Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 28.djvu/278

This page has been validated.

ings apart from considerations of fortune,' of which some hint is given in his correspondence (Autobiog. ii. i. 164, 268). Macaulay, who writing to Napier in 1841 suggested that in case of Southey's death Hunt would make a suitable poet laureate, obtained for him some reviewing in the 'Edinburgh.' His personal, friends, aware of his struggles, were anxious to see some provision made for his declining years. Already on two occasions a royal grant of 200l. had been secured for him, and a pension of 120l. was settled upon him by Sir Percy Shelley upon succeeding to the family estates in 1844. Among those who urged Hunt's claims to a moderate public provision most earnestly, was his friend Carlyle. The characteristic paper which Carlyle drew up on the subject eulogised Hunt with admirable clearness and force. On 22 June 1847 the prime minister, Lord John Russell, wrote to Hunt that a pension of 200l. a year would be settled upon him. During the summer of 1847 Charles Dickens, with a company of amateur comedians, chiefly men of letters and artists, gave two performances of Ben Jonson's 'Every Man in his Humour' for Hunt's benefit, in Manchester and Liverpool, by which 900l. was raised.

In 1848 appeared 'A Jar of Honey from Mount Hybla, illustrated by Richard Doyle.' The substance of the volume had appeared in 'Ainsworth's Magazine' in 1844. It includes a retrospect of the mythology, history, and biography of Sicily, and ancient legends and examples of pastoral poetry selected from Greece, Italy, and Britain, with illustrative criticisms, including a notice of Theocritus, with translated specimens. In the same year appeared 'The Town: its Memorable Characters and Events—St. Paul's to St. James's—with 45 Illustrations,' in 2 vols., containing an account of London, partly topographical and historical, but chiefly memoirs of remarkable characters and events associated with the streets between St. Paul's and St. James's. The principal portion of the work had appeared thirteen years before in 'Leigh Hunt's London Journal.' His next work was 'A Book for a Corner, or Selections in Prose and Verse from Authors the best suited to that mode of enjoyment, with Comments on each, and a General Introduction, with 80 Wood Engravings.' In 1849 he issued 'Readings for Railways, or Anecdotes and other Short Stories, Reflections, Maxims, Characteristics, Passages of Wit, Humour, Poetry, &c., together with Points of Information on Matters of General Interest, collected in the course of his own reading.' In 1850 he gave to the world 'The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt, with Reminiscences of A revised edition, brought down to near his death (1859), with an introduction by his eldest son, Thornton, was published in 1860. A new edition, edited by Roger Ingpen, appeared in 1903. The book is one of the most graceful and genial chronicles of its kind. Carlyle reckoned it only second to Boswell's 'Life of Johnson,' and called it (in a letter to Hunt which belonged to the present writer) 'a pious, ingenious, altogether human, and worthy book, imaging with graceful honesty and free felicity many interesting objects and persons on your life-path, and imaging throughout what is best of all, a gifted, gentle, patient, and valiant human soul as it buffets its way through the billows of the time, and will not drown, though often in danger cannot be drowned, but conquers and leaves a tract of radiance behind it. …' Between 1845 and 1850 there appeared several poems by Hunt in 'Ainsworth's Magazine' and the 'New Monthly Magazine.' In 1851 was issued 'Table-Talk, to which are added Imaginary Conversations of Pope and Swift.' The matter consisted partly of short pieces first published under the head of 'Table-Talk' in the 'Atlas ' newspaper, and partly of passages scattered in periodicals, and never before collected. In 1850 he revived an old venture under the slightly changed title of 'Leigh Hunt's Journal: xx Miscellany for the Cultivation of the Memorable, the Progressive, and the Beautiful.' Carlyle contributed to it three articles. It was discontinued in March 1851, failing 'chiefly from the smallness of the means which the originators of it had thought sufficient for its establishment.' In 1852 his youngest son, Vincent, died. In the same year Dickens wrote 'Bleak House,' in which Harold Skimpole was generally understood to represent Hunt. But Dickens categorically denied in 'All the Year Round' (24 Dec. 1859) that Hunt's character had suggested any of the unpleasant features of the portrait. 'In the midst of the sorest temptations,' Dickens wrote of Hunt, 'He maintained his honesty unblemished by a single stain. He was in all public and private transactions the very soul of truth and honour.'

'The Old Court Suburb, or Memorials of Kensington—Royal, Critical, and Anecdotical,' 2 vols., appeared in 1855. The book is full of historical and literary anecdotes. There followed in the same year 'Beaumont and Fletcher, or the finest Scenes, Lyrics, and other Beauties of these two Poets now first selected from the whole of their works, to the exclusion of whatever is morally objectionable; with Opinions of distinguished Critics, Notes ex-