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Thomas Alphonso was William Hayley's adored illegitimate son by his housemaid. This portrait showing him as the domestic spirit Robin Goodfellow was painted in 1791 for Hayley's wife Eliza. Thomas was a child prodigy as writer, painter and sculptor. For the final years of his life he was ill. He died in May 1800, crippled by curvature of the spine. One of his doctors was Hayley's friend William Long (1747-1818) who was an early owner of a copy of Blake's 'Poetical Sketches' of 1783. When Thomas died, Blake wrote sympathetically to Hayley. He recalled the death of his own beloved brother Robert in 1787, saying that Tom's loss was 'a repetition of what all feel in this valley of misery and happiness mixed'.

August 2004