Linton- Life in the Collections
Walter Savage Landor:
9) The Last Fruit Off an Old Tree.
This very stimulating miscellany of the 78-year-old poet includes essays, letters, epigrams, dramatic scenes, and various kinds of poetry. Among them are those seven revolutionary hymns, which he had grouped together in 1848 in a small private edition under the title The Italics. Included is also the last section of his famous work in progress, The Imaginary Conversations, a genre of his own, which he had created the mid-1820s. It had been modelled on Cicero’s Tusculanae Disputationes and the Baroque tradition of contemplative Dialogues of the Dead, and consists of a total of 144 dialogues written in a period of close to forty years. These fictitious discussions allowed him to go on a time travel and, in projecting his views onto an imaginary past, he could express his notorious aversions against rigid power structures in a rather unrestrained manner. Some of the conversations of this final section address events of the recent past, e.g. the conversations between King Louis Philippe and Guizot, Thiers and Lamartine or Garibaldi and Mazzini.
Landor’s classically inspired work formed an important intersection between the official Victorian literary system and the political radicalism at the fringes. It represents a solitary cultural bridge between the early phase of British Jacobinism with its references to ancient Roman republicanism – Landor had published his first cycle of radical poetry in 1795 - and the politics of democratic nationalism in the mid 19th century. Unlike his contemporaries, the Romantic poets and theorists Wordsworth and Coledrige, Landor never abandoned his early radical commitment. Nietzsche regarded him, along with Ralph Waldo Emerson, as the only contemporary master of prose in the Anglo-Saxon world, and Ezra Pound praised him for a certain characteristic “hardness” of style. Although they never met in person, there was a connection between Landor and Linton in the latter’s second wife Eliza Lynn, who was Landor’s late muse from 1846 on. Linton kept a copy of the Last Fruits in his home in Hamden, CT, together with a letter and an inserted manuscript poem by Landor, which was dedicated to Linton as the anonymous Author of The Plaint of Freedom. Landor had published this praise a few years later in his penultimate miscellany Dry Sticks, Fagoted.