Linton- Life in the Collections
22) Exposition of the False Medium and Barriers Excluding Men of Genius from the Public.
Linton characterized this extraordinary pamphlet in his Memories as “a fierce onslaught on the publishers’ Reader and the Reviewers” that hadnot helped its author’s first work “to a too friendly critical appreciation.” The book was of such importance to him that had dedicated one of the late American publications to “The Author of the An Exposition of the False Medium, in token of admiration as well as of personal regard.” The publisher of this raging attack against the whole cultural sector was Effingham Wilson, an established bookseller, who had become famous by issueing some of the most explosive works of Jeremy Bentham like his Plan of Parliamentary Reform in 1819. Wilson was a continous challenger of British institutions in that he published statistics and revealed their negative consequences in “blackbooks”. The exposition of the vainness of “false mediums” like the Royal Academy and their characterization as “a pompous body of pretentions that confute themselves” must have been quite to his taste. The author of the Exposition comes to the conclusion that “false mediums” like professional editorial work or institutional instruction only perpetuate inbred mediocrity. Beyond the educational rudiments “no man is ever taught to do any thing great; he must teach himself. You may learn the grammar without going to college, and it is best for you not to go there.” And to make it even clearer he states with reference to the example of Shelley: “One of the highest honours that can attend a youth’s outset in life, is to be expelled from college, for manifesting a resistance to servile ignorance and brutal tyranny.” The author here tuned into Jeremy Bentham´s plea for a reform of the educational system, and he managed it to combine pragmatic Utilitarian approaches in an most unique and bizarre way with their contrary, the high-flying cult of genius of German idealism.
Frontispiece portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio by Horne himself
It is evident that such a decided vote for self-organized learning and the author’s disgust about the institutions’ mechanical coinage was capable to shape Linton’s self-conciousness as an unlearned poet, painter, researcher and historian of his craft substantially. And an analysis like this, saying that "the progress in the fine arts has been most conspicuous in those branches which have not been subjected to the care or instructions of the Academy," may have contributed to his understanding of popular design and political propaganda as a natural field of artistic activity, equal to the traditional territories of high-brow culture, and maybe even more progressive. Moreover, the author’s penetrating reasoning against the grading system of publishers’ Readers, being lectors and editors, may have encouraged Linton’s efforts to run his own independent press and to try out ways of direct marketing.
Linton became acquainted with the anonymous author two years after the publishing of his poorly received work. He met Richard Hengist Horne at the close of his apprenticeship in the company of Thomas Wade and remained connected to him all his life. He published Horne’s essays in his journals The National and The Illuminated Magazine and enclosed examples of his poems in his anthology English verse: The Nineteenth century. As a politically committed artist with an eagerness to experiment Horne was an important role model for Linton. His literary versality included criticism, investigative journalism – he had worked for some time as a reporter for Dickens´ Household Words - and a variety of poetry ranging from blunt didactic pieces to almost spasmodic self-adulation.