1816
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Harry Brown to his Cousin Tom, Jun. Letter II.

The Examiner (7 July 1816) 424.

Leigh Hunt


In a set of unsigned verses Leigh Hunt alludes to Edmund Spenser in verse epistle to Thomas Moore in which Spenser and Swift represent the difference between London and Hampstead: "'Tis SWIFT after SPENSER, or daylight with candles, | A sea-song succeeding a pastoral of Handel's." "Bobby" Southey's namesake is identified as "Bob Acres, in the delightful comedy of the Rivals."

Leigh Hunt to Charles Ollier: "I hope you like my Harry Browns. I suppose I shall carry them to 10 or a dozen, perhaps more; and then collect them into a little volume. Moore expressed great enjoyment at sight of them" 22 July 1816; in Brewer, My Leigh Hunt Library ... Letters (1938) 107.

George Saintsbury: "Hunt is one of those very distinctly second-, if not third-rate poets, who deserve almost the first place in a history of prosody. He has had some rather extravagant personal and political championship, but his personal and political partisans have too often done him nothing like the justice that he deserves in matters of pure literature. A great poet he was not; nor was he exactly a great writer in any way. But in prose he, more than any one else, deserves the credit of having turned the eighteenth-century essay into that of the nineteenth; and in verse, especially in the form of verse, he deserves even wider if not higher praise" History of English Prosody (1906-10) 3:94.



Would you change, my dear TOM, your old mode of proceeding,
And make a dull end to a passage worth reading,—
I mean would you learn how to let your wit down,
You'd walk some fine morning from Hampstead to town.

What think you of going by gardens and bowers,
Through fields of all colours, refreshed by night showers,—
Some spotted with hay-cocks, some dark with ploughed mould,
Some changed by the mower from green to pale gold,—
A scene of ripe sunshine the hedges betwixt,
With here and there farm-houses, tree-intermixed,
And an air in your face, ever fanning and sweet,
And the birds in your ears, and a turf for your feet,—
And then, after all, to encounter a throng of
Canal-men, and hod-men, unfit to make song of,
Midst ale-houses, puddles, and backs of street-roads,
And all sorts of rubbish, and crashing cart-loads,
And so on, eye-smarting, and ready to choke,
Till you end in hot narrowness, clatter, and smoke!

'Tis SWIFT after SPENSER, or daylight with candles,
A sea-song succeeding a pastoral of Handel's,
A step unexpected, that jars one's inside,
The shout-raising fall at the end of a slide,
A yawn to a kiss, — a flock followed by dust,
The hoop of a beauty seen after her bust,
A reckoning, — a parting, — a snake in the grass,
A time when a man says, "What! Come to this pass!"

And yet I must say, like a true-tasted Brown,
It is only by contrast I quarrel with town;
And what may seem odd, though it's equally true,
'Tis on this very ground I've a love for it too:
For harmony's self is with discord inlaid,
And a pleasure must have both it's light and it's shade.
Thus I look on the dark side of things as the part
That throws out the light in one's centre, — the heart.
Thus, a battle's strong brushing, — a scandal will tell:—
For handling, your shoplifter bears off the bell;
A fool's clair obscur, — there's relief in your weeping;—
And trust me, a prison's a fine bit of keeping.

Then your courtiers, and hirelings, and turn-coats ('od rat 'em!)
They too have their their uses; for don't we laugh at 'em?
The slang of the Courier, and strut of the Times,
What are they but puppets to play to one's rhymes?
What's Law, like his bacon, but something to smoke?
Or ROSE, on his legs, but an old standing joke?
Is'nt BOBBY, the Laureat, as proud of his bay,
As his namesake exposing his head in the play?
Don't the BOURBONS, whose right comes, like stones, from the sky,
Make us too, as well as their countrymen, die?
Nay, — to ask no more questions, — there's CANNING alone,—
Doesn't he split our sides, who has cut up his own?

And here let me say (and you'll pardon the stroke,
For the Irish blood in me), a laugh is no joke.
I can't, for the life of me, find out the brainfuls
Of those who are all for the dumps and disdainfuls
And when you would put a good thing in their cavity,
—Shake in resistance their hollow-skull'd gravity.
—Men and their follies, they tell us, quite bore 'em:—
Well, laughing's the thing then, of course, to restore 'em.
A man, who for sleepiness jolts with his head,
Might as well, I conceive, decline going to bed;
Refuse to be cur'd, when he's blind of an eye,
To ride when he's weary, or drink when he's dry;
Or on being invited to dinner, get angry,
And say, "Why, good God, Sir, — I tell you, I'm hungry."

In this, you'll allow, I bely not my text:—
But enough for the present. — You'll find in my next,
That whether I date from the country, or city, or
Any where else, I grow wittier and wittier.
Bold talking! cries somebody, laying me down;—
But an't I your cousin, dear TOM.
HARRY BROWN.

[p. 424]