1850 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Hayley

Leigh Hunt, in Autobiography of Leigh Hunt (1850) 1:266.



He had been brought up in the courtesies of the old school of manners, which he ultra-polished and rendered caressing, after the fashion of my Arcadian friends of Italy; and as the poetry of the Triumphs of Temper was not as vigorous in style as it was amiable in its moral and elegant in point of fancy, I chose to sink his fancy and his amiableness, and to represent him [in Feast of the Poets] as nothing but an effeminate parader of phrases of endearment and pickthank adulation. I looked upon him as a sort of powder-puff of a man, with no real manhood in him, but fit only to suffocate people with his frivolous vanity, and be struck aside with contempt. I had not yet learned, that writers may be very "strong" and huffing on paper, while feeble on other points, and vice versa, weak in the metres, while they are strong enough as regards muscle. I remember my astonishment, years afterward, on finding that the "gentle Mr. Hayley," whom I had taken for "A puny insect, shivering at a breeze," was a strong-built man, famous for walking in the snow before daylight, and possessed of an intrepidity as a horseman amounting to the reckless. It is not improbable, that the feeble Hayley, during one of his equestrian passes, could have snatched up the "vigorous" Gifford, and pitched him over the hedge into the next field.