HAYLEY, William, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts



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Hayley complains of Blake's neglect

HAYLEY, William (1745-1820). Poet and biographer.
Autograph Letter Signed to 'Hebe' (Mary Meyer), 3 pages 4to (lower half of last page and address-leaf torn away, removing valediction and signature), [Felpham], 6 August 1817. Complaining of being neglected by William Blake, responding to news of her family, and referring to himself as the 'Hermit'. Overall somewhat worn and creased; the name 'Sir Joshua Reynolds' in ink in another hand on the address-leaf
'... I rejoice in your good Tidings of our dear William - pray in writing to him do not fail to say, that I am surprised & concerned for the little notice he takes of his faithful old Monitor of the Turret; & desire he will make amends ... by being peculiarly attentive & kind to my young Relation in Malta I mean Charles Godfrey the son of my worthy beloved Cousin Capt Godfrey of Purfleet. ...'
The relationship between William Blake and Hayley, his patron, had begun with great optimism. Blake moved to Felpham ('the sweetest spot on Earth') in September 1800, a few months after the deaths of Hayley's nineteen-year-old son Tom and his friend William Cowper. He was welcomed with 'brotherly affection' by Hayley and engaged on several projects, including a portrait of Tom (begun during Tom's lifetime), illustrations for Triumphs of Temper and engravings for Hayley's Life of William Cowper. Tensions grew, however, and Hayley's overbearing friendshipwas eventually to alienate Blake: 'I have been forced to insist on his leaving me.to my Own Self Will; for I am determin'd to be no longer Pester'd with his Genteel Ignorance & Polite Disapprobation'. They corresponded thereafter, and Hayley wrote ballads expressly for Blake to profit by, but it is clear from Hayley's complaining in this letter of 'undeserved neglect' that Blake continued to keep his distance.

In 1771 Mary Meyer, the daughter of the miniaturist Jeremiah Meyer, had been painted by her father's close friend Joshua Reynolds in the character of Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth. William Hayley was also close to her father, who introduced him to George Romney, the subject of his best-known biography.

Hayley's cousin Captain Godfrey, mentioned in this letter, was to be the chief beneficiary of his will.
[No: 25470]


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