Blake's Songs of Innocence
Blake's Songs of Innocence Cover


Songs of Innocence, by William Blake, with designs by Celia Levetus  (Wells, Gardner, Darton & Co., 1899)

This version of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence is embellished with illustrations by Celia Levetus.  Levetus later published a full-size version of Blake’s Songs of Experience (also on display in the exhibition), which is often seen as a more sobering and less naïve parallel to Innocence.

Levetus may have chosen to use Blake’s simple lyrics to give valuable lessons to children, just as modern storybooks do now.  Her illustrations radically from Blake’s, most notably in their lack of colour. Blake’s usually vibrant images created a sense of the ‘psychedelic’; he claimed to have had visions of angels.  And whereas Levetus’s children are plump, cherubic and adorned in clothing typical of her style—far different from the smaller, more vaguely outlined figures in Blake’s work. Their white clothing and garlands create an idyllic scenery of paradise and purity, which is fitting with the theme of innocence. The book was generally well received when it was printed – critics described it as ‘tasteful’ and Levetus was ‘highly commended’ by her contemporary judges; nevertheless, some issue was taken with the replacement of Blake’s own illustrations, which were seen by some as definitive.

Levetus offers her work as both a complement and a compliment to Blake’s work by picking out images from his work to highlight, and by encouraging his visionary poems to be read in a new context.

 Caption by Sophie Uyttenhove and Charlotte Evans

Associated Place(s)

Timeline of Events Associated with Blake's Songs of Innocence


  • Celia Levetus

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