William Blake's work presents a stern challenge to historical criticism. Jon Mee's new study meets that challenge by investigating contexts outside the domain of standard literary histories. He traces the distinctive rhetoric of the illuminated books to the French Revolution controversy of the 1790s and Blake's fusion of the diverse currents of radicalism abroad in that decade. Dangerous Enthusiasm presents a more comprehensively politicized picture of Blake than any previous study. It is supported by a wealth of original research which will be of interest to historians and literary critics alike. Blake emerges from these pages as a "bricoleur" who fused the language of London's popular dissenting culture with the more skeptical radicalism of the Enlightenment. His prophetic books are shown to be less the expressions of isolated genius than the products of a complex response to the cultural politics of his contemporaries.
'Mee ... places Blake well and correctly ... Dangerous Enthusiasm will do much to take Blake out of the somewhat attentuated discourse of analytic academicism and to put him back in a credible place.' E. P. Thompson,
London Review of Books
`a general, incontestable conclusion that, whatever their personal relations, Blake's political opinions, expressed in both his writing and his engravings, were much more Paineite than has ever been previously appreciated. Here in these pages Paine grows in stature, with the eager Blake at his side ... splendid volume.'
Michael Foot, Hampstead & Highgate Express
'a book that is packed with truly absorbing material, all enormously helpful in an attempt to understand more fully Blake's participation in the discourses current in Britain's "radical underworld"'
Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly