Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 28.djvu/279

This page has been validated.




planatory and otherwise, and a General Introductory Preface.' It was dedicated to Bryan Waller Procter (Barry Cornwall). The volume is somewhat on the plan of 'Lamb's Specimens of the Old Dramatists,' but gives whole scenes as well as separate passages. In 1855 appeared 'Stories in Verse, now first collected.' All his narrative poems are here reprinted. In the story of 'Rimini' he has restored the omitted and altered passages. His wife died in 1857, at the age of 69. In 1857 an American edition of his poems appeared in 2 vols., 'The Poetical Works of Leigh Hunt, now first entirely collected, revised by himself, and edited with an introduction by S. Adams Lee, Boston.' It contains all the verses that he had published, with the exception of such as were rejected by him in the course of reperusal. This edition contains his play 'Lovers' Amazements,' which is not given in any English edition. In 1859 he contributed two poems to 'Fraser's Magazine,' in the manner of Chaucer and Spenser, viz. 'The Tapiser's Tale' and 'The Shewe of Fair Seeming.' Three of Chaucer's poems, 'The Manciple's Tale,' 'The Friar's Tale,' and 'The Squire's Tale,' had been modernised by him in 1841, in a volume by various writers, entitled 'The Poems of Chaucer Modernised.' The last product of his pen was a series of papers in the 'Spectator' in 1859, under the title of 'The Occasional,' the last of which appeared about a week before his death.

For about two years he had been declining in health, but he still retained a keen interest in life. Early in August 1859 he went for a change of air to his old friend Charles Reynell at Putney, carrying with him his work and the books he needed, and there he quietly sank to rest on the 28th. His death was simply exhaustion. His latest words were in the shape of eager questions about the vicissitudes and growing hopes of Italy, in inquiries from the children and friends around him for news of those he loved, and messages to the absent who loved him. He had lived in his later years at Phillimore Terrace,whence he removed in 1853 to 7 Cornwall Road, Hammersmith, his last residence. He was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. Ten years later a bust, executed by Joseph Durham [q.v.], was placed over his grave, with the motto, from his own poem, 'Abou-ben-Adhem,' 'Write me as one who loves his fellow-men.' The memorial was unveiled on 19 Oct. 1869 by Lord Houghton.

Not many months after his death there appeared in 'Fraser's Magazine' a reply by Hunt to Cardinal Wiseman, who had in a lecture charged Chaucer and Spenser with occasional indecency. In 1860 was published 'The Poetical Works of Leigh Hunt, now finally collected, revised by himself, and edited by his Son, Thornton Hunt.' In 1862 was published 'The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt, edited by his Eldest Son, with a Portrait,' 2 vols. A number of his letters, not included in these volumes, were published in 1878 by Mr. and Mrs. Cowden Clarke in their 'Recollections of Writers.' In 1867 appeared 'The Book of the Sonnet, edited by Leigh Hunt and S. Adams Lee,' 2 vols. It was published simultaneously in London and Boston, U.S. This volume is entirely devoted to the history and literature of the sonnet, with specimens by English and American authors. An introductory letter of four pages, and an essay of ninety-one pages are prefixed.

Despite the numerous collections of his scattered essays and articles published by himself, very many of Leigh Hunt's contributions to periodical literature have never been reprinted. The most interesting of these are his papers in the 'New Monthly Magazine' for 1825-6 (the present writer possesses a number of revised proofs of unreprinted articles of this date; others are in the Forster library at South Kensington); 'A Rustic Walk and Dinner,' a poem, in the 'Monthly Magazine,' 1842; a series of articles in the 'Musical World,' called first 'Words for Composers,' and afterwards 'The Musician's Poetical Companion,' 1838-9; two articles in the 'Edinburgh Review' (on the Colman family, October 1841, and George Selwyn, July 1844); and eight articles in the 'Musical Times,' 1853-4.

His son Thornton [q.v.] bequeathed some unpublished manuscript by his father to Mr. Townshend Mayer, but none of it was of sufficient importance to warrant publication.

Leigh Hunt takes high rank as an essayist and critic. The spirit of his writings is eminently cheerful and humanising. He is perhaps the best teacher in our literature of the contentment which flows from a recognition of everyday joys and blessings. A belief in all that is good and beautiful, and in the ultimate success of every true and honest endeavour, and a tender consideration for mistake and circumstance, are the pervading spirit of all his writings. Cheap and simple enjoyments, true taste leading to true economy, the companionship of books and the pleasures of friendly intercourse, were the constant themes of his pen. He knew much suffering, physical and mental, and experienced many cares and sorrows; but his cheerful courage, imperturbable sweetness of temper, and unfailing love and power of forgiveness never deserted him.

vol. xxviii.