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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

IX. Blake

§ 3. An Island in the Moon

The incomplete manuscript known as An Island in the Moon has been described as “a somewhat incoherent and pointless precursor of the Headlong Hall type of novel.” Intended to satirise the members of Mrs. Mathew’s learned coterie, its offence against decency would be inexpiable were it not almost certain that no eye but Blake’s ever saw it in his lifetime. As literature, the work has little value, except that it contains drafts of three of the Songs of Innocence, as well as the quaint little Song of Phebe and Jellicoe. The satirical verse is generally coarse and noisy, and but rarely effectual, though the piece When old corruption first begun is powerful in an unpleasant way. The prose has the faults of the verse, being too highpitched and too uncontrolled to give penetrative power to the caricature of a learned circle such as Blake had known at Mrs. Mathew’s. It contains, however, an interesting, though, unfortunately, incomplete, account of the process adopted later for producing the engraved books. There are also indications of antipathies which were afterwards developed in the “prophetic” books, notably a contempt for experimental science and “rational philosophy.”