William James Linton, A Map of Republican Europe (1854)

 

Contributor: Ian Haywood

Location: Melton Prior Institute, Düsseldorf

Description: This remarkable map was the work of the Chartist poet, wood engraver, editor, printer and activist William James Linton (1812-97). (1) Linton is probably unknown to most Romantic scholars, yet he played an important role in preserving the radical legacy of Romanticism for the nineteenth century.

In his numerous publications and periodicals, Linton preached the gospel of republicanism and creative rebirth in poems and polemics which echoed the most subversive elements of Romantic print culture: revolutionary pamphleteering and journalism, populist lyrics and anthems and, uniquely and distinctively, the illuminated poems of Blake. (2) Linton also inherited from Romanticism an ardent internationalism and a belief that Britain’s problems could only be understood (and resolved) in the wider context of global geopolitics and, more specifically, the nationalist liberation struggles within Europe. (3) Linton’s vision of a free Europe was inspired by the republican uprisings of 1848, the latest and most spectacular phase of an anti-imperialist, pan-European revolutionary movement which first emerged in the Romantic period and which had seen both significant successes (as in Greek independence) and many setbacks (as in the Bourbon Restoration of 1814, the defeat of the Spanish Liberales in 1823, and the quashing of the insurrections in Italy in 1820-21). The overthrow of the short-lived 1848 republics did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm and he fell back on his core concept of a Europe unshackled by despotism.

Linton was uniquely qualified to produce a map of Republican Europe. He was a friend and colleague of many European political exiles including his great hero Giuseppe Mazzini, leader of the Italian Risorgimento, Stanislaus Worcell and Karl Stolzman (Poland), Alexander Herzen (Germany), and Lajos Kossuth (Hungary). Linton lived and worked in ‘little Italy’, the area around Hatton Gardens in central London, and even tutored the children of this expatriate community. In 1847 he became the Secretary of the Peoples’ International League (PIL), an organization of Chartists and exiled patriots whose stated aims were to ‘enlighten the British public as to the political condition and relations of foreign countries’, to ‘disseminate the principles of national freedom and progress’, to ‘embody and manifest an efficient public opinion in favour of the right of every people to self-government and the maintenance of their own nationality’ and to ‘promote a good understanding between the peoples of all countries’. (4)

In early 1848 Linton and Mazzini went to Paris as PIL delegates to congratulate the French Provisional government, to experience the front line of revolutionary politics and to witness history in the making. He designed a new tricolour flag for the putative British republic and in the early 1850s this became the masthead for his journalistic masterpiece, the English Republic (1851-55). This innovative periodical synthesized all his intellectual and aesthetic powers. It is packed with republican print genres: stirring poems, excerpts from Mazzini’s writings, biographical sketches of radical leaders and ‘martyrs’, manifestos, news, historical and political essays, speeches, and ‘illustrations’ including portraits and maps. The third volume of English Republic appeared during the Crimean War, and it was this conflict which inspired Linton to reimagine the political cartography of Europe. Though he supported the blocking of Russian expansionism, Linton regarded all imperialism as an outdated evil: ‘The present arrangement of Europe has been made for the benefit of a few families, in violation of the most decisive marks of nationality, in order to facilitate the spoilation of the peoples’. In Linton’s liberated Europe, the reactionary settlement of the Treaty of Vienna would be ‘torn to pieces by the Republican nations’ and ‘The map of Europe will be remade. How? The freed peoples will decide, drawing their own boundary lines – of distinction, no longer of division’. (5)

It was characteristic of Linton’s artistic method to realise this vision in an actual map. To modern eyes, his reformed Europe appears remarkably prescient, with the free countries of Poland, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Greece and the southern Slavonic states taking centre stage. Moreover, as Linton made clear in his commentary, the new ‘arrangement of Europe’ would be guaranteed by ‘a congress of the representatives of all nationalities’, a ‘council of confederated nations’ which anticipates the League of Nations, the United Nations and the European Union.  For all its forward-looking poignancy, it is important to note that the map was also a distinctively post-Romantic idea of a liberated Europe. Inspired by the French Revolution, ideas and images of a free Europe can be found in many Romantic texts. The spirit of the age was symbolised by Blake in The Song of Los (1795), where his revolutionary deity Orc is ‘raging in European darkness…like a pillar of flame above the Alps’. The federalist path out of ‘European darkness’ was proposed by many writers. For example, Thomas Paine ended Part One of Rights of Man (1791) by calling for a ‘European Congress, to patronize the progress of free Government, and promote the civilization of nations with each other’, (6) a view echoed by Kant’s vision in Perpetual Peace (1795) of a republican ‘federation of free states’, (7) and by Shelley’s call for ‘great assembly’ in Mask of Anarchy (1819). Shelley’s poem was published in 1832, the same year that Charles de Sismondi published a new version of his influential History of the Italian Republics which concluded that ‘Europe will know no repose till the nation which, in the dark ages, lighted the torch of civilization with that of liberty, shall be enabled herself to enjoy the light which she created’. Sismondi prophesied that Italy, though temporarily ‘crushed’, would soon ‘take the lead again’ in the pursuit of ‘liberty, virtue and glory’. (8) Linton’s map encompasses that victory.

There is one further ‘Romantic’ touch to the story of Linton’s map. Linton produced English Republic from Brantwood, his large house on the banks of Coniston Water in the heart of the Lake District. As Linton gathered progressive ‘disciples’ around him, the house became the site of a rather scandalous, bohemian community of ‘Brantwood republicans’. (9) The evocation of Nether Stowey in the 1790s is surely no coincidence. In the immediate aftermath of Wordsworth’s death, Linton occupied the symbolic geographical location of English Romanticism and revived its originating ‘political poetics of republicanism’. (10) Moreover, when he emigrated to America in the 1860s, Linton sold Brantwood to none other than John Ruskin, (11) an example of Linton’s importance as an intermediary between the cultural politics of the Romantic and Victorian periods.

Linton’s map of Europe included the British Isles and English Republic set out a detailed plan of political, social and moral reform. It included much which the progressive wing of Romanticism would have recognised and welcomed, including women’s and children’s rights, universal suffrage, disestablishment of the Church, freedom of worship, Irish and colonial independence, a national investment bank, industrial arbitration, and free education. Linton’s notion of ‘English’ national identity respected history and heritage but did not exclude change and was certainly not xenophobic:

By an English republic, we mean an English nation: a free people, ruling its own life, making its own laws…We mean a nation in whose life shall be harmony, the harmony of rights equally respected and duties everywhere fulfilled…the freedom of the individual and the unity and organisation of the state shall be alike maintained. (12)

This Miltonic voice deserves to be heard more widely, and Linton’s map of Republican Europe may finally have found its moment.

Date: 1854

Creator: William James Linton

Subject: William James Linton

Media rights: Melton Prior Institute / Alexander Roob

Object type: map

Format: paper and ink

Language: English

Publisher: Melton Prior Institute

References

  1. The best source for information about Linton is F. B. Smith, Radical Artisan: William James Linton 1812-97 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1973).

  2. See Joseph Viscomi, ‘Blake After Blake: A Nation Discovers Genius’, in Steve Clark and David Worrall, eds. Blake, Nation and Empire (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006), 214-50. See also Ian Haywood, ‘Illuminating Propaganda: Radical Medievalism and Utopia in the Chartist Era’, in Joanne Parker and Corinna Wagner, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Medievalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 370-93.

  3. See: Marcella Pellegrino Sutcliffe, Victorian Radicals and Italian Democrats (London: Boydell, 2014); Margot Finn, After Chartism: Class and Nation in English Radical Politics 1848-1874 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Maurizio Isabella, ‘Italian Exiles and British Politics Before and After 1848), in Sabine Freitag, ed. Exiles from the European Revolutions: Refugees in Mid-Victorian Britain (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2003), 59-87.

  4. Linton, Memories, 98.

  5. English Republic 1 (1851): 32; 3 (1854): 216.

  6. Thomas Paine, Rights of Man ed. Eric Foner (London: Penguin, 1984), 146-7.

  7. Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay Translated M. Campbell Smith (George Allen and Unwin, 1917), 128.

  8. J. C. L. De Sismondi, History of the Italian Republics; Or, the Origin, Progress and Fall of Italian Freedom (Philadelphia: Carey and Lee, 1832), 290.

  9. Smith, Radical Artisan, 113.

  10. Anne Janowitz, Lyric and Labour in the Romantic Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 208.

  11. English Republic 3 (1854): 1-3.