Characteristics of Age of William Blake

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Period of Changes:

      Blake's period can be seen to have witnessed an eventful time in the history of England. The changing economic set up emerging from the industrial growth brought about an entire and fast revolution in the life of the people. But quite paradoxically these changes caused some unfavourable offshoot of new flights and hardships hurling a large section of people, most of them labourers into poverty. Consequently the custodians of human rights came up with a renovated zeal to educate the poor to improve their wretched condition and to highlight their miseries. Therefore, these reformers worked up for a parliamentary reform though they had to fight against the opposing rich class.

The attempts of these reformers were also speeded up by the French Revolution. They viewed the French Revolution and its after-effects with a lively curiosity. The London Revolutionary Society became identified in the public mind with the National Assembly of France founded to eliminate despotism and promote fraternity and equality. On this very occasion the 'London Correspondence Society' which had branches all over the country planned to unite the laymen for the purpose of making their wishes felt. But when the French Revolution turned violent institutions for the protection of the poor arose rapidly. The outbreak of the war led to the so-called Anti Jacobite Terror and there came up a hostile opinion against France. After a period of short-term peace the hostility became intense when there broke out the war of 1803. Many spoke against the rude punishments inflicted upon the soldiers. In this period of war, attempts for reform were virtually ineffective.
William Blake

The French Revolution:

      The attempts of these reformers were also speeded up by the French Revolution. They viewed the French Revolution and its after-effects with a lively curiosity. The London Revolutionary Society became identified in the public mind with the National Assembly of France founded to eliminate despotism and promote fraternity and equality. On this very occasion the 'London Correspondence Society' which had branches all over the country planned to unite the laymen for the purpose of making their wishes felt. But when the French Revolution turned violent institutions for the protection of the poor arose rapidly. The outbreak of the war led to the so-called Anti Jacobite Terror and there came up a hostile opinion against France. After a period of short-term peace the hostility became intense when there broke out the war of 1803. Many spoke against the rude punishments inflicted upon the soldiers. In this period of war, attempts for reform were virtually ineffective.

The Poor and Their Sufferings:

      Even after the war the Bill of Reform could not be brought into effect. There was wide-spread misery, exploitation and corruption. Slums increased beyond one's reckoning. Consequently there broke out riots from among the mercantile class but the police repressed it cruelly. Poets like Shelley and writers like Goodwin and Byron wrote against the Queen and the oppressive iron-rod administration.

Reform Returns Again:

      The people of Britain were restored their privilege and right step by step. The Act of 1809 limited the hours of child labour to eleven hours (which was yet insufficient and pitiable and insignificant). In 1805 they managed to win approbation for educating the poor. It is in the years be tween Waterloo and the Reform Bill that Bentham's doctrine of the greatest good for the greatest number came into popularity. As a result of the Reform Bill a wide section of the community were entitled with the power of voting. But the day of universal adult suffrage was still far off, and the labouring classes remained in large parts without representation.

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