LEIGH HUNT was the son of a clergyman of the Church of England, and was born at Southgate, in Middlesex, Oct. 19th, 1784. Like Coleridge and Lamb, he was educated at Christ's Hospital, and chiefly under the same grammar-master, and, like Lamb, he was prevented from going to the University (which, on the Christ's Hospital foundation, is understood to imply going into the Church) by an impediment in his speech, which, however, he had the better luck to outgrow. At school, as afterwards, he was remarkable for exuberance of animal spirits, and for passionate attachment to his friends, but did not evince any great regard for his studies, except when the exercises were in verse. His prose themes were so bad that the master used to crumple them up in his hand, and throw them to the boys for their amusement. Animal spirits, a power of receiving delight from the commonest every-day objects, as well as remote ones, and a sort of luxurious natural piety, if I may so speak, are the prevailing influences of Mr. Hunt's writings. His friend Hazlitt used to say of him, in allusion to his spirits, and to his family stock (which is from the West Indies), that he had "tropical blood in his veins."
"He has been an ardent politician in his time, and has suffered in almost every possible way for opinions which, whether right or wrong, he has lived to see, in a great measure, triumph. Time and suffering, without altering them, we understand, have blunted his exertions as a partisan, by showing him the excuses common and necessary to all men, but the zeal which he has lost as a partisan he no less evinces for the advancement of mankind."
These passages are contained in a letter addressed to me by Leigh Hunt in 1838, and were notes for a biography I wrote of him in the "Book of Gems." His ancestors, who originally "hailed " from Devonshire, were, on the father's side, Tories and Cavaliers who fled from the tyranny of Cromwell, and settled in Barbadoes. His grandmother was "an O'Brien, and very proud of her descent from Irish kings." At the outbreak of the American Revolution, his father, for the zeal he displayed in his speeches and writings on the Royalist side, became obnoxious to the popular party. He was dragged out of his house, and after having narrowly escaped being tarred and feathered, was carried to prison, but was enabled to escape by a heavy bribe to one of the sentinels who guarded him, and getting on board a ship in the Delaware, made his way to Barbadoes, and thence to England. By his loyalty a very considerable landed estate was lost to his family. He ultimately, however, became a Republican and a "Universalist, a sect that believed all mankind, and even the demons, would be eventually saved." After some time practising as a lawyer in Philadelphia, he "emigrated" to England, and entered the Church, having wedded a lady of Pennsylvania against the consent of her father, "a stern merchant." "She had Quaker breeding," and although of a proverbially "fierce race" — the Shewells — she was meek, kindly, and Christian; and from her, no doubt, the poet derived much of the gentle urbanity and generous sympathy that were essential features in his character. To her, also, he traces a "constitutional timidity "that" often perplexed him through life; "it is not so much seen in his books as it was in his conversation and conduct. This characteristic was noticed by many, who wondered that so "mild" a person should have embarked on the stormy sea of politics, and have become a fierce partisan of the pen.
His father, not long after he made his home in England, took orders, and became tutor to the nephew of the Duke of Chandos, whose name was Leigh, after whom he called his latest-born, who was nine years younger than the youngest of his brothers, of whom there were several. His father had the spiritual cure of Southgate; and there, Leigh Hunt writes, "I first saw the light." Southgate was then "lying out of the way of innovation," with a pure sweet air of antiquity about it, on the border of Enfield Chase, and in the parish of Edmonton. The house is yet standing, and I have engraved it. The neighbourhood retains much of its peculiar character; it has still "an air of antiquity;" of old houses and ancient trees many yet remain; the forest is, indeed, gone, but modern "improvements" have but little spoiled the locality.
In 1792 he entered Christ's Hospital. For eight years he toiled there, bareheaded all that time, save now and then when "he covered a few inches of pericranium with a cap no bigger than a crumpet." Here, however, he obtained a scholarship, under the iron rule of the hard taskmaster of whom something has been said in the Memory of Coleridge. No doubt much of the after-tone of his mind was derived from his long residence in the heart of a great city, and to it may be traced not only his love of streets, but his love of flowers — his luxuries at every period of his life. He was grateful to the Hospital for having "bred him up in old cloisters," for the friendships he formed there, and for the "introductions it gave him to Homer and to Ovid." In 1802 his father published a volume of his verses under the title of "Juvenilia," of which the poet in his maturity grew ashamed. For some time he was "in the law-office of his brother Stephen." Gradually he drew in, and gave out, knowledge. He next obtained a clerkship in the War Office, which he relinquished when he became a political writer, — first in a weekly paper called The News, and afterwards in the Examiner. He was, by profession, a Man of Letters, working with his pen for his daily bread, and "becoming, all at once, a critic of authors, actors, and artists."
In 1808, the two brothers, John and Leigh, "set up" "the Examiner, the main objects of which were (as Leigh states in his Autobiography) to assist in producing Reform in Parliament, liberality of opinion in general (especially freedom from superstition), and a fusion of literary taste into all subjects whatsoever."
They soon made it popular, but had to pay a penalty for the freedom of speech that was then, even in its mildest tones, a crime in England. They were tried and sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and a fine of £1,000 for a libel on the Prince of Wales, and they remained in different prisons until the 3rd of February, 1815, John at Coldbath Fields, and Leigh in Surrey Gaol, where, however, he was allowed to have his wife (he had married in 1809) and his children with him, and in various other ways his incarceration was made comparatively light; for here he had many admiring and sympathising visitors, among them Byron, Moore, Maria Edgeworth, Haydon, and Wilkie.
It has been too generally thought that in the case of this libel the punishment greatly exceeded the offence. Making due allowance for the difference between "now and then," it would not seem so; for perhaps no libel more bitter was ever printed. If the Prince had been a grazier, he would have obtained the protection he claimed from a jury of his countrymen; and if the author had written of the grazier in terms such as he wrote of the Prince, he must have accepted the issue. Here is the marrow of it: there can be no harm in reprinting, to condemn it, half a century and more since it was written. Hunt was commenting upon an article of gross adulation of the Prince in the Morning Post: — "Who would have imagined that this 'Adonis in loveliness' was a corpulent gentleman of fifty; in short, that this delightful, blissful, wise, pleasurable, honourable, virtuous, true, and immortal prince was a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without one single claim on the gratitude of his country, or the respect of posterity?"
The visit of Leigh Hunt to Lord Byron, and its result in the publication of The Liberal: Verse and Prose from the South, forms part of the literary history of the epoch. In May, 1822, at Byron's request, Hunt left England for Leghorn, where, in July, he found his attached friend Shelley, a very few days before the terrible death of that greatly-gifted man of genius. The sad event changed the after-destiny of Leigh Hunt. Byron seems to have liked him but little; their elements could no more have mingled than fire and oil. Their intercourse did not last long. One of the consequences much impaired the reputation of Leigh Hunt. The volume "Byron and his Contemporaries" was a serious error. Leigh Hunt could no more comprehend Byron than Byron could understand and appreciate Leigh Hunt.
[Author's note: I find this description of Shelley in one of the letters written to me by Leigh Hunt: — "Shelley was tall and slight of figure, with a singular union of the general delicacy of organisation and muscular strength. His hair was brown, prematurely touched with grey; his complexion fair and glowing; his eyes grey and extremely vivid; his face small and delicately features, especially about the lower part; and he had an expression of countenance, when he was talking in his usual earnest fashion, giving the idea of something 'seraphical.'" Hazlitt said "he looked like a spirit." In the same letter occurs this sketch of his friend Keats: — "Keats was under the middle size, and somewhat large above, in proportion to his lower limbs, which, however, were neatly formed; and he had anything in his dress and general demeanour but that appearance of levity which has been strangely attributed to him in a late publication. In fact, he had so much of the reverse, though in no unbecoming degree, that he might be supposed to maintain a certain jealous care of the appearance and bearing of a gentleman, in the consciousness of his genius, and perhaps not without some sense of his origin. His face was handsome and sensitive, with a look in the eyes at once earnest and tender; and his hair grew in delicate brown ringlets of remarkable beauty."]
On his return from the "sunny South," Hunt went to live at Highgate. The sylvan scenery of the London suburb refreshed him; he luxuriated in the natural wealth of the open heath, the adjacent meadows, and the neighbouring woods. The walk across the fields from Highgate to Hampstead, with ponds on one side and Caen Wood on the other, used to be "one of the prettiest in England;" and he says of the fairest scenes in Italy, "I would quit them all for a walk over the fields from Hampstead." He had, indeed, long loved the locality. Before he left England he had dwelt in a pretty cottage at Hampstead; it is still standing, and but little altered. The accompanying engraving will show that it remains — fit dwelling for a poet: as, indeed, it still is, for a poet now inhabits the place, which is hallowed to him by a memory of his predecessor. Shelley went often to visit Leigh Hunt there, delighting in the natural broken ground, and in the fresh air of the place, which "used to give him an intoxication of animal spirits." Here he swam his paper-boats in the pond, and played with children; and to that house Shelley brought at midnight a poor woman, a forlorn sister, whom he had found in a fit on the heath, and whom he thus saved from death.
Leigh Hunt, when I knew most of him, was living at Edwardes Square, Kensington, in a small house, on restricted means. All his life long his income was limited; it is, indeed, notorious that he was put to many "shifts " to keep the wolf from the door. "His whole life," says his son, "was one of pecuniary difficulty." No doubt he had that lack of prudence which is so often one of the heavy drawbacks of genius — one of the penalties that nature exacts as a set-off against the largest and holiest of her gifts. It may not, and perhaps ought not, to be admitted as an excuse in bar of judgment; the world is not bound to make allowances for those struggles of the mind, heart, and soul with poverty, which not unfrequently seem to have discreditable issues, and usually bear Dead-Sea fruit. There have been many men of genius who would suffer the extreme of penury rather than borrow-such, for example, as I have elsewhere shown, was Thomas Moore, to whom the purses of wealthy and high-born friends were as sacred as the Crown-jewels but men of letters are for the most part less scrupulous. To some it seems venial, to others little else than a practical illustration of the text, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," and a belief that God makes almoners of those He enriches with overabundance. Such ideas, however, are opposed to the views of society. Undoubtedly they lower the intellectual standard, and debase the mind. Self-respect can rarely exist without independence; yet, to quote the words of a kindred spirit — unhappy Will Kennedy — "if pecuniary embarrassments be a crime, then are the records of genius a Newgate Calendar."
I do not mean the reader to infer that either privately or publicly there is aught dishonourable to lay to the charge of Leigh Hunt. "Who art thou that judgest another?" But it is certain that his applications to friends for pecuniary aids were frequent, and may have been wearisome. Of such friends he had many. Among the most generous of them was that good man, Horace Smith.
Surely the lines of Cowley apply with emphatic force to Hunt:—
Business — the frivolous pretence
Of human lusts to cast off innocence!
Business — the thing that I of all things hate!
Business — the contradiction of my fate!
The truth is that, like many men of his order, he never knew the value of money.
He was very generous, and certainly thoughtless, in giving. No reckless extravagance is laid to his charge; his habits were the very opposite to those of a spendthrift; he was utterly indifferent to what are called "the luxuries of life." Simple in his "ways," temperate almost to the extreme, his "feasts" were with the poets, his predecessors, and the table was always well furnished that was covered with books.
I have treated this subject with some hesitation, and perhaps should have abstained from it altogether, but that I find the son of the poet writing thus:—
"The plan of working, the varied and precarious nature of the employments, an inborn dulness of sense as to the lapse of time, conspired to produce a life in which the receipt of handsome earnings alternated with long periods that yielded no income at all. In these intervals credit went a long way, but not far enough. There were gaps of total destitution in which every available source had been absolutely exhausted." "At this juncture," he continues, "appeals were made for assistance, sometimes with and sometimes without the knowledge of Leigh Hunt, and they were largely successful."
In 1844, Sir Percy Shelley, the son of the poet, succeeded to the title and estates of his grandfather, and one of his earliest acts (under the suggestion of his mother, Mary Wolstoncroft Shelley) was to settle on Leigh Hunt and on his wife, in the event of her surviving him, an annuity of £120; and in 1847 he was placed on the Pension-list, and received, "in consideration of his distinguished literary talents," a pension of £200 a year. Lord John Russell, in conveying this boon to him, adds, "The severe treatment you received, in times of unjust persecution of liberal writers, enhances the satisfaction with which I make this announcement." Thus in his old age the comforter came to his home, and the "pecuniary difficulties" that had haunted his whole life were no longer felt, — should not have been so, perhaps I ought to say, for I believe pecuniary difficulties were never "entirely removed" from him until he was in his shroud.
That there were fine points in the character of Leigh Hunt all who knew him admitted: foremost among them was his love of Truth. In one of his letters to me he writes: — "I would rather be considered a hearty loving nature than anything else in the world, and if I love truth, as I do, it is because I love an apple to be thought an apple, and a hand a hand, and the whole beauty and hopefulness of God's creation a truth instead of a lie." He was justified in saying of himself that he had "two good qualities to set off against many defects" — that he was "not vindictive and spoke the truth," although it may have been with him, as he said it was with his friend Hazlitt, "however genuine was his love of truth, his passions may have sometimes led him to mistake it."
Charles Lamb, who dearly loved him, describes his "mild dogmatism" and his "boyish sportiveness;" and Hazlitt writes of him thus: — "In conversation he is all life and animation, combining the vivacity of the schoolboy with the resources of the wit and the taste of the scholar." Of him Haydon the painter said this: — "You would have been burnt at the stake for a principle, and you would have feared to put your foot in the mud." Even Byron, who "hated him without a cause," and whose hatred seemed the birth of self-reproach, proclaimed him to be "a good man."
But, to my thinking, the best testimony to the character of Leigh Hunt is that which was borne to it by Lord Lytton, an author who has perhaps had more power to circulate bitter things, and shoot poisoned arrows at his brethren of the pen, than most men, yet who, I believe, has said of them more generous and "helping" things and fewer bitter things than any man living. This character occurs in a review of Leigh Hunt's poetry in the New Monthly Magazine, 1833. It is anonymous, but I can do no wrong in stating that Lord Lytton was the writer: — "None have excelled him in the kindly sympathies with which, in writing of others, he has softened down the asperities and resisted the caprices common to the exercise of power. In him the young poet has ever found a generous encourager, no less than a faithful guide. None of the jealousy or the rancour ascribed to literary men, and almost natural to such literary men as the world has wronged, has gained access to his true heart, or embittered his generous sympathies. Struggling against no light misfortunes and no common foes, he has not helped to retaliate upon rising authors the difficulty and the appreciation which had burdened his own career. He has kept undimmed and unbroken, through all reverses, that first requisite of a good critic — a good heart."
I knew but little of Leigh Hunt when he was in his prime. I had met him, however, more than once, soon after his return from Italy, when he recommenced a career of letters which he had been induced to abandon, trusting to visionary hopes in the aid he was to derive from familiar intercourse with Byron. He was tall, but slightly formed, quiet and contemplative in gait and manner, yet apparently affected by momentary impulse; his countenance brisk and animated, receiving its expression chiefly from dark and brilliant eyes, but supplying unequivocal evidence of that mixed blood which he derived from the parent stock, to which his friend Hazlitt alluded in reference to his flow of animal spirits as well as to his descent, "he had tropical blood in his veins." His son Thornton (Cornhill Magazine) describes him "as in height about five feet ten inches, remarkably straight and upright in his carriage, with a firm step and a cheerful, almost dashing, approach." He had straight black hair, which he wore parted in the centre; a dark, but not pale complexion; black eyebrows, firmly marking the edge of a brow over which was a singularly upright, flat, white forehead, and under which beamed a pair of eyes, dark, brilliant, reflecting, gay, and kind, with a certain look of observant humour. "He had a head larger than most men's; Byron, Shelley, and Keats wore hats which he could not put on."
In 1838 I saw him often, and saw enough of him to have earnest respect and sincere regard for the man whom I had long admired as the poet. He gave me many valuable hints for my guidance while I was compiling "The Book of Gems of British Poets and British Artists." All his "notes" concerning his contemporaries (I have some of them still) were genial, cordial, and laudatory, affording no evidence of envy, no taint of depreciation. His mind was, indeed, like his poetry, a sort of buoyant outbreak of joyousness, and when a tone of sadness pervades it, it is so gentle, confiding, and hoping as to be far more nearly allied to resignation than to repining, although his life was subjected to many heavy trials; and especially had he to complain of the ingratitude of political "friends" — for whom he had fought heartily — when victory was only for the strong, and triumph for the swift. Perhaps there is no poet who so entirely pictures himself in all he writes; yet it is a pure and natural egotism, and contrasts happily with the gloomy and misanthropic moods which some have laboured first to acquire and then to portray. "Quick in perception, generous of impulse, he saw little evil destitute of good."
In conversation Leigh Hunt was always more than pleasing; he was "ever a special lover of books," as well as a devout worshipper of Nature; and his "talk" mingled, often very sweetly, the simplicity of a child with the acquirements of a roan of the world — somewhat as we find them mingled in his "Jar of Honey from Mount Hybla." It did, indeed, according to the laudatory view of one of his poetic school, often "combine the vivacity of the schoolboy with the resources of the wit and the taste of the scholar."
This generosity of thought and heart is conspicuous in all his writings. His Autobiography is full of liberal and generous sentiments — rarely any other evidence of the charity that "suffereth long and is kind, vaunteth not itself, is not easily puffed up, thinketh no evil." He who might have said so many bitter things, utters scarcely one; he who might have galled his enemies to the quick, does not stab even in thought.
He wrote much prose and many poems, and although marred, perhaps, by frequent affectations, his poetry is of the true metal; tender, graceful, and affectionate, loving nature in all its exterior graces, but more especially in man. It is, and ever will be, popular among those whose warmer and dearer sympathies are with humanity. Charles Lamb, in his memorable defence of Hunt against an alleged insinuation of Southey, that Hunt had no religion, thus writes of him: — "He is one of the most cordial-minded men I ever knew — a matchless fireside companion." Southey regretted, and justly, that Leigh Hunt had "no religion." He had, indeed, a kind of scholastic theology, that he considered might stand in the stead of it; he himself calls it, in a letter to me, "a sort of natural piety," but in none of his letters — nor in his Diary — is there the slightest allusion to its consolations, no evidence of trust in a superintending Providence, and but little intimation of belief or hope in the Hereafter. Who will not lament this as he reads his writings, knowing how closely combined is love of man with love of God; how much stronger for the general good is Virtue when it is based on Christianity? His religion (which he styles, in the letter to me I have quoted, "a sort of luxurious natural piety") was cheerful, hopeful, sympathising, universal in its benevolence, and entirely comprehensive in charity, but it was not the religion of the Christian; it was not even that of the Unitarian. He recognised Christ, indeed, but classes Him only among those — not even foremost of them — who were lights in dark ages; "great lights," as he styles them, " of rational piety and benignant intercourse" — Confucius, Socrates, Epictetus, Antoninus. Jesus was their "martyred brother," nothing more. His published book entitled "The Religion of the Heart" (1853) is but little known; I hope it will never be reprinted. Had Southey read it, he would not have been content with the mild rebuke to Leigh Hunt which excited the ire of one of the gentlest and most loving of the friends of both, Charles Lamb, who, in his memorable letter to the Laureate — a letter indignant, irrational, and unjust — bitterly condemned the one for a very mild castigation of the other. His theory of religion may, perhaps, be indicated by the following Lines, which were certainly among his own favourites. I copy them from Mrs. Hall's Album, in which he wrote them:—
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel, writing in a book of gold.
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
'What writest thou?' The vision raised its head,
And with a look, made of all sweet accord,
Answer'd, 'The names of those who love the Lord.'
'And is mine one?' said Abou. 'Nay, not so,'
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still, and said, 'I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow-men.'
The angel wrote and vanish'd. The next night
It came again with a great, wakening light,
And show'd the names whom love of God had bless'd,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.
Leigh Hunt lived to see political asperities softened down, the distinctions between Whig and Tory gradually diminished, and party bitterness become almost extinguished. He lived, indeed, "through a storm of obloquy, to be esteemed and loved by men who had been his most vigorous antagonists." No doubt, as a politician, he "flourished" some years too soon; he was a reformer much too early. Both of his successors as editors of the Examiner, Albany Fonblanque and John Forster, were rewarded in the way that Liberal governments — more wise in their generation than Tory governments — reward their partisans of the Press. But Leigh Hunt "guided the pen" at a period when little was to be gained by it except annoyance and persecution — at least in advocating "the old cause." "Hazlitt used to say, that after Leigh Hunt and himself and their like had done the rough work of the battle for Liberal opinions, the gentlemen of the Whig party 'put on their kid gloves' to finish the business and carry off the honours."
Leigh Hunt was "a journalist (I again quote from the Examiner) when courage and independence were the highest and perhaps the rarest qualities a journalist could show." He wrote when party spirit ran high, when language was seldom measured by responsibility, when vituperation was a weapon in common use.
In the year 1857 his wife had died. His sons, such as were left to him, had gone forth to fight the battle of life; his mind and his heart were "shaken." In that year he writes, sadly foreboding, — "I am alone in the world." Troubled fancies haunted him. In one of his letters to his attached and faithful friend, John Forster, he murmurs: — "I have been long fancying that most people, some old friends included, had begun not to care what I said or thought about them — whether anything or nothing;" and in another letter he writes, — "Strange to say, it was joy at finding the bookseller offer me more money than I had expected for some copyrights that was the immediate cause of my illness." He met old age with homage, and death with fortitude. Almost the last sentence in his autobiography is this: — "I now seemed — and it has become a consolation to me — to belong as much to the next world as to this; ... the approach of my nighttime is even yet adorned with a break in the clouds and a parting smile of the sunset."
Alas he refers not to the hope of the Christian, but to a far dimmer, less rational, and infinitely less consoling faith — "May we all meet in one of Plato's vast cycles of re-existence."
Just two months before completing his seventy-fifth year "he quietly sank to rest." The oil was exhausted, the light had burned gradually down.
When I saw him last he was yielding to the universal conqueror. His loose and straggling white hair thinly scattered over a brow of manly intelligence: his eyes dimmed somewhat, but retaining that peculiar gentleness yet brilliancy which in his youth were likened to those of a gazelle; his earnest heart and vigorous mind outspeaking yet, in sentences eloquent and impressive; his form partially bent, but energetic and self-dependent, although by fits and starts — Leigh Hunt gave me the idea of a sturdy ruin, that "wears the mossy vest of time," but which, in assuming the graces that belong of right to age, was not oblivious of the power, and worth, and triumph enjoyed in manhood and in youth.
He died at the house of one of the oldest, closest, and most valued of his friends, Mr. C. W. Reynell, in High Street, Putney. I have pictured the dwelling. It had a good garden, where the poet loved to ramble to admire the flowers, of which he was "a special lover." Immediately in front is the old gabled, quaint-looking Fairfax House, in which, it is said, Ireton lived, and where that general and Lambert often met.
It is pleasant to know that the death-bed of the aged man was surrounded by loving friends, and that all which care and skill could do to preserve his life was done.
There was no trouble, nothing of gloom, about him at the last; the full volume of his life was closed; his work on earth was done. Will it seem "far-fetched" if we describe him, away from earth, continuing to labour, under the influence of that Redeemer I am sure he has now learned to love, realising the picture for which in the Book I have referred to he drew on his fancy, and finding it fact?
This it is: — "Surely there are myriads of beings everywhere inhabiting their respective spheres, both visible and invisible, all, perhaps, inspired with the same task of trying how far they can extend happiness. Some may have realised their heaven, and are resting. Some may be helping ourselves, just as we help the bee or the wounded bird; spirits, perhaps, of dear friends, who still pity our tears, who rejoice in our smiles, and whisper in our hearts a belief that they are present."
Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.
Leigh Hunt was nearly the last of that glorious galaxy of genius which, early in the present century, shone upon the intellectual world; he survived them all, and with a memory of each. Some of them were his friends, and most of them his acquaintances. He had seen star after star decline, but might exclaim, and did exclaim, with one of his eloquent contemporaries,—
Nor sink those stars in empty night:
They hide themselves in Heaven's own light.
When writing a Memory of Leigh Hunt in the Art-Journal, I found there was no record to mark his grave in the cemetery at Kensal Green, where he was buried. I appealed, therefore, to his friends and admirers to remove from England such a "reproach." After some delay and some confusion, the circumstances causing and attending which it is now useless and needless to detail, the "reproach" was removed: a sum sufficient for the purpose was raised by subscription: a modest but graceful monument was wrought by the eminent and accomplished sculptor, Joseph Durham, A.R.A. It was "inaugurated" by Lord Houghton, on the 19th of October, 1869 (Leigh Hunt's birthday), and formally presented to the family, some of whom were present, on the impressive and interesting occasion.
From the noble lord's address I extract the following passages:—
"He was held up to shame as an enemy of religion, whereas he was a man from whose heart there came a flowing piety spreading itself over all nature and in every channel in which it was possible to run. I remember a passage in one of his writings in which he says he never passed a church, of however unreformed a faith, without an instinctive wish to go in and worship for the good of mankind. And all this obloquy, all this injustice, all this social cruelty, never for one moment soured the disposition or excited a revengeful feeling in the breast of this good man. He had, as it were — I have no other phrase for it — a superstition of good. He did not believe in the existence of evil, and when it pressed against him, in the bitterest form against himself, he shut his eyes to it, and believed it to be good. Now, with this disposition, with this character, with these elements of life, surely we do well in honouring this man to-day. Surely it is something that ten years after his death there should have been men who felt it was not well but that there should be some special memorial of his existence — something which should tell people, more than books they were reading, that there had been in England such a man. In uncovering the monument we shall honour not only that man, but we shall honour the poetic intellect, we shall honour that delightful faculty which gives to mankind its purest form of intellectual contemplation, and which, somehow or other, adapting itself to the different temperaments of mankind, always either extends, or purifies, or expands the mind of its possessor. ... We know that through all the difficulties of a more than usually bard life he kept to the end a cheerfulness of temper which the most successful might have envied and the wealthiest might have adorned. In his own beautiful words, all we can now think of is—
The woe was short, 'twas fugitive; 'tis past;
The song that sweetens it will always last."
The inscription is very simple: on one side are recorded the days of his birth and death, while on another are the words, — "Write me as one that loves his fellow-men."