William James Linton´s teaching piece “Cetewayo and Dean Stanley” (1880) – with an introduction by Alexander Roob

Lintoniana IV

“History will speak of me.” – On Linton’s colonial-critical dialogue

William James Linton grasped himself foremost as a political artist. In the biographical appendix of the compilation of lyrics, English Verse. Lyrics of the 19th Century, which he edited in 1883 together with the renowned literary critic Richard Henry Stoddard, he left no doubt about his self-understanding as an “engraver and political writer”. The large body of his political writings – spanning a period of around forty years – fell completely into oblivion after his death, as was equally the case with his xylographic oeuvre. Only as late as 1956, did the political writer Linton gradually seep back into the awareness of English-language literary research via the Soviet Union. Although Yuri Kovalev’s Anthology of Chartist Literature, which acknowledged him as a crucial writer of early workers’ literature, was published in Moscow,1 the collection of original texts mainly targeted the English-language market. Kovalev’s selection of Linton’s lyrics has basically determined the reception of his literary oeuvre until today. For it is limited to his early Romantic phase, the high-flying verses of which were written under the influence of the communitarian bardism of Percy Bysshe Shelley and the autodidactic Corn Law Rhymer, Ebenezer Elliott.

The profound biography by Francis Barrymore Smith, which follows the radical artisan through all sorts of capers in his work, was able to alter only little in regard to the focus that research had placed on a relatively narrow portion of his political work.2 The picture of Linton that Smith draws – as an autodidact gripped by an addiction to academic reputation confusedly working in all directions – only fuelled the need for filleting and stereotyping his work. Yet it is precisely his volatile desire to appropriate and his fondness of experimenting that pleasantly distinguishes Linton’s erratic literary oeuvre from the quite single-minded and rigid genre of Chartist literature.3 The status of a political artist that he claimed asserted and formulated itself in the transition from High Romanticism to the art of the Socialist League and the Fabian Society, which he inspired, and also in his numerous editorial and literary attempts, ranging from polemics and treatises in the style of John Milton through Romanic hymns all the way to a host of different satires, nonsense literature, political parables, and imitations and falsifications parodying science.

The extremely short, yet densely weaved conversation piece, Cetewayo and Dean Stanley, adds a further remarkable facet to the broad spectrum of Linton’s literary experiments. He published the piece as a brochure in Hamden, Connecticut in 1880, and 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 Zulus4 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.5 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. Moreover, as the Spectator wrote on July 26, 1879, such a public tribute would rightly be understood as an affront by the incumbent French government.

In his piece, Linton didn’t care about the sensitivities of the in his view corrupt French republic, nor did he 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.

It is above all the role of the Christian state Church as an instrument of hegemonic power politics that is attacked in the piece. Using the image of the Janus face of Jesus/Joshua, he maintains that the Church promises peace up front, while from behind propagating and legitimising the appropriation of Canaan as well as colonial oppression and genocide.6 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. Already in the early 1840s, he and the illustrator Thomas Sibson had planned a comprehensive history of England, “in which the social life of the English people should be dominant, and its epochs so distinguished, instead of by the reigns of Kings.”7 A first part of this social history revolving around the origin of feudal ownership conditions, was realised in 1845 in the poem Bob-Thin or the Poor House Fugitive. His first dialogue piece, Voices of the Dead, which was published just a few months prior to the Cetewayo-Stanley piece and is its counterpart, is about constructing history. Here, the voices of five dead republicans are raised,8 representing different phases of revolutionary uprising, to resist the historical falsifications of the conservative press and reactionary historians such as Thomas Carlyle.

While the first dialogue piece takes a look back in the sense of an historical rehabilitation, this text captures current voices of the contemporary imperialistic epoch. They are mainly characterised by an exploding cult of monuments. However, this monumental facade that Cetewayo and Stanley inspect in London does not seem to construct history, for it lacks coherence and thus identity-forging power. 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 in 1878, Linton made it clear that this must be grasped not only in political but also in cultural-historical terms. As a prospect for the future, it ends not with poems by Walt Whitman, for example, but – as probably the most radical abolitionist consequence of the day – with songs of African-American plantation workers.9

Both conversation pieces, Voices of the Dead (1879) and Cetewayo and Dean Stanley (1880), were an homage to the poet Walter Savage Landor who died in 1864. His classically inspired work formed an important intersection between the official Victorian literary system and the political radicalism at the fringes. In the mid-1820s, Landor had created a genre of his own modelled on Cicero’s Tusculanae Disputationes, the Imaginary Conversations, which allowed him to go on a time travel through history and in doing so unrestrainedly express his notorious aversion against rigid power structures.10 The corpus of the Imaginary Conversations consists of a total of 144 dialogues written in a period of close to forty years. Many of these conversations address events of the then recent past, e.g. the conversation between Thomas Robert Bugeaud, the French Governor-General of Algeria, and an unnamed Arab prince about the genocide of the Algerian population during the French seizure of land.11

Old Landor was a fervant fan of Linton’s republican hymns, and although they never met in person, there was a connection between the two in Linton’s second wife, the writer Eliza Lynn, who was Landor’s late muse. Under the critical eyes of Eliza Lynn, Linton could not simply allow himself to imitate Landor’s scheme. At any rate, the distance between Landor’s Imaginary Conversations and Linton’s adaptation is huge. 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.12 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 an acutely composed political didactic piece. 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.13 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.

Bertolt Brecht repeatedly dealt with translations and adaptations of political poems by Linton’s great model Shelley.14 He was probably not familiar with Linton’s writings, for Brecht died at the time Kovalev’s path-breaking compilation was published in Moscow. In ideological terms, there is a considerable distance between Brecht’s dialectical materialism and Linton’s spiritual republicanism, yet in regard to his techniques and ambitions as a political writer, Brecht was closer to him than to any other writer of the 19th century.15



1 by Foreign Languages Publishing House Moscow

2 F.B. Smith: Radical Artisan – W. J. Linton 1812-97. Manchester 1973

3 Thomas Carlyle’s verdict that Linton was a “windy character” damaged his reputation in the eyes of his contemporaries more than anything else.

4 Cetshwayo – named Cetewayo in the Anglo-Saxon literature of the time – was a prisoner of war of the British Empire in Cape Town when the piece was written. Only in 1882 was he indeed presented to the public in London, attracting great media attention.

5 Linton not only acknowledged the death of the Prince Imperial in a literary form, he had already commented on his baptism with a biting parody of the Christmas legend (Carmen Triumphale. For the General Rejoicing ordered on May 29, 1856.).This took place during the peace Parisian negotiations that ended the Crimean War.

6 As an anti-imperialist activist, Linton was very active in North America in the 1870s, where he had been living since 1866. He intervened in the Santo Domingo affair and attacked President Grant on account of his annexation plans that disregarded the right of self-determination of the Latin American peoples. During the Sioux wars, he stood up for the rights of the North American indigenous population in poems and newspaper articles: “God send the Indians luck! Success to the buck! May his scalps be many and quick!..”

7 W.J. Linton: Threescore and Ten Years. New York 1894. p. 68

8 Jean Paul Marat, Charlotte Corday, Margaret Fuller, Guiseppe Mazzini and Charles Delescluze

9 W.J. Linton ed.: Poetry of America. Selections from One Hundred American Poets from 1776 to 1876. With an introductory review of Colonial Poetry, and Some Specimens of Negro Melody. London / New York 1878

10 Nietzsche regarded Landor, along with Ralph Waldo Emerson, as the only contemporary masters of prose in the Anglo-Saxon world. His writings were never popular and they have now been forgotten.

11 in: The Works of Walter Savage Landor. Vol. II. London 1853 S., 242 ff.

12 „Principles and ideas are my objects: they must be reflected from high and low, but they must also be exhibited where people can see them best, and are most inclined to look at them“ Landor on the technique of the Imaginary Conversations. In: The Works of Walter Savage Landor. Vol. I. London 1852, p.326

13 Horst Roeßler dedicated an in-depth study to this series of didactic pieces that Linton published in his journal, The National. A Library for the People, in 1839. (H. Roeßler: Literatur und Arbeiterbewegung. Studien zur Literaturkritik und frühen Prosa des Chartismus. Frankfurt/M,1985)

14 Shelley’s huge influence on early-socialist, English workers’ poetry was known due to the information imparted by Friedrich Engels in his study, Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England (The Condition of the Working Class in England). In 1938 Brecht translated Shelley’s popular Peterloo poem, The Mask of Anarchy; in 1947 he adapted it in a satire on the political conditions in early West German post-war democracy, Der anachronistische Zug oder Freiheit und Democracy. Brecht’s attempt to translate Shelley’s Peter Bell the Third is also mentioned in Walter Benjamin’s Passagenwerk (The Arcade Project)

15 Even closer than the early deceased Georg Büchner, who was just a bit younger. – A special closeness to Brecht is also revealed in Linton’s political cycles of poems Rhymes and Reasons against Landlordism (1849/ 1867) and Broadway Ballads (1876). Rhymes and Reasons was written during the time of the Great Famine in Ireland. In a long and complex sequence of individual scenes he argues in favour of abolishing the ownership of land property. Broadway Ballads was written on the occasion of the anniversary celebration of American independence and is composed of a series of caustic sketches dealing with the human misery of mass unemployment and the disintegration of solidarity in the plutocratic metropolis of New York. The social realism formulated here, inspired by police reports and his own observations, is a far cry from the entertaining theatricality of a Charles Dickens. Instead, it seeks to analyse political interrelations, it is often cumbersome and abridged, but always challenging in the Brechtian sense.

(Translation:Karl Hoffmann)


8 pages, uncut (Mepri-Collection)


Cetewayo and Dean Stanley

The things that are Caesar´s

It is becoming and decorous that due honours be paid, ..
undue injure …. No ashes are lighter than those of
incense; and few things burn out sooner.

A true lover of his country should be exempted from the
pain of blushes, when a foreigner inquires of him – „Whom
does this statue represent? And for what merits was it raised?“

Walter Savage Landor

Your kindness to me is very great, Mr. Dean! I did not think that I, an unthroned prince and son of one who would be politely called a ruffianly savage, would be allowed  to enter your venerable Abbey, of which, I have been told, you are the not responsible master. 1

Dean Stanley:
For fallen princes, your Ex-Majesty! we have always an obliging welcome. 2

You are a wonderful people! I am proud to be conquered by you. This West-Minster is – is it not ? –  the chief  temple of  your  religion, dedicated to – what shall I say?  – the Prince of Peace? Is not that the meaning of the word Jesus?

Dean Stanley:
Your Ex-Majesty is right as to the Minster; but the name Jesus in the Hebrew is the same as Josuah. In your Ex-Majesty´s reading, since I have had the pleasure of assisting at your Highness´conversion to the Christian faith, you must have noticed the name of Joshua.

A sort of chief, was not he? I recollect: not a man of peace, but a stout man, fighting against the Canaanites as you Englishmen, I grieve to say, fought against my people. The sun would not stand still to help me. 3

Dean Stanley:
Your Ex-Majesty however was correctly observing that this venerable fane is the chief temple of our religion.

I do not see ceremonies being performed.

Dean Stanley
Our worship is not unintermittent. We have appointed times. Every Lord´s Day, which is the first day of the week, and which we are commanded to keep holy, we have services. On other days also.

Excuse me! Are not your priests (Am I wrong in supposing a  dean to be a priest?) set apart, and fed and clothed, on purpose to provide such services?  What do you when you are not serving in the temple? Your pardon! The question is uncivilized. You spend many hours, I may say days, in the conversion of poor heathens like me. There is then no service to-day?

Dean Stanley:
Your Highness is well informed. I am at liberty to  attend your steps: This way (bowing)!
You would like to see our monuments.

Monuments? I thought there was only one, – there by London Bridge.

Dean Stanley:
That is The Monument. There is  also Nelson´s pillar (a kind of monument too, not much unlike a mast) in Trafalgar Square.

What are monuments made for?

Dean Stanley:

To commemorate singularly noble and heroic actions. Nelson was a hero. He died for his country.

(Aside) I would have died for mine. – That was a hero too, whose monument I have seen  by some steps leading down to your James´s Park? He should have been a great hero to earn so tall a pillar.

Dean Stanley:
Profane people say, he was  set so high to escape his creditors. A joke! He was the son of one of our kings. 4

King´s sons should always be heroes. But why are so many of your monuments out of doors instead of in your temples?

Dean Stanley:
It were difficult to say: unless it be that we think they adorn our streets, and add to the beauty and dignity of our public places. These in the Abbey your Ex-Majesty has not yet seen. Will you not inspect them?

I will follow you, Mr. Dean! –  You must be proud of such a collection. Please tell me who Shakespeare was.

Dean Stanley:
Shakespeare was the greatest of the world´s great poets.

Poets are no heroes though.

Dean Stanley:
Greater sometimes, when they are public benefactors.

Good! But I want to see your Nelson here. And the Duke – Wellington, was a hero. Where is he?

Dean Stanley:

Nelson lies under the dome of St. Paul´s: another of our national temples. Wellington has a very glorious monument there also.

But what rule of selection have you? Why some here and some there?

Dean Stanley:
Mere accident. We do not mean to favour any. Our Kings and Queens are buried here.


Whose monument is this? Quite new, it seems.

Dean Stanley:
Yes! it is just put up. But (passing on) look at this other!

No, no! Look at this! I like the new one, so clean. What a pretty boy! Was he  a king, or a hero?

Dean Stanley:
It is the Prince Imperial.

A public benefactor? I do not recollect to have read his name in your histories.

Dean Stanley:
He was the Prince Imperial of France

What did he?

Dean Stanley:
He died very bravely. He had the misfortune to be killed in your Highness´country.

I recollect now: some of my Zulus killed him. What business had he there? But there was nothing heroic in his death. Anyone else would have died just the same, – must have done so.

Dean Stanley:
All our reports agree that he met his fate like a hero.

Who knows? None of your people saw him die; and no Zulu ever told you. Had you no English heroes dying there, to be honoured with a monument, that you had to pick up this boy stranger? He was rightly served by my men. What business had he there?

Dean Stanley:

He deserved the more honour from us in that he was a stranger and had, as you say, no business there: a volunteer only, giving help to the hospitable country in which he had lived.

I do not see. Honour, as a soldier – the quarrel no concern of his. I can forgive your Englishmen: They must do as they are ordered, as my soldiers had to do. But this stranger volunteer, killing Zulus for his private amusement – And you put him in your temple dedicated to Joshua!  You must have other reasons. He came of a family very respectable (Do I speak the right word?  My knowledge of your tongue is imperfect), and for their sake you honour him?

Dean Stanley:
His father was the late Emperor of France, Napoleon the Second; his grand-uncle (so called) was the first Napoleon, by some accounted greater than the second. 5


I know: he was a great warrior, like Josuah. Did he die too far off to have a monument in your temple?

Dean Stanley:

Not so far off as this young Prince.


And have you no monument to his respectable father?  I have heard him called December the Second as well as Napoleon the Second. How is that ? 6

Dean Stanley:

Your Highness, I percieve, has been studying history.

History will speak of me.  A hero may be defeated. I fought for my country. ———- But do not put me in your Abbey, Mr. Dean! along with this boy, this only son of the respectable emperor!


1  The supreme Governor of the Church of England is the British monarch, at that time Queen Victoria.
2  Since the days of the first French Revolution England was the main hideaway of the continental aristocracy and of fugitive monarchs.
3  Joshua 10:12: „Then Joshua spoke to Yahweh in the day when Yahweh delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand still on Gibeon! You, moon, stop in the valley of Aijalon!”
4  An allusion to the bronze statue of Prince Frederick William, Duke of  York (1763-1827). The second son of King George III left a huge amount of debts.
5  Linton does´nt confuse Napoleon III, the father of the Prince Imperial with Napoleon II,  Duke of Reichstadt. But he apparently favours his own counting of a succession according to real achievment over the formal dynastical one.
6  Refers to the dates of the coronation ceremonies of both Napoleons, which took place on a December 2th.

(Annotations by Alexander Roob)


Images referring to “Cetewayo and Dean Stanley” from the MePri – Collections

The accompanying pictorial from October 2010 also depicts events of the Zulu war on which the piece is based. One can assume that Linton was familiar with many of these pictures.


King Cetewayo, Le Monde Illustré, 19.07.1879 (MePri – Coll.)

Gustav Kruell: Dean Stanley (MePri – Coll.)

The Captivity of Cetewayo, ILN  18.10.1879 (MePri – Coll.)

Cetewayo Civilized, Graphic  01.03.1879 (MePri – Coll.)

The Prince Imperial, L´Illustration 28.06.1879  (MePri – Coll.)

Edmond Morin: The Death of the Prince Imperial, Le Monde Illustré  19.07.1879 (Detail) (MePri – Coll.)

Melton Prior, The spot, where the Prince was killed, ILN  26. 06.1879  (MePri – Coll.)

Major Marter, Memorial Stone on spot, 27.09.1879  (MePri – Coll.)

Westminster Abbey, ILN 12.5.1868  (MePri – Coll.)

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