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Hunt
Hunt
269

published in the 'Examiner,' 1 Dec. 1816, first made the genius of Shelley and Keats known to the public. To both Hunt was a true friend, and both recorded their gratitude. Hunt addressed three sonnets to Keats, and afterwards devoted many pages of his 'Indicator' to a lengthened and glowing criticism of one of the young poet's volumes. Keats stayed with him at Hampstead shortly before leaving for Italy. Shelley made him many handsome gifts; often invited him and his wife to stay with him at Marlow in 1817; and dedicated his 'Cenci' to him in 1819. Keats thought that Hunt afterwards neglected him, though Hunt disclaimed the imputation in an article in the 'Examiner.'

In 1816 appeared 'The Story of Rimini,' a poem. It was dedicated to Lord Byron. The greater part of it was written during his imprisonment. The subject of it was Dante's love-story of Paolo and Francesca. It is conceived in the spirit of Chaucer and has in it lines worthy of Dryden. In conformity with the strictures of some of his critics he rewrote the poem some years later, but it is questionable whether he improved it. When he wrote it, he had not been in Italy, and afterwards he corrected some mistakes in the scenery, and restored its true historical conclusion. At this time Hunt became the object of the most bitter attacks on the part of many tory writers. His close friendship with Shelley, whom he actively assisted in the difficulties consequent on his desertion of his first wife, and whom he vigorously defended from the onslaughts of the 'Quarterly' in the 'Examiner' (September–October 1819), caused him to be identified with some opinions which he himself did not entertain. He was bitterly attacked in 'Blackwood's Magazine' and the 'Quarterly Review.' In the words of Carlyle, he suffered 'obloquy and calumny through the tory press—perhaps a greater quantity of baseness, persevering, implacable calumny, than any other living writer has undergone, which long course of hostility … may be regarded as the beginning of his other worst distresses, and a main cause of them down to this day.' The 'Quarterly Review' nearly fifty years later gave utterance, through the pen of Bulwer, to a generous recognition of the genius of both Hunt and Hazlitt, whom it had similarly attacked, and fifteen years afterwards Wilson in 'Blackwood' made a graceful reference to him in one of the 'Noctes,' the concluding words of which were 'the animosities are mortal, the humanities live for ever.' Wilson even invited him to write for the magazine, but Hunt declined the offer.

In 1818 appeared 'Foliage; or Poems, Original and Translated.' This was followed in 1819 by 'The Literary Pocket-book,' a kind of pocket and memorandum book for men of intellectual and literary tastes. Three more numbers of it appeared, viz. in 1820, 1821, and 1822. The articles in the 'Pocket-book' for 1819 descriptive of the successive beauties of the year were printed with considerable additions in a separate volume in 1821, under the title of 'The Months.' In 1819 Hunt also published 'Hero and Leander' and 'Bacchus and Ariadne.' A new journalistic venture, 'The Indicator,' in which some of his finest essays appeared, commenced in October 1819. During the seventy-six weeks of its existence his papers on literature, life, manners, morals, and nature were all characterised by subtle and delicate criticisms, kindly cheerfulness, and sympathy with nature and art. 'Amyntas, a Tale of the Woods; from the Italian of Torquato Tasso,' appeared in 1820.

In 1821 a proposal was made to Hunt by Shelley and Byron, who were then in Italy, to join them in the establishment of a quarterly liberal magazine, the profits to be divided between Hunt and Byron. The 'Examiner' was declining in circulation, and Hunt was in delicate health. He had been compelled to discontinue the 'Indicator,' 'having,' as he said, 'almost died over the last number.' He set sail with his wife and seven children on 15 Nov. 1821. After a tremendous storm the vessel was driven into Dartmouth, where they relanded and passed on to Plymouth. Here they remained for several months. Shelley sent Hunt 150l. in January 1822, and urged him to secure some means of support other than the projected quarterly before finally leaving England. In May, however, the Hunts sailed for Leghorn, where they arrived at length at the close of June. They were joined by Shelley, and removed to Pisa, Hunt and his family occupying rooms on the ground floor of Byron's house there. Shelley was drowned on 8 July 1822, and Hunt was present at the burning of his body, and wrote the epitaph for his tomb in the protestant cemetery at Rome. Byron's interest in the projected magazine had already begun to cool. Hunt's reliance on its speedy appearance was frustrated by Byron's procrastination, and he was thus compelled to unwilling inactivity, and to the humiliation of having to ask for pecuniary assistance. The two men were thoroughly uncongenial, and their relations mutually vexatious [see under Byron, George Gordon]. The 'Liberal' lived through four numbers (1822–3). Hunt had left Pisa with Byron in September 1822 for Genoa. In 1823 he removed to Florence, and remained there till his return to England two years later. After Byron's departure for Greece in 1823,