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Susan Mitchell Sommers, The Siblys of London: A Family on the Esoteric Fringes of Georgian England


Wayne C. Ripley

Even though William and Catherine Blake are mentioned on only a handful of pages, Blakeans will be thoroughly intrigued by Susan Mitchell Sommers’s The Siblys of London: A Family on the Esoteric Fringes of Georgian London for its portrayal of groups and eclectic discourses close to, and sometimes touching, the Blakes. The Siblys were a family of booksellers who specialized in the occult, publishing on such topics as astrology, alchemy, witchcraft, and prophecy. The book focuses largely on the two oldest brothers, Manoah (1757–​1840), a Swedenborgian minister and Bank of England employee, whom the Blakes almost certainly met, and Ebenezer (1750–​99), a bookseller, freemason, quack, astrologer, political operative, bigamist, and self-described male midwife and alchemist. As Sommers points out, when the Siblys have been considered at all, they have been examined from various disciplinary frames that often misconstrued their larger lives and work. Accordingly, one of the real strengths of the book is Sommers’s careful engagement with, and correction of, the existing scholarship, based on detailed, documented research.


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