Matthew Mauger considers Blake’s relation to prophecy and law

A new approach to William Blake's writings considers ways in which he engaged with law in legal and biblical contexts.

William Blake and the Visionary Law: Prophecy, Legislation and Constitution is published today by Palgrave Macmillan:

This book examines the difficult relationship between individual intellectual freedom and the legal structures which govern human societies in William Blake’s works, showing that this tension carries a political urgency that has not yet been recognised by scholars in the field. In doing so, it offers a new approach to Blake’s corpus that builds on the literary and cultural historical work of recent decades. Blake’s pronouncements about law may often sound biblical in tone; but this book argues that they directly address (and are informed by) eighteenth-century legal debates concerning the origin of the English common law, the autonomy of the judicature, the increasing legislative role of Parliament, and the emergence of the notions of constitutionalism and natural rights. Through a study of his illuminated books, manuscript works, notebook drafts and annotations, this study considers Blake’s understanding that law is both integral to humanity itself and a core component of its potential fulfilment of the ‘Human Form Divine’.

Matthew Mauger is a lecturer in the Department of English at Queen Mary's University, London. He specializes in eighteenth-century literature, with a particular emphasis on London as a cultural and commercial centre. His recent work focusses on the British encounter with China via the eighteenth-century East India trade.

William Blake and the Visionary Law is available at the Palgrave website and other booksellers.