Linton- Life in the Collections
50) Voices of the Dead: Charlotte Corday and Marat. Mazzini and the Countess Ossoli. Delescluze on the Barricade.
n.p. / n.d (Hamden, 1879)
Unbound leaflet,14 pages.
Like its counterpart, the following Cetewayo and Dean Stanley dialogue, these three connected blank-verse poems represent an attempt to express complex political correlations in the scheme of Walter Savage Landor’s Imaginary Conversations; though the distance between Landor’s Imaginary Conversations and Linton’s adaptations is remarkable. Landor had already employed an alienation technique in his conversations, strongly abstracting the gestures of speech vis-à-vis the naturalistic expectations of the audience. But Linton went a step further in this respect. He largely abandoned the classical idiom that characterised Landor’s prose and employed a sober and reduced language. Linton concentrated on the structural frame of the dialogues, on the exemplariness of the situation. He turns Landor’s free-floating speech into acutely composed political didactic pieces. Already in 1839, he had dealt with a form of parable in the twelve-part series, Records of the World’s Justice, which filled the loyalist propaganda instrument of moral fables with a new, radically political content. Landor’s Imaginary Conversations now paved the way for him to shift the political didactic piece from the indirect narrative mode to the presence of the theatrical.
The voices of five dead republicans are raised to resist the historical falsifications of the conservative press and reactionary historians. They represent different phases of revolutionary uprising and each of them - Jean Paul Marat, Charlotte Corday, Margaret Fuller, Guiseppe Mazzini and Charles Delescluze - mark another layer in a progress of increasing frustration. Whereas the decline of the Great French Revolution and the fall of the second Roman Republic in 1849 are represented as dialogues, the lonely voice of the republican journalist Charles Delescluze, who died during the events of the Paris Commune, marks the ultimate isolation of egalitarian ideals. But Linton’s three poems are much more than a depressing retrospect. The dead Marat doesn’t attack his assassin Charlotte Corday, but the historian Thomas Carlyle for his biased depictions of the proceedings of the French Revolution. Delescluze mourns the discrediting of the Communist ideals. And the conversation between Mazzini and his follower, the American Unitarian teacher and journalist Margaret Fuller (she is represented here with her Italian family name Countess Ossoli), gives Linton the opportunity to attack the merely trade-based politics of the American democracy. Both of Linton’s dialogue pieces, Voices of the Dead as well as the following Cetewayo and Dean Stanley dialogue, share a common theme, the construction of history.