It is in the familiar essay that he shows to greatest advantage. Criticism, speculation, literary gossip, romantic stories from real life, and descriptions of country pleasures, are charmingly mingled in his pages; he can be grave as well as gay, and speak consolation to friends in trouble. 'No man,' says Mr. Lowell, 'has ever understood the delicacies and luxuries of language better than he; and his thoughts often have all the rounded grace and shifting lustre of a dove's neck. … He was as pure-minded a man as ever lived, and a critic whose subtlety of discrimination and whose soundness of judgment, supported as it was on a broad basis of truly liberal scholarship, have hardly yet won fitting appreciation.'
As a poet Leigh Hunt showed much tenderness, a delicate and vivid fancy, and an entire freedom from any morbid strain of introspection. His verses never lack the sense and expression of quick, keen delight in all things naturally and wholesomely delightful. But an occasional mannerism, bordering on affectation, detracts somewhat from the merits of his poetry. His narrative poems, such as 'The Story of Kimini,' are, however, among the very best in the language. He is most successful in the heroic couplet. His exquisite little fable 'Abou ben Adhem' has assured him a permanent place in the records of the English language.
'In appearance,' says his son, 'Leigh Hunt was tall and straight as an arrow, and looked slenderer than he really was. His hair was black and shining, and slightly inclined to wave. His head was high, his forehead straight and white, under which beamed a pair of eyes, dark, brilliant, reflecting, gay, and kind, with a certain look of observant humour. His general complexion was dark. There was in his whole carriage and manner an extraordinary degree of life. His whole existence and habit of mind were essentially literary. He was a hard and conscientious worker, and most painstaking as regards accuracy. He would often spend hours in verifying some fact or event which he had only stated parenthetically. Few men were more attractive in society, whether in a large company or over the fireside. His manner was particularly animated, his conversation varied, ranging over a great field of subjects. There was a spontaneous courtesy in him that never failed, and a considerateness derived from a ceaseless kindness of heart that invariably fascinated.' Hawthorne and Emerson have left on record the delightful impression he made when they visited him. He led a singularly plain life. His customary drink was water, and his food of the plainest and simplest kind; bread alone was what he took for luncheon or supper. His personal friendships embraced men of every party, and among those who have eloquently testified to his high character as a man and an author are Carlyle, Lytton, Shelley, Macaulay, Dickens, Thackeray, Lord Houghton, Forster, Macready, Jerrold, W. J. Fox, Miss Martineau, and Miss Mitford.
A portrait of Hunt by Haydon is in the National Portrait Gallery. There is a portrait by Maclise in 'Fraser's Magazine.'
[The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt, a new Edition, revised by the Author, with further Revision, and an Introduction by his Eldest Son, 1860; The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt, edited by his Eldest Son, with a Portrait, 2 vols. 1862; Recollections of Writers, by Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke, with Letters of Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt, Douglas Jerrold, and Charles Dickens, and a Preface by Mary Cowden Clarke, 1878; Professor Dowden's Life of Shelley; Moore's Life of Byron; List of the Writings of William Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt, chronologically arranged,with Notes, descriptive, critical, and explanatory, by Alexander Ireland, 1868 (two hundred copies printed); Characteristics of Leigh Hunt as exhibited in that typical Literary Periodical Leigh Hunt's London Journal, 1834-5, with Illustrative Notes by Lancelot Cross (Frank Carr), 1878. References to Leigh Hunt occur in the writings of his contemporaries William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, and Barry Cornwall (Bryan Waller Procter), and in the Reminiscences and Letters of Thomas Carlyle. Selections from his writings have been made by Edmund Oilier, with introduction and notes, 1869; by Arthur Symons, with useful introduction and notes, 1887; by Charles Kent, with a biographical introduction and portrait, 1889, and chiefly from the poems, by Reginald Brimley Johnson, in the Temple Library, 1891, with a biographical and critical introduction and portrait from an unpublished sketch, and views of his birthplace and the various houses inhabited by him; A Life of Hunt, by Cosmo Monkhouse, in the Great Writers series, is in preparation.]
HUNT, JEREMIAH, D.D. (1678–1744), independent minister, only son of Thomas Hunt, a London merchant, was born in London on 11 June 1678. His father died in 1680, and his mother secured for him a liberal education. He studied first under Thomas Rowe [q.v.], then at the Edinburgh University, and lastly at Leyden (1699-1701), where Nathaniel Lardner [q.v.] was a fellow student. He owed much to John Milling (d. 16 June 1705), minister of the English presbyterian church at Leyden, and learned Hebrew of a rabbi from Lithuania. In Holland he was licensed to preach, and was one of three who officiated in turns to the English presbyterian