Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

William James Linton:

51) Cetewayo and Dean Stanley.

Hamden / CT 1880

8 pages, brochure, non-pictorial, untrimmed

In summer 1879 Cetshwayo kaMpande, called Cetewayo, former King of the Zulus, visited London as an exile; actually the chief of the recently defeated African nation, he was nothing but a prisoner of war, exposed to the public of the victorious Empire. The discussion between the African priest king and the Dean of Westminster unfolds on the British commemoration of the French Prince Imperial Louis Bonaparte, who was killed and ritually disembowelled by the African warriors. Cetewayo’s biting questions reveal the absurdities of nationalistic hero-worships and memorial cult. This short but pensive play about one of the most bizarre incidents in the era of New Imperialism has previously been disregarded. Linton adapts Landor’s interview scheme, but turns his displayed sophistication into less pretentious didactics. Bertolt Brecht’s teaching plays are not so far away.


While the preceding dialogue piece takes a look back in the sense of an historical rehabilitation, Cetewayo and Dean Stanley captures current voices of the contemporary imperialistic epoch. As with many productions of his private Appledore Press it appeared without any indication of the author. Although it ranks among the very rare examples of anti-colonial literature written in the early phase of high imperialism, it has hitherto not been registered by academic research. The subject of the fictive dialogue taking place in London between Cetshwayo kaMpande, the King of the Zulus who is a prisoner of war, and Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, the Dean of Westminster, is a bizarre incident that occurred in 1879 during the final phase of the war between the Zulu Nation and the British Empire: During a patrol on horseback, Louis Napoleon, the Bonapartist heir to the throne who, as a volunteer of the British army, was in Cetshwayo’s dominion, was surprised and executed by Zulu warriors. Only under the protection of Queen Victoria did the laurel-hungry prince, who since the collapse of the Second Empire had been living in British exile, succeed in advancing into the war region in the first place. It was also Queen Victoria who with her proposal to erect a monument for the Prince Imperial in Westminster Abbey had caused quite a stir in the British public. She and Dean Stanley, who supported her in this, were accused of committing national sacrilege by placing a member of the Napoleonic dynasty as a foreign body at the traditional burial place of British monarchs. In his piece, Linton didn’t share the xenophobic resentment of the English public. The Mazzini-style democratic nationalism that he propagated understood itself as a cosmopolitan counter-model to the “narrowed” nationalism of imperial competition. To what extent Mazzinism was indeed in line with the prevailing jingoistic sentiment at the time is underscored by the ethical imperative of patriotically fulfilling one’s duties, which Linton in this case raised to the predominant yardstick of his assessments and which he, fully in the sense of Mazzini’s political mysticism, sets off against a tyranny of dynastic arbitrariness.


Additional Image Sources: Cetewayo (Le Monde Illustré) - Dean Stanley (G. Kruell) - Lois Napoleon (L´Illustration)


Cetewayo´s Captivity (ILN / The Graphic)  - Memorial Stone for L. Napoleon (ILN)

It is above all the role of the Christian state church as an instrument of hegemonic power politics that is attacked in the piece. However, Linton’s main interest lies less in the causes and effects of colonial aggression, which is soberly acknowledged as a fact, than in the construction of history. The piece suggests that only such an historical perspective is sustainable that relativizes or reverses the Eurocentric point of view, thus allowing an African ruler like Cetshwayo kaMpande to be perceived on an equal footing to a Napoleon I. What is hinted at here is a postcolonial historiography. In his anthology, Poetry of America, published a few years later in 1887, Linton made it clear that this must be grasped not only in political but also in cultural-historical terms.

The ending of this conversation piece is but a strange one. What did Linton actually mean when he had the defeated Zulu chief say: “But do not put me in your Abbey, Mr. Dean, along with this boy (...)!” ? Why did Cetewayo speak about himself and the Prince Imperial here, where the real issue was their monuments? Did the author merely seek to express a reducing, linguistic awkwardness, or rather a naive animism that mistakes the sculptural simulacrum for the original, similarity for identity? An explanation is given in an essay by Walter Savage Landor, from which Linton had already cited in the introductory motto of his piece. In Sir Robert Peel and Monuments to Public Men, which is included in his late anthology The Last Fruit off an old Tree, Landor reflected on adequate possibilities to “commemorate the great worthies of our country.” He called for making a fundamental difference between famous persons from public-political and cultural life, and allocating public space accordingly. According to Landor, the higher status of political persons to cultural representatives is represented in public outdoor space, “in the streets, in squares”, the classical location of the res publica. Landor’s conception of the monument was less an idealistic cult of paying homage than a utilitarian teaching lesson that transformed urban space into a three-dimensional history atlas. Excluded from this representation, however, were theologians, because their images would only excite dogmatic discord. Equally, placing worldly monuments in a sacred realm would also amount to disfigurement and desecration. By rejecting Westminster Abbey as a site of secular commemoration, Linton’s King of the Zulus agrees with Landor’s conception.

However, Cetewayo also follows a totally different line of argument that calls into question the use of Anglican service. He doesn’t comprehend the meaning of a specialised state priesthood that holds services only periodically at certain hours. He counters these regularly arranged services with a “right” service which his men rendered to the “pretty boy”, the Prince Imperial. “He was rightly served by my men” could be unsuspiciously interpreted as: It served him right the way Cetewayo’s men treated him. It was indeed known that the way in which the Zulu warriors dealt with Louis Napoleon also possessed a ritual aspect. As the New York Times reported on July 3, 1879, with reference to the English daily press, the Zulu warriors had disembowelled all of the dead on the battlefield “through a superstitious creed of battle.” The corpse of the Prince Imperial had not been spared either and had been “snatched from the sacriligeous and mutilating hands of the savages who had murdered him”, to the great grief of his mother. The information that the corpse had also been partially scalped most likely owed to the specific imagination of the American press to further stir up feelings. This short-circuiting of the British Zulu war and the genocide of the indigenous population of North America certainly had the opposite effect on Linton, possibly also inspiring him to write the conversation piece in distant Connecticut.

Most products of his American private press were addressed with specific allusions to a relatively small circle; the Cetewayo and Dean Stanley piece, of course, particularly to his acquaintances in London. There, the allusion to the “rightly” disembowelled body of the prince, especially because it was connected to the cult of monuments, had to inevitably trigger associations to a ceremonial, public dissection at the outcome of which stood the origin of a memorial sculpture. Although this ceremony had taken place almost thirty years beforehand, the memory of it must have been extremely present among Linton’s circle of acquaintances, especially at the time the piece was written, for it had been no less than an informal foundation act of the secular movement that made an appearance at the time with audience-grabbing actions and became the topic of fierce controversies.

The corpse which had been subjected to this procedure of dissecting disembowelment belonged to Jeremy Bentham, the most important philosophical proponent of early British radicalism and the most fundamental critic of colonialism and Anglicism in the 19th century. In Bentham’s view, the human corpse benefited society in two ways, possessing an “anatomical, or dissectional” as well as a “conservative, or statuary” value. He attributes the term auto-icon to the latter. These body sculptures would “supersede the necessity of sculpture”, for it is after all evident that “identity [is] preferable to similitude”. In Bentham’s vision of the future, which suffices entirely without the mimetic services of art, the auto-icons populate not only public buildings and private, ancestral portrait galleries, but also – after having been made weatherproof through the impregnation with rubber – outdoor spaces, parks and alleys. What he does not elaborate is the consequence of his playful and capricious proposals, which, however, is obvious and lies in radically levelling and democratising the cult of commemoration shaped by feudal patterns, i.e., the cultural segment that, in Bentham’s eyes, formed the ideological backdrop of a reduced and irrational understanding of the nation.

Linton’s Cetewayo partially appears as a revenant of Bentham. Equipped with disarming practical intelligence, something Bentham had termed “savage ingenuity”, he called into question the foundations of the Anglican state church, to finally abruptly declare that he would withdraw from not only the ideological co-optation by a hypocritical, two-faced imperial religion but also the chaotic ambivalence of historical ancestor worship. But the categorical consequence also quite clearly expresses the aversion of the reproduction graphic artist Linton towards the mechanised logic of Benthamism, which no longer left any room for mimetic difference. In the end, it is the dissolution of this difference in an automated icon that Cetewayo shies away from here, at the same time as his author was involved in a fundamental dispute with the photographic hyperrealism of young American xylography. Linton’s Cetewayo is Bentham, as far as the colonial-political perspective is concerned. In regard to the ethical and aesthetic perspective, he is anti-Bentham. There is hardly a comparable document that expresses the ambivalence of British radicalism regarding its utilitarian foundation as suggestively and incisively as this inconspicuous conversation piece.