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Vol. 57 no. 3: Winter 2023–24

Blake’s Hervey, Thomas Butts, and Methodism

20 January 2024
24 Jan. 2024


William Blake’s painting Epitome of James Hervey’s “Meditations among the Tombs”  is not an illustration of the work. In it he veers markedly from the dour tone and sensational emotions used by Hervey during his tour of graves, replacing the emphasis on the uncertainty of life and fear of death with a respectful treatment of Hervey himself. Blake doesn’t take liberties with the text so much as he finds a prevailing message of love and forgiveness in Hervey’s words. There is agreement in the life-beyond-life visions of Hervey and Blake, but Blake’s spin is more mystical and ethereal.