Linton- Life in the Collections
William James Linton:
2) Ireland for the Irish. Rhymes and Reasons against Landlordism. With a Preface on Fenianism and Republicanism.
New York 1867
95 pages, brochure.
Although this pamphlet wasn’t published by him but by the American News Company, it represents an extraordinarily fine example of Linton’s tasteful editing and his progressive art of purist book design. Moreover, he introduced himself with this first American publication as a writer who claims to interfere in the politics of the day. The pamphlet is primarily addressed to the numerous supporters of the Fenian Brotherhood, which had been established in America in 1858. He attacked the physical force policy of the Irish Fenians in America and “especially denounced their call for volunteers to return to fight in the guerilla war then raging in Leinster and Munster. The Fenians prated of Irish nationality and republicanism, Linton declared, but they respected neither. Ireland could have no viable existence outside the brotherhood of English-speaking peoples who inhabited the geographical unity composed by the British Isles. And their republicanism could not be sincere, as long as they neglected land reform and universal suffrage as the two guarantees of republican equality.” (F.B. Smith)
The cycle of poems consists of fifty short lyrics and belongs to the most convincing examples of political poetry he brought forth. It was written in the latter part of 1849 to support the scheme of land nationalization, partly in response to Ebenezer Jones´pamphlet The Land Monopoly. Most of Linton’s poems against landlordism were published during 1850 in the Irish Nation, to which he had been as the sole English author a regular contributor. Shortly afterwards Rhymes and Reasons were reprinted in The English Republic and appeared in a variety of compilations in Chartist papers such as The Reasoner, The Friend of the People and The Republican. Excerpts were printed in the collection Claribel (1865), in Linton & Stoddard’s English Verse Lyrics of the XIXth Century (1883) and in Yuri Kovalev’s Anthology of Chartist Literature (1956).
The poetic concept to approach a socio-political topic in a fragmented, kaleidoscopic way was modelled on Ebenezer Elliott’s Corn-Law Rhymes and Thomas Wade’s Reform Bill – Hymns, even though the matters of Rhymes and Reasons are more expanded and interconnected. The themes span from origins of feudalism and English occupation to descriptions of the Great Famine, of rural uprisings (Swing riots), the hardships of estate clearances, the miseries of emigration and depopulation, all the way to a vision of egalitarian distribution of land and direct democracy. “The brilliant sequence of poems (...) has a collective narrative force: each addresses a particular event or issue, but together they make a narrative succession in which solidarity is first developed, struggle takes place, defeat is suffered, but the contest continues and moves on. (...) The Rhymes and Reasons against Landlordism presents a genre which solves the problem of both meeting the affective needs of the individual through lyricism, and the narrative aims of the collective struggle.” (Anne F. Janowitz) “Taken together, these Rhymes and Reasons posit a poetics of linguistic self-evidence, an assertion that the reasons or rational arguments forwarded by republicans are underwritten by the rhymes they employ, that the truths of republicanism are irrefutable because they are stored in the language itself.” (Stefanie Kuduk Weiner)