« PreviousContinue »
collected and re-published her poems. To one of the pieces in this edition she subjoins the following note: 'I commence the sonnets with that to Hope, from a predilection in its favour, for which I have a proud reason: it is that of Mr. Wordsworth, who lately honoured me with his visits while at Paris, having repeated it to me from memory, after a lapse of many years.'
Sonnet to Hope.
To bid the shapes of fear grief depart!
The lasting sadness of an aching heart.
Say 'hat for me some pleasures yet shall bloom,
Shall soften, or shall chase, misfortune's gloom.
Which once with dear illusions charmed my eye,
The flowers I fondly thought too bright to die;
JAMES HENRY LEIGH HUNT, a poet and essayist of the lively and descriptive, not the intense school, was born at Southgate, in Middlesex, October 19, 1784. His father was a West Indian; but being in Pennsylvania at the time of the American war, he espoused the British interest with so much warmth, that he had to leave the new world and seek a subsistence in the old. He took orders in the Church of England, and was some time tutor to the nephew of Lord Chandos, near Southgate. His son-who was named after his father's pupil, Mr. Leigh-was educated at Christ's Hospital, where he continued till his fifteenth year. "I was then,' he says, 'first deputy Grecian; and had the honour of going out of the school in the same rank, at the same age, and for the same reason as my friend Charles Lamb. The reason was, that I hesitated in my speech. It was understood that a Grecian was bound to deliver a public speech before he left school, and to go into the church afterwards; and as I could do neither of these things, a Grecian I could not be.' Leigh was then a poet, and his father collected his verses, and published them with a large list of subscribers. He has himself described this volume as a heap of imitations, some of them clever enough for a youth of sixteen, but absolutely worthless in every other respect. In 1805 Mr. Hunt's brother set up a paper called “The News,' and the poet went to live with him, and write the theatrical criticisms in it. Three years afterwards, they established, in joint-partnership, “The Examiner,' a weekly journal conducted with distinguished ability. The poet was more literary than political in his tastes and lucubrations; but unfortunately, he ventured some strictures on the princeregent, terming him 'a fat Adonis of fifty,' with other personalities, and he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.
The poet's captivity was not without its bright side. He had much of the public sympathy, and his friends-Byron and Moore being of the numberwere attentive in their visits. One of his two rooms on the groundfloor' he converted into a picturesque and poetical study: 'I papered the walls with a trellis of roses; I had the ceiling coloured with clouds and sky; the barred windows were screened with Venetian blinds; and when my bookcases were set up, with their busts and flowers, and a pianoforte made its appearance, perhaps there was not a handsomer room on that side of the water. I took a pleasure, when a stranger knocked at the door, to see him come in and stare about him. The surprise on issuing from the Borough, and passing through the avenues of a jail, was dramatic. Charles Lamb declared there was no other such room except in a fairy tale. But I had another surprise, which was a garden. There was a little yard outside railed off from another belonging to the neighbouring ward. This yard I shut in with green pailings, adorned it with a trellis, bordered it with a thick bed of earth from a nursery, and even contrived to have a grass-plot. The earth I filled with flowers and young trees. There was an apple-tree from which we managed to get a pudding the second year. As to my flowers, they were allowed to be perfect. A poet from Derbyshire (Mr. Moore) told me he had seen no such heart's-ease. I bought the Parnaso Italiano' while in prison, and used often to think of a passage in it while looking at this miniature piece of horticulture :
Mio picciol orto,
My little garden, To me thou’rt vineyard, field, and wood, and meadow. Here I wrote and read in fine weather, sometimes under an awning: In autumn, my trellisés were hung with scarlet-runners, which added to the flowery investment. I used to shut my eyes in my arm-chair, and affect to think myself hundreds of miles off. But my triumph was in issuing forth of a morning. A wicket out of the garden led into the large one belonging to the prison. The latter was only for vegetables, but it contained a cherry-tree, which I twice saw in blos
This is so interesting a little picture, and so fine an example of making the most of adverse circumstances, that it should not be omitted in any life of Hunt. The poet, however, was not so well fitted to battle with the world, and apply himself steadily to worldly business, as he was to dress his garden and nurse his poetical fancies. He fell into difficulties, from which he was never afterwards wholly free. On leaving prison, he published his ‘Story of Rimini,' an talian tale in verse, containing some exquisite lines and passages.
* Lord Byron and Some of his Contemporaries
The poet subsequently altered “Rimini' considerably, but without improving it. He set up a small weekly paper, The Indicator,' on a plan of the periodical essayists, which was well received. He also gave to the world two small volumes of poetry, 'Foliage,' and 'The Feast of the Poets.' In 1822, Mr. Hunt went to Italy to reside with Lord Byron, and to establish «The Liberal,' a crude and violent mclange of poetry and politics, both in the extreme of liberalism. This connection was ctive of mutual disappointment and disgust. "The Liberal' did not sell ; Byron's titled and aristocratic friends cried out against so plebeian a partnership ; and Hunt found that the noble poet, to whom he was indebted in a pecuniary sense, was cold, sarcastic, and worldly-minded. Still more unfortunate was it that Hunt should afterwards have written the work 'Lord Byron and Some of his Contemporaries' (1828), in which his disappointed feelings found vent, and their expression was construed into ingratitude. His life was spent in struggling with influences contrary to his nature and poetical temperament. În 1835, he produced "Captain Sword and Captain Pen -a poetical denunciation of war. In 1840, he greeted the birth of the Princess-royal with a copy of verses, from which we extract some pleasing lines: Behold where thon dost lie,
Nor the lace that wraps thy chin, Heeding nought, remote or nigh,
No, nor for thy rank a pin. Nought of all the news we sing
E'en thy father's loving hand Dost thou know, sweet ignorant thing; Nowise dost thou understand, Nought of planet's love nor people's ;
When he makes thee feebly grasp Nor dost hear the giddy steeples
His finger with a tiny clasp; Carolling of thee and thine,
Nor dost thou know thy very mother's As if heaven had rained them wine. Balmy bosom from another's, Nor dost care for all the pains
Though thy small blind eyes pursue it; Of ushers and of chamberlains,
Nor the arms that draw thee to it; Nor the doctors' learned looks,
Nor the eyes that, while they fold thee, Nor the very bishop's books,
Never can enough behold thee ! In the same year Hunt brought out a drama, 'A Legend of Florence,' and in 1842 a narrative poem, “The Palfrey.' His poetry, generally, is marked by a profusion of imagery, of sprightly fancy, and animated description. Some quaintness and affectation in his style and manner fixed upon him the name of a Cockney poet; but his studies had lain chiefly in the elder writers, and he imitated with success the lighter and more picturesque parts of Chaucer aud Spenser. Boccaccio, and the gay Italian authors, appear also to have been among his favourites. His prose essays have been collected and published under the title of The Indicator and the Companion, a Miscellany for the Fields and the Fireside. They are deservedly popular-full of literary anecdote, poetical feeling, and fine sketches both of town and country life.
Other prose works were published by Hunt, including 'Sir Ralph Esher,' a novel (1844); "The Town' (1848); _ 'Autobiography and Reminiscences' (1850); The Religion of the Heart' (1853); Biographical and Critical Notices of Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar' (1855); • The Old Court Suburb’ (1855); with several volumes of selections, sketches, and critical comments. The egotism of the author is undisguised; but in all Hunt's writings, his peculiar tastes and romantie fancy, his talk of books and flowers, and his love of the domestic virtues and charities—though he had too much imagination for his judgment in the serious matters of life-impart a particular interest and pleasure to his personal disclosures. In 1847, the crown bestowed a pension of £200 a year on the veteran poet. He died August 28, *1859. His son, Thornton Hunt, published a selection from his ‘Correspondence' (1862).
May Morning at Ravenna.-From Rimini.'
'Tis nature, full of spirits, waked and springing:
Already in the streets the stir grows loud,
Funeral of the Lovers in ‘ Rimini.'
And ever and anon, over the road,
But of the older people, few could bear
They say that when Duke Guido saw them come,
Young hearts betrothed used to go there to pray.
To T. L. H., Six Years Old, during a Sickness. Sleep breathes at last from out thee,
But when thy fingers press My little patient boy;
And pat my stooping head, And balmy rest about thee
I cannot bear the gentleness--
The tears are in their bed.
Ah! first-born of thy mother,
Kind playmate of thy brother,
Thy sister, father, too; Thy sidelong pillowed meekness,
My light, where'er I go, Thy thanks to all that aid,
My bird, when prison-bound, Thy heart, in pain and weakness,
My hand-in-hand companion-no, Of fancied faults afraid ;
My prayers shall hold thee round. The little trembling hand That wipes thy quiet tears,
To say "He has departed' These, these are things that may demand His voice'-_ his face'is gone;'Dread memories for years.
To feel impatient-hearted,
Yet feel we must bear on; Sorrows I've had, severe ones,
Ah, I could not endure I will cot think of now;
To whisper of such woe, And calmly 'midst my dear ones
Unless I felt this sleep insure Have wasted with dry brow;
That it will not be so.