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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem, 27 May 2007
op "Olfreda" (Buckinghamshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Stranger from Paradise: A Biography of William Blake (The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art) (Paperback)
This is a gem of a book for anyone interested in Blake. It is comprehensive, well written, and covers all aspects of his life, art, and background in an interesting way. Even if your interest in Blake is one of mere curiosity, you will get a lot out of this book. Its profuse illustrations are impressive, with 136 (yes, one-hundred-and-thirty-six) plates, mostly in colour, and many more illustrations besides. The author's technique of breaking the main chapters down into small, self-contained sections is also ideal for anyone wanting to browse. I cannot recommend this strongly enough. It is absolutely first class.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The oustanding biography of William Blake, 30 May 2008
S. Barfield (London UK) - See all my reviews
As the first reviewer noted, this is the oustanding biography of William Blake.

The fruit of the work of a lifetime by one of the greatest of all of Blake scholars, it manages to be extremely detailed and thorough, while being eminently readable. It is both affectionate towards its subject while being critically exacting and helpful in its judgments. Its superiority over other biographies of Blake, such as Ackroyd's, largely relies in its scrupulous attention to primary sources, Bentley's determination to avoid too much critical speculation on Blake based on interpretations of his texts where corroborating primary evidence from Blake's life is slight and an extremely firm sense of the historical period and the geographical location in which the poet and painter worked. Bentley has no special position on Blake in this book and therefore no thesis to advance as such, though there are many other books available presenting speculations about Blake and his work which may or may not be true of course. Bentley seldom strays outside of the fact as we know them while noting that there is so much about Blake we do not know and perhaps never will.

Short of some new factual discovery which changes what we know of Blake definitively, it is hard to see this book being bettered for a very long time. If you are studing Blake's work, then this isn't a work of criticism and does not discuss the many and varied interpretations of his poetry and art in detail, nor does it claim to be anything else than a biography. However, the facts are fascinating enough to create an enthralling narrative of the life one of the greatest and strangest figures in British culture.
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