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Gregory Dart: Leigh Hunt

18 December 2003
The Selected Writings of Leigh​ Hunt 
edited by Robert Morrison and Michael Eberle-Sinatra.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, July 2003, 1 85196 714 1
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... At first Dickens tried to deny that Harold Skimpole, the parasitical aesthete of Bleak House, had been based on his friend LeighHunt; but later he confessed, not a little proudly, that the character was ‘the most exact portrait that was ever painted in words . . . it is an absolute reproduction of a real man.’ Skimpole is a ...

Hottentot in Jackboots

John Bayley: The Cockney School

10 June 1999
Poetry and Politics in the Cockney School 
by Jeffrey Cox.
Cambridge, 287 pp., £37.50, January 1999, 0 521 63100 9
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... Investigative criticism of any poetic background, and that of the Romantics in particular, can do an important job, and Jeffrey Cox’s study is a good example of what can be done, for he avoids the hunt-the-slipper determination which has caused some zealous critics to see a covert political message lurking in every heartfelt Romantic line. There is no likelihood at all that Wordsworth was actually ...

How did he get it done?

John Jones: Leigh Hunt’s sense of woe

22 September 2005
Fiery Heart: The First Life of Leigh​ Hunt 
by Nicholas Roe.
Pimlico, 428 pp., £14.99, January 2005, 0 7126 0224 0
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The Wit in the Dungeon: A Life of Leigh​ Hunt 
by Anthony Holden.
Little, Brown, 448 pp., £20, January 2005, 0 316 85927 3
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... LeighHunt was a poet, playwright (tragic and comic), masque composer, translator (from Latin, French and Italian), satirist, anthologist, biographer and autobiographer, magazine editor, political journalist ...
15 September 1983
... One hundred and sixty years ago in the dreadful frost and snow at the beginning of 1814, kind-hearted Charles Lamb was out in all weathers, visiting the imprisoned LeighHunt who had been put away for two years for ridiculing the Prince Regent. Hyde Park was then littered with dirty people and provisions (not that much has changed in the interval), Mary Lamb had toothache ...
15 May 1980
‘A heart for every fate’: Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. 10, 1822-1823 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 239 pp., £8.95, March 1980, 0 7195 3670 7
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... fair copies of Don Juan. (Byron’s convenience is our loss, because he made many further revisions and improvements in the early cantos, in copying them himself.) With Mary Shelley was staying LeighHunt, obsequious, resentful of Byron’s patronage, and, Skimpole-like, borrowing and squandering his money. Hunt was a terrible legacy from Shelley. His nagging wife hated Byron, would not speak ...

Bigger Peaches

Rosemary Hill: Haydon

22 February 2001
The Immortal Dinner: A Famous Evening of Genius and Laughter in Literary London, 1817 
by Penelope Hughes-Hallett.
Viking, 336 pp., £15.99, September 2000, 0 670 87999 1
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... himself both as a painter and as a figure in the intellectual life of Regency London. It was a world where high thinking went with ramshackle living. Haydon’s friends, Charles and Mary Lamb, LeighHunt, Hazlitt and the young Keats were all, like him, mostly self-educated and chronically short of money. Haydon had also come to know Wordsworth, who was in London in December 1817. On the 28th Haydon ...
13 June 1991
Edmund Blunden: A Biography 
by Barry Webb.
Yale, 360 pp., £18.50, December 1990, 0 300 04634 0
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... Literary Fund: but he was a little dry about it in private, observing in a letter that Blunden had a gift for describing nature, and the temptation to over-use it must have been considerable. Like LeighHunt, with whom he identified even more than with Clare, Blunden certainly did write too much, although in both cases there was more financial need in this than temptation. Poetry produced every day ...
19 February 1981
The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: Vol. 1 
edited by Betty Bennett.
Johns Hopkins, 591 pp., £18, July 1980, 0 8018 2275 0
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... through Savoy in 1823 in the same carriage as Mary Shelley and observing her as she checked her small son Percy’s self-willed behaviour. She was pleased enough to report the compliment to Leigh and Marianne Hunt in a letter; and if she seems a little arch in liking compliments, she strikes the reader too as deserving them. This is the letter of an unusually intrepid and well-educated woman ...


John Bayley

10 December 1987
John Keats 
by John Barnard.
Cambridge, 172 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 521 26691 2
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Keats as a Reader of Shakespeare 
by R.S. White.
Athlone, 250 pp., £25, March 1987, 0 485 11298 1
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... it commercially: in Keats’s case, because success had to be on his own terms, and these went against the grain of his natural genius. He did not want to write the sort of ‘unmisgiving’ poetry (LeighHunt’s remarkable adjective) which came, with help from Shakespeare, like the leaves to the tree. If Keats had possessed the native cynicism of LeighHunt himself, or – a rather different kind ...

Foiled by Pleasure

Matthew Bevis: Barrett Browning

30 August 2018
Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Selected Writings 
edited by Josie Billington and Philip Davis.
Oxford, 592 pp., £14.99, February 2018, 978 0 19 879763 0
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... morning; how she met health and happiness, freedom, and Robert Browning in the church round the corner.’ Lady Geraldine’s courtship had been drowned out by talk about Elizabeth’s. Aurora Leigh wasn’t faring any better. The first edition had sold out in a fortnight in 1856 and more than twenty reprints had come out by 1902, but after that there wasn’t another edition until 1978. ‘I ...
10 October 1991
G.H. Lewes: A Life 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Oxford, 369 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 19 812827 4
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... age; went to school in Greenwich, may have been a medical student, and at 20 was a radical and a convinced atheist with Shelley as his idol. Lewes actually wrote a biography of Shelley, encouraged by LeighHunt, though not by Mary Shelley. It was never published, he himself soon deciding it was a poor piece of work, and it disappeared. I have always regretted this lost book, but Professor Ashton ...
17 July 1980
... In 1841, close by at St Margaret’s, Lewes had married the beautiful Agnes Jervis, by whom he had four sons. Then Agnes bore a fifth son whose father was Lewes’s friend and colleague Thornton LeighHunt. Unwilling to stigmatise the child, Lewes forgave the offence and allowed the boy to be registered as Edmund Lewes – perhaps with a wry glance at the bastard in King Lear. But the offence was ...


J.I.M. Stewart

5 June 1986
The Unknown Conan Doyle: Letters to the Press 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 377 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 436 13303 2
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... to be here recorded (in a letter printed in the journal Light in 1887) reveals him as already a believer, and as a stern moralist as well. He had been wondering whether or not to obtain a copy of LeighHunt’s Comic Dramatists of the Restoration – ‘the question being whether the mental pollution arising from Messrs Congreve, Wycherley and Co would be compensated for by the picture of the ...

Sod off, readers

John Sutherland

26 September 1991
Rude Words: A Discursive History of the London Library 
by John Wells.
Macmillan, 240 pp., £17.50, September 1991, 0 333 47519 4
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Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English 
by Geoffrey Hughes.
Blackwell, 283 pp., £16.95, August 1991, 0 631 16593 2
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... would not have been amused. But then, nothing did amuse him. He seems to have been immune to such essentially human feelings. Carlyle happened to be in the library in 1875 when Bryan Courthope Hunt – the child of a famously irregular marriage – chose to commit suicide there. Hunt had asked at the issue desk for the second volume of George Henry Lewes’s Problems of Life and Mind but ...
9 July 1992
‘Rain-Charm for the Duchy’ and other Laureate Poems 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 64 pp., £12.99, June 1992, 0 571 16605 9
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... Gold as the Honey Bee’ and ‘Soft as the Thistle’s Crown’. No matter. If any poetry could make them grasp the quality of the compliment they are being paid it would be that of Hughes. In 1813 LeighHunt wrote in the Examiner, in the days when the egregious Pye was Laureate, that the office should rightly be abolished, because it had come to pass either that it degraded the poet, or that the ...

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