Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

[Review of Leigh Hunt, Italian Poets]

These volumes were new to us, and taken up with that feeling of distaste which an attempt so seemingly, at first blush, absurd as that of writing poetry into prose, and above all, Italian poetry into English prose, must naturally induce. We find it, however, a very entertaining book, and its vivacity and general fidelity make it no valueless representation of Italian literature to those who have never entered that most beautiful, grand and fertile region. The book is, beyond measure, Leigh Huntish; none of his writings have so fully expressed the great talent, good feeling, and pervasive vulgarity of the author's mind. In boldest relief these attributes are seen in the critical and biographical sketch of Dante. Suppose a Medea to have an acute and lively English Abigail,1 who described her exploits, magical and tragical, for the edification of the kitchen, with perfect accuracy as to facts and a kind of frightened, strutting admiration at the greatness of her subject, interlarded with such remarks as a reference of Medean conduct to the Abigail standard might call forth, and you will have an idea of this commentary of the author of “Nimini Pimini” upon him whom he aptlyn characterizes as “that lonely lion of a man.”2 Never was a more complete illustration of the way talent naturally looks at genius, admiring the results, unable to appreciate the conditions under which they must be produced.

The great mixture of truth in all the criticisms of Mr. Leigh Hunt, his fineness of perception and sympathy in details, only make more palpable his entire want of spiritual insight, poetic dignity and that holiness of heart without which there can be no full description, far less mathematic measurement, of the works of great souls.

____________________
1
Medea, Greek sorceress who gained immortality for refusing the advances of Zeus; Abigail, a term meaning “lady's maid,” after the character of that name in the play The Scornful Lady (1613?), by the English dramatists Francis Beaumont (1584–1616) and John Fletcher (1579–1625). aply [aptly
2
A reference to Byron's title for Hunt's The Story of Rimini (1812–16).
n
aply [aptly

-367-

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