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From The Spectator. i some and complimentary manner. He now CORRESPONDENCE OF LEIGH HUNT.* proposed to write another, provided he could These two volumes are easier to read . find " some chatty subject," and it was the than to review; for though they are full, answer to this proposal which drew down of interesting matter, it is not of a kind j his wrath upon the editor. After referring which either requires criticism, or will bear j to another article upon the subject of Pebcing epitomized. More than that, "The trarch, which Huut had in contemplation,
Autobiography of Leigh Hunt " has already given to the world the chief facts of the poet's life, and afforded an opportunity to a younger generation of writers for recording their views of his career. These letters, however, are valuable for the additional evidence which they supply, that the current estimate of Leigh Hunt's character is on the whole a just one; and it is *n this capacity that they admit, we think, of being made most interesting to our readers.
There is one sensation, of which we are
Napier went on to say that he should like an intermediate short article very much, but that Hunt's use of the word "chatty " had rather alarmed him. He had, he said, already been much surprised by the prevalence of colloquial, not to say vulgar, expressions in the style of so accomplished a scholar, who had written, too, such exquisite verses; and his surprise had sometimes carried him so far as to make him fear for the durability of their connection. Then, after some polite assurances of his confidence that such
uninterruptedly conscious, as we read this I errors could arise only from haste, he adds
correspondence, and that is, that we are in the company of a weak man. Both in his gayety and his grief, his business and his pleasure, there is in all he writes a want of fulness of tone—a something neither exactly feminine, nor exactly frivolous, but thin and volatile. It shows with what awe the then comparatively unknown power of the press was inspiring our Government, that Leigh Hunt's papers in the Examiner should ever have consigned him to a prison. They ore words without thought, and would now-adays take rank with the rhetorical rhapsodies of the nation. But they had the advantage of being truth, which lent them a power not their own.
It is only natural, though of course it is not inevitable, that a weak man should often show signs of that temper which is described as "pettishness ;" and of such a temper there are numerous indications in these volumes. A good specimen to take will be Leigh Hunt's correspondence with the editor of the Edinburgh Review, at that time (1841) a Mr. Napier, who had warned Hunt against" colloquialisms " in his articles; for this particular instance will enable us to introduce at the same time a specimen of the rare good sense and sound practical judgment of the late Lord Macaulay. Hunt had already written one or two articles for the
that if Hunt will send him an article for the next number " in an amusing but gentlemanlike style," he will be delighted to receive it. Now we think this language was inconsiderate. For a man doesn't like to be told that a valuable engagement is in peril, because he has used the word " bit" twelve times in an article; or to have it hinted, however indirectly, that anything he has ever done is not gentleman-like. But a man of sense, dignity, and self-respect would probably have taken no notice of it, and have explained it away to himself as Lord Macaulay afterwards explained it. But Hunt wrote to Macaulay what we can only describe as a feeble and lachrymose letter begging for his advice and assistance under this insult to his feelings. Macaulay wrote back an answer which is a model of propriety and wisdom. "Napier," said he, " had not intended by the word gentleman-like to reflect on Hunt's character or manners. His taste in composition was not so catholic as some men's,—
"Ho thinks your style too colloquial; and, no doubt, it has a very colloquial character. I wish it to retain that character, which to me is exceedingly pleasant. But I think that the danger against which you have to guard is excess in that direction. Napier is the very man to be startled by the smallest excess in that direction. Therefore
. ., . . ,' r .. . I I am not surprised that, when you proposed
Ed.nburgh Senew, ,n regard to one of which, tQ send him ^ cha(ty ^.^ fc > ^ ^
Napier had expressed himself ma very hand-1 and recommended dignity and severity of
Corrttpondtnceo/Ltigk Bunt. Edited bv his i style, and care to aTM»d what he calls vujIn two volumes. Smith and Elder. , gar expressions, such as bit. The question
* Eldest Son:
is purely one of taste. It has nothing to do with the morals or the honor.
"As to the tone of Napier's criticism, you must remember that his position with regard to the Review, and the habits of his life, are such that he cannot be expected to pick his words very nicely. He has superintended more than one great literary undertaking,— the Encyclopedia Britannica, for example. He has had to collect contributions from hundreds of men of letters, and has been answerable to the publishers and to the public for the whole. Of course he has been under the necessity of very frequently correcting, disapproving, and positively rejecting articles; and is now as little disturbed about such things as Sir Benjamin Brodie about performing a surgical operation. To my own personal knowledge he has positively refused to accept papers even from so great a man as Lord Brougham. He only a few months ago received an article on foreign politics from an eminent diplomatist. The style was not to his taste, and he altered it to an extent which greatly irritated the author. Mr. Carlyle formerly wrote for the Review,—a man of talents, though, in my opinion, absurdly overpraised by some of his admirers. I believe, though I do not know, that he ceased to write because the oddities of his diction and his new words compounded a la Teutonique drew such strong remonstrances from Napier. I could mention other instances, hut these are sufficient to show you what I mean. He is really a good, friendly, and honorable man. He wishes for your assistance, but he thinks your style too colloquial. He conceives that, as the editor of the Review, he ought to tell you what he thinks. And, having during many years been in the habit of speaking his whole mind on such matters almost weekly to all sorts of people, he expresses himself with more plainness than delicacy."
This sensible advice had the desired effect, and Hunt proceeded with his article, though what was the subject which he eventually selected as a " chatty one," we are not informed.
Akin to pettishness, is egotism: that kind of egotism, at least, which is compounded of vanity and susceptibility. And we find a good deal of this, too, in Leigh Hunt's correspondence. In the last dozen years of his life this failing had increased. "The Story of Eimini," the " Legend of Florence," and the Old Examiners, are forever on his mind and on his pen. The great events which were passing in Europe, the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, the Italian Revolution,
found him with an averted face fixed fondly on the past, of which the central figure was himself. Literally, there is not one allusion to any one of these three events throughout the whole of his correspondence. We must, however, in justice, allow that there are two circumstances which palliate this strange indifference. One is, that his struggle for a livelihood lasted to his dying day, and absorbed all the mental energies which age and sickness had left him. The other is, that the revival of the old warlike spirit both in England and Europe must naturally have been distasteful to the veteran opponent of Toryism, with which it is commonly identified. His laurels had been earned in support of widely different ideas; and he states as much, in fact, in a letter to his friend, Mr. Hunter (1857), where he says it is not the business of a poet " to halloo on these brutalities."
But, above all, through these letters is discernible that sensuous temperament which has often been imputed to Leigh Hunt, and for which, in our opinion, he has been blamed too severely. There is no great harm, after all, in a man being fond of flowers, fruit, and young spring greens, unless he neglects higher things in order to attain them. But Leigh Hunt was very fond of them; and his fondness was something, we fancy, quite different from what is commonly called a love of nature. "At present," says he, in a letter to Shelley, in 1818 :—
"I have made myself a nook to write in of a morning in the corner of the room where Raphael stood—as thus: I have taken his place under the print of Shakspeare, in a chair with a table before me, put his bust on it, with a rose-tree at the side towards the door, and filled the outside of the window with geraniums, myrtles, daisies, heartsease, and a vase full of gay flowers; so that, with the new spring green in the garden, my books on the right, the picture of Jacques and the Stag under Milton, and two plaster-cast vases,
which has just sent me, on each side of
the Mercury on the piano, I have nothing but sights of beauty, genius, and morality au about me."
"We have had a late spring here," he writes, to the same correspondent two years afterwards:—
"But it is supposed the summer will be the finer for it. The blossoms will not be so blighted. The fields and gardens are full of that exquisite young green, crisp and juicy, the quintesscence of rain and sunshine, which is a beauty I suppose you will concede us even from the Vale of Arno."
Many ether passages might be quoted, which all go to confirm the impression made by these, namely, that he loved nature and natural beanies not only poetically but voluptuously; and this kind of temperament, if not kept in check by loftier and sterner conceptions, is just the one to give way to physical self-indulgence, even though it go no further than habits of indolence and contemplation.
It is a significant feature in Leigh Hunt's career, that he never attained to any of the prizes of his profession. We mean even the inferior and ordinary prizes—the editorships of magazines and newspapers—which relieve a man at all events from the difficulties which Hunt experienced. Yet were it not for this circumstance, one of the most interesting, and in some respects most creditable aspects of his character and career would be wanting. We mean the aspect under whicli he comes before us at the age of threescore years and ten, still a working litterateur and journalist, as he had begun life at twentyfive. We find him in these letters still ap
plying for work, still projecting articles, and still patching up republications with all the ardor and freshness of one who had never looked for better things. Nor do we find in these letters any expressions of discontent with his own position in the abstract, or any of those complaints, which men of letters are too prone to make, that his merits were neglected by the world. He seems to have been fully satisfied to remain a literary man to the last, and to be quite happy if he could see his way before him for a month. He does once record with some degree of bitterness that an execution was put into his house for forty shillings; but then his chief cause of complaint seems to have been that the bailiff interrupted him at dinner. We don't say that this easy way of taking things testifies to the highest kind of philosophy. Yet there is something amiable in the life of uncomplaining toil which Hunt followed to the last, something admirable in the simple fidelity with which he clung to literature ; and something very interesting to all literary men in the spectacle of a veteran of seventy-four going about the routine of his profession with all the freshness and hopefulness of youth.
A Waterloo Anbcdote. — Sir H. Blane, professing to give "a correct version of the death of that fine soldier, General Ponsonby, at Waterloo," gives an account which is in every particular bat one erroneous. He lias indeed jumbled together two persons of the same name (as Mr. Spencer Lyttleton has pointed out in the fimes), and has attributed to Major-General the Hon. Wm. Ponsonby what happened to the Hon. Colonel Ponsonby, and to the Colonel what happened to the General. General Ponsonby did die, Colonel Ponsonby survived Waterloo for many years. The facts are these.
Colonel Ponsonby, of the 12th Dragoons, was stretched wounded on the ground, and a Polish Lancer seeing some life in him, said, using a
filthy expression, " f , you are not yet dead,"
and deliberately ran his lance into the disabled man's body more than once. Some French riflemen then took possession of the ground where Ponsonby lay, and they made a heap of the bodies they found on the spot to serve as a sort of parapet, from behind which they tired kneeling. Ponsonby had the luek of being placed at the top of the pile, and the rifleman who was using his body both as shield and rest,
observing some signs of life in him, instead of acting as the savage, dastardly Lancer had done, •rave him a drink of brandy o'ut of his flask. As the day wore on, Ponsonby's sufferings became so intolerable that he implored the friendly foe to put his rifle to his head and despatch him, but the gallant fellow said, " No, cheer up, the day's your own, we are in full retreat; farewell, I must bo off." Wo are afraid to say how many wounds Ponsonby had, we believe they were not under a dozen, and his survival was attributed to his remaining on the ground exposed to the cold (for cold it was though midsummer) for nearly forty-eight hours, which kept down fever that would otherwise have supervened. He recovered to tell the story wo have repeated, and few finer looking men could be seen than he was, after having been riddled and pierced with a dozen wounds. But mark what death was in store for a man who had survived what we have faintly described. Exitus ergo quis tstt Heu gloria I The hero died of the merry-thought of a chicken. He was choked by a chicken bone at Marral Green on his road to Southampton, twenty-two years after his escape of all the horrors of the field of Waterloo.—Punch.
When Miss Hilary reached home> Elizabeth opened the door to her; the parlor was deserted.
Miss Leaf had gone to lie down, and Miss Selina was away to see the Lord Mayor's Show with Mr. Peter Ascott.
The first trial had happened at breakfasttime. Ascott, descending earlier than his wont, had askeu her, Did any gentleman, short and dirty, with a hooked ncse, inquire for him yesterday?
Elizabeth thought a minute, and recollected that some person answering the above
"With Mr. Peter Ascott!" Hilary was i not too flattering description had called, but a little surprised; but, on second thoughts, I refused to leave his name, saying he did not
she found it natural; Selina was glad of any amusement,—to her, not only the narrowness but the dulness of their poverty was inexpressibly galling. "She will be back to dinner, I suppose?"
"I don't know," said Elizabeth, briefly.
Had Miss Hilary been less pre-occupied, she would have noticed something not quite right about the girl—something that at any other time would have aroused the direct question, " What is the matter, Elizabeth?" For Miss Hilary did not consider it beneath her dignity to observe that matters might occasionally go wrong with this solitary young woman, away from her friends, and exposed to all the annoyances of London lodgings, that many little things might be
know the ladies, but was a particular friend of Mr. Leaf.
Ascott laughed. "So he is—a very particular friend; but my aunts would not fancy him, and I don't want him to come here. Say, if he calls, that I'm gone out of town."
"Very well, sir. Shall you start before dinner?" said Elizabeth, whose practical mind immediately recurred to that meal, and to the joint always contrived to be hot on the days that Ascott dined at home.
He seemed excessively tickled. "Bless you, you arc the greatest innocent! Just say what I tell you, and never mind—hush! here's Aunt Hilary."
And Miss Hilary's anxious face, white
happening to worry and perplex her. If the ' with long wakefulness, had put out of Elizmistress could not set them right, she could i abeth's head the answer that was coming;
at least give the word of kindly sympathy, as precious to " a poor servant" as to the queen on her throne.
This time, however, it came not, and Elizabeth disappeared below stairs immediately.
The girl was revolving in her own mind a
indeed, the matter slipped from her mind altogether, in consequence of another circumstance, which gave her much more perplexity.
During her young mistress' absence, supposing Miss Selina out too, and Miss Leaf up-stairs, she had come suddenly into the
difficult ethical question. To-day, for the , parlor without knocking. There, to her first time in her life, she had not " told Miss i amazement, she saw Miss Selina and Mr. Hilary everything." Two things had hap- 'Ascott standing, in close converation, over pened, and she could not make up her mind ,the fire. They were so engrossed that they as to whether she ought to communicate I did not notice her, and she shut the door them. | again immediately. But what confounded
Now Elizabeth had a conscience, by na- j her was, that she was certain, absolutely ture a very tender one, and which from , certain, Mr. Ascott had his arm round Miss circumstances, had been cultivated into a Selina's waist!
much higher sensitiveness than, alas! is! Now that was no business of hers, and common among her class, or, indeed, in any yet the faithful domestic was a good deal class. This, if an error, was Miss Hilary's troubled; still more so, when, by Miss doing: it probably caused Elizabeth a few I Leafs excessive surprise at hearing of the more miseries and vexations and painful visitor who had come and gone, carrying shocks in the world than she would have Miss Selina away to the city, she was cerhad, had she imbibed only the ordinary tone tain the elder sister was completely in the of morality, especially the morality of ordi- dark as to anything going to happen in the nary domestic servants; but it was an error family.
upon which, in summing up her life, the | Could it be a wedding? Could Miss SeHecording Angel would gravely smile. j lina really love, and be intending to marry, tbat horrid little man? For, strange to ' and the great attention which she said she say, this young servant had, what many a had received from "various members of the young beauty of rank and fashion has not, Common Council of the city of London," or has lost forever,—the true, pure, womanly ! Miss Selina was, for her, quite meditative, creed, that loving and marrying are synon-' and did not talk quite so much as usual. yraous terms; that to let a man put his arm I There was in the little parlor an uncomfortround your waist when you do not intend able atmosphere, as if all of them hadsometo marry him, or to intend to marry him thing on their minds. Hilary felt the ice for money or anything else when you do not must be broken, and if she did not do it, really love him, are things quite impossible nobody else would. So she said, stealing and incredible to any womanly mind. A her hand into Johanna's, under shelter of
creed somewhat out of date, and perhaps existing only in stray nooks of the world; but, thank God! it does exist. Hilary had it, and she had taught it to Elizabeth.
"I wonder whether Miss Hilary knows of this? I wonder what she would say to it?"
the dim firelight,—
"Selina, I wanted to have a little family consultation. I have just received an offer."
"An offer!" repeated Miss Selina with a visible start. "Oh, I forgot: you went to see your friend, Miss Balquidder, this morn
And now arose the perplexing ethicalI ing. Did you get anything out of her?
question aforesaid, as to whether Elizabeth ought to tell her.
It was one of Miss Hilary's doctrines— the same for the kitchen as for the parlor, nay, preached strongest in the kitchen, where the mysteries of the parlor are often
Has she any nephews and nieces wanting a governess?"
"She has no relations at all. But I will just tell you the story of my visit."
"I hope it's interesting," said Ascott, who was lying on the sofa, half asleep—his gen
so cruelly exposed—that a secret acciden- eral habit after dinner. He woke, however, tally found out should be kept as sacred as during his Aunt Hilary's relation, and when if actually confided; also, that the secret she reached its climax, that the offer was
But the secret weighed heavily upon her, and besides, her honest heart felt a certain diminution of respect for Miss Selina. "What could she see to like in that commonlooking, commonplace man, whom she could not have met a dozen times, of whose domestic life she knew nothing, and whose personality Elizabeth, with the sharp observation often found in her class, probably because coarse people do not care to hide their coarseness from servants, had speedily set down at her own valuation, " Neither carriage nor horses, nor nothing, will ever make him a gentleman."
He, however, sent Miss Selina home magnificently in the said carriage; Ascott with her, who had been picked up somewhere in the city, and who came in to his dinner without the slightest reference to going " out of town."
But in spite of her Lord Mayor's Show,
for her to manage a stationer's shop, he burst out, heartily laughing,—
"Well, that is a rich idea. I'll come and buy of you. You'll look so pretty standing behind a counter."
But Selina said angrily, "You cannot even think of such a thing. It would be a disgrace to the family."
"No," said Hilary, clasping tightly her elder sister's hand—they two had already talked the matter over: ,, I cannot see any disgrace. If our family is so poor that the women must earn their living as well as the men, all we have to see is that it should be honestly earned. What do you say, Ascott?"
She looked earnestly at him; she wanted sorely to find out whr.t he really thought.
But Ascott took it, as he'did everything, very easily. "I don't see why Aunt Selina should make such a fuss. Why need you do anything, Aunt Hilary? Can't we hold out a little longer, and live upon tick till I get into practice? Of course, I shall then take care of you all; I'm the head of the family. How horridly dark this room is!"
He started up, and gave the fire a fierce poke, which consumed in five minutes a