Linton- Life in the Collections
S. C. Hall (ed.)
33) The Book Of British Ballads. Series 1 & 2, bound in one book,
Some of the leading artists and illustrators, such as Richard Dadd, William Powell Frith, John Gilbert, Kenny Meadows and John Tenniel, were involved in this comprehensiv project; so was a number of noted wood engravers like John Jackson, George Dalziel, Henry Vizetelly, John Orrin Smith, and Linton. “The Book of Ballads was an unfortunate investment, as the publication was not successful, and the failure left some of us unpaid. Smith & Linton lost largely.” (Memories) Linton here predominantly translated the drawings of two artists who would turn out to become important cooperators and close friends: William Bell Scott and Thomas Sibson. William Bell Scott, a history painter and poet from Edinburgh, would expose him to the Pre-Raphaelites’ circle of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. It is to be assumed that Linton had already received an impression of the high reputation in which the painter-poet William Blake was held in some radical intellectual circles from his paternal friend Thomas Southwood Smith, who had known Blake personally. But it was most probably Bell Scott who introduced Linton to the poetical and pictorial works of Blake. Scott came from a family with a long standing tradition of artist-artisanry. In his Autobiographical Notes he confesses: “I suffered under a family mania for Blake.” His elder brother David was also a history painter, his father Robert a noted engraver of topographical subjects, who looked upon his Blake prints “as almost sacred, and we all followed him in this.”
The other artist, Thomas Sibson, was a promising young illustrator who also had ambitions as a history painter. The lively vignettes that Sibson and Linton created for the Ballad Johnie of Breadislee are among the best in this otherwise rather clumsy and careless mass production. Nevertheless, this inspired collaboration between Sibson and Linton served as a model for the making of the image-text composite of Linton’s socio-critical poem Bob-Thin or The Poorhouse Fugitive.