An English Literary Cousin

PERHAPS every reader of Hawthorne’s Old Home will remember his delightfully unscrupulous appropriation of Leigh Hunt as a sort of stray American, with whom it behooved him to fraternize. “There was not an English trait in him from head to foot, morally, intellectually, or physically,” wrote our willful romancer: “beef, ale or stout, brandy or port-wine, entered not at all into his composition. ... It was on account of the fineness of his nature generally that the English appreciated him no better, and left this sweet and delicate poet poor and with scanty laurels, in his declining age. It was not, I think, from his American blood that Leigh Hunt derived either his amiability or his peaceful inclinations; at least, I do not see how we can reasonably claim the former quality as a national characteristic, though the latter might have been fairly inherited from his ancestors on the mother’s side, who were Pennsylvania Quakers. But the kind of excellence that distinguished him — his fineness, subtilty, and grace — was that which the richest cultivation has heretofore tended to develop in the happier examples of American genius, and which, though I say it reluctantly, is perhaps what our future intellectual advancement may make general among us. His person, at all events, was thoroughly American, and of the best type, as were also his manners; for we are the best as well as the worst mannered people in the world.”

It goes toward the confirmation of Hawthorne’s theory that Benjamin West, the painter, who married one of Leigh Hunt’s relatives, once told him that, meeting himself or any of his brothers on the street, and knowing naught of them, he should unhesitatingly have pronounced them Americans.

This lost compatriot of ours, then, this literary changeling, was born at Southgate, in Middlesex, one hundred years ago this month,— October 19, 1784. Like Emerson, he was descended from an ancestry of clergymen, and from venturesome people who left their homes for the New World. His father’s father was rector of Bridge Town, Barbadoes. His father, a Tory in politics, who afterwards found it safer to return to the mother country, took his degrees in New York and in Philadelphia, where he married the daughter of Stephen Shewell, a merchant of that city, and a friend of Franklin and Thomas Paine.

James Henry Leigh Hunt, a namesake of his father’s favorite pupil, was the youngest of a large family, “ all of whom inherited the knack of making sacrifices for the sake of principle.” “ I call myself,” he said, “ in every sense, etymological not excepted, a son of mirth and melancholy : for my father’s Christian name (as old students of onomancy would have heard with serious faces) was Isaac, which is Hebrew for laughter ; and my mother’s was Mary, which comes from a word in the same language signifying bitterness. And indeed, as I do not remember to have seen my mother smile, save in sorrowful tenderness, so now my father’s shouts of laughter are ringing in my ears.” A shy, sensitive, introspective child, he was sent to Christ’s Hospital in 1792, and distinguished himself straightway, despite his gentleness, by successfully defending a small berated boy from abuse, and by resisting the system of “ fagging ” with indomitable perseverance, even to the extent of bearing a nightly punishment. Leigh Hunt, all his life, save in one very excitable period of his early manhood, was anything but combative ; yet his mettle never failed him when the need came for action. His schoolfellow, Barnes, afterwards sub-editor of the Times, seems to have been at that time his chosen companion. They went together along the Hornsey fields, shouting Metastasio’s

“ Scendi propizia
Col tuo splendore,”

or resting on their oars at Richmond, to call vociferously on the spirit of Thomson to “ rest.” It is worth remembering that it was this same genial Barnes who, when asked later by a silly woman whether he liked children, sententiously answered, “ Yes, ma’am. Boiled.”

Leigh Hunt left the blue-coat school as first Deputy Grecian, in the same rank, at the same age, and for the same reason as his predecessor, Charles Lamb. The slight stammer in his speech (which he afterwards overcame) took away his chance of success in making a valedictorian address in public; and since Grecians were all expected to go into the church, there also it stood against him. So plunging at once into the profane state, he began writing comedies, tragedies, farces, and odes and pastorals ; after the fashion of Spenser, Pope, and Goldsmith. What darts of raillery his elder hand, in the Autobiography, threw at these boyish glories !

An incident of Hunt’s early youth reveals his exceeding proneness to deliberation and leisurely fancy. He had gone out in a little decked skiff on the Isis, with a friend ; he had fastened the sail-line, thrust his feet into a small opening, and placidly betaken himself to reading. The wind suddenly arose, and, so caught, over went the skiff, the bookish mariner fastened to it. Worst of all, the sail-line got tangled about his neck. Now, in this imminent danger, which his comrade escaped, and from which he was at length rescued by Oxonians, started the diverting mental reflection that he, Leigh Hunt, was about to nullify an ancient and respectable proverb which averred that a man born to be hanged would never be drowned, as he was likely to suffer both ways! The coherence of that under-water speculation was worthy of Shelley.

He retained, to record it over sixty years after, a ludicrous reminiscence of Boyer, the famous Christ’s Hospital master, and of a luckless pupil who read badly, drawled, and forgot his periods. The victim is supposed to stand before the awful Boyer, holding the text-book, Dialogues between a Missionary and an Indian, and casting an eye over the corner of the page towards the locality whence blows are to proceed. Here is Leigh Hunt’s narration : —

Master. Now, young man, have a care, or I ’ll set you a swingeing task. [A common phrase of his.]

“Pupil. [Making a sort of heavy bolt at his calamity, and never remembering the stop after the word missionary.] Missionary can you see the wind ?

“ [Master gives him a slap on the cheek.]

“Pupil. [Raising his voice to a cry, and still forgetting the stop.] Indian no !

Master. God’s-my-life, young man ! have care how you provoke me.

Pupil. [Always forgetting the stop.] Missionary how then do you know there is such thing ?

“ [Here a terrible thump.]

Pupil. [With a shout of agony.] Indian because I feel it! ”

“ The pity of it” may be evident, but the humor is irresistible.

At the time of Bonaparte’s threatened invasion, young Hunt belonged as volunteer to St. James’s regiment. In 1809. after a great deal of deliberation, no doubt, on the respective merits of a single life and its opposite, he married Miss Kent, the “Marian” of his charming verses. Mrs. Hunt, who died in 1857, had a notable talent for plastic art. She; was not handsome nor especially accomplished, and became, later, a hopeless invalid. But she had the brave virtues of reserve, endurance, and independence. Her wit was keen and quiet, like a rapier thrust. Byron, who did not admire her to excess, once complained to her at Pisa that Trelawney had been speaking slightingly of his morals. “ It is the first time, my lord,” was her laughing but caustic answer, “ that I have ever heard of them.” My lord never forgave her.

Leigh Hunt is known to the careless majority as the author of Abou Ben Adhem, and as the man who spent two years in Horsemonger Lane Jail, for a just if unsparing attack in The Examiner, on George IV., then prince regent. With his customary invincible cheerfulness, he made the best of a position sadly detrimental to his prospects and his health. His wife and children being allowed to join him, he hung the doors of his cell with garlands, covered the walls with prints, casts, and hangings, sent for a piano, “and lived, despite the king’s attorney-general, in a bower; ” even planting an apple-tree near his window, out of which he managed to eke a pudding the second year: typifying, in smiling quaintness, said Richard Hengist Horne, the sweetness and bitterness, the constraint and gay-heartedness, of his whole life beside. Long after he recalled the two among his keepers who were kind to him, and instanced the exquisite delicacy of the jailer’s wife, who, obliged to secure the doors against her prisoner at night, was only once caught doing it, so softly had she turned the key, for fear of distressing him. He notes also that to his imprisonment he owed his friend of friends, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who, knowing him but lightly before, now wrote to him, making him a princely offer, of which, however, he would not avail himself. Once liberated, Leigh Hunt and his brother John, who had been implicated with him, continued to edit The Examiner ; “ H. R. H.,” as the more brilliant of the two wrote, “still affecting us with anything but solemnity, as we took care to manifest.”

It is not here intended to follow the events of Hunt’s career, nor to chronicle in due order the journals that he edited, nor the delightful books that he made. He was all his life friend and abettor to men of genius ; exceedingly personal andunreserved with his “gentle reader,” he talked of them and to them in public, with a gracious word for those who died prematurely, like Egerton Webbe, and whose morning was rich in promise. His love and comprehension of early English literature ran over like a generous fountain, and chapter after chapter from his pen treated of Chaucer, of the Elizabethan poets, of the wonderful wit of Congreve, Farquhar, Pope, and Atterbury ; of the actors and musicians of his own day ; of the enchanting lore of Persia and Greece and old Italy. He was always studying and planning, in his tranquil way, taking infinite pains to attest the slightest fact which he put forth, and doing a vast amount of excellent work under painful circumstances and in face of changeless opposition ; battling, too, with the rancorous and coarse abuse of Quarterly and Blackwood criticism, such as is fortunately obsolete now, and out of all adequate conception. “It was nothing to revile Hunt’s opinions, his writing, his public conduct,” says a living author; “his private and dearest relationships, his very person and habits, were made subjects of attack, and under the wildest misconception in regard to them all.” Rumor announced him as a rash speculator in the money-market: “ I who was never in a market of any kind.”he cries, “ but to buy an apple or a flower.” A more amusing instance of this false interpretation, which pursued Hunt wherever he went, — a “sample of the fantastical nature of scandal,” as he called it, — is given in the anecdote of Wordsworth, who, when asked his opinion of the young Whig editor (before having met him), said that he had nothing against him save that he was badly given to swearing! Now Hunt, as a child, had been bred into an intense abhorrence of violent words. Once he got into a corner, quite by himself, to indulge in the forbidden novelty, and thereafter endured awful pricks of conscience when patted approvingly on the head, each caress forcing him to soliloquize in the depths of his small troubled spirit, “ How little they know that I am the boy who said ‘D—n it!’” Hunt had occasion, many years later, to send for Theodore Hook’s acceptance a certain sketch, which for absolute accordance with the characters introduced needed a few light oaths, and begged hard, pleading the practice of the honest old English writers, for their insertion ; Hook, on his editorial virtue, persistently refusing, put the would-be swearer into a singular predicament. Wordsworth had probably heard of the incident in some perverted shape. Subsequently to the “fearful joy ” snatched in the corner, it so chanced that an oath never escaped Leigh Hunt’s lips; although he hoped no good fellow would think less of him for it, and promised, in that contingency, immediately to begin swearing, purely to vindicate his character.

Hawthorne, who had a strong spiritual kinship with Leigh Hunt, and who looked upon him, in their very brief intercourse with anointed eyes, as it were, divined at a glance his penetration and his constitutional love of praise. How easily and gracefully he took true homage of any sort we know from Mary Cowden Clarke, who as a young child in her father’s house crept around to the sofaback, where Leigh Hunt’s hand was resting, to kiss it softly and shyly, and steal away, while her idol, with a nod and smile to his little votary, tossed his lithe foot to and fro, and went on with his vivacious talk. Any reader of Mrs. Carlyle’s Letters will remember a ludicrous evidence of the same old passion concerning the young lady whom Hunt God-blessed and otherwise rewarded. It was, perhaps, a natural hunger in one who had ever been foremost with encouraging words, and who had himself suffered so much from harshness and malice. In any case, it was among the oddly winsome traits of his character.

Hunt’s humor exactly fitted Thackeray’s noble definition: wit and love. It was born of natural gladness of heart, of airy courtesy and assurance. Its sparkling wing flitted ever and anon over his earnest essays and along the windings of his musical verse, showing most of all, if we are to believe those who best knew him, in his everyday conversation. It was of the flavor which Suckling’s had once, and Carew’s; roguish always, and always humane. It runs into the delicious doggerel,—

“ Saint of sweethearts, Valentine !
Connubialest of clergymen;”

into the bantering preface of the Round Table, and into the choice of its topics ; into the triumphant dating of the Seer “ at our suburban abode, with a fire on one side of us, and a vine at the window on the other, this nineteenth day of October, one thousand eight hundred and forty, in the very green and invincible year of our life the fifty-sixth.” Hunt’s keenness enabled him to give epigrammatic expression, when he so willed it, to his criticism. He said of his friend, his “ splenetic but kindly philosopher, who worried himself to death over the good of nations,” —

“ Dear Hazlitt, whose tact intellectual is such
That it seems to feel truth, as pure matter of touch.”

He cites “ Spenser’s fine stanza, with its organ-like close. ” He stamps Rossini as “ the genius of animal spirits ; ” Händel as the “ wielder of choirs: his hallelujahs open the heavens. Wonderful! he utters, as if all their trumpets spake together.” “ There is champagne in the thought, of him,” is his disquisition on Thomas Moore. This deft touch, which he knew to be his, Leigh Hunt exercised in The Royal Line, where every English sovereign, down to George IV., is struck off to the life in a single rhyming pentameter.

It wras another of Hunt’s peculiarities to be ultra-liberal in his arguments. His principles were decided enough, and his instincts sure; but he had a constant leaning towards allowances, circumstances, considerations, which might further the very issue he was opposing. The faculty of over-refining which he deprecated in Coleridge was his own failing. He did not temporize with wrong; yet the ever-abiding spirit of gentleness and charity which was with him seemed to break the force of his scorn. To use a choice and expressive Saxon phrase, Leigh Hunt was not pigheaded. He lacked the victorious brute energy, the “ insolence of health,” as Hazlitt called it, which admits of no hesitancy, and clears its way straight to its end. His nature was too representative. Every possible bearing which a question might take appealed to him and deterred him. He had, as his son pointed out, a Hamlet-like deliberation, in which are yet elements of the finest wisdom and courage.

It was the habit of melancholy frankness with himself and faith in his own good meanings which served to make Leigh Hunt unusually sensitive. Nevertheless, the most admirable qualities in him, and those which best stood the test of nearly seventy years, were the generous simplicity, the utter tolerance and patience, which enabled him, after long annoyance, to waive an unlovely relationship, and to take, with affectionate hope, the hand of a contrite foe.

When Christopher North, who in bygone days had penned it of Hunt that “ to the mowling malice of the monkey he added the hissiness of the bill-pouting gander and the gobble-bluster of the bubbly-jock,” and a hundred fold more of such elegant Jocoseria, — when Christopher North atoned cordially and kindly for his treatment not only of Hunt, but of Shelley and John Keats (whom, in a certain sense, he “ hooted out of the world”), Hunt, without any airs of injured innocence, quietly accepted the proffered reparation, and spoke thereafter of his “ rich-writing Tory,” as if they had been friends from boyhood on. All this cost Hunt a pang, for he held the memory of Shelley and Keats jealously at heart. But his sense of honor forbade even the ghost of a resentment when the blade that had been lifted against them was surrendered to him in sorrow. Had he not, as Lord Houghton beautifully said, “ a superstition of good ” ? Was he not, as a celebrated associate also wrote of him, “ the visionary in humanity, the fool of virtue ? ” Under all obloquy, he confidently expected the righting of it, and viewed the change, when it came to pass, with calm content. It was as if Plato’s cavedweller fostered a life-long dream of sunshine and of moving crowds, glad with life; and, released from the darkness and the silence, walked without surprise through the hitherto invisible world, unjarred by all its mystery and wonder.

Nor was Leigh Hunt, “ the indomitable forgiver,” less ready to undo whatever wrong he might himself have done. He was not capable, willingly, of a momentary injustice. In Italy, he once saw a street procession, in which was a group of “ hideous-looking friars, whose cowls were drawn over the face, leaving only two holes for the eyes,” On the heels of the first depreciatory adjective follows the quick amendment: “ Or were they the brethren of the benevolent Order of the Misericordia ” (as they were), “ who disguise themselves only the more nobly to attend to any disaster that calls on them for aid ? If so, observe how people may be calumniated merely in consequence of a spectator’s ignorance.” The little forbearing touch and the inevitable deduction are, as we say in plain talk, Leigh Hunt all over. He reviewed past differences with the utmost mildness and candor, and with touching disregard of self. Indeed, the Autobiography is overloaded with conscience ; a “ religious book,” Carlyle called it. Whatever hastiness or resentment may have led Leigh Hunt to do or say, in the course of a long life, is canceled by the suppliant manliness of its pages. Right or wrong, he was alike sincere.

He was not a very good hater. Having, like that rare writer whom he liked to call his ancestor, “ no genius for disputes,” he could look suavely on his bitterest disagreements. Despising the regent as he did, and with the old grievances against him, Hunt could yet say of him, in one of his relenting moods, “ In some corner of the Elysian Fields, charity may have room for both of us.”

Leigh Hunt felt all cruelty as if he were the object of it. Lack of tenderness grieved him. His quarrels were those of humanity, and not his own. Although, in his proper words, might of any kind never astonished him so much that he could not discern in it what was not right, he was of necessity the apostle of peace, where peace could be had with honor. His main creed was that there is nothing finally potential but gentleness and persuasion, and nothing ultimately worth striving for here below but to see whom of all men shall be the kindest.

His thoughts led him, through partisan feeling, into a cheerful indifference : he looked, as the angry knights in the fable did not look, on the golden and on the silver side of the shield, and contended for neither. His life in jail was painfully dull ; he was suffering from poor health, insufficient comfort, and the loss of beloved liberty ; his life abroad was happy and comparatively affluent, permeated with new and intense enjoyments. Yet, in a maze of reasoning, and in a strict comparison of effects, seen and unseen, he could admit afterwards, “ I am sometimes in doubt whether I would rather be in prison or in Italy.” He tasted always the dregs of pleasure, and found comfort in apparently barren places.

Leigh Hunt’s friendship for Keats and Shelley brought him into undeserved reproach; but he never for an instant wavered in his allegiance to either of them Magazines of the Blackwood stamp looked on him as the arch-vagabond of the literary world, and on the two young poets, whose genius was greater than his own, as his meek and deluded disciples. Hunt was the herald and helper of John Keats : he introduced him to public notice before he had published a line ; he discerned the beauties of Endymion when its very name was drowned over England in hisses and sneers; he filled number after number of his journals with the same careful, discriminating, enthusiastic criticism of his young friend’s work as he would devote to the Faërie Queen itself. He kept Keats with him in his house, and watched mournfully the first symptoms of his physical decay. He delighted to associate himself with that “ monastic mind ” in writing a sonnet, or a review, or an essay. Most of all, he talked of him as he talked confidently to the public of everything he cherished, year after year. When the Memoir appeared, in which were chronicled Keats’ excusably petulant words that he once suspected both Shelley and Leigh Hunt of a desire to see him undervalued, the surviving friend, deeply wounded, could find nothing harsher to answer but that “ Leigh Hunt would as soon have wished the flowers or the stars undervalued, or his own heart that loved him.” Of Keats he wrote to the last with unvarying affection and admiration. He prized him for his “ line heart and his astonishing faculties ; ” not indeed, he adds, with his quaint candor, “ so dearly as Shelley, because that was impossible.”

In The Examiner, under Hunt’s editorship, Shelley had his first hearing. Their esteem for each other, even at its closest, was something impersonal and exalted. -Nothing pleased them more, in the Italian days, than utterly to confuse the limits of their material belongings. Hunt would appropriate indifferently a book or a dinner; and Shelley, with his childish air, would walk in upon the household arrayed in his friend’s most elaborate waistcoat. Keats’ last volume, which, after the memorable storm in the Bay of Spezia, was found open in Shelley’s pocket, belonged to Hunt, and was laid upon the funeral pyre and consumed. It was at this time, in 1822, that Hunt wrote to a correspondent, with a stoicism unconsciously plaintive, “ I have reason to be thankful that I have suffered so much during my life, as the habit makes endurance now more tolerable.” The final words which Leigh Hunt penned for the public were to correct a misapprehension in regard to Shelley ; the last letter he dictated had reference to him, and served a like purpose. He lived to see England intensely proud of the exile whom she had scorned. Hunt never lost his veneration for genius, however familiarly he walked with its outward self. Scarce any contemporary so well understood Landor, Coleridge, Hazlitt, and especially Charles Lamb. In and out of his bright intercourse with high minds ran a steady fibre of homage. He would have associated just as gracefully, just as reverently, with Marvell or Sir Thomas Browne. Yet he records with merriment how Shelley sailed his paper boats, or screwed his bright brown hair into “ horns,” to divert the children ; how Keats used to sit listening, clasping one foot over his knee, and how the title “Junkets,” a whimsical liaison of his names, was given to him because of his fairy-folk ; and how he, Hunt, in turn, became “ Leontius,” though “ Christian nomenclature knows none such.” Nothing more beautiful than Hunt’s friendliness for the author of Adonais and the subject of it can be found in the literary annals of the nineteenth century ; it was fellowship, and it was also a prophetic tribute of mind to mind.

What a judicious, discursive critic he was, with a flavor of sarcasm and dogmatism ever and anon in his beneficent pages ! Hunt, as James Hannay concisely put it, was a born taster. His sense of artistic propriety was unique. He was not afraid to be liberal, being sure of himself. He was an epicure at quotations, and the chief charm both of his style and his scholarship is that he knew and upheld the “ peerage of words,” the nobilities of English speech. Therefore it is that if Hunt is not popular, in the sense he wished, he has, at least, a choice circle perpetually about him. The lovers of “ the exhaustless world of books and art, of the rising genius of young authors, the immortal language of music, trees, and flowers, and the old memorial nooks of town and country,” are his friends.

Hunt was tall, erect, and slender, with the “ sweet and earnest look ” that Shelley notes. In his early manhood,

“ His face was like a summer night
All flooded with a dusky light,”

and sparkling with animation ; but in his declining years the gayety, save in his smile and in the occasional “ flashes of youth ” in his fine eyes, seemed to have died away ; and in its stead came the aspect of grave thoughtfulness which we see in the portrait prefixed to his latest book. He had undergone the combined attacks of melancholy and illhealth, but his step was always elastic and his chest ample. His head was handsomely shaped, and covered with rather straight, Indian-like black hair; Byron’s hats, as well as Keats’ and Shelley’s, were too small for him. Carlyle somewhere refers to his “ pretty little laugh, sincere and cordial ; his voice, with its ending musical warble (‘ chirl,’ we called it), which reminded one of singing-birds.”

It would have been better for Hunt, since his lines lay not in the planet Mercury, but in this rough-and-tumble world, had he been cast in a less delicate mould; unless we hold with Lowell that the infusion of “ some finer-grained stuff for a woman prepared ” is no drawback, and that Nature

“ Could not have hit a more excellent plan
For making him fully and perfectly man.”

Hunt’s preferences were after Evelyn’s own heart, and turned towards books and a garden. He was not too exacting ; he relished a page “ bethumbed horribly,” and found beauty in a toadstool. But he had little personal claim over any land or any library. He was doctor sine libris the greater part of his life; wretchedly poor from 1830 to 1840, and forced to sell his folios for the bare necessities of life.

“ Fair lover all his days of all things fair,”

none deserved better, by services, temperament, and generous habits, to be surrounded with luxuries, and to be blessed with some other revenue than his good spirits merely. Hazlitt understood his needs and their involved denials. “Leigh Hunt,” he said, conscious that he was speaking in a world where labor is the immutable law, “ ought to be allowed to play, sing, laugh, and talk his life away ; to patronize men of letters ; to write manly prose and elegant verse.” Not a tithe of such luck befell his sunny-hearted friend. The deprivations which Hunt could not lessen, he bore with philosophic serenity.

This brings us to a mention of his money matters, and to the question of Harold Skimpole. First and last, let it not be forgotten that Leigh Hunt would have been comparatively prosperous if his political opinions had accommodated themselves to the powers that be, as did those of several among his brother poets.

He was to some extent improvident, as his father, “ deeply acquainted with arrests,” had been before him. Of the vicissitudes of his own childhood the son wrote : “ We struggled on between quiet and disturbance, between placid readings and frightful knocks at the door, between sickness and calamity and hopes which hardly ever forsook us.” The younger Hunt had a sort of willful attachment to his inherited failing. He would almost have chosen to be poor, on the odd principle that it showed forth his friends clearly, and that it hindered his heart from being eaten up with the love of gain. “ I could not dabble in money business if I would,” he writes with fastidious directness, “ from sheer ignorance of the language.” Just as for his thrift and unspiritual shrewdness he disliked Franklin, whom he believed, with all his ability, to be merely at the head of those who think man lives by bread alone, so he rejoiced in Christmas time, for one reason, because Mammon was then suspended; and so he honored his elected saint, Francis of Assisi, because neither he nor his followers could be brought to handle the coin of the realm. Hunt was thoroughly impractical, and very willing to own it. He was full to the brim of what he himself called “ other worldliness,” and he knew it. Yet he spared no legitimate effort, not desperate, for his family’s sake. He was a persistent worker, busy with book and pencil even at the breakfast-table; but somehow the largesses never came, and he found it fitting to despise Mammon, since Mammon so unconscionably slighted him. While in prison, under a heavy fine, Leigh Hunt refused all aid, and his brother and himself paid the last farthing ; later, however, he learned to go a-borrowing. From Shelley he received regal help, which there was no obligation to return ; unless Jaffar and perfect fidelity to his memory more than discharged the debt. Happily, it was Shelley himself who wrote of Leigh Hunt that no man could so nobly give or take a benefit, though he ever conferred far more than he could receive.

Bounties, indeed, Hunt accepted from none other, save, long after, from Shelley’s widow and his heir, the present Sir Percy; and offerings, in the case of friends like these, lose their name, and are not to be considered.

Nothing monetary worried Hunt so much that he was not able to jest over it. It may have been at a time when he most lamented his “ handsome infirmity ” that he wrote, with boyish humor, to Mrs. Novello, “ Somebody in the world owes me tenpence. It’s a woman at Finchley. I bought twopenny worth of milk of her one day, to give a draught to Marianne ” (Mrs. Hunt), “ and she had n’t change; so I left a shilling with her, and cunningly said I should call. Now, I never shall call, improvident as you may think it; so that, upon the principle of compound interest, her great-grandchildren, or their great-great, or whichever great it is, will owe my posterity several millions of money. I mention this to give you a lively sense of the shrewdness experience has taught me.”

Thornton Hunt (the “ favorite child” of Lamb’s pretty poem) states that his father had a real incapacity to understand any subject when it was reduced to figures. It was a peculiarity of the system at Christ’s Hospital that a boy might grow to his fifteenth year in the grammar school without having learned the rudiments of arithmetic. So it chanced with Leigh Hunt; and in the decline of life he averred, with jocose penitence, that he had never known his multiplication table. When he went as a clerk to the war office, before the starting of The Examiner, he taught himself a small stock of mathematics, wisely calculated to last while he stayed there, and no longer, and which served him very well according to his intent. Again, in the preface to Lord Byron and his Contemporaries, he laments his bad habits of business and his sorry arithmetic. The shortcoming was a limitation of his mind ; as the French would say, one of the defects of his qualities. An idealist, a poet, and a

“scorner of the ground,” he dismissed the significance of seven times seven as an effete imposition.

All this is Harold Skimpole to the life. We can go further. The fantastic gentleman of Bleak House desires to lie upon the grass by the day, and declares that he was born to lie there, gazing tranquilly at the sky, and free of meaner obligations, eking out solace for any and all of his woes. Leigh Hunt, with his “ gay and ostentatious willfulness,” — has he no parallel to Mr. Skimpole’s rural unconcern ? “ In the midst of awful vexations, the sight of one open face, I could almost say of one green and quiet field, is enough to make me hope to the last. ... I could spend the rest of my life lodging above one of the bookseller’s shops on the Quai de Voltaire, where I might look over to the Tuileries, and have the Champs Elysées in my eye for an evening walk. . . . Oh, I wish we were all of us gypsies ! — I mean all of us who have a value for one another ; and that we could go, seeking health and happiness, without a care, up all the green lanes in England, half gypsy and half gentry, with books instead of peddlery.” Skim pole’s earnest and disinterested wishing his dues to the butcher, who in turn wishes that he had wished Skimpole the lamb in the same sense, and Skimpole’s reply that that could not be, as he, the butcher, possessed the meat, and he, the eater thereof, had not the money, are exquisitely funny to any one who knows Leigh Hunt, and who knows, moreover, that though Hunt never committed so palpable an absurdity, it was in him to make a like arch and innocent reply.

It is a pity to confess the casual reciprocity between an odious character in fiction and a man of such sane and upright temper as Leigh Hunt; and the admission, certainly, should never be made to those who do not understand, besides this irreconcilable difference between the two, Charles Dickens’s methods of appropriating remnants of real life for his novels, and the laws whereby the transferring of such material is fair and desirable. Dickens was a little piratical in this respect: he could not lose the chance of a favorable effect, even if the indulging of it sacrificed the memory of his not over-admirable parents. To him, Hunt offered extremely tempting oddities ; and for Hunt, at the same time, he had a cordial regard, which had been more than once proven. The whole affair became, ultimately, painful to all concerned ; but no grudge should stand now against the trusty and affectionate explanation of Dickens, given in All the Year Round, in 1859. Leigh Hunt’s “ animation, his sympathy with what was gay and pleasurable, his avowed doctrine of cultivating cheerfulness,” and his insisting on these traits with a “gay and ostentatious willfulness ” impressed Dickens as “ unspeakably whimsical and attractive : ” they furnished the airy element he wanted for the man of his tale ; and after taking them for his purpose, he showed proofs of the sketch to Hunt’s best friends, that they might alter whatever was too much like his “ way.” With all this careful manoeuvring, the public were bent on identifying Skimpole with Leigh Hunt. No one mistook that Arcadian carelessness, that inexpressibly engaging manner, even linked, as they were, with disagreeable sequences. Bleak House is written, and the excitement is over ; but there is the witchcraft of resemblance to be traced out. Alas, not every reader is so constituted as to realize that enjoyment of Mr. Skimpole is compatible with loyalty to Leigh Hunt.

Peace to his happy-hearted spirit! He bore much and outlived much, sustained by natural piety; he moved the “ world which neweth everie daie ” a little farther into the sun, as he had wished; and left helpful words to bespeak him to other generations. On August 29, 1859, he died ; and in Kensal Green, London, whither many of his family had preceded him, and towards which he looked often, in his solitary walks, with “ eyes at once most melancholy, yet consoled,” he was laid to rest.

Leigh Hunt deserves a memorial day to his name in his forgetful England. He deserves the bust in Westminster Abbey, which our Hawthorne awarded him, and which is yet among the possibilities of a marble quarry. He deserves homage, which were perhaps fittest, being unspoken, this hundredth anniversary of his birth. If he has none of these things in full measure,— for his was precisely the temperament which is apt ever to be misconstrued, — we may still assent to the general proposition that the verdict of Time is good ; and the fine scorn and the speculation we may keep to ourselves.

Louise Imogen Guiney.