William Blake must present a unique challenge to a would-be biographer: It is not that nothing happend to the great poet and artist, on the contrary, he met and conversed with some of the greatest figures in history( Virgil, Milton, Harry Hotspur, Socrates,Jesus,etc etc)and witnessed extraordinary events(flocks of angels, spirits, God Himself etc etc) the problem is, of course that all this happened in Blake's internal world, his"real" life is much more mundane.
So, Blake's biographer has to decide whether to descibe his workaday life, as a printer and engraver, a flirtation with real grinding poverty or his mad world of visions and marvels, touched with genius.
Ackroyd, in this long and detailed life story, rightly strikes a balance, Blake's work and relationships are fully described and, as far as possible the visions and voices he experiences are given consideration; The great man's eccentricities are invariably excused as they obviously inspire his genius.
This biography is very strong while considering Blake's poetry, but rather more space is given to his artistic endeavours, particularly the various methods of engraving and/or painting he employed. Personally, I would have preferred more emphasis on the poetry, but clearly Blake is a giant in both fields.
Always sympathetic and admiring of its subject, the only real complaint I had with this absorbing book was that some of the colour plates were of Black and White work, while some of the Black and White illustrations were of colour pictures.