OTHER SORROWS, OTHER JOYS: The Marriage of Catherine Sophia Boucher and William Blake

Janet Warner, Author
Janet Warner, Author . St. Martin's $25.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-312-31440-8
Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4668-6604-1
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Warner blends fact and fiction in this debut novel about eccentric artist and poet William Blake, narrated by Blake's widow, Kate, an artist in her own right, who tells her husband's story through her journal entries and conversations with the couple's friend and Blake's real life biographer, Frederick Tatham. Although little is known about the real Kate, Warner, a Blake expert (Blake and the Language of Art ), summons up a convincing voice for the "beloved muse" and "helpmate" ("I have a role in William's life as Witness of Visions. I sit, night after night, still as a statue beside him, and sometimes see what he sees"). She brings to life the impoverished bohemian artist and his circle of friends and colleagues, like macabre painter Henry Fuseli and sculptor and illustrator John Flaxman. Kate's journal includes her own poetry, inspired by telepathic communion with the husband who taught her to read and write: "My heavens are brass my earth is iron my moon a clod of clay/My sun a pestilence burning at noon and a vapor of death at night." Warner also describes Kate's awakening understanding and acceptance of marriage with a "free love" visionary. Blake instructs his young wife that their love is "deep enough to include others," and she takes a French lover, Paul-Marc, to counterbalance Blake's (unconfirmed) dalliances with two provocative women of the period: feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft and singer Elizabeth Billington. Warner's well-researched portrait of the Blakes is set in a detailed dream of late 18th-century England, with brief glimpses of Paris in the grip of the French Revolution via Wollstonecraft's imagined letters. Illustrations by Kate and William Blake and John Linnell enhance this historical fantasy about an enduring union. (Dec.)

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