1850 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Leigh Hunt

George Gilfillan, in Second Gallery of Literary Portraits (1850) 350-51.



Had Hunt been a less sincere and simple-minded person than he has been, he might, we think, have been quite as popular a writer as Thomas Moore. He has the "champagne" qualities of that writer, without, indeed, so many or such brilliant bubbles of wit and fancy upon the top — and has a world more of body, solidity, and truth. It is his assuming the fairy shape, that has made some (ourselves at one time included) to underrate his powers. But why did he assume it? Why did he, like the devils in Milton, shrink his stature to gain admission to the halls of Pandemonium? Why did he not rather, in dignified humility, wait without as he was till the great main door was opened, and till in full size and panoply he entered in, and sat down a giant among giants, a god amongst gods? In such figured language we convey our notion at once of Hunt's strength and weakness. He has been, partly owing to circumstances and partly to himself, little other than a glorious trifler. He has smiled, or lounged, or teased, or translated, away faculties which, with proper concentration and a perpetual view toward one single object, had been incalculably beneficial to the general progress of literature and of man.