Linton- Life in the Collections
William James Linton:
77) Poetry of America. Selections from One Hundred Poets from 1776 to 1876. With an introductory Review of Colonial Poetry and some Specimens of Negro Melody.
with a portrait of Walt Whitman as frontispiece, engraved by Linton.
The collection starts with examples of the poetry of the New England Colonists and is comprised, amongst others, of poems by William Cullen Bryant, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Edgar Allan Poe, Margret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Richard Henry Stoddard and Francis Bret Harte. Walt Whitman praised Linton’s anthology as “a capital compilation & condensation – the best thing of its sort & size.” In 1872 Whitman’s European promoter and editor William Michael Rossetti, the brother of Dante Gabriel, had published a much smaller and less accurate anthology of American poetry.
Linton here reinforces and amplifies the postcolonial view, which he had taken in 1880 in his conversation piece Cetewayo and Dean Stanley, by making it clear that this view must be grasped not only in political but also in cultural-historical terms. As a prospect for the future, Poetry of America ends as probably the most radical abolitionist consequence of the day with songs of African-American plantation workers. He had reprinted these examples of African-American gospels with their notations from the groundbreaking collection Slave Songs of the United States, which had been edited by W. F. Allen, Charles P. Ware and Lucy M.Garrison in 1867. Linton held these gospels for “rude and unformed”, but they would “come from the heart, the true source of poetic inspiration.”