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the detriment of the “ Biography” of his sister. had, wrapped in his dressing-gown, surrounded I am desirous to be anything rather than a hostile by attentive young ladies who adored him; one critic of the memoir. Mrs. Gaskell was an inti- or more of them-I have seen two-gently mate friend of my family, and her husband at smoothing his long locks in most irritating fashone time my father's colleague in the ministry. ion to others sometimes, while all hung upon his I admire “ Mary Barton ” and her other novels flowing periods, sparkling with that graceful wit greatly. Toward her memory I have the kindest and airiness for which he was so famous. Often feeling; but Fiat justitia! and I must say what would he relate his memories of Williams, ShelI can in favor of my old friend.
ley-never but once did I hear him mention Lord Byron, and that was to me only-Charles Lamb,
and others, with pleasant voice and impressive LEIGH HUNT AND HIS FAMILY.
But he was curiously eccentric even when in I MADE many valuable, or invaluable, ac- his best moods. He would take his exact numquaintances in the world of art and letters. Leigh ber of constitutional strides backward and forHunt, most of his family, and many of his friends ward at exactly the same hour daily: so many and relatives, were among these: a remarkable made a mile, and not one more or less would he family they were indeed. Leigh Hunt, the gen- take or give; another turn would have been detle poet and stern reformer, he who passed im- struction. Yet in the throes of composition he prisoned a year of triumph-nominally on account forgot all about this, and paced back and forward of his political writings, really because he had sometimes unceasingly. dubbed the “first gentleman in Europe" a "fat People who lead sedentary lives are no doubt Adonis of fifty"-was now sixty-six years old. It often eccentric, especially at the age of sixty-six, was at the time of his portrait being taken—that but few are so remarkable in better things as to one with the long white hair and tall white col- attract so much attention to their weaknesses. lars, the frontispiece which adorns his later works, His most remarkable piece of oddity was in his " Kensington ” and “Beaumont and Fletcher.” eating, especially his suppers. He would take Slim, and perfectly upright; his handsome, pale, a fancy," and indulged freely night after night in oval face almost without a wrinkle; his long a thoroughly indigestible supper of anything white locks falling to his shoulders, over those which accident or circumstance might have sugimmense shirt-collars, which, had they been but gested, from corned beef to Welsh rarebit or starched, would have ended his days long before Scotch porridge, recommending it eagerly as the by cutting his throat. He was a perfect picture most wholesome of eatable things; then after a of sensitive refinement. I see him striding back- .week or so of indulgence, he would have brought ward and forward up and down his “old Court on a fit of indigestion, upon which he would suburb" study, his dressing-gown, although 'tis abuse the innocent, if indigestible, cause of his evening, flying out behind him, dictating his flow- illness, “ up hill and down dale.” When better ing periods (it was Beaumont and Fletcher” he would adopt something else, with similar then) to his too willing factotum, amanuensis,“ praise, blame, and result.” friend, son, and servant, Vincent.
The following interviews are given as nearly Poor Vincent ! you doated upon your father, verbatim as I can remember them after this lapse and surely you gave your life for him. But Leigh of time. Call the time Wednesday evening at Hunt saw not the weary air, the haggard look, nine P. M. Scene, the drawing-room at Kensingheard not the deadly cough, so absorbed was he ton : Leigh Hunt seated by himself at table; on in his occupation. And Vincent met his look table, white cloth and tray; on the tray, three brightly always, showing more eagerness to go eggs boiled hard, salt butter, pepper, and bread. on than his father. Yes! Leigh Hunt did some- To him enter myself. Leigh Hunt loq.: “Ha, times say, “But you'll be getting tired, my boy," how are you? I am eating my supper, you see. only to be met by a ready, “Oh no, pa ! let's go Do you eat supper? If you do, take my advice, on.” And on they went. How do I know so and have regularly every night, at nine o'clock much? I have seen and heard it often, for I precisely, three eggs boiled hard, with bread and had access at all times to the house where lived butter. I have had them now every evening for Leigh Hunt, his wife, and the two youngest five nights, and there is not, I assure you, anychildren, all four dead long ago.
thing more wholesome for supper. One sleeps At other times, on other evenings, Leigh Hunt so soundly, too," etc. would be more sociable, although he always ac- Next scene, Friday, time and circumstances cepted and gave familiar companionship in a as before, save that the condiment under present semi-royal sort of way. He liked, on these oc- consideration is a Welsh rarebit, with mustard, casions, to sit in a large and very easy chair he etc. I enter. Hunt to me: “ Ha, how are you?
Have you seen Vincent ? I am just getting sup- nothing could be fairer than that, so I said I was per, you see. Do you ever eat supper? If you sorry to say that I had only two half-sovereigns do, I pray you, never take boiled eggs; they are, in my pocket, would one of them do? I could without any exception, the most indigestible, give him that, and if not enough he could call at nightmare-producing, etc. They have nearly so-and-so, or I could borrow it from you. Oh, killed me. No; the lightest and most palatable that would do, he said ; he would not trouble supper I have ever taken is a Welsh rarebit with you. He took it, thanked me, and was getting some Scotch ale. This is the second day I have on to his cab when I stopped him to say that I taken it, and I do assure you,” etc. On Monday was pleased with him, and that I should be renext it would be liver and bacon, or what you turning about nine to-night, when, if he liked, he will. His longest love in my time was his old might come for me and receive the same fare love, dried fruit, bread, and water-his Italian back. He said he would, but now he has driven memory.
away so suddenly as you opened the door that I Leigh Hunt's inability to appreciate the com- hardly know what to think.” parative value of moneys was well known. It Mrs. Leigh Hunt kept her room almost enwas real, not affected. I have seen it myself tirely in those her latter days. She had become more than once. For that, his conversation, and very stout, and disliked any exertion. Banting his brilliant touch on the piano, was he best would have helped her had she known of the known socially.
system. Thornton Leigh Hunt, the eldest son, I am a stanch admirer of Dickens, but I to whom, when four years old, Leigh Hunt wrote can not waver in my belief that Leigh Hunt was a sonnet, was, when I knew him, editing or subthe model of “Horace Skimpole,” at least until editing the “Spectator," and agitating for the esthat lightsome individual began to exhibit his tablishment of the “Leader.” He then lived at darker shades. The similarity is too marked in Hammersmith, at the large house in the Square. more things than can be mentioned here. I It had till lately been a ladies' boarding-school, know that Dickens denied this, and that there is and had in the basement a very large room, the nothing more to be said ; but the very first time dining- or school-room of old days. Here ThornI read the very first number of “ Bleak House,” ton kept open house every Sunday evening, with which describes Skimpole, I said, “There is unlimited bread-and-cheese and beer. Here he Leigh Hunt !” Who does not know of the weekly collected much and varied talent. How money uselessness, the splendid touch on the time has altered it all! Thornton was small, piano, especially in little sparkling things, as, thin, blackavised, wild-looking, with retroussé Come unto these yellow sands,” a great favor- nose, decidedly ugly-decidedly insinuating, too, ite of his—the hot-house peaches on the table, receiving more attention from the fair than was and the bailiffs outside ?
at all good for him. He had a wife and family As to the money, I think it is Mr. G. H. Lewes of pretty children. Thornton was an advanced who told the story of Leigh Hunt being unable politician, a Chartist and an Owenite in opinion, to pay a debt of three shillings and sixpence be- a safe anchor for banished refugees, a very hard cause he had but half-crowns and shillings in his worker, and much beloved by his children. But possession. But I have a better story than that, the main peculiarity of this man, descended from at least as good a one, happening partly in my such a father, with such brothers, and surrounded own hearing, and I can therefore vouch for its by an atmosphere of brilliancy, was that he had truth. During the greater part of Vincent's last no touch of wit or humor in his composition. illness he was staying with me, a little way out The only two jokes I ever heard him attempt of town down the river, and his father came from were the two dreariest that I ever have heard. time to time to see him.
Here they are-choose the worst : “Eh? you One afternoon Leigh Hunt drove up to the want to succeed? Go and buy some and suck door in a hansom. I met him at the door, where it, then.” “Why am I like that cab? Because he was beaming benevolently at the cabman, who we are both on the earth.” was beaming too. Says Leigh Hunt after the Leigh Hunt's eldest daughter had just died usual salutations, “Fine fellow that!” I ask of consumption when I knew them first. She how, for neither man, cab, horse, nor harness had the reputation of having been a beauty, and seemed particularly “fine.” “Well,” says Leigh was the wife of Mr. John Gliddon, whose sister Hunt, “I found him returning from Hammer- was Thornton's wife. smith, and he said as an empty he would take I was much grieved to hear of the death of me for half fare” (the whole fare was about Mrs. Thornton Hunt recently. Mild, kind, genthree shillings), “ so I told him to drive on. He tle, good, let me say so much to her memory. drove nicely and steadily, and now when I asked My especial remembrance, among many of the him his fare, he left it to my honor. You know dear lady, is of the ludicrous, however. I had
been hastily summoned from my chambers to Poor fellow! if ever there was a simple, puretake Mrs. Thornton Hunt and another to the hearted soul, he was one ! theatre, where G. H. Lewes had placed a box at Julia, with her sparkling black eyes and gloritheir disposal to see a new piece of his. When ous soprano, must be mentioned now. She knew we came out, the night was wild, though fine; how to modulate that voice into such passion, half a gale was blowing. The Hammersmith tenderness, grief, or anger, as it is rarely in the omnibus was full. I was not allowed to take a power of even a consummate actress to do. Little cab—the ladies would walk! We walked and in stature, her every action was easy and graceful. walked. The wind was very hard upon us, and What a prima donna she would have made ! our progress, at the close of an hour, but little; She and Henry would sometimes, out of very and now we could not get a cab. From fun of wildness, dress like street singers, and, going to fighting with the gale, our mirth had long changed the fashionable quarters of London, sing favorite into a silent struggle. Wearied at last, Mrs. opera-songs. Seldom had they long commenced Thornton Hunt suddenly exclaimed, “Oh dear, before windows would be opened and loungers let us turn round and walk backward,” by which would listen to them. They would often be she meant beating a retreat to some of her asked to come in, and were sometimes recogfriends' hospitalities; but the absurdity of the nized. Julia had a good temper and an easy, idea, coupled with exhaustion and growing de- rapid flow of wit. Altogether, she was one of spair, so excited our risible sensibilities, that we the most dangerous coquettes of her day. But stood there laughing long ere we could turn her day is done, and night come. The extraorand walk anywhere. A return cab relieved us dinary variety of character in the Leigh Hunt then.
family was a common subject of wonder to their Then there was a son twice married, who friends. In mind and appearance they were appeared rarely at his father's or brother's singularly dissimilar. homes. I saw him but seldom. Henry Leigh Among the distinguished visitors who freHunt came next - handsome, careless, witty, quented Thornton Hunt's house on his Sunday good-natured Henry! Henry had a splendid evenings was George H. Lewes, actor, editor, tenor voice, the qualities of which he exhibited and author. A sort of untamed lion he was in but seldom. Not so reserved was his fascinating my day, sturdy, well set up, with a mop of curly, little sister Julia, of whom presently; and the brown-colored hair, worn long. He had a lionbest of them all, poor Vincent !
like trick of shaking his mane-head, I mean-I wonder if Vincent ever said no ? His heart when the hair would fall round his face, over his for his father's work never failed him; but he collar and shoulders. Then he would throw his grew sick and ill, and, when his cold attacked his head well back with a vigorous jerk, and show chest obstinately, he came to stay with me at a row of strong white teeth in a well-formed Peckham. Then inflammation set in, and he mouth, a broad forehead, and well-developed inwent patiently through the weary round of hot tellectual organs. I can see him now, standing applications, poultices, etc. He got better and just so at the piano, rolling out some jolly song, returned home. I saw him into an omnibus. with powerful voice and good enunciation. Then The night was chilly, but he had no overcoat and would come a love-song, Julia accompanying him would not take mine. There was a drizzling the while with easy grace, her eyes flashing from rain, and he rushed headlong to his fate to oblige one to another of her brother's guests, especially an omnibus cad. He traveled those three or four transfixing the bewildered foreigners, whom she miles outside, giving up his place to a washer- slaughtered wholesale. For myself, I liked George woman, stronger than the horses that drew them H. Lewes best as a raconteur. His stories were very likely. He arrived at home coughing and always amusing. He certainly accompanied them shivering. It was long before he had an oppor- with boisterous laughter; but, if that be a fault, tunity of obliging any one again out of doors; and the laughter was deserved, and came at the right when, months later, he ventured out again, his time and place. Among his choicest anecdotes doom had gone forth. Yet through all that last were many of Charles Mathews, then in the summer-time he worked with his father at “ Beau- heyday of fame and embarrassment. Lewes mont and Fletcher," without a word of com- wrote several of Mathews's best pieces, among plaint. Nor was that all, for he resigned himself them the best, as I think, namely, “The Game when work was over to the wayward moods of of Speculation,” and a startling novelty of eight his pretty sister Julia, and allowed himself to be acts, which, however, did not “go" well, being carried off to this party or that theatre when bed too long, although there was a real fountain, and only was his fitting place. This was while the a real man tossed into it during a grand stage summer lasted ; toward autumn he came to stay quarrel. Lewes would tell how, having “corwith me again, and then he went home to die. nered” Mathews, and insisted upon having at least some of his money owing to him for this or And he is gone, too (February, 1879). My that comedy, the actor would keep him so amused last night in a London theatre was passed with that, after half an hour of convulsion, he would him and Albert Smith, the latter met accidentleave him oblivious of money, and with promises ally. They both looked strong and healthy men, of an early dinner to concert some new subject. and both applauded heartily—as, indeed, I have Lewes undertook higher work than this, too, into often noticed, to their honor, all men or women which it is not my present intention to inquire. connected with any branch of the profession" In his lighter writings he always cleaves, I think, do. But Albert Smith died early, and Lewes all to his old leaven, the stage.
I REMEMBER hearing Lord Macaulay say, clergyman, asked him if he had ever written any
after Wordsworth's death, when subscrip- thing besides the “Guide to the Lakes." Yes, tions were being collected to found a memorial he answered modestly, he had written verses. of him, that ten years earlier more money could Not every pilgrim was a reader, but the vogue have been raised in Cambridge alone to do honor was established, and the stream of pilgrims to Wordsworth than was now raised all through came. the country. Lord Macaulay had, as we know, Mr. Tennyson's decisive appearance dates his own heightened and telling way of putting from 1842. One can not say that he effaced things, and we must always make allowance for Wordsworth as Scott and Byron had effaced him. it. But probably it is true that Wordsworth has The poetry of Wordsworth had been so long never, either before or since, been so accepted before the public, the suffrage of good judges and popular, so established in possession of the was so steady and so strong in its favor, that minds of all who profess to care for poetry, as by 1842 the verdict of posterity, one may almost he was between the years 1830 and 1840, and at say, had been already pronounced, and WordsCambridge. From the very first, no doubt, he worth’s English fame was secure. But the vogue, had his believers and witnesses. But I have the ear and applause of the great body of poetrymyself heard him say that, for he knew not how readers, never quite thoroughly perhaps his, he many years, his poetry had never brought him gradually lost more and more, and Mr. Tennyson in enough to buy his shoe-strings. The poetry- gained them. Mr. Tennyson drew to himself, reading public was very slow to recognize him, and away from Wordsworth, the poetry-reading and was very easily drawn away from him. public and the new generations. Even in 1852, Scott effaced him with this public, Byron effaced when Wordsworth died, this diminution of popuhim.
larity was visible, and occasioned the remark of The death of Byron seemed, however, to Lord Macaulay which I quoted at starting. make an opening for Wordsworth. Scott, who The diminution has continued. The influhad for some time ceased to produce poetry him- ence of Coleridge has waned; Wordsworth's self, and stood before the public as a great nov- poetry can no longer draw succor from this ally. elist ; Scott, too genuine himself not to feel the The poetry has not, however, wanted eulogists ; profound genuineness of Wordsworth, and with and it may be said to have brought its eulogists an instinctive recognition of his firm hold on na- luck, for almost every one who has praised ture and of his local truth, always admired him Wordsworth's poetry has praised it well. But sincerely, and praised him generously. The in- the public has remained cold, or at least undefluence of Coleridge upon young men of ability termined. The abundance of Mr. Palgrave's was then powerful, and was still gathering fine and skillfully chosen specimens of Wordsstrength; this influence told entirely in favor of worth, in “The Golden Treasury,” surprised Wordsworth's poetry. Cambridge was a place many readers, and even gave offense to some. where Coleridge's influence had great action, and To tenth-rate critics and compilers, for whom where Wordsworth's poetry, therefore, flourished any violent shock to the public taste would be a especially. But even among the general public temerity not to be risked, it is still quite permisits sale grew large, the eminence of its author sible to speak of Wordsworth's poetry, not only was widely recognized, and Rydal Mount be- with ignorance, but with impertinence. On the came an object of pilgrimage. I remember Continent he is almost unknown. Wordsworth relating how one of the pilgrims, a I can not think, then, that Wordsworth has
up to this time at all obtained his deserts. “Glo- tion. But then comes a candid friend, and rery," said M. Rénan the other day—“glory, after marks that our upper class is materialized, our all, is the thing which has the best chance of not middle class vulgarized, and our lower class brubeing altogether vanity.” And when M. Rénan talized. We are proud of our painting, our music. presents himself to the French Academy—the But we find that in the judgment of other people only authentic dispensers, he says, of glory, of our painting is questionable, and our music non“this grand light "—he presents himself sup- existent. We are proud of our men of science. ported by M. Victor Hugo, his “ dear and illus. And here it turns out that the world is with us; trious master,” a poet irradiated with it—a poet we find that in the judgment of other people, too, “whose genius has throughout our century struck Newton among the dead, and Mr. Darwin among the hour for us, has given body to every one of the living, hold as high a place as they hold in our dreams, wings to every one of our thoughts." our national opinion. Yet probably not twenty people in that magnifi- Finally, we are proud of our poets and poetry. cent assemblage, all coruscating with the beams Now, poetry is nothing less than the most perfect of the “grand light,” had ever even heard of speech of man, that in which he comes nearest Wordsworth's name.
to being able to utter the truth. It is no small Wordsworth was a homely man, and would thing, therefore, to succeed eminently in poetry. certainly never have thought of talking of glory And so much is required for duly estimating sucas that which, after all, has the best chance of cess here, that about poetry it is perhaps hardest not being altogether vanity. And it is quite im- to arrive at a sure general verdict, and takes possible for us to esteem recognition by the longest. Meanwhile, our own conviction of the French Academy, or by the French nation, or by superiority of our national poets is not decisive, any single institution or nation, as so decisive a is almost certain to be mingled, as we see contitle to glory as M. Rénan supposes it. Yet we stantly in the English eulogy of Shakespeare, may well allow to him, after these reserves, that with much of provincial infatuation. And we few things are less vain than real glory. Let us know what was the opinion current among our conceive of the whole group of civilized nations neighbors the French, people of taste, acuteness, as being, for intellectual and spiritual purposes, and quick literary tact, not a hundred years ago, one great confederation, bound to a joint action about our great poets. The old “Biographie and working toward a common result; a con- Universelle ” notices the pretension of the Engfederation whose members have a due knowl- lish to a place for their poets among the chief edge both of the past, out of which they all poets of the world, and says that this is a pretenproceed, and of one another. This was the ideal sion which to no one but an Englishman can ever of Goethe, and it is an ideal which will impose seem admissible. And the scornful, disparaging itself upon the thoughts of our modern societies things said by foreigners about Shakespeare and more and more. Then to be recognized by the Milton, and about our national over-estimate of verdict of such a confederation as a master, or them, have been often quoted, and will be in even as seriously and eminently worthy, in one's every one's remembrance. own line of intellectual or spiritual activity, is A great change has taken place, and Shakeindeed glory—a glory which it would be difficult speare is now generally recognized, even in France, to rate too highly. For what could be more be- as one of the greatest of poets. Yes, some antineficent, more salutary? The world is forward- Gallican cynic will say, the French rank him with ed by having its attention fixed on the best Corneille and Victor Hugo! But let me have things; and here is a tribunal, free from all sus- the pleasure of quoting a sentence about Shakepicion of national and provincial partiality, put- speare, which I met with by accident not long ting a stamp on the best things, and recommend- ago in the “Correspondant,” a French review ing them for general honor and acceptance. A which not a dozen people, I suppose, look at. nation, again, is furthered by recognition of its The writer is praising Shakespeare's prose. With real gifts and successes; it is encouraged to de- Shakespeare, he says, “ prose comes in whenever velop them further. And here is an honest ver- the subject, being more familiar, is unsuited to dict, telling us which of our supposed successes the majestic English iambic." And he goes on : are really, in the judgment of the great impartial “Shakespeare is the king of poetic rhythm and world, and not in our own private judgment only, style, as well as the king of the realm of thought. successes, and which are not.
Along with his dazzling prose, Shakespeare has It is so easy to feel pride and satisfaction in succeeded in giving us the most varied, the most one's own things, so hard to make sure that one harmonious verse, which has ever sounded upon is right in feeling it! We have a great empire. the human ear since the verse of the Greeks." But so had Nebuchadnezzar. We extol the M. Henry Cochin, the writer of this sentence, “ unrivaled happiness" of our national civiliza- deserves our gratitude for it; it would not be