Karen Hanmer

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Title: But such as I can be, I will: A Romantic book of excuses

But such as I can be, I will: A Romantic book of excuses

But such as I can be, I will: A Romantic book of excuses

But such as I can be, I will: A Romantic book of excuses | 2019

Deluxe edition of 15, 58 pages, 7 x 4 1/4 x 1/4" | $425

Standard edition of 20, 48 pages, 7 x 4 1/4 x 1/8” | $300

Chapbook edition of 40, 48 pages, 7 1/4 x 4 1/4 x 1/4" | $60 Price includes USPS Priority Mail shipping within the United States when purchased through Etsy

Read excerpts and view additional images here


But such as I can be, I will: A Romantic book of excuses is excerpted from an 1801 letter written by William Blake to his longsuffering patron Thomas Butts. I imagine the visionary, late in the day and still in his dressing gown, dashing off a quick note, Great Mansplaining his inability to honor his commitments.

But such as I can be, I will is produced in an edition of seventy five. The deluxe edition is presented in an early 19th-century-style publishers’ binding with marbled paper by Pamela Smith. The standard edition is presented in a paper wrapper. Both are pigment inkjet printed on Ruscombe Mill pale laid handmade paper. The chapbook edition is a single-signature pamphlet laser printed on French Construction whitewash with wrapper pigment inkjet printed on Zerkall German Ingres. The illustration from William Blake’s Night Thoughts used on the Standard wrapper and as the Deluxe frontispiece is courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. The letter came to my attention when it was used as the set book for the 2019 Open·Set bookbinding competition.


I labour incessantly: a William Blake to do list based on the same source is available through Etsy.


Time flies
I labour incessantly
I accomplish not one half of what I intend
I thank you again and again for your generous forbearance
only now I approach the prospect
my seeming neglect
my want of steady perseverance by which want I am still your debtor, and you so much my creditor
matchless industry
I shall have an opportunity
my abstract folly hurries me often away
who shall deliver me
I endeavour
which you may expect soon
which I have nearly completed
Alas! wretched, happy, ineffectual labourer
I, with my whole might, chain my feet to the world of duty
But in vain!
I can be grateful, and I can soon
still unfinished, but is in a finishing way
perhaps, or rather certainly
but such as I can be, I will
I remain, dear Sir, ever yours sincerely