1851 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Chandos Leigh

Leigh Hunt, in Autobiography of Leigh Hunt (1851) 1:35-36.



I have spoken of the Duke of Chandos, to whose nephew, Mr. Leigh, my father became tutor. Mr. Leigh, who gave me his name, was son of the duke's sister, Lady Caroline, and died a member of Parliament for Addlestrope. He was one of the kindest and gentlest of men, addicted to those tastes for poetry and sequestered pleasure, which have been conspicuous in his son, Lord Leigh; for all which reasons it would seem, and contrary to the usurping qualities in such cases made and provided, he and his family were subjected the other day to one of the most extraordinary charges that a defeated claim ever brought drunken witnesses to set up; no less than the murder and burial of a set of masons, who were employed in building a bridge, and whose destruction in the act of so doing was to bury both them and a monument which they knew of, for ever! To complete the romance of the tragedy, a lady, the wife of the usurper, presides over the catastrophe. She cries, "Let go," while the poor wretches are raising a stone at night-time, amidst a scene of torches and seclusion; and down goes the stone aided by this tremendous father and son, and crushes the victims of her ambition! She meant, as Cowley says Goliah did of David,

At once their murder and their monument.

If a charge of the most awful crimes could be dug up against the memories of such men as Thomson and Shenstone, or of Cowley, or Cowper, or the "Man of Ross," it could not have created more laughing astonishment in the minds of those who knew them, than such a charge against the family of the Leighs. Its present representative in the notes to his volume of poems, printed some years ago, quotes the "following beautiful passage" out of Fielding:

"It was the middle of May, and the morning was remarkably serene, when Mr. Allworthy walked forth on the terrace, where the dawn opened every minute that lovely prospect we have before described, to his eye. And now having sent forth streams of light which ascended to the firmament before him, as harbingers preceding his pomp, in the full blaze of his majesty up rose the sun; than which one object alone in this lower creation could be more glorious, and that Mr. Allworthy himself presented: a human being replete with benevolence, meditating in what manner he might render himself most acceptable to his Creator by doing most good to his creatures."

"This," adds the quoter," is the portrait of a fictitious personage; but I seen in it a close resemblance to one whose memory I shall never cease to venerate."

The allusion is to his father, Mr. Leigh.

But I must not anticipate the verdict of a court of justice. Indeed, I should have begged pardon of my noble friend for speaking of this preposterous accusation, did not the very excess of it force the words from my pen, and were I not sure that my own father would have expected them from me had he been alive to hear it. His lordship must accept them as an effusion of grateful sympathy from one father and son to another.

Lord Leigh has written many a tender and thoughtful verse, in which, next to the domestic affections and the progress of human kind, he shows that he loves above all things the beauties of external nature, and the tranquil pleasures they suggest.