Linton- Life in the Collections
Robert F. Gleckner:
47) W.J. Linton, a Latter-day Blake. in: Bulletin of research in the humanities. Vol. 85.
New York 1982
Bound copies of pp. 208-227
Blake scholar Robert F. Gleckner was obviously not satisfied with the sober evaluation, which Francis Barrymore Smith had provided regarding Linton’s indebtedness to Blake. “It would be pleasant,” wrote Smith in his Linton biography, “to be able to add that Linton recognized in Blake a fellow engraver, poet, patriot, and visionary Londoner, a republican sprung from the people: indeed, a spirit more akin to his own than any other in English history. But he disregarded Blake’s rich, exhilarating wood-engravings from Thornton´s Virgil and excluded Blake from his later Masters of Wood engraving. Blake’s poetry he dismissed as incoherences.”
Without providing new evidence, but only by gathering all Blake-related facts from Smith’s biography, Gleckner hopes to convince the reader of his very general and indistinct conclusion that “it is difficult to imagine a more Blake-like man and career.” Linton, of course, was very Blakeian in his self-conception as a printer-poet who runs his own press and uses pictorial quotations from Blake’s works. But these excerpts were only few and he applied them amongst numerous others. He acknowledged Blake’s “artistic imagination” mainly in his visual art. The only poems of Blake that he appreciated were the Songs of Innocence and Experience, which are of similar simplicity and beauty as the plebeian lyrics of Burns. In his own writings, Linton is much more indebted to the likes of Herrick, Milton and Shelley, and in his art theories much more to Mazzini and Ruskin than to Blake. So there is no reason to mistrust Linton’s depreciatory statements concerning Blake’s mystical incoherences. From the perspective of 19th-century Blake reception, Linton represents an important link between the mystic exponent of radical Romanticisms and the generation of art noveau, a fact that Smith already noted. But to judge Linton as a Blake satellite doesn’t do justice to the complexity and inventiveness of his work. To refer to him as a late Blake should logically lead to respecting him as an early Bertolt Brecht or, even more accurately, as an earlier John Winston Lennon. Only then can one agree with Gleckner’s appraisal that Linton “deserves better as an artist.”