Paperbacks: Why Mrs Blake Cried, By Marsha Keith Schuchard

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The Independent Culture

This strange but revealing book explores the influence of the erotic theories of 18th-century mystics upon William Blake. Swedenbourg declared that control of the seminal duct could produce "visionary states and communication with spirits". At least that was the theory for men. Mrs Blake was distressed by her husband's erotomania, exemplified by some extraordinary illustrations, but became more sympathetic when she realised that his interest was theoretical. The book's remarkable cast includes the fantasist William Beckford, the transvestite Chevalier d'Eon and WB Yeats, a latecomer to the lure of Eros. CH