Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The very fact that Daugherty’s William Blake was written specifically for young people accords it some importance; for many years it was the only young adult biography on Blake in existence. The view of Blake that it presents was outdated even in 1960, however, when the book was published, and it is more so today. The idea that Blake was an otherworldly mystic, writing visionary but unintelligible poems, was the prevailing view in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This view was permanently altered by the explosion of Blake scholarship that began in 1924 with the publication of S. Foster Damon’s William Blake: His Philosophy and Symbols, a book of which Daugherty is aware but uses little. Northrop Frye’s Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake (1947), which emphasized the imaginative coherence of Blake’s work, and David Erdman’s Blake, Prophet Against Empire: A Poet’s Interpretation of the History of His Own Times (1954), which detailed Blake’s political and social awareness, completed the trio of books on which modern Blake scholarship rests. While Daugherty’s book does provide a generally accessible view of Blake’s life and work, it would have been of more value if he had delved more deeply and given his readers a more informed guide to the enduring work of his subject.