In 1800 the dinner table at the Blake's house was quite
lean; William had written magnificent poems, but with
little financial recompense. His artistic creations were
In spite of that Blake was no recluse and had quite a
number of friends. Among them was a man named Hayley,
known as a poetaster, who lived on the sea in Felpham.
Hayley befriended Blake and deigned to sponsor him; his
sponsorship consisted among other things in providing him
a cottage in Felpham. He also attempted to steer Blake in
the direction of artistic success and profit.
On first arrival at the cottage Blake was delighted. He wrote
to a true friend, Thomas Butts as follows:
" Work will go on here with God speed--. A roller & two
harrows lie before my window. I met a plow on my first going
out at my gate the first morning after my arrival & the Plowboy
said to the Plowman. "Father The Gate is Open" (Letter to Butts
Erdman 711) (Is this where he got the idea for the plow and harrow
Every artist has the dilemma of becoming 'commercial' or
starving to death. Blake had been dealing with this all
his life. Hayley meant to show him how to succeed and put
him to work painting miniatures. But Blake came to realize
that it betrayed his true (and higher) calling.
("Mark well my words! Corporeal Friends are Spiritual
Enemies)" (M4.26; E98|
"O God protect me from my friends, that they have not
power over me Thou hast giv'n me power to protect myself
from my bitterest enemies." (M9.5-6; E102)
Blake eventually chose poverty in London over Hayley's form
of 'success'--lucky for us if not for his dinner.