A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Hunt, James Henry Leigh

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Hunt, James Henry Leigh (1784-1859). -- Essayist and poet, was b. at Southgate, and ed. at Christ's Hospital. A selection of his earliest poems was pub. by his f. in 1801 under the title of Juvenilia. In 1805 he joined his brother John in conducting a paper, the News, which the latter had started. Thereafter the brothers embarked upon the Examiner, a paper of pronounced Radical views. The appearance in this journal of an article on the Prince Regent in which he was described in words which have been condensed into "a fat Adonis of fifty," led to H. being fined £500 and imprisoned for two years. With his customary genial philosophy, however, the prisoner made the best of things, turned his cell into a study, with bookcases and a piano, and his yard into a garden. He had the sympathy of many, and received his friends, including Byron, Moore, and Lamb. On his release he pub. his poem, The Story of Rimini. Two other vols. of poetry followed, The Feast of the Poets and Foliage, in 1814 and 1818 respectively. In the latter year he started the Indicator, a paper something in the style of the Spectator or Tatler, and after this had run its course the Companion, conceived on similar lines, took its place in 1828. In 1822 H. went to Italy with Byron, and there established the Liberal, a paper which did not prove a success. Disillusioned with Byron, H. returned home, and pub. in 1828 Lord Byron and his Contemporaries, a work which gave great offence to Byron's friends, who accused the author of ingratitude. In 1834 H. started the London Journal, which he ed. for two years. Among his later works are Captain Sword and Captain Pen (1835), The Palfrey, a poem, A Legend of Florence (drama), Imagination and Fancy (1844), Wit and Humour (1846), A Jar of Honey from Mount Hybla (1848), The Old Court Suburb (1855), The Town, Sir Ralph Esher, a novel, and his Autobiography (1850). Although his poems have considerable descriptive power and brightness, he had not the depth and intensity to make a poet, and his reputation rests rather upon his essays, which are full of a genial philosophy, and display a love of books, and everything pleasant and beautiful. He did much to popularise the love of poetry and literature in general among his fellow-countrymen.