James Henry Leigh Hunt was the son of a Philadelphia lawyer who had returned to England at the time of the American Revolution. The father was a highly principled if rather impractical man who changed his profession from lawyer to Unitarian minister and occasional tutor. At seven years of age, young Hunt was sent to school at Christ’s Hospital, where Lamb and Samuel Taylor Coleridge had also been students. Hunt’s The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt (1850) reveals that from his earliest years, he was instilled with a hatred of all that is evil. He detested violence, was shocked by profane language, and opposed tyranny by defending his weaker schoolmates with passive resistance of schoolyard bullies. Hunt stayed at Christ’s Hospital until he was fifteen. At seventeen, he published a volume of juvenile verse.
In 1808, Hunt became the editor of a journal, The Examiner, owned by his brother John. The Examiner championed a number of liberal causes: abolition of slavery, freedom of the press, an end to imprisonment for debt. In their catalog of social evils, the Hunts did not hesitate to include even the Prince Regent of England. Their description of the prince as “a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers” resulted in a libel case and two years’ imprisonment for both brothers. Prison was not very hard on Leigh Hunt. He had a decent room,...
(The entire section is 580 words.)