1828 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Leigh Hunt

John Neal, "Leigh Hunt" The Yankee [Portland] 1 (16 April 1828) 128.



We intend hereafter to give our readers a full-length portrait of this amiable and highly-gifted man, about whose character there appears to be a strange misapprehension in the public mind. We know him — and we might say that we know him well; for though we never met him but once, it was under circumstances very favorable to our wishes, and after we had long been intimate with several who knew him thoroughly — heart and soul. We may add moreover, that very little time is required to know such a man as Leigh Hunt, if he be dealt with face to face. A better creature, a creature of more distinct or upward-aiming, or peculiar properties, of more sincerity of purpose, or of more downright beauty of character, does not tread our earth, we truly believe. But we are not going to draw his portrait now. — The time has not arrived. All that we desire to do now — is this. We find him attacked in almost every paper we take up, for his portraiture of Byron; as if it grew up out of personal hostility. This is a mistake; it did not. We know that Hunt was ill treated by Byron — beguiled into familiarity by familiarity, which when it came to be alluded to by the Blackwood writers, Byron had not the fortitude to endure. He was too sensitive and too selfish; and we are ready to believe therefore that he had the weakness and the impudence to do what is attributed to him, in the story told about the presentation-copy of the poem which was said to be sold at auction. But if he did, it was a cruel and treacherous thing — a trait of pure coxcombry — and worthy of Byron's worst characteristics. Byron was our idol once. He is so no longer. Of his poetry we think now pretty much as we did years ago — but of him our opinion is dreadfully changed. We know that he was mean-spirited, unworthy of trust, and altogether selfish. He loaned money to the Greeks to be sure — but only on the best security; and he was paid to the uttermost farthing. He used to lock up his own fire-wood from the servants, and dole it forth to them in person. Much more we could say — but we shall forbear for the present our object being not to say what he is, nor what Hunt is, but simply that Hunt's picture may be depended on for truth and sobriety. He is no "kicker of dead lions:" is not a man to write about another for calling him an "impudent varlet:" nor was he ever so capable of envying Byron as Byron was of envying him. If Hunt is blamable, it is for being betrayed so easily by professions of clear and free-hearted familiar friendship, into familiarity. Such men should be always on their guard against the companionable tricks of a lord.

P.S. Since the above was written we have met with the following verses which are said to be from the Morning Chronicle, but we suspect they are from the TIMES, though Moore did write for the former not long ago. There is really so much wit in these lines, and Moore himself has been so exquisitely cut up in the sketches of Hunt, that we cannot refuse them a place in our paper. Hunt would like them too, — so admirable are they; and as for Mr. Moore, if Hunt had let him alone with his two or three thousand guineas, not in money, but in moneys worth — not in a present from Byron the poet, to Moore the poet, which would be a very business-like affair, but from Byron the all-but-god-father to Moore's child, the all-but-god-son, — we are quite sure that Hunt would have continued to his dying-day a favorite of Moore's — for both are men of real genius, and both very amiable. However, as Moore could not reply in person to Hunt's happy and sparkling sketches of Moore — the master Little and the little master of the day — who forgot Ireland at a dinner given by the English at Paris, and remembered only that he was the fashionable song-writer for the English, — there was no other way left for him to be revenged of Hunt, than by appearing as the magnanimous defender of Byron, the dead Lion. It is no difficult thing to see through these gentry.

THE "LIVING DOG" AND THE DEAD LION.
From the London Morning Chronicle.

Next week will be published (as "Lives" are the rage
The whole Reminiscences, wondrous and strange,
Of a small puppy-dog, that lived once in a cage
Of the late noble Lion at Exeter 'Change.

Though the dog is a dog of the kind they call "sad,"
'Tis a puppy that much to good breeding pretends:
As few dogs have such opportunities had,
Of knowing how lions behave — among friends.

How that animal eats, how he snores, how he drinks,
Is all noted down by this Boswell so small:
And 'tis plain, from each sentence, the puppy-dog thinks,
That the Lion was no such great things after all.

Though he roar'd pretty well — this the puppy allows—
It was all, he says, borrow'd — all second hand-roar;
And he vastly prefers his own little bow-wows
To the loftiest war-note the Lion could pour.

'Tis indeed, as good fun as a Cynic could ask,
To see how this cockney-bred setter of rabbits
Takes gravely the Lord of the Forest to task,
And judges of lions by puppy-dog habits.

Nay, fed as he was (and this makes it a dark case)
With sops every day, from the Lion's own pan,
He lifts up his leg at the noble beast's carcase,
And — does all a dog, so diminutive, can.

However, the book's a good book — being rich in
Examples and warnings to lions high bred,
How they suffer small mongrelly curs in their kitchen,
Who'll feed on them living, and foul them when dead.
T. PIDCOCK.
Exeter 'Change.