The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt

The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt

The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt

The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt

Excerpt

On February 3rd, 1813, James Leigh Hunt and his brother, John, were sentenced to two years' imprisonment for libels against the Prince Regent. Thirty-four years later the Government made tardy atonement for harsh treatment of an honest critic, whose only offence had been his zeal for reform, when on 22nd June, 1847, Lord John Russell granted to Leigh Hunt a pension of two hundred pounds a year "in consideration of his distinguished literary talents".

Those who had stood by him in his earlier troubles were most of them dead. His life-long friend Charles Lamb, who had left Christ's Hospital just before Hunt first put on blue-coat and bands, and who had been the most frequent of his visitors in the Surrey Gaol, coming "to comfort me in all weathers, hail or sunshine, in daylight and in darkness, even in the dreadful frost and snow of the beginning of 1813", had lain in Edmonton Churchyard for thirteen years. Lamb's lovable, tragic sister Mary, missed, by but a few months, the joy of sharing Hunt's good news. Byron, who had first come to him in prison, who had become his close acquaintance and his enemy, had atoned for his pride at Missolonghi. His closest school friend was dead:

Dear Barnes, whose native taste, solid and clear The throng of life has strengthened without harm;

Barnes who had bathed with him in the New River and learnt Italian by his side, who had always been his champion and had always reminded Hunt of Fielding. Dead, too, was Barnes's assistant at The Times, Thomas Alsager, "the kindest of neighbours, a man of business who contrived to be a scholar and a musician". Hazlitt, another of those who had first met Hunt in . . .

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