Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

Manchester 1880

Linton wrote this biography of his former publisher in his 67th year and printed a first brochure edition on his private press in America. A second hardcover version, tastefully designed and furnished with a photo of Watson as frontispice, was published one year later for the British market

His publisher James Watson, also member of the London Workingmen’s Association, had played a crucial role in Linton’s political career: „Passing to the city from the Lower Road, Islington, where, the days of pupilage over, I was living in 1835-6, I would look into a bookseller’s shop (...) to buy Roebuck’s Pamphlets (parliamentary critiques), or Volney’s Ruins of Empire and Lectures on History, or Frances Wright’s Few Days at Athens, or the works of Godwin, Paine, or Robert Dale Owen: all of them the neat and cheap publications of James Watson, in 1835 just out of prison for selling an unstamped newspaper, – a man whose evident sincerity and quiet earnestness led me into conversation concerning the books he sold, and on other matters also. With him began my first acquaintance with Chartism, a movement of no small importance, however little now is thought or known of it. In 1831, and after, with the ‘reforming’ Whigs in power, it still remained illegal to give political knowledge to the people.  There was a four-penny stamp on every periodical publication that gave news.  Caution money was required before a newspaper could be issued, in order that, in case of conviction for anything which could be construed as offensive to the government, the fine might be at hand. (...) Watson, the son of a Yorkshire day-labourer, had his three prison services. (...) Such had been English freedom under the infamous Castlereagh administration in the reign of George IV., and such it remained under liberal Whig rule after the passing of the Reform Bill, a measure only meaned, in later words of Richard Cobden, to ‘garrison our present institutions’ against the rising democracy.“ (W.J. Linton)