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satire of “ English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.'
The success of this poem at once stamped his reputation; it met with vast circulation, and universal applause. The million were delighted with it, from the relish that almost every one has for any thing pungent and satirical; some authors extolled it, because they had forinerly suffered under the lash of the critics themselves, and rejoiced in any thing that could reach their feelings, or prove their fallibility : while many others joined in the plaudits, by way of making favour with the poet, least they should at some future time suffer under the satire of his excursive muse.
The poem, indeed, was intrinsically excellent, possessing much of the terseness and vigour of Roman satire ; and though he lay about him with an unsparing hand, and often cut down where he should merely have lopped off, still, we think, the garden of poetry would be wonderfully benefited by frequent visitations of the kind. The most indifferent part of the poem is that where the author meant to be most severe; his animadversions on the critics have too much of pique and anger; the heat of his feelings has taken out the temper of his weapon; and when he mentions Jeffrey he becomes grossly personal, and sinks beneath the dignity of his muse.
Whatever may have been the temporary pain of the application, we think Lord Byron was benefited by the caustic of criticism. He was entering into literature with all the lulling advantages of a titled author; a strong predisposition on the part of society to admire; and none of those goads to talent that stimulate poor and obscure aspirers after fame, whose only means of rising in society is by the vigorous exertion of their talents. His lordship might, therefore, have slipped quietly into the silken herd of " persons of quality,” who have from time to time scribbled volumes of polite, spindle-shanked poetry, in their nightgowns and slippers, had not the rough critic of the north given a salutary shake to his nerves, and provoked him to the exertion of full and masculine talent.
On coming of age, Lord Byron, after taking his seat in the house of peers, went abroad and spent some time in the south of Europe, and among the Grecian islands. He appears to have trod those classic regions with the enthusiasm of a scholar, and to have stored his mind and exalted his imagination with the relics of departed taste and grandeur, and the luxurious scenes and gorgeous imagery of the east. He returned to England in 1811, and in the spring of 1812 published “Childe Harold's Pilgrimnage.” The limits of this brief article will not allow us to enter into any examination of the merits of this poem, which, indeed, has been thoroughly scrutinized by every periodical publication of the times. In the notes appended to it, bis lordship again took occasion to indulge in a few hits of no great force against his old adversaries, the Edinburgh reviewers. These writers, in reviewing his “ Childe Harold,” spoke of it with great candour and applause, and in the conclusion of their criticisin, adverted, in terms of manly moderation, to his lordship's determined hostility. This unexpected liberality touched the generous feelings of the poet, and in a letter, which he immediately wrote to Mr. Jeffrey, he lamented the literary feud that had arisen between them, expressed bis sense of the fair and candid criticism of Childe Harold, and regretting that his resentments had led him to the publication of his satire, declared, that as an atonement, he would endeavour to suppress its circulation, and banish it from print. His lordship has faithfully observed the promise, and the consequence is, that a copy of “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers” is not to be procured at present in any of the bookshops of Great Britain.
The subsequent writings of Lord Byron are too well known to need recapitulation. He has published a succession of brilliant little eastern tales, decorated with appropriate and splendid imagery. These are in every one's hands, and are the hackneyed subjects of every review. The profits of these writings have been liberally dispensed by his lordship to various persons; for, though by no means very affluent in his circumstances, he considers it a point of pride not to receive pecuniary emolument from the inspirations of his muse. In the introduction to his last poem he expresses a determination not to publish again for several years; and we understand he is about once more to depart on his poetic rambles in the east. We hope he may keep to his determination, and give time for that poetical genius, which has hitherto manifested itself in brilliant sparks and flashes, to kindle up into a fervent and a lasting flame.
(Leigh Hunt, the author of the Feast of the Poets, has written much and well in
verse and prose, on various subjects, particularly politics, literature and dramatic criticism. Bui in every thing he writes, he discovers a poetical character He is daturally a poet—not, perhaps, of the first order, and probably incapable of producing the highest effect of sublimity or pathos, but full of fancy, of sprightliness, of taste, and of sentiment. The following sketch of his life, written by himsel about four years ago, possesses much interest, and places in a strong light the bold. ness and independence of the author's literary and political character. It is to be regretted that so much of violent asperity and personal feeling should mingle with his political opinions. Since the date of this letter Mr. Hunt was for about a year the editor of a quarterly literary pubication of great merit, entitled the Reflector, in which the Feast of the Poets first appeared, after which he again entered with much violence into political controversy, and has since shared the fate of Cobbett, having been convicted of a libel upon the Prince Regent, and sen. tenced to two years' imprisonment in Surrey gaol.]
MEMOIR OF ME. JAMES HENRY LEIGH HUNT.
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE MONTHLY MIRROR.
Examiner Office, April 20, 1810. You know my opinions respecting the biography of living persons, especially of those who either deserve no such notice, or may wish to deserve it better: but you have succeeded in persuading me that a public writer, who pays attention to the drama, is a person of some interest to your readers; and as an author on these occasions must be an assisting party to what is said of him, I have thought it best to say quite as much as need be said, in my own person, and thus perform the task as frankly and decently as possible. Addison has observed, in corroboration of your arguments, “ that a reader seldom peruses a book with pleasure, till he knows whether the writer of it be a black or a fair man, of a mild or choleric disposition, married or a bachelor, with other particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much to the right understanding of an author.” (Spec. No. 1.) And it was said of Tom Brown, I think, when the second edition of his poems did not sell, that the joke was lost, because he omitted the portrait. Now, as my first wish is to be well understood, I would not willingly lose any help towards that valuable qualification. I should be very sorry were the reader puzzled with any opinion of mine, from bis ignorance of my having a dark complexion, or the ladies incline to doubt my sensibility, for want of knowing that I am very happily married. Thus I fairly disclose these two important secrets to the public; and that no possible joke may be
VOL. IV. New Series. 10
lost, the artists, you see, have produced a very good likeness of
my face. *
Of birth, &c. you tell me it is absolutely necessary to say something. Well:--I was born at Southgate, in October, 1784. My parents were the late Rev. I. Hunt, at that time tutor in the Duke of Chandos's family, and Mary, daughter of STEPHEN SHEWELL, merchant of Philadelphia, whose sister is the lady of Mr. President WEST. Here, indeed, I could enlarge, both seriously and proudly; for if any one circumstance of my
life could give me cause for boasting, it would be that of having had such a mother. She was indeed a mother in every exalted sense of the word, in piety, in sound teaching, in patient care, in spotless example. Married at an early age, and commencing from that time a life of sorrow, the world afflicted, but it could not change her : no rigid economy could hide the native generosity of her heart, no sophistical and skulking example injure her fine sense or her contempt of worldly-mindedness, no unmerited sorrow convert her resignation into bitterness. But let me not hurt the noble simplicity of her character by a declamation, however involuntary. "At the time when she died, the recollection of her sufferings and virtues tended to embitter the loss; but knowing what she was, and believing where she is, I now feel her memory as a serene and inspiring influence, that comes over my social moments only to temper cheerfulness, and over my reflecting ones, to animate me in the love of truth. At seven I was admitted into the grammar school of Christ's Hospital, where I remained till fifteen, and received a good foundation in the Greek and Latin languages. On my departure from school, a collection of verses, consisting of some school exercises, and of some larger pieces, written during the first part of 1800, was published that year under the title of Juvenilia, and in a manner, which, however I may have regretted it, it does not become me, perhaps, to reprobate. The verses were my own, but not my will. The pieces were written with sufficient imitative enthusiasm, but that is all : I had read Gray, and I must write something like Gray; I admired Collins, and I must write something like Collins; I adored SPENSER, and I must write a long allegorical poem, filled with ne's, whiloms, and personifications, like SPENSER. I say thus much upon the subject, because, as I was a sort of rhyming young Roscius, and tended to lead astray other youths, who mistook reading for inspiration, as in fact has been the case, I wish to deprecate these precocious appearances in public, which are always dangerous to the taste, and in general dissatisfactory to the recollection. After spending some time in that gloomiest of all “darkness palpable," a lawyer's office—and plunging, when I left it, into alternate study and morbid idleness, studious all night, and hypochondriac all day, to the great and reprehensible injury of my health and spirits, it fell into my way to commence theatrical critic in a newly established paper, called the News, and I did so with an ardour proportioned to the want of honest newspaper criticism, and to the insufferable dramatic nonsense which then rioted in public favour. In 1805 an amiable nobleman, at that time high in office, procured me a humble situation in a government office. This office, in January, 1809, I voluntarily gave up, not only from habitual disinclination, but from certain hints, futile enough in themselves, yet sufficiently annoying, respecting the feelings of the higher orders, who could not contemplate with pleasure a new paper called the Examiner, which, in concert with one of my brothers, I had commenced the year before, and in which I pursued the very uncourtly plan of caring for nothing but the truth. This paper, which it is our pleasure to manage as well as we can, and our pride to keep as independent as we ought, is now my only regular employment; but I contrive to make it a part of other literary studies, which may at a future time, by God's blessing, enable me to do something better for the good opinion of the public; and as to its profits—with constitutional reform for its object, and a stubborn consistency for its merit, it promises, in spite of the wretched efforts of the wretched men in power, to procure for me all that I wish to acquire-a good name and a decent competency.
* This letter is accompanied in the Monthly Mirror by a very fine head.
I find I have been getting serious on this magnificent subject; but a man's muscles unconsciously return to their gravity when employed in talking of his own affairs, and few persons have enjoyed a more effectual round of flatteries than myself, who have been abused and vilified by every publication that has had the least pretension to infamy ;-not to mention the grateful things said of me by the writers of " comedy,” to whom I have been teaching grammar any time these six years—or the epithets lavished upon my head by our prepossessing ATTORNEY-GENERAL, who has twice brought me into court as “ a malicious and ill-disposed person,” purely to show that he could not prove his accusation. It is in vain, however, that I write as clearly as I can for the comprehension of the ministerialists : nothing can persuade them, or their writers, that all I desire is an honest reputation on my own part, and a little sense and decency on theirs. It is to no purpose that I have preserved a singleness of conduct, and even kept myself studiously aloof from public men whom I admire, in order to write at all times just what I think. The corruptionists will have it that I am a turbulent demagogue, a factious, ferocious,