Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

William James Linton (published anon.):

8) The Plaint of Freedom.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1852

57 pages, limited to 300 copies. Title page design by the author. The pages are decorated with hand-coloured initials.

Linton published this large poem for private circulation anonymously. “Why so it would be hard to say, unless it was that I doubted my own ability for writing so serious a work.” (Memories) The author laments the present demoralized state of England and seeks to mobilize the traditional rebellious virtues. The poem is dedicated to the memory of Milton, the bard of the Puritan Republic and advocate for regicide. In a series of poetical portraits, it generates a gallery of the representatives of the revolt of the English people against authoritarian arbitrariness. It starts with the legendary chieftain Caractacus, who tried to resist the Roman occupation and continues with John Wycliff, Wat Tyler, Oliver Cromwell to Tom Paine. Again, Linton’s ambition to construct an anti-feudalistic History of England shows through. By establishing a nativistic myth of the republican virtues, Linton apparently tried to emplace England as a leading force in a future Europe of United Republican Nations or in an even more expanded sense of The Universal Republic. Together with his two preceding hymns from 1848  - To the Future and Dirge of the Nations – this mythological poem forms an extensive corpus of the revolutionary imagery of this crucial period. The late Walter Savage Landor was a fervent fan of Linton’s patriotic republican verse.