« ZurückWeiter »
himself with writing to his daughter and reading the Classics. He still indulged in a private printing press, though with more decorous results than of old. He sent Lord Mansfield a copy of * Theophrastus' thus issued, and received the following reply, the delightful irony of which he no doubt fully appreciated : ‘Lord Mansfield returns many thanks to Mr. Wilkes for his "Theophrastus," and congratulates him upon his elegant amusement. “Theophrastus" drew so admirably from nature that his characters live through all times and in every country.'
He had the courage which does not always accompany a sarcastic tongue, for he fought two duels, and was nearly killed in one of them, and when challenged on a third occasion he behaved himself, on the authority of Croker, who was certainly no admirer of his, 'like a man of temper and honour.' His most serious encounter was with Mr. Martin, and Wilkes was only saved by two buttons diverting the bullet. One of his admirers procured these precious relics and put them in a case with the following inscription: ‘These two simple, yet invaluable, buttons, under Providence, preserved the life of my beloved and honest friend, John Wilkes, in a duel fought with Mr. Martin on the 16th November, 1763, when true courage and humanity distinguished him in a manner scarcely known in former ages. His invincible bravery, as well in the field as in the glorious assertion of the liberty of the subject, will deliver him down, an unparalleled example of public virtue, to all future generations. Wilkes would probably have said to this, as the Duke of Wellington to the obsequious gentleman who escorted him across Piccadilly, Don't be a d--d fool, sir!' But the extravagant denunciation of Brougham and Russell is just as absurd. No man, though helped by his enemies, could have achieved what he did without courage, resolution, and profound sagacity, and he must have possessed much charm of character as well as manner, to have won such pious souls as Hannah More, Charles Butler, and the monks of the Chartreuse, and have converted into friends the hostile Mansfield and the still more prejudiced Johnson. He was free from one great vice of his age, for he was no gamester. Altogether he may be said to have been sufficiently punished for the excesses of which he was guilty, for they have obscured in the popular mind the great services he undoubtedly rendered to his countrymen.
W. B. DUFFIELD, Hannah More's Memoirs, Vol. 2, p, 109,
AN UNPUBLISHED LETTER FROM LEIGH HUNT.
[By the courtesy of Colonel S. Leigh Hunt, we are enabled to print, from a draft or copy discovered amongst his grandfather's papers, the hitherto unpublished letter written by Leigh Hunt to Robert Browning on the appearance of ' Aurora Leigh,' and alluded to by Mrs. Browning in a letter to Mrs. Jameson, dated February 2, 1857, as a very pleasant letter from Leigh Hunt of twenty pages (* Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning,' vol. ii. p. 253). The occasional obscurities of expression in Leigh Hunt's letter are probably to be referred to the inaccuracy of the copyist.–ED. CORNHILL.]
Hammersmith: December 31st (1856). DEAR ROBERT BROWNING,—(For ‘Browning seems too familiar to be warranted by my amount of intercourse, and Mr. sounds too formal for it (albeit its very formality has justly procured it acceptance with Mrs. Browning) therefore I hope that by addressing me as · Leigh Hunt' in return, you will authorize the tertium quid to which I have recourse in my perplexity)—
I received the new edition of the Poems, and the new Poem itself,' and read the latter through instantly, almost at one sitting; but I had work waiting for me at the time, was obliged to return to the work, had letters come upon me besides, and so could not write to give thanks, and say what I wished about the Book, as quickly as I desired. And what am I to say now? I dare not begin to think of uttering a fifth part of what I would say: for you must know, that I can never write upon any subject, beyond the briefest and least absorbing, without speedily getting into a kind of Auster of interest and emotion, with heated cheeks and a tightening sense of the head; and in proportion to this interest, this effect increases, so that I am forced in general to write by driblets; and the worst of it is, I write even then a great deal too much--just as I fear I talk—and have to cut it all down to a size so inferior to the on break, that you would at once laugh and pity
'Aurora Leigh, published November 11, 1856.
me if you saw the quantity of manuscript, out of which my book, or even my article, has to be extricated. It was always so with me, more or less; and now it is worse than ever. Age increases the written gabble. See it is upon me now! so I stop short.
New Year's Day, 1857. God bless you, dear people; you and your son, I mean and such others as may be mixed up with your well-being; and may He keep to you the 'Happy New Year,' which more or less must surely have come to you all, whatever shadow may be in it for the loss of the admirable friend' who has secured it to you. . . These are the first words I have written this year and they must needs be a little solemn.
But here am I nearly at the close of my second page, and have not yet said my little brain- [word illegible] say on Aurora Leigh. I say then, that it is a unique, wonderful and immortal poem; astonishing for its combination of masculine power with feminine tenderness ; for its novelty, its facility, its incessant abundance of thought, and expression ; its being an exponent of its age, and a prophetic teacher of it, its easy yet lofty triumph over every species of common place; and its noble and sweet avowal, after all, of a participation of error; its lovely willingness to be no loftier, or less earthly, than something on an equality with love. I cannot express myself th[o]roughly as I would; I must leave that to the poet, worthy of the poetess, who sits at her side; my own poetry, of the inner sort, being of very rare occurence (if it ever occur at all) and the rest of it never being moved to vindicate its pretensions to the title, except at foolish intervals by foolish critics, who have no poetry in them of any kind, and who undertake to judge of things out of the pale of their perceptions. Therefore you see, I beg to say, that there is modesty at the bottom of all this apparent claim to the right of being loud and eulogistic on great works, and that I offer it for no more than its worth, with homage to you both.
Nevertheless, I must not forget to add, that the poem is a wonderful biographic conversational poem. Wordsworth has written a biographical poem, which I am ashamed to say I have not yet read; but between you and me, Robert Browning, growing bold again on the strength of my convictions, I dare affirm, that Wordsworth, veritable poet as he is, is barren and prosaic by the side of the
i Mr. Kenyon, who died on December 3, 1856.
ever exuberant poetry of this book; and as to dialogue, out of the pale of the drama and that only of the finest kinds, I know of none like it, for the wit and satire of dialogues in Pope and Churchill are things of another and lower form, besides being nothing nigh so long; so that this poem is unique as a conversational poem, as well as being the production of the greatest poetess the world ever saw, with none but great poets to compare with her. How did she contrive it, the little black eyed playful thing pretending to be no more than other women and wires, yet having such a great big creation of things, all to herself?
Nor must I fail to thank her for so small a thing as a title,a great thing too, like a master's note or two of prelude on an instrument; 'Auròra Leigh,' it sounds to me like the blowing of the air of a great golden dawn upon a lily; strength sweetness (fill up that gap for me please ; for my cheeks are burning) Thursday evening, for the poor little word 'Leigh’is a gentle word too, and a soft ;-just the half of the word lily' (lee--lee) and I thank her in the names of all who are called by it, for the honour it has received at her hands. The late Lord Leigh, a great lover of poetry after whose father I was christened, would have been charmed by it; and so, I believe will his son ; though where she got the notion of its being particularly stately and aristocratie, I do not know; albeit ‘Stoneleigh Abbey' has a fine sound and Stoneley (Staneleigh) the same word provincialized is an ancient great name, half made of it;-Ley, Lee, Lea, Legh, and Leigh being all forms, you know, of the same word, meaning, some say, a meadow; others, a common; others, an uncultivated plain ; and some, I believe, a green by the water's side. As to me, having grown up in the name, and been used to be pitied as poor Leigh' for my juvenile and indeed grown up troubles too, besides being called by it on so many other occasions, both private and public, I could not help being almost personally startled now and then by the piteousness of the above designation, by the remonstrative Mister Leigh,' a 'man like Leigh,' 'Smith who talks Leigh's subjects' &c. Having no other pretensions however, wrong or right, to be a Leigh in the poem, never having thought that my fellow-creatures were to be rescued by half means, without the inner life,' much less having But to say no more about myself, thanks and thanks again for the whole book, and for the new poems in the other books, just (word illegible] of the [illegible] in the Portuguese sonnets, the appatriation of which
(what is the proper word ?) I always grudged them, though it was a very natural refuge from the misapprehensions of the ignoble. With other contents of those three precious volumes I shall make myself re-acquainted, and more intimate. Some of them remind me,-as a word did also, which you let fall here one day, that I once, I believe, said something in allusion to them about 'morbidity.' I withdraw the term utterly not because in apparently similar treatment of certain points of faith I should not believe it applicable to most persons, but because in our great English poetess I can recognize no excess of sensibility incompatible with a mind and understanding so healthily strong or rather, I cannot but recognize the health and strength notwithstanding them, and discern the unblighted and all-reconciling conclusions of perspective [sic] and heavenly right, -reason and justice, in which they finally repose. Perhaps you know, and I sometimes think you do, from your great expressions of [? good] will towards me in the inscription in your books, (for we may love and reverence a man for his good intentions, however we may differ in kind or with his opinion) that you have seen a book of mine called • The Religion of the Heart.'
I forget exactly what I was going to say here ; but it is no matter. Very likely you will be able to supply from your own thoughts, what was rising in mine.
I began the preceding pages and a few lines before it, on the present
Friday morning.-You must not suppose I am in the habit of writing my letters in this manner, though I am apt to do so when they grow long, and I have other things to write in the course of the day.
My only objections to Mrs. Browning's poetry at any time, very seldom in her latest, chiefly, if I remember, in ‘Casa Guidi Windows,' are now and then a word too insignificant at the end of her blank verses (if indeed it does not add to the general look of strength by its carelessness and freedom) and a giving way to an excess of thought and imagery, amounting sometimes to an apparent irrelevancy, into which she is tempted by her facility of rhyming as well as thinking, and which, as in Keats's early poem
Endymion,' forces a sense of the rhymes upon you for their own sakes, by very reason of the disrespect felt for their servisces, the air of indifference with which they are treated and the arbitrary uses to which they are put. The same objection often applies to