The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt (Masterplots, Definitive Revised Edition)
Seldom, if ever before or since, has a creative man, notable in his own right, been so fortunate in his association with great men as was Leigh Hunt. To have known intimately all three of the leading “younger generation” English Romantic poets—Byron, Shelley, and Keats—and to have been well acquainted with Wordsworth, Coleridge, Hazlitt, Lamb, and Carlyle is a social and intellectual privilege not in any sense usual.
The AUTOBIOGRAPHY of James Henry Leigh Hunt, to give him his full name, is far more than a chronological account of the life of an important essayist and minor poet. It is a sorting out of vivid impressions from past experiences and associations, impressions which delineate Hunt’s lifelong passion for human advancement as well as his ability in old age to evaluate objectively the way he has come, the influences he has experienced, and those he has exerted.
Published in 1850, nine years before Hunt’s death, the AUTOBIOGRAPHY was hailed by Thomas Carlyle as the best autobiographical writing in the English language. This opinion was widely shared by reviewers, and the book has become a classic of its kind. Its quality derives largely from its emphasis on human values and on the interactions between the author and his various notable friends. Leigh Hunt, therefore, can afford to be neglectful of mere dates and mundane details; he has matters of present and future value to...
(The entire section is 1535 words.)
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
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.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
James Henry Leigh Hunt, editor, essayist, poet, and critic, was the youngest son of Isaac Hunt, a former student and lawyer in Philadelphia, and of Mary Shewell Hunt, a kind-hearted, conscientious woman of Quaker ancestry. Persecuted in revolutionary America for his loyalist views, Isaac Hunt had moved his family to England, where he adopted liberal views and became a popular Unitarian preacher.
In 1792 Leigh Hunt was sent to Christ’s Hospital School, which Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Charles Lamb had attended. As a student, he admired William Collins and Thomas Gray and composed poems in imitation of their work. Upon leaving school he haunted various bookstalls, read avidly, and continued to write poetry. The publication of his juvenile poems reached a fourth edition in 1804. In 1807, Hunt published Critical Essays on the Performers of the London Theatres, a volume of his collected theatrical criticism. This work demonstrates the vivid impressionism that was becoming typical of Romantic criticism. Also in 1808 Hunt joined his brother John in the publication of a weekly independent newspaper, The Examiner. In his activities as an editor, Hunt was drawn into the arena of political opinion and became a consistent, courageous but tolerant exponent of parliamentary reform and the liberal point of view. In 1809 he married Marianne Kent.
Having been several times acquitted in trials for political offenses in The...
(The entire section is 581 words.)