1817 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Leigh Hunt

John Gibson Lockhart, in "On the Cockney School of Poetry" Blackwood's Magazine 2 (October 1817) 39-40.



The poetry of Mr Hunt is such as might be expected from the personal character and habits of its author. As a vulgar man is perpetually labouring to be genteel — in like manner, the poetry of this man is always on the stretch to be grand. He has been allowed to look for a moment from the antichamber into the saloon, and mistaken the waving of feathers and the painted floor for the sine qua non's of elegant society. He would fain be always tripping and waltzing, and is sorry that he cannot be allowed to walk about in the morning with yellow breeches and flesh-coloured silk stockings. He sticks an artificial rosebud into his button hole in the midst of winter. He wears no neckcloth, and cuts his hair in imitation of the Prints of Petrarch. In his verses he is always desirous of being airy, graceful, easy, courtly, and ITALIAN. If he had the smallest acquaintance with the great demi-gods of Italian poetry, he could never fancy that the style in which he writes, bears any, even the most remote resemblance to the severe and simple manner of Dante — the tender stillness of the lover of Laura — or the sprightly and good-natured unconscious elegance of the inimitable Ariosto. He has gone into a strange delusion about himself, and is just as absurd in supposing that he resembles the Italian Poets as a greater Quack still (Mr Coleridge) is, in imagining that he is a Philosopher after the manner of Kant or Mendelshon — and that "the eye of Lessing bears a remarkable likeness to MINE," i.e. the eye of Mr Samuel Coleridge.