1862 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Leigh Hunt

Thomas Arnold, in A Manual of English Literature (1862; 1885) 441.



The artist Haydon, complaining of the presumptuous tone of the art-criticism, volunteered by Leigh Hunt, said that he was a man endowed "with a smattering of everything and mastery of nothing." There is much truth in the remark; this brilliant "old boy," the friend of Shelley and of Byron, could impart neither enough wit to his magazines, nor enough charm to his poems, to make them live. There was something both of Hood and Lamb in him; but he seems to have lacked the power and fibre of the one, the tenderness and profound humour of the other. Among his poems A Jar of Honey from Hybla, and the Story of Rimini, deserve special mention. His various magazines, the Examiner, the Indicator, the Liberal, &c., were financially, all failures; yet they contain the fruits of much keen observation and many clever criticisms, all written in a spirit of what is called advanced Liberalism. The character of Leigh Hunt, as "Mr. Skimpole," was drawn with cruel satire by his protege Charles Dickens in his story of Bleak House. Hunt died in his seventy-sixth year in 1859. His Autobiography, published a few months before his death, is a lively and instructive record of the experiences of a struggling life.