Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

Alfred Tennyson:

15) Poems.

London 1857 / 1864

New edition, the seventh one.

It is said that the troubles with the artists of this edition of Tennysons’poems, that turned out to become the most popular example of the Pre-Raphaelite’s book illustrations, took a heavy toll on the health of its publisher Edward Moxon and finally caused his early death. Moxon, a poet himself, had won considerable recognition among radical circles by issuing the first complete edition of Shelley’s work in 1839. For some blasphemous passages, he had served a prison sentence in 1841. About half of the fifty-four illustrations came from the young members of the Pre-Raphaelites group, the rest by already noted artists such as Clarkeson Stanfield or Callcott Horsley.

Most of the engravings were executed by the Dalziel Brothers, by John Thompson and Linton. Rossetti felt that the engravers were mucking his images up and wrote a biting poem on the subject, titled Address to Dalziel Brothers: “O woodman spare that block,/ O gash not anyhow!/ It took ten days by clock,/ I’d fain protect it now. Chorus: Wild laughter from Dalziels’ Workshop.” In a letter to his friend, the poet William Allingham explicated his criticism: “These engravers! What ministers of wrath! (...) I took more pains with one block lately than I had done with anything for a long while. It came back to me on paper, the other day, with Dalziel performing his cannibal jig in the corner, and I have really felt like an invalid ever since. As yet, I fare best with W. J. Linton. He keeps stomach aches for you, but Dalziel deals with fevers and agues.” By comparison, it had not been Linton’s rather loose and sketchy mode of engraving that conveyed the best impressions of the catchy outline style of Hunt, Millais and Rossetti, but the reproductions of John Thompson. Yet through his relatively true engraving work, Linton offered his services for a future project, in which Rossetti was involved, the illustrated biography of William Blake.