Linton- Life in the Collections
The reception of Dickens’ work in the Chartist press had been very ambivalent from the start. Some praised his social committment and held him for a great advocat of the lower classes, while others, like Linton, criticized him for exploiting the miseries of the poor by exposing the “Great Unwashed” as caricatures for the comic relief of the Victorian upper class. “I have always thought that his real vocation was as an actor of low comedy, much as the world might have lost by such a change. Warm-hearted and sentimental, but not unselfish, he was not the gentleman. There was no grace of manner, no soul of nobility in him” (Memories)
Although Dickens’ work had been illustrated by a number of the most able and prominent illustrators of the time, such as Robert Seymour, George Cruikshank or Hablot K. Browne, it was the rather unknown Thomas Sibson, "a young man of great promise and some excellent performance,” who in Linton’s opinion had executed “by a long way the best illustrations of Dickens’ Works.” A number of Sibson’s very lively etchings have peripheral vignettes and demonstrate his fondness of developing graphic sublevels, a preference that was to have further effect in his collaboration with Linton.