain. As an edition of a classic collection of challenging poems for use by serious but not necessarily expert readers, it is as successful as Stephen Booth’s classic facsimile and critical edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Yale, 1977). Essick provides a foundation of perspicacious historicist/materialist contextual and critical analysis, drawing upon (without getting bogged down in) more than two centuries of Blake scholarship; the critical apparatus as a whole promotes a sophisticated appreciation of the contrary states of the human soul while gently steering modern readers, innocent and experienced, around the accumulated obstacles to subtle understanding of these poems and their illuminations.