1803 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Leigh Hunt

Samuel Saunter, in The Port Folio [Philadelphia] 3 (28 May 1803) 169.



I wish to draw the deep regard of the patrons of genius, when I point to them, as a deserving object of patronage, JAMES HENRY LEIGH HUNT, a youth, of American origin, whose native powers, fostered by the discernment of his friends, invigorated by the discipline, and augmented by the lessons of an English seminary, have produced, during his puerile age, a variety of original poems, which in fertility of invention, brightness of imagination, and vivacity of expression, may be compared with many of the tardier productions of veteran wit.

From my excessive eagerness to investigate the history, and advance the claims of modest and retired Genius, I have devoted some hours, and proposed many queries, in my zeal of inquisitiveness to acquire information respecting this boy-bard. It seems that on the maternal side his stock is Philadelphian. During the convulsions of that revolution, which separated this country from its parent, his father, perhaps not less from resentment for the indignities he suffered from the ruder passion of the populace, than from the dictates of principle, and the sentiment of loyalty, migrated to Great Britain, where our author was born.

Whether from the negligence or necessities of his father it does not appear, but under the patronage of the Duke of Chandos, young Hunt was sent to the Grammar school of Christ's Hospital, and perhaps we may ascribe the high cultivation of his fertile talents, to the discerning munificence of his noble benefactor.

How well this infant genius repaid the kindness of the friend, and the care of his preceptor, was manifested by the earliest exercises of the boy. Many of his poems were composed prior to the age of twelve, and the whole, which have been lately collected, under the title of Juvenilia, were the productions of sixteen! This is, indeed, the "lumen purpureum juvenutis;" this is an example of the precocity of talents, which will remind the reader of the early expansion of the minds of Milton, Cowley, and Pope.