The William Blake Archive has published an electronic edition of Blake’s unfinished manuscript, An Island in the Moon, available from its collection of electronic versions of Blake’s works.
Blake worked on the manuscript probably between 1784-5. It has since become particularly famous for the inclusion of several lyrics that were later to be included in Songs of Innocence (1789), such as “Nurse’s Song”, “Holy Thursday” and “The Little Boy Lost”. The imaginative fiction, set in “a certain Island near by a mighty continent” on the moon, also abounds with wide-ranging contemporary allusions to the London society of Blake’s day, in particular the social circle that gathered around the Rev. A.S. Mathew and his wife Harriet.
As the authors of The Cynic Sang, the blog for the Blake Archive observe, An Island “demonstrates a born satirist’s instincts for the ridiculous with a boisterous sendup of middle class London social and intellectual life”, drawing also on theatrical traditions and satires of the eighteenth century. Unpublished during Blake’s lifetime, it shows a very different writer to the apocalyptic visionary so frequently encountered in the prophetic books, although its tone is also very evident in works such as The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
This edition is the fruition of work undertaken by the Blake Archive text editing team, which was established by the University of Rochester in 2006. As such, An Island, the first major project by that team, provides searchable XML-tagged text that will also be extremely useful for scholars working with the manuscript and its various revisions.