September 16, 2014

“Little lamb, who crowd-funded thee?” The ongoing saga of William Blake’s cottage


Cottage-in-Milton-1024x571We mentioned last year that William Blake‘s Sussex cottage was for sale for the first time since 1928. This week there’s a crowd-funding campaign in the works to raise the £520,000 necessary to buy the property, according to Alison Flood at The Guardian.

“We are inviting support from everyone who is strengthened by the knowledge that somewhere in the world such a place exists; a home for the dissenting imagination in England’s Green and Pleasant Land,” writes The Blake Society. (They continue, “the only nation is the imagination,” which, aside from encouraging international readers to donate funds, would make a good tagline for a child’s television show.)

Two of his residences remain, the other in London. In this cottage, Blake wrote the lyrics for the hymn “Jerusalem.” He was also arrested for sedition, “having uttered seditious and treasonable expressions, such as ‘D—n the King, d—n all his subjects, d—n his soldiers, they are all slaves'” after a soldier broke into his garden. So here’s your chance to fund the house he occupied when he was arrested and acquitted.

The Society pictures the space as “a House of Refuge for persecuted writers,” and for visitors:

Blake came from the dissenting tradition. During his lifetime, the dissenters were men and women who left the Church of England, and opposed state involvement in religious faith. They protested against repressive law, and sought to create their own religious societies. They argued for fair economic treatment and mercy towards the poor.

Blake’s poetic mythology shows how these struggles for freedom can be a rich and varied source of creativity. The dissenting imagination is engaged with the impact of political and religious institutions on everyday life. Artists fueled by the dissenting imagination question the structures of our society and challenge both the limitations imposed by laws and the internal constraints of our ‘mind-forg’d manacles’. Their work continues to engage with struggles at the heart of society today.

The Blake Society managed to talk down the asking price, and already has donations from Tracy ChevalierPhilip Pullman, Stephen Fry, Alan Moore, and Russell Brand. The campaign officially begins September 19th and runs until October 31st. Somewhat coincidentally, the William Blake Festival starts today.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.