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JAMES HENRY LEigh HUNT was born on the nineteenth of October, 1784, at Southgate in Middlesex. His father, a clergyman of the established church, was an American refugee, and his mother a sister of BENJAMIN WEST, President of the Royal Academy. He was educated at Christ's Hospital, where LAMB and Coleridge were his school-fellows; and was subsequently for some time in the office of an attorney; but he abandoned the study of the law to accept a place under government, which he held until the establishment of the Examiner, by himself and his brother, in 1809. The Examiner was violent in its politics, and was for many years conducted with great ability and success. HUNT was several times prosecuted by the government, and was imprisoned two years in the Surrey jail for a libel on the Prince Regent. He covered the walls of his cell with garlands, however, and wrote as industriously as ever. It was while a prisoner that he composed The Feast of the Poets, The Descent of Liberty, and The Story of Rimini. It was in this period, also, that he became acquainted with Lord ByRoN. He has been censured, and I think justly, for his conduct towards the noble poet, respecting whose faults gratitude might have made him silent, for ByRoN had been a liberal friend when his friendship was serviceable to him.
In 1816 HUNT established The Reflector, a quarterly magazine; afterward, in conjunction with Shelley and By RoN, The Liberal, and, with HAzlitt, The Round Table. He also published in weekly numbers The Indicator and The Companion, two of the most delightful series of essays in the English language. In the preface to the last edition of these papers he tells us that they “were written during times of great trouble with him, and helped him to see much of that fair play between his own anxieties and his natural cheerfulness, of which an indestructible belief in the good and the beautiful has rendered him perhaps not undeserving.” In 1840 he published a selection of his contributions to various periodicals under the title of The Seer, or Common-Places Refreshed, “to show that the more we look at any thing in this beautiful
and abundant world with a desire to be pleased with it, the more we shall be rewarded by the loving Spirit of the universe with discoveries which await only the desire.” His other principal prose writings are Critical Essays on the Performers of the London Theatres, and Recollections of Lord Byron and some of his Contemporaries. The best of HUNT's poems is The Story of Rimini. In the edition of his Poetical Works published by Moxon in 1844, it is much altered: the morality is improved, and the catastrophe is conformed to history. Besides this and the other poems to which I have alluded, he has written Hero and Leander, The Palfrey, Captain Sword and Captain Pen, Blue Stocking Revels or the Feast of Violets, The Legend of Florence, Miscellaneous Poems, and a volume of Translations. One of HUNT's most apparent characteristics is his cheerfulness. His temperament is obviously mercurial. His fondness for the gayer class of Italian writers indicates a sympathy with southern buoyancy not often encountered in English poetry. His versification
is easy and playful; too much so, indeed, for
imposing effect. He seems to have written generally under the inspiration of high animal spirits. His sentiment is lively and tender, rather than serious and impressive. The reviewers have censured him with rather too much severity for occasional affectations. With a few exceptions on this score his Story of Rimini is a charming poem. The Legend of Florence, written at a later period, is one of the most original and captivating of modern plays. Many of his Epistles glow with a genial humour and spirit of fellowship which betray fine social qualities. He lives obviously in his affections, and cultivates literature with refined taste rather than with lukewarm assiduity. HUNT's intimacy with SHELLEY and KrArs is well known to every one acquainted with the lives of those great poets. He is still, as in earlier days, a general favourite in society, and has more and warmer personal friends than almost any other literary man in England. 194
FROM THE LEGEND OF FLORENCE.
AGOLANTI AND his LADY.
Ix all except a heart, and a black shade Of superstition, he is man enough Has a bold blood, large brain, and liberal hand As far as the purse goes; albeit he likes The going to be blown abroad with trumpets. Nay, I won't swear he does not love his wife As well as a man of no sort of affection, Nor any domestic tenderness, can do so. He highly approves her virtues, talents, beauty : Thinks her the sweetest woman in all Florence, Party, because she is, partly, because She is his own, and glorifies his choice; And therefore he does her the honour of making her The representative and epitome Of all he values, public reputation, Private obedience, delighted fondness, Grateful return for his unamiableness, Love without bounds, in short, for his self-love: And as she finds it tifficult, poor soul, To pay such reasonable demands at sight With the whole treasure of her heart and smiles, The gentleman takes pity on—himself! Looks on himself as the most unresponded to And unaccountably ill-used bad temper In Tuscany; rages at every word And look she gives another; and fills the house With miseries, which, because they ease himself And his vile spleen, he thinks her bound to suffer; And then finds malice in her very suffering !
... And yet, observe now :—
Such is poor human nature, at least such
A DOMESTIC SCENE.
.4 chamber hung with purple, and containing a cabinet picto re of the Madonna, but other trise little furnished. -**alanti is here alone, until the entrance of Ginerra, or hole he is speaking, upon rhich he closes the door orer the parture, hands her a chair, and adjusts another for himself, but continues to stand. Ago. Every way she opposes me, even with arms Of peace and love. I bade remove that picture From this deserted room. Can she have had it Brought back this instant, knowing how my anger, Just though it be, cannot behold unmoved The face of suffering heaven 1 O, artifice In very piety : "Twere piety to veil it From our discourse, and look another way. Gin. (Cheerfully.) The world seems glad after its hearty drink Of rain. I fear'd, when you came back this morning, The shower had stopp'd you, or that you were ill. Ago. You fear'd you hoped. What fear you that I fear, Or hope for that I hope for 1 A truce, madam, To these exordiums and pretended interests, Whose only shallow intent is to delay, Or to divert, the sole dire subject, me. Soh! you would see the spectacle! you, who start
At openings of doors and falls of pins.