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New Left Review I/201, September-October 1993

Edward Thompson

Anti-Hegemony: The Legacy of William Blake

This has been a long, and perhaps strange, way into William Blake. [*] The present essay is an extract from The Mark of the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law, to be published by Cambridge University Press in November 1993. On one matter I am impenitent. Blake can’t have dreamed up a whole vocabulary of symbolism, which touches at so many points the traditions which I have discussed, for himself ab novo. Nor can he have put it together like mosaic from his reading. Things don’t happen like that. Nor can it have arisen just from a reading of the Bible, for this presupposes the Bible, and particular passages of Genesis, read in a particular way. The author of the Prefaces to Jerusalem and the ‘Annotations to Watson’, of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and The Everlasting Gospel, was writing within a known tradition, using terms made familiar by seven or eight generations of London sectaries.

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