Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

William James Linton aka A.W., of the Middle Temple, Gent:

63) Heart Easings. Gent. (1595). reprinted liberatim from a copy, supposed unique, in the British Museum, London: T. and J. Allmann, Princes Street, Hanover Square, 1824.

Hamden / CT 1882

Whereas Wind-Falls was a hoax easy to see through, something like a trial balloon, this small collection of madrigals and epigrams, allegedly dating back to be 17th century, represents a serious attempt of the literary amateur to dupe his professional colleagues, the literary critics and Anglicists, and to test their punditry. Although he was a real aficionado of ancient lyrics and crafts, he was also very sceptical about the excesses of Medievalism.

Francis Barrymore Smith connects Linton’s inventive fraud in a very conclusive way with the most famous case of literary forgery in the 19th century: “Very likely Linton regarded this pamphlet (..) as a literary jape. His tart comments in Rare Poems on the identity of A.W. show that he envied established students of literature, and may well have a residual hope that his pamphlets might deceive some of them. This motive shows in his (...) attempt, to use Stoddard to plant his forgeries:` Have you seen the little book by A.W: which I mail to you with this? I guess it is scarce, as I have never seen another copy. I send it to you as it strikes me you might care to make an article out of it (...)´ Stoddard appears to have seen through the verses and the plethora of enthusiastic hypotheses and ignored Linton’s request. The fact that he made no attempt to sell the pamphlet widely and later included Heart Easings in his Collected Poems (1895) strengthens the impression, that he was innocent of any intention to profit by the fraud. Yet we know, that he was in correspondence with Harry Buxton Forman and sent him copies of nearly all of his works. Another of Linton’s admirers, A.H. Bullen, a friend of Buxton Forman and T.J. Wise, also had a copy of Heart Easings at least before 1890. Linton probably distributed his booklets personally during his visit to England in 1882-4.” 



Harry Buxton Forman was an antiquarian bookseller and one of the most respected literary scholars and critics, specialized on bibliographies of Shelley, Keats, Morris and Ruskin. He was friends with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and wrote a number of articles about lesser poets from Linton’s surroundings such as Charles Jeremiah Wells, Richard Hengist Horne and Thomas Wade. He also had a special predilection for Linton’s poetry, but he preferred the non-political ones, such as the Heart Easings. In the acknowledged Gentlemen’s Magazine he wrote in 1897: “His (Linton’s) practical, active, aggressive republicanism is among the principal factors in keeping him from that fullness of poetic attainment for which he has the capacity.”

The huge amount of faked rare private editions and pre-first pamphlets, which he had produced in collaboration with the commodity broker and book collector Thomas James Wise, were only detected in 1934. The first of their forgeries appeared on the market after 1886. These forgeries were quite inventive in that they were not copies of existing works but were presented as works that could or should have existed. “Linton’s pamphlet, purporting to be a rare nineteenth-century imprint of existing material, with its virtually unknown publisher and likely bogus printer’s imprint, shares the attributes of Wise’s and Buxton Forman’s deliberately dishonest productions. (...) Linton’s booklet may well have provided the inspiration to create rarities with spurious imprints. It would hardly have pleased Linton, but A.W.’s collection of songs may yet win an adventitious fame as the modus operandi for the `most ingeniously conceived, the best executed, and the most successful fraud in the history of book-collecting.´” (F.B. Smith)