Being British, one of my favourite pastimes is talking about the weather (usually in a tone of complaint whilst drinking a cup of tea, of course), and I’ve always considered myself to be rather good at it — that is, until I moved to western New York. The Rochester snow makes a bit of British rain seem like a pleasant shower, a February blizzard makes London fog charmingly atmospheric and the dramatic temperature fluctuations make grabbing your coat in the morning as simple as remembering to brush your teeth. This week, for example, has seen alterations in weather from 80 degrees and sunshine to 25 degrees and snow (27° to -3° for our Celsius-loving readers). Anyway, as I was thinking this over, I started wondering what Blake thought about the weather.
So I searched the Archive for all instances of the word “weather” and found these results:
What exciting facts did I discover? Well, not a lot really. Blake seems to have been more concerned about poor weather than praising a nice, sunny day. And he appears to believe that cold or wet weather has a direct effect on personal health, both his own and Linnell’s, which makes sense when we remember that travel was mainly unsheltered and waterproof outerwear had only just been invented. It’s a comfort to know that wet Novembers and cold Junes are not something that only I’ve spent time complaining about.
But while I look out of the window and hope for Spring, there’s a sadness in reading Blake’s words that I didn’t expect, especially the strange poetry of “that shivring fit which must be avoided till the Cold is gone.” As the Archive’s editors note, Blake’s letters often “start out to be one very ordinary thing and end up being another quite extraordinary thing.” It’s true.
If you missed our Day of DH posts last week, be sure to go back and read about a day in the life of the Blake Archive.