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who made the vices of his style apparent in their vapid and insincere imitations. Those who did not mimic Johnson did worse ; for they wrote in a tone of maudlin sentimentality that had not even the show of strength. Burke and Gibbon, indeed, were still living ; but they stood almost alone. In poetry, the Della Cruscan manner prevailed, with its false simplicity and real tinsel, its lachrymose tenderness and sham romance. Wordsworth and Coleridge had not yet risen above the horizon, and, in the dearth of original genius, Hayley was looked upon as a prodigy. It is true that Cowper kept alive the feeling of a better day ; but even his poems were to some extent imbued with the faults of the time. It was in the midst of these influences that Leigh Hunt's earliest literary style was fashioned. The age was one of pretence, and the young poet and essayist suffered in the first instance from the mistakes of others. He had “a good old aunt," who used to encourage him “to write fine letters," and on whom he composed an elegy after her death, in which he called her “a nymph”! In our days, none but a boy could commit such an absurdity; but at that time the boy simply followed the example of his elders, who in such affairs were probably not his superiors. The old lady herself, who was so fond of “fine letters," would doubtless have considered her translation into the nymphal state a perfectly proper thing—in poetry. In the same artificial and sophisticated strain, Leigh Hunt, when a boy,

an Ode in praise of the Duke of York's victory at Dunkirk, which,” he relates, “I was afterwards excessively mortified to find had been a defeat. I compared him to Alexander, or rather dismissed Alexander with contempt in the exordium.” In a letter to one of his daughters, he says

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that he described the Duke as "galloping about through the field of battle, shooting the Frenchmen in the eye!” When he had shaken himself free of this rubbish, Leigh Hunt became one of the most natural writers that ever lived; but it was not until after some years that he corrected the false literary education of his youth.

His experiences at the Blue-coat School were not of a character to set him in the right road. The master, Boyer, seems to have been a pedant, without any appreciation of the spirit of classical learning, which he apparently regarded as an affair of grammar and of mechanical forms. The boy saw through and disliked the formalism; and he fled for refuge to the poets of his own country—but generally to the poorest and weakest of them. He forsook one kind of conventionality for another; he bathed his mind in the poetry of the period immediately succeeding Pope, and appears to have regarded the contributors to “Dodsley's Miscellany" as the greatest masters of verse. So true to him were the most sickly pretences of the so-called pastoral school of poetry, that he and some of his school-fellows would occasionally row up the river to Richmond, in order that they might enact, literally and in good faith, Collins's extravagant lines about Thomson's grave in his Ode on the death of that poet :

“Remembrance oft shall haunt the shore

When Thames in summer wreaths is dress'd,
And oft suspend the dashing oar,

To bid his gentle spirit rest."

Such was the style which he then believed in and rever. enced; such was the style in which his earliest volume of poems, called " Juvenilia,” was composed. It was towards

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the close of the year 1799 that he quitted the Blue-coat School, and “Juvenilia” appeared in 1802. later than that-namely, in 1808—the Examiner commenced; but, in the meanwhile, the young author had been trying his wings in a variety of ways, though chiefly in the direction of essay-writing and theatrical criticism. The eighteenth century style was still in the ascendant, and some of the men whom we are accustomed to associate with that century almost exclusively were yet living and composing. Sheridan had several years of life before him ; Arthur Murphy, the friend and biographer of Johnson, might have been among the readers of Leigh Hunt's early productions; Mrs Piozzi, whose portrait had been painted by Hogarth, was alert and vigorous ; so was Hannah More; Porson was astounding Europe with his learning, and rejoicing his boon companions with his wit in the Cider Cellars of Maiden Lane; and Burke, Gibbon, Cowper, and Horace Walpole were but newly dead. The prose writings of Leigh Hunt in those days were in a great degree modelled on a book which was then a favourite of his, and for which, indeed, he retained a regard to the end of his existence—the Connoisseur of Colman the Elder and Bonnell Thornton. It was a collection of periodical essays in the manner of Addison's and Steele's Tatler and Spectator, and was distinguished by a vein of pleasant humour and wit, though wanting the freshness and originality of its prototypes. Its influence over Leigh Hunt was marked. The first set of essays he ever wrote in public—for there must have been many predecessors in private-were contributed to the Traveller evening newspaper (now united with the Globe), under the signature of “Mr Town, junior, Critic and Censor


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general ;" which, with the omission of the "junior," was the designation of the assumed author of the Connoisseur. He even caught up the pet phrases of the Connoisseur period; talked of "the town," "the critics," "the wits," "the fops," &c.; and reproduced, with half-unconscious fidelity, the tone of airy banter in which they delighted. We see the prevalence of this style in the volume (published in 1807) entitled, “ Critical Essays on the Performers of the London Theatres, including General Observations on the Practice and Genius of the Stage. By the Author of the Theatrical Criticisms in the Weekly Paper called the News.The book is extremely clever--we have certainly no such dramatic criticism now, nor, indeed, any drama or school of acting to call it forth; but the style is that of laboured and conscious epigram, combined with the somewhat ostentatious scholarliness, and proneness to moralise and lecture, of a youth not long free from the influences of his tutor.

The wit, however, is often genuine, notwithstanding the assumed manner; as where, speaking of John Kemble's eccentricities of pronunciation, the essayist says, “ I could mispronounce much better than he when I was a mere infant." This is like some of the happy sallies of Johnson in familiar conversation; but a few lines further down we have Johnson in his balanced literary style :-"He (Kemble) does not present one the idea of a man who grasps with the force of genius, but of one who overcomes by the toil of attention.” Nothing could be more unlike this method of thinking and writing than the mature style of Leigh Hunt.

Family antecedents have often much to do with determining a man's character and genius; and so it was in the present instance. Leigh Hunt's father was a Barbadian;



his mother a native of Philadelphia. Both families, Hunts and Shewells, were of English origin; but they had been settled for a few generations in the New World, and had acquired some semi-tropical characteristics. Leigh Hunt himself had a decidedly West Indian look, and there were not wanting West Indian elements in his disposition. Although some writers have indulged in a species of cant about his “gentleness," and although it is true that his nature was full of affection and of placability- both increasing with the progress of years-he had a good deal of hot blood in him, and could show it upon occasion. His earlier writings prove this, beyond the necessity of further remark. He had something also of the volatility, the luxuriance of fancy, the quickness to pleasurable impressions, the occasional reactions of melancholy, and the want of practical knowledge and adaptability, commonly found among natives of those lands which border on the sun. His volatility was in time counteracted by suffering, experience, and thought; his luxuriance of fancy was gradually curbed by the instincts of an exquisite literary taste, educated by incessant reading ; his quick apprehension of the pleasurable was kept in check by a conscientious and truly virtuous soul, and by habits of life which carried temperance to the length of abstemiousness; and the reactions of melancholy were overcome by a general tendency to cheerfulness. But the want of aptitude for the practical affairs of life continued to the end, and was the chief source of Leigh Hunt's continual embarrassments. He was also insensibly influenced by his parents in other ways than those to which I have alluded. Isaac Hunt, the father, was a clergyman of the Church of England, living in

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