1818
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Miss K. Written on a Piece of Paper which happened to be headed with a long List of Trees.

Foliage: or, Poems Original and Translated, by Leigh Hunt.

Leigh Hunt


A punning sonnet evoking a sylvan Spenser. Not seen.

Literary Gazette: "True poetry opens a nobler pursuit than this squirrel-hunting among bushes. The race of creation is within its grasp — the sublime and the immense, the exquisite touch, and the minute of nature, are indeed alike its elements; but its soul seizes them all as if by supernatural power, and does not go creeping and twining after little things, hugging poor conceits, and revelling on the luxuries of a single mean thought, when any shape of an original idea happily glances across its path. Many of our modern writers seem to imagine that poetic genius consists in the fanciful illustration of the most trite objects; that to call a tree leafy, and a bird hoppy, and a cat purry, is genuine nature; that to speak of brutes having 'lamping eyes,' (page 13 of this vol.) of rills among stones having 'little whiffling tones' (page 15,) of 'sleek seas' (page 20,) and similar fooleries, is pure unadulterated inspiration, and not silly nonsense. They may be right: we are sceptics" (4 April 1818) 210-11.

New Monthly Magazine: "The poetical qualifications of the editor of the Examiner have been very correctly described by a writer in Blackwood's Magazine of October last... Mr. Hunt is in a state of miserable delusion, if he conceives he bears any resemblance to those lofty spirits of the 'olden time,' who were the demigods of poetry; who exerted their influence, while living, to promote the general good, and whose writings still continue to be as beacons to guide mankind to 'paths of pleasantness and peace.' But we will no longer detain our readers from the volume we have undertaken to introduce to them. The author's principles are too well known" 10 (September 1818) 162-63.

Lord Byron to Thomas More: "When I saw Rimini in MS., I told him that I deemed it good poetry at bottom, disfigured only by a strange style. His answer was, that his style was a system, or upon system, or some such cant; and, when a man talks of system, his case is hopeless: so I said no more to him, and very little to any one else. He believes his trash of vulgar phrases to be 'old' English; and we may say of it as Aimwell says of Captain Gibbet's regiment, when the Captain calls it an 'old corps,' — 'the oldest in Europe, if I may judge by your uniform'" 1 June 1818; Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1901) 4:237.

Bryan Waller Procter: "When I first visited Leigh Hunt (1817), he lived at No. 8, York Buildings, in the New Road. His house was small, and scantily furnished. In it was a tiny room, built out at the back of the drawing-room or first floor, which he appropriated as a study, and over the door of this was a line from the Faery Queen of Spenser, painted in gold letters. On a small table in this study, covered with humble green baize, Leigh Hunt sat and wrote his articles for the Examiner and Indicator, and his verses. He had very few books, an edition of the Italian Poets in many volumes, Spenser's works, and the minor poems of Milton (edited by Warton) being, however, amongst them. I don't think that there was a Shakespeare. There were always a few cut flowers, in a glass of water, on the table" Autobiographical Fragment (1877) 195.

Thornton Hunt: "We have already seen allusions to books written by Miss [Elizabeth] Kent upon a branch of science which she systematically studied. Her chief botanical works were The Flora Domestica and the Sylvan Sketches. They comprised a very clever account of the plants usually found in English scenery, or most conveniently cultivated in English gardens, or even in the little garden which the town-prisoned man can cultivate outside his window. The scientific descriptions were enlivened by a good store of quotations form the poets and classic writers. In these works — even in the midst of moving at a distance — Leigh Hunt took an active share, contributing largely towards the classic and literary materials" Correspondence of Leigh Hunt (1862) 1:212-13.



There, Bess, your namesake held not sceptred hand
Under a canopy, so full and bright,
Not even that which Spenser hung with light,
And little shouldering angels made expand,
When she sat arbitress of fairy-land.
Fancy a sun o'er head, to make the sight
Warm outwards, and a bank with daisies white,
And you're a rural queen, finished and fanned.
And now what sylvan homage would it please
Your Leafyship to have? bracelets of berries,
Feathers of jays, or tassels made of cherries,
Strawberries and milk, or pippins crisp to squeeze?
No, says your smile, — but two things richer far,
A verse, and a staunch friend; — and here they are.

[Milford (1923) 241]