James Henry Leigh Hunt

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JAMES HENRY LEIGH (1784-1859) , essayist, critic, poet: b. Southgate, Middlesex; s. Isaac H., descendant from one of the oldest settlers in Barbadoes; an article in the “Examiner” on the savagery of military floggings led to a prosecution, 1811; after the acquittal Shelley sent from Oxford a sympathetic note of congratulation; he was put in prison at Surrey for an article which described, in very unflattering words, the real appearance and character of the regent; with his invincible cheerfulness he had the walls of the room papered with a trellis of roses, the ceiling painted with sky and clouds, the windows furnished with Venetian blinds, and an unfailing supply of flowers; he had books, busts and a pianoforte; he was not debarred from the society of his wife and friends; Charles Lamb declared there was no other such room, except in a fairy tale; Moore, a frequent visitor, brought Byron with him, and Hunt’s intimacy with Byron was thus begun, 1813; all through his imprisonment he edited the “Examiner”; left prison, 1815, and went to live at Hampstead, where Shelley was his guest, 1816; Charles Cowden Clarke introduced Keats to him, and Hunt was the means of bringing Keats and Shelley together for the first time; an article by Hunt on “Young Poets”, published in the “Examiner”, Dec. 1816, first made the genius of Shelley and Keats known to the public; Shelley often invited him and his wife to stay with him at Marlow in 1817; Shelley dedicated his “Cenci” to Hunt, 1819; Hunt dedicated “The Story of Rimini,” a poem, to Lord Byron, 1816, the greater part of it having been written in prison; the “Quarterly Review,” 1824, gave utterance, through the pen of Bulwer, to a generous recognition of the genius of Hunt; a new journal, “The Indicator”, in which some of his finest essays appeared, commenced in October, 1819, and his papers on literature, life, manners, morals and nature were all characterized by subtle and delicate criticisms, kindly cheerfulness, and sympathy with nature and art; in 1822 the Hunts sailed for Leghorn, where they were joined by Shelley, and removed to Pisa, Hunt and his family occupying rooms on the ground floor of Byron’s house there; Shelley was drowned July, 1822, and Hunt wrote the epitaph for his tomb; Hunt traveled to Genoa, 1822, to Florence, 1823, and returned to England two years later; in 1840 Hunt’s fine play in five acts, “A Legend of Florence”, was brought out at Covent Garden Theatre; during its first season it was witnessed two or three times by the queen, and enjoyed a deserved success; it was revived ten years later at Sadler’s Wells, and in 1852 was performed at Windsor Castle by her majesty’s command; his “The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt, with Reminiscences of Friends and contemporaries”, brought out in 1850, was reckoned by Carlyle as only second to Boswell’s “Life of Johnson”; he was, perhaps, the best teacher in English literature of the contentment which flows from a recognition of everyday joys and blessings; he was as pure-minded a man as ever lived; Hawthorns, Emerson, Lytton, Macauley, Thackeray and Lord Houghton were his friends.

MLA Source Citation:

Seaver, J. Montgomery. Hunt Family Records. American Historical-Genealogical Society. 1929. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 1 February 2015. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/genealogy/james-henry-leigh-hunt.htm - Last updated on Mar 16th, 2013



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