Cooper and Linton: Chartist Prophets and Craftsmen

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

Abstract

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

Keywords

Burning Welding Steam Mold Gall 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    W. J. Linton, ‘The Poet’s Mission,’ in Peter Scheckner, An Anthology of Chartist Poetry (Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1989), pp. 252–53.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Thomas Cooper, ‘To the Young Men of the Working Classes. Letter III,’ Cooper’s Journal vol. 1 (2 March 1850): 129–32Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Thomas Cooper, The Purgatory of Suicides (London: J. How, 1845)Google Scholar
  4. Brian Maidment, The Poorhouse Fugitives (Manchester: Carcanet, 1987), pp. 127–32.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Cooper, ‘To the Young Men of the Working Classes. Letter IV,’ Cooper’s Journal vol. 1 (6 Apr. 1850): 209–13Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Bandiera [Gerald Massey], ‘Poetry to be Lived,’ The Red Republican vol. 1 (6 July 1850): 19.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    The Reasoner alone printed an excerpt of Casa Guidi Windows under the title ‘Italy’s Call to Humanity,’ vol. 13 (1852): 217–18; a review and long passages from ‘Tennyson’s Princess,’ vol. 4 (1848): 175–76; Robert Browning’s ‘The Confessional in Spain,’ vol. 6 (1849): 140.Google Scholar
  8. Robert Southey, excerpt from ‘St. Antidius,’ vol. 1 (1846): 247Google Scholar
  9. Anna Barbauld, ‘The Unknown God,’ vol. 5 (1848): 208Google Scholar
  10. Barry Cornwall, ‘The Complaint of an Outlying Christian,’ vol. 12 (1852): 318.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Quoted in Robert Fyson, ‘The Crisis of 1842: Chartism, the Colliers’ Strike and the Outbreak in the Potteries,’ in The Chartist Experience, ed. James Epstein and Dorothy Thompson (London: Macmillan, 1982), p. 207.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist and trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), p. 13.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Percy Shelley, ‘A Defence of Poetry,’ Shelley’s Poetry and Prose, ed. Donald H. Reiman and Sharon B. Powers (New York: Norton, 1977), p. 499.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    On the Leicestershire Chartists’ literary activities, see Life, pp. 164–78 and passim; Stephen Roberts, ‘Thomas Cooper in Leicester, 1840–1843,’ Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society vol. LXI (1987): 62–76; J. F. C. Hanison, ‘Chartism in Leicester,’ Chartist Studies, ed. Asa Briggs (London: Macmillan, 1959), pp. 99–146.Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    Walter Savage Landor, Imaginary Conversations, in Complete Works of Walter Savage Landor, ed. T. Earle Welby and Stephen Wheeler (London: Chapman & Hall, 1927–36).Google Scholar
  16. 24.
    Thomas Cooper, ‘Menie England — No More!’ in Wise Saws and Modern Instances vol. 1 (London: Jeremiah How, 1845), pp. 201–17Google Scholar
  17. Ian Haywood, ed., The Literature of Struggle (Brookfield, Vermont: Ashgate, 1995), pp. 53–59.Google Scholar
  18. 26.
    Thomas Cooper, ‘To the Chartists of England,’ English Chartist Circular vol. 2, no. 76 ([July 1842?]): 94.Google Scholar
  19. 29.
    Richard Altick, Victorian People and Ideas (New York: Norton, 1973), p. 256Google Scholar
  20. 32.
    George Binns, ‘To the Magistrates Who Committed Me to Prison Under the Darlington Cattle Act,’ Northern Star (9 May 1840), reprint in Scheckner, Anthology of Chartist Poetry, 119; Ernest Jones, The New World: A Democratic Poem, Notes to the People vol. 1, no. 1 (1851): 1–15.Google Scholar
  21. 34.
    Eugene [George Hooper], ‘The Purgatory of Suicides,’ Reasoner vol. 1 (6 Aug. 1846): 150Google Scholar
  22. 36.
    In Life, pp. 271–76, Cooper explains that Purgatory of Suicides was published with the aid of Douglas Jenold, who helped him to secure a publisher, Jeremiah How, and showed the poem to Charles Dickens. See also Life, pp. 278–83, for the attention the poem received once published from Howitt, Fox, future founder of the Birkbeck Schools William Ellis—who gave Cooper one hundred pounds after hearing him lecture in October—and Thomas Carlyle, who also gave Cooper money on two occasions. See Miles Taylor, The Decline of British Radicalism, 1847–1860 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 39.
    Sally Ledger, ‘Chartist Aesthetics in the Mid-Nineteenth Century: Ernest Jones, a Novelist of the People,’ Nineteenth-Century Literature 57.1 (June 2002): 31–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 40.
    Eugenio F. Biagini, Liberty, Retrenchment and Reform: Popular Liberalism in the Age of Gladstone, 1860–1880 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 9.Google Scholar
  25. 41.
    Ibid., p. 6; Patrick Joyce, Visions of the People: Industrial England and the Question of Class, 1848–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 27–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. While Margot C. Firm, After Chartism: Class and Nation in English Radical Politics, 1848–1874 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)Google Scholar
  27. 47.
    W. J. Linton, ‘Words and Meanings,’ English Republic vol. 2 (1852–53): 182.Google Scholar
  28. 48.
    W. J. Linton, ‘Holyoake versus Garrison: A Defence of Earnestness,’ English Republic 2 (1852–53): 259.Google Scholar
  29. 51.
    Spartacus [W. J. Linton], ‘I.——Integrity,’ in’ songs for the Unenfranchised,’ The Reasoner 4 (1848): 279.Google Scholar
  30. W. J. L[inton], ‘Thought, Word, and Deed,’ English Republic 2 (1852–53): 340.Google Scholar
  31. 56.
    W. J. Linton, Threescore and Ten Years, 1820–1890. Recollections (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1894), pp. 5Google Scholar
  32. 59.
    Quoted in Francis B. Smith, Radical Artisan, William James Linton, 1812–97 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1973), p. 93.Google Scholar
  33. 60.
    He first copied ‘Death’s Door’ and discussed Blake’s engraving technique in the National, and later in ‘Death’s Door. From a Design by William Blake,’ Howitt’s Journal 2 (20 Nov. 1847): 321–22. Alexander Gilchrist, Life of William Blake (London: Macmillan and Co., 1863).Google Scholar
  34. Robert F. Gleckner, ‘W.J. Linton, a Latter-Day Blake,’ Bulletin of Research in the Humanities 85.2 (Summer 1982): 208–27.Google Scholar
  35. 69.
    Spartacus [W.J. Linton], ‘Infamy,’ Reasoner 4 (1848): 308Google Scholar
  36. 70.
    Gareth Stedman Jones, Languages of Class: Studies in English Working Class History, 1832–1982 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 90–178.Google Scholar
  37. 71.
    Spartacus [W.J. Linton], ‘Fairness,’ Reasoner 7 (1850): 405.Google Scholar
  38. 72.
    Isobel Armstrong, Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetics and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, 1993), p. 168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephanie Kuduk Weiner 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie Kuduk Weiner

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations