Themes and Characters
Daugherty's biography of William Blake is divided into five major parts, each headed by an epigraph, or brief quotation, selected from Blake's writing to set the tone for what follows. Each of the book's twenty-six chapters opens with an excerpt from Blake's poetry or prose, and Daugherty quotes lengthy segments of the writer's work throughout the text. As a result, Blake's work is introduced to young readers and placed in a meaningful context.
Part One of the biography begins with Blake's birth in London on November 28, 1757, and describes his religious upbringing. His stern father's misjudgment of the sensitive and highly imaginative little boy is tempered by his mother's understanding. When the child tells his parents he has seen a tree full of angels, "the most beautiful sight I ever saw," his father accuses him of lying. His judgment is softened, however, when Mrs. Blake argues that children often have extraordinary experiences, and that their son's tale recalls visionary stories from the Bible.
Young Blake's wanderings around the teeming streets of London lead him into galleries and shops. Seeing the work of famous painters fuels his imagination and provides a storehouse of inspiration for him to draw upon throughout his career. His formal training in art begins with a four-year stint in drawing school, where he learns to sketch the human figure. He later is apprenticed to a famous engraver in London, in whose shop he masters the...
(The entire section is 999 words.)
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