William Blake: Poetic justice in the depths of Hertfordshire

What can we learn from this story? Never underestimate a librarian

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The Independent Online

Thousands of academics in the English-speaking world consider William Blake a specialist subject.

Some of them have spent entire careers buried in archives of the great poet’s work. They would have given anything for the sort of spectacular discovery made by Thomas Pitchford, a school librarian in Hitchin.

Mr Pitchford found that, far from being an authentic Blake poem, “Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room” was written in America in 1981. Yet it still made its way on to exam questions and anthologies around the world, duping countless students and teachers alike.

What can we glean from this charming tale? First, never underestimate the librarian. Second, the best academic advances often happen outside the academy. And third, Blake is better than we thought.