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Tobias Churton, Jerusalem! The Real Life of William Blake

Dennis M. Read

Starting with its boastful title, complete with an exclamation point, Tobias Churton’s book promises much. The boast is driven by two claims: that the papers of Churton’s ancestor Ralph Churton (1754–1831), an English churchman and Oxford University academic, significantly illuminate Blake’s life and times, and that Blake’s works should be viewed through the lens of Gnosticism, particularly the theosophy of Jakob Böhme. Churton argues that Blake “has been lost under a myriad of inadequate biographies, college dissertations and arts commentaries, too frequently written by people who have not found the luminescent keys to Blake’s symbolism and liberating spirit” (xxviii). He aims to provide luminescence.

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