1861 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Horace Smith

Charles Cowden Clarke, 1861; Recollections of Writers (1878) 132-33.



It was about this period that, going to call upon Mr. Leigh Hunt, who then occupied a pretty little cottage in the Vale of Health, on Hampstead Heath, I took with me two or three of the poems I had received from Keats. I could not but anticipate that Hunt would speak encouragingly, and indeed approvingly, of the compositions — written, too, by a youth under age; but my partial spirit was not prepared for the unhesitating and prompt admiration which broke forth before he had read twenty lines of the first poem. Horace Smith happened to be there on the occasion, and he was not less demonstrative in his appreciation of their merits. The piece which he read out was the sonnet, "How many Bards gild the Lapses of Time!" marking with particular emphasis and approval the last six lines:

So the unnumber'd sounds that evening store,
The songs of birds, the whisp'ring of the leaves,
The voice of waters, the great bell that heaves
With solemn sound, and thousand others more,
That distance of recognizance bereaves,
Make pleasing music, and not wild uproar.

Smith repeated with applause the line in italics, saying, "What a well-condensed expression for a youth so young!" After making numerous and eager inquiries about him personally, and with reference to any peculiarities of mind and manner, the visit ended in my being requested to bring him over to the Vale of Health.

That was a "red-letter day " in the young poet's life, and one which will never fade with me while memory lasts.