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Accustomed to live secluded from the world—coddled up by a few old and withered spinsters—the poetical mind of this fine writer has become narrowed till it has lost most of that vigorous and embracing universality, and scorn of conventionalism, which made him in his inspired moments utter
- We must be free, or die
- The career of Mr. Leigh Hunt is so familiar with the reading public that we need not waste our space in reciting it. We shall content ourselves, therefore, with the statement that as an agreeable essayist, vivacious poet, and pleasant companion, few men are his superiors. He does not pretend to any loftier position in literature than that of a genial and humanising critic; in this latter character he has done more than any other man to soften the acerbity of criticism, acting chiefly in the spirit of Shakspere's adage
“Love lends a precious seeing to the eye.”
In person he is tall; his hair is now gray and parted on his forehead ; it grows low down, which gives the appearance of a want of intellectual power; his voice is peculiar and soft; he sings a lively song, and accompanies himself on the piano or seraphine with much spirit and grace; abounds with pleasant anecdote, and is fond of punning; his quotations are very happy, and he occasionally throws off a parody of some old hackneyed passage with great effect.
We remember one day, in an excursion with him and Dr. Southwood Smith to Croydon, he saw some sheep grazing in a park near that place. He there remarked how much of the beauty of a passage depended on a word; for instance, said he, apostrophizing the sheep
“ The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to-day,
Had he thy reason would he skip and play?
Leigh Hunt, had he done nothing himself, would still be remarkable for his associations.. While we should consider the author of Rimini, and the Legend of Florence as a very clever man of letters, who, having no originality himself, had the rare art of doing several old things so well as to achieve a sort of adventitious fame; yet, when we regard him as the intimate friend of Shelley and Keats, the associate of Byron, Lamb, Hazlitt and Coleridge, he becomes more remarkable on their account than on his own. He has an aroma not belonging to him
“ He is not the rose, says the Persian song,
But he has dwelt beside it !"
Intercourse with these men of genius, and the keen, appreciating spirit of Hunt, has had the effect of making him one of the most agreeable of talkers. He is now in the enjoyment of a pension from the
queen of two hundred pounds per annum, and one of one hundred and twenty pounds from Sir Percy Florence Shelley, son to the great poet. We must not forget to name, that on the death of his grand-father, when he came to the Baronetcy, young Shelley immediately sent to Mr. Hunt stating he had learnt that his father had intended giving him an annuity, and he, therefore, felt happy in carrying out the wishes of one so dear to him.
If any extended notice of Mr. Leigh Hunt was unnecessary, it is still less requisite in the case of the author of Lalla Rookh.
His melodies have made him the inmate of every household; his name conjures up associations old as our boyhood-lips once trembling with emotion, but now closed for ever, have sung to us those most graceful of all lyrics—" oft in the stilly night," visions of
the bygone years float past to the music of his ballads; we may, therefore, leave the inimitable lyrist of the genial, the tender and the fanciful, by remarking what, however, is perhaps generally known, that he now awaits in a half torpid state the touch of that great Master whose finger carries to the world of graves. His later years have been clouded by family misfortune, and it is pretty currently rumored that nature has treated the aged bard kindly, by rendering him partially insensible to his domestic bereavements. We may sing in the words of a dramatist,
“ Deal gently with him, sovereign death, for he
Has charmed the world with his sweet minstrelsy!"
-Mr. Procter, better known as Barry Cornwall, the schoolfellow of Byron and Peel, has retired for many years from the poetical world. He may, therefore, be considered as having abdicated Parnassian Life. As a poet, we are inclined to believe posterity will award him little honor. What celebrity he may earn as a “ Commissioner of Lunatics ” is another question. With the exception of a few pretty songs, he has done very little. He has tried the higher kinds of composition, and lamentably failed: his tragedy of Mirandola was an unequivocal defeat; his larger poems of the Flood of Thessaly, and Marcian Colonna, were likewise evidences of his want of power for a sustained flight. Fortunately for his ephemeral reputation he first appeared at a time when it took very little to make a poetical name. Had he lived in later days he would certainly have only achieved a seat on the second form.
Next after Wordsworth, Walter Savage Landor is undoubtedly the most original poet in this little band of patriarchs. His extreme classicality, and half paganistic worship of beauty, have, however, deprived him of that wide circle of readers and admirers, which undoubtedly his genius deserves. Curiously enough, it is to his prose works that he owes the small popularity he enjoys.
His “Imaginary Conversations” have, for years, had an applauding circle, comprising the most enlightened critics of the day, while the student and the man of the world may equally learn wisdom from their pages. In this portion of Mr. Landor's writings may be found the most simple, the most ornamental, the most imaginative, and the most subtle specimens of modern prose composition. In these singular productions, the artist's hand is visible throughout; no careless sentences; all is elaborate, fastidious and classical. There is a refined grandeur, a musical tread, a keen spirit, and added to this, all is presented in a language which is “ perspicaciously ornamental.” All is so interwoven that the ornaments seem a natural part of the Grecian structure.
It is almost ludicrous to name so feeble a writer as Samuel Rogers, after one so powerful and brilliant as Landor; but the greater marvel is yet to come—that Rogers is infinitely more popular with the masses than the author of Gebir. For one that drinks deep of Landor, there are a dozen who sip the “ verse and water” of the “Pleasures of Memory.” Originality is a great bar to the popularity of an author, more especially if he happens to be a poet; sometimes, originality, even though obscured in a peculiar and almost impracticable style, provokes readers to study and find out the puzzle or hidden meaning, as in Carlyle; but in poetry it is not so; and we offer as a proof-Browning.
The romantic facts of Mr. Landor's life are too well known to require recapitulation. We shall therefore merely assure our readers that while we feel certain that Mr. Landor will increase in fame as the ages roll, we are as firmly convinced that the feeble commonplace elegancies of Rogers will moulder into their native element, oblivion. Both are correct writers, but one is the correctness of the classic, the other of the schoolmaster-one is refined, spiritual, subtle, compressed poetry: the other is pains-taking laborious verse, not struck off in a divine heat, and then moulded by an artist power
into a form of beauty, but forced drop, by drop, from the withered breast of poesie, and carefully preserved by the toiling mechanic of Parnassus. It was told me by a friend of the bard, the beau, the banker, that the poet's uncle adopted him and his brother, and took them into his banking house. After some time he detected the elder one in writing verses : the horror struck merchant, when he died, allowed the detected verse-maker a certain annuity, leaving the business and the bulk of his fortune to Samuel, with the remark that he would never be a poet. We are entirely of the uncle's opinion, and boldly avow our belief that no spiteful nature can, by any process of sublimation, be raised into the poet; Mr. Rogers, therefore, must be content to stand or fall by his own nature—he has the reputation of being a great wit, and of having made some of the severest of modern jokes. The last on record is a remark he made to the
Miss Cushman, sister to the celebrated actress, and it exemplifies his politeness to the fair sex in a striking manner. The elder Miss Cushman is remarkable for the masculine nature of her genius, and for her assumption of male characters. The younger sister was congratulated one day by Mr. Rogers, on a report current in theatrical circles, of her approaching marriage. She denied the rumor, adding that she did not think it probable she should ever marry, as she had not met any one of a manly tone of mind. If she ever married, added the fastidious fair one, it would be one of a strong masculine nature. “Indeed,"; replied the sallow wit, “then why don't you marry your sister ?”
Mr. Rogers is famous for his breakfasts, where he gathers together the most celebrated men of letters. He is an old bachelor, is very wealthy, and lives in great comfort in St. James' Park. His house is a perfect bijou of curiosities, fine paintings, and objects of virtu.
He has lately figured in the newspapers as the valiant defender of his life and limb with an old umbrella, against