Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

Francis Barrymore Smith:

33) Radical Artisan. W. J. Linton 1812-97,

Manchester 1973

This substantial biography is based on an intense and far-reaching study of sources and in this regard cannot be praised enough. Smith’s vast horizon of knowledge, which ranged from British radical politics to the social history of medicine, enabled him to follow Linton in the numerous bifurcations of his versatile ambitions and concerns. The dense amount of information that Smith provides is mainly addressed to students of the Chartist movement and not appropriate to convey an idea of Linton’s solitary position as a political artist nor of the far-reaching consequences of his xylographic polemics. Instead, he gives the impression of a rather idiosyncratic networker on the fringes of the labour movement who had incidentally practiced an artistic technique, one which was doomed to fail. In this regard, Robert Gleckner’s criticism of Smith’s biography can only be considered as acceptable in that it refers to it as “an excellent book”, which for art enthusiasts and students of engraving would be rather “disappointing for, as the title makes clear, Smith focuses on Linton’s considerable involvement in political affairs (...) with less comment on what Linton himself considered the center of his life, his art.” In art historical respects, Smith indeed left the subject of his research where he had sought to pick him up, ”at the edge of the remembered nineteenth-century world.”