Cooper and Linton: Chartist Prophets and Craftsmen

  • Stephanie Kuduk Weiner
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


Thomas Cooper and W. J. Linton, two of the best-known and most politically influential of the band of Chartist poets produced by that movement for parliamentary reform, believed that the poet was both vates and poeta, gifted with what Linton called ‘[c]lear vision’ and ‘artist-like control.’1 ‘God’s angels,’ Linton wrote, ‘[b]ehold him with clear eyes,’ and ‘day and night they speed his dread evangels / Over the world’ while he uses his ‘poet-fire’ to forge ‘fit iron.’2 Linton made his living as a writer and as an engraver, considering himself Blake’s heir and joining the work of prophet and craftsman in his everyday, as well as his poetic, existence. Even after Cooper abandoned the artisanal life of the shoemaker for that of the writer and editor, he too understood poetry in these terms. He wrote two epic dream visions in Spenserian stanzas, and he counseled budding Chartist poets to cultivate a ‘knowledge of the mechanism of verse,’ and to avoid ‘[fjnflation of expression—over-swelling words—sound without sense.’3 What tied together vision and poetic craft, for both men, was republican politics. Cooper wrote that without ‘the political strife in which I have been engaged […] [I] could scarcely have constructed a fabric of verse embodying more than a few poetical generalities.’4 Linton, similarly, defined ‘The Poet’s Mission’ as an effort to be of ‘such use as the world’s need may ask’ and to engage in ‘daily strife.’5


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© Stephanie Kuduk Weiner 2005

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  • Stephanie Kuduk Weiner

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