Sue Young Histories

Eliza Lynn Linton 1822 - 1898

September 09, 2008

Eliza Lynn Linton 1822 ? 1898 was a British novelist, essayist, and journalist.

Eliza Lynn Linton lived in Queen Anne’s Mansions alongside homeopath Frederick Hervey Foster Quin, and she was a friend of John Chapman, the owner and publisher of the Westminster Review.

Eliza and her husband William were close friends of James John Garth Wilkinson (William James Linton, Threescore and ten years, 1820-1890: recollections by W. J. Linton, (C. Scribner’s sons, 1894). Multiple pages. See also Eliza Lynn Linton, The Autobiography of Christopher Kirkland, Volume 1, (reprinted by Kessinger Publishing, 2004). Page 26).

Eliza Lynn Linton worked as a newspaper correspondent both in the US and abroad before returning to writing novels.

Eliza Lynn Linton also wrote for Charles Dickens’s All the Year Round periodical.

Eliza Lynn Linton’s novel Realities  (1851) about the lower depths of the London theatre was deemed by Mrs Chapman as going too far beyond respectability for her husband to publish - despite the fact that she, herself, tolerated her husband’s mistress in her home.

The novelist and critic Eliza Lynn (later Linton), who lodged with Chapman and his wife, referred to him in her autobiography as “the Raffaelle bookseller” on account of his striking good looks, which often drew comparisons with Lord Byron

John Chapman purchased the Westminster Review in 1851 and he was associated with this publication for the rest of his life.

John Chapman assembled a glittering intelligentsia around the Westminster Review, which was the was the leading radical periodical of its day.

Contributors included many homeopaths and homeopathic supporters, including Charles Darwin, Harriet Martineau, George Grote, George Henry Lewes, George Eliot, Francis William Newman, William Rathbone GregHerbert Spencer, Alexander Bain, John Stuart Mill, William Benjamin Carpenter, Robert Chambers, George Jacob Holyoake, John Tyndall and many others.

The word that leaps to mind when describing Eliza Lynn Linton is “spunky.”  She was that odd Victorian being, a thoroughly emancipated anti feminist.

She educated herself in her father’s library (one of Woolf’s “daughter’s of educated gentlemen”) and in 1845 she went to London by herself to become a writer.  Although she was not an instant literary success, Linton received enough encouragement (and remuneration) to continue her work, and was eventually able to support herself through journalism.

Iconoclastic in almost every way, Linton lived alone in the city, was an atheist, separated amicably from her impecunious husband, and began her career writing historical romances that she researched at the British Museum.  Although her works are not highly regarded in a literary light, they are useful and entertaining portraits of her age.

Moreover, the puzzle of Linton’s stance towards her own gender continues to tease scholars.  She harshly critiqued women who sought expanded political rights (or any political rights at all, for that matter), leveling at them the old accusation of masculinity, while she herself reveled in an unbecoming freedom, education, and professional life.

Her final work, the rambling Autobiography of Christopher Kirkland is self-evidently about the author, yet written by means of a male persona.  Why did Linton effectively deny others the freedom she herself enjoyed?  Why did she condemn viragos, only to identify herself with a male protagonist?

The daughter of a clergyman and granddaughter of a bishop of Carlisle, Eliza Lynn Linton arrived in London in 1845 as the protegé of poet Walter Savage Landor. In the following year she produced her first novel, Azeth, the Egyptian; Amymone 1848, and Realities 1851, followed. None of these had any great success, and she became a journalist, joining the staff of the Morning Chronicle, and All the Year Round.

In 1858 she married William James Linton, an eminent wood-engraver, who was also a poet of some note, a writer upon his craft, and a Chartist agitator. In 1867 they separated in a friendly way, the husband going to America, and the wife returning to writing novels, in which she finally attained wide popularity. Her most successful works were The True History of Joshua Davidson 1872, Patricia Kemball (1874), and Christopher Kirkland.

She was also a severe critic of the ”New Woman.” Her most famous essay on this subject The Girl of the Period,” was published in Saturday Review in 1868 and was a vehement attack on feminism. Her obituary in The Times noted her “animosity towards all, or rather, some of those facets which may be conveniently called the ‘New Woman’,” but added that “it would perhaps be difficult to reduce Mrs. Lynn Linton’s views on what was and what was not desirable for her own sex to a logical and connected form.”

William James Linton 1812 -  1897 was Eliza Lynn Linton’s husband and an English born American wood engraver, political reformer and author of memoirs, novels, poetry and non fiction.

William James Linton was a friend of Robert BrowningWilliam Cullen BryantThomas CarlyleRalph Waldo Emerson, Bret HarteMargaret Fuller, Julia Ward HoweGeorge Henry Lewes, Henry Wadsworth LongfellowJames Russell Lowell,  Harriet Martineau, Giuseppe MazziniWendell PhillipsDante Gabriel Rossetti, John RuskinWilliam Bell ScottAlfred Lord Tennyson, William Makepeace ThackerayWalt WhitmanJohn Greenleaf WhittierJames John Garth Wilkinsonand so many others.

William James Linton first met Peter Stuart in 1849 (William James Linton,* Memories, *(Lawrence and Bullen, London, 1895). Page 189), when he stepped forward (L Finigan, *The Life of Peter Stuart, the “Ditton Doctor”. [With Plates, Including Portraits and Facsimiles], *(for family circulation 2nd edition, published by Books Limited, 187 Fleet Street London EC4 (Clifford’s Inn Passage), 1920, and by Liverpool and Prescot 1921). Page 23) to support William James Linton and Giuseppe Mazzini’s efforts to protect an unfortunate boat load of Polish refugees who had just docked in Liverpool. Peter Stuart found them accommodation in a disused soap factory, and supplied them with money and food, and the local population brought them water and straw to sleep on. It would be through Peter Stuart that William James Linton would meet John Epps and James John Garth Wilkinson.

William James Linton worked with Alexander Gilchrist (1828-1861) with his The Life of William Blake (Alexander Gilchrist,* [The Life of William Blake](,* (Originally published by John Lane, Bodley Head, London 1907, Reprinted by Courier Dover Publications, 1998). Pages 382 and 402) on the illustrations (William James Linton,* Memories(Lawrence and Bullen, London, 1895). Page 181): *‘… Dr. Garth Wilkinson, the amiable physician, I knew well. A Swedenborgian, he too had a touch of the spiritual malady, which brought out a volume of inspired poems, outside the ordinary laws of poetic form. I had to thank him for an introduction to Emerson, who, when in England had been attracted to him. With Gilchrist I worked on his Life of Blake, having to get up the illustrations…’

In 1866, William James Linton visited America armed with introductions (William James Linton,* Memories(Lawrence and Bullen, London, 1895). Page 205) from James John Garth WilkinsonGiuseppe Mazzini and many other people. In America, Ralph Waldo Emerson came into Ticknor and Fields and *’… read the letter (the introduction which Dr. Wilkinson had given me), shook hands with me, and asked - was I staying in Boston? If so, I must come out to Concord next day to dine with him… *(William James Linton, Memories(Lawrence and Bullen, London, 1895). Page 215)’.*

From  Born in Mile End, London, his family moved to Stratford, Essex in

  1. The young Linton was educated at Chigwell Grammar School, an early 17th century foundation attended by many sons of the Essex and City of London middle classes. In his sixteenth year Linton was apprenticed to the wood-engraver G W Bonner.

His earliest known work is to be found in Martin and Westall’s Pictorial Illustrations of the Bible (1833). He rapidly rose to a place amongst the foremost wood engravers of the time.

After working as a journeyman engraver with two or three firms, losing his money over a cheap political library called the “National,” and writing a life of Thomas Paine, he went into partnership in 1842 with John Orrin Smith.

The firm was immediately employed on the Illustrated London News, just then projected. The following year Orrin Smith died, and Linton, who had married a sister of Thomas Wade, editor of Bell’s Weekly Messenger, found himself in sole charge of a business upon which two families were dependent.

For years he had concerned himself with the social and European political problems of the time, and was now actively engaged in the republican propaganda.

In 1844 he took a prominent part in exposing the violation by the English post office of Giuseppe Mazzini’s correspondence. This led to a friendship with the Italian revolutionist, and Linton threw himself with ardour into European politics.

He carried the first congratulatory address of English workmen to the French Provisional Government in 1848. He edited a twopenny weekly paper, The Cause of the People, published in the Isle of Man, and he wrote political verses for the Dublin Nation, signed “Spartacus”.

He helped to found the “International League” of patriots, and, in 1850, with George Henry Lewes and Thornton Hunt, started The Leader, an organ which, however, did not satisfy his advanced republicanism, and from which he soon withdrew.

The same year he wrote a series of articles propounding the views of Giuseppe Mazzini in The Red Republican. In 1852 he took up his residence at Brantwood, which he afterwards sold to John Ruskin, and from there issued The English Republic, first in the form of weekly tracts and afterwards as a monthly magazine “a useful exponent of republican principles, a faithful record of republican progress throughout the world; an organ of propagandism and a medium of communication for the active republicans in England.”

Most of the paper, which never paid its way and was abandoned in 1855, was written by himself.

In 1852 he also printed for private circulation an anonymous volume of poems entitled The Plaint of Freedom. After the failure of his paper he returned to his proper work of wood-engraving.

In 1857 his wife died, and in the following year he married Eliza Lynn (afterwards known as Mrs Lynn Linton) and returned to London. In 1864 he retired to Brantwood, his wife remaining in London. In 1867, pressed by financial difficulties, he determined to try his fortune in America, and finally separated from his wife, with whom, however, he always corresponded affectionately.

With his children he settled at Appledore, New Haven, Connecticut, where he set up a printing-press. Here he wrote Practical Hints on Wood-Engraving 1879, James Watson, a Memoir of  Chartist Times 1879, A History of Wood-Engraving in America 1882, Wood-Engraving, a Manual of Instruction 1884, The Masters of Wood-Engraving, for which he made two journeys to England 1890, The Life of Whittier 1893, and Memories, an autobiography 1895.

He died at New Haven on the 29th of December 1897. Linton was a singularly gifted man, who, in the words of his wife, if he had not bitten the Dead Sea apple of impracticable politics, would have risen higher in the world of both art and letters.

As an engraver on wood he reached the highest point of execution in his own line. He carried on the tradition of Bewick, fought for intelligent as against merely manipulative excellence in the use of the graver, and championed the use of the “white line” as well as of the black, believing with John Ruskin that the former was the truer and more telling basis of aesthetic expression in the wood-block printed upon paper.


Any views or advice in this site should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment, especially if you know you have a specific health complaint