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Some thirty years ago, three youths went forth, one fine summer's day, from the quiet town of Mansfield, to enjoy a long, luxurious ramble in Sherwood forest. Their limbs were full of youth-their hearts of the ardor of life—their heads of dreams of beauty. The future lay before them, full of brilliant, but undefined achievements in the land of poetry and romance. The world lay around them, fair and musical as a new paradise. They traversed long dales, dark with heather-gazed from hill-tops over still and immense landscapes — tracked the margins of the shining waters that hurry over the clear gravel of that ancient ground, and drank in the freshness of the air, the odors of the forest, the distant cry of the curlew, and the music of a whole choir of larks high above their heads. Beneath the hanging boughs of a wood-side they threw themselves down to lunch, and from their pockets came forth, with other good things, a book. It was a new book. A hasty peep into it had led them to believe that it would blend well in
the perusal with the spirit of the region of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, and with the more tragical tale of that Scottish queen, the gray and distant towers of one whose prison-houses could be descried from their resting-place, clad as with the solemn spirit of a sad antiquity. The book was
The Story of Rimini. The author's name was to them little known; but they were not of a temperament that needed names—their souls were athirst for poetry, and there they found it. The reading of that day was an epoch in their lives. There was a life, a freshness, a buoyant charm of subject and of style, that carried them away from the somber heaths and wastes around them to the sunshine of Italy—to gay cavalcades and sad palaces. Hours went on, the sun declined, the book and the story closed, and up rose the three friends drunk with beauty, and with the sentiment of a great sorrow, and strode homeward with the proud and happy feeling that England was enriched with a new poet. Two of these three friends have for more than five-and-twenty years been in their graves; the third survives to write this article.
For thirty years and more from that time the author of Rimini has gone on adding to the wealth of English literature, and to the claims on his countrymen to gratitude and affection. The bold politician, when it required moral bravery to be honest ; the charming essayist; the poet, seeming to grow with every new effort only more young in fancy and vigorous in style—he has enriched his country's fame, but his country has not enriched him. It is still time to think of it, and it might save many future regrets, if a government becoming daily more liberal, were to show that it knows the wishes of the public, and is glad to fulfill them.
We have the authority of Mr. Leigh Hunt himself, in a memoir written six-and-thirty years ago, for the fact that he was born in 1784, at Southgate. His parents were the Rev. J. Hunt, at that time tutor in the family of the Duke
of Chandos, and Mary, daughter of Stephen Shewell, merchant of Philadelphia, whose sister was the lady of Mr. President West. Thus the poet was by his mother's marriage nearly related to the great American painter; and here, he says, he could enlarge seriously and proudly; but this boasting, it turns out very characteristically, is not of any adventitious alliance with celebrated names, but of a truer and more happy cause of gratulation :~"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 skulking 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 imbitter her 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." .
That is a fine filial eulogy; but still finer and more eloquent has been the practical one of the life and writings of the son. Whoever knows any thing of these, perceives how the qualities of the mother have lived on, not only in the grateful admiration of the poet, but in his character and works. This is another proud testimony added to the numerous ones revealed in the biographies of illustrious men, of the vital and all-prevailing influence of mothers. What does not the world owe to noble-minded women in this respect ? and what do not women owe to the world and
themselves in the consciousness of the possession of this authority? To stamp, to mold, to animate to good the generation that succeeds them, is their delegated office. They are admitted to the co-workmanship with God; his actors in the after-age are placed in their hands at the outset of their career, when they are plastic as wax, and pliant as the green withe. It is they who can shape and bend as they please. It is they—as the young beings advance into the world of life, as passions kindle, as eager desires seize them one after another, as they are alive with ardor, and a thirst for knowledge and experience of the great scene of existence into which they are thrown--it is they who can guide, warn, inspire with the upward or the downward tendency, and cast through them on the fature ages the blessings or the curses of good or evil. They are the gods and prophets of childhood. It is in them that confiding children hear the Divinity speak; it is on them that they depend in fullest faith; and the maternal nature, ingrafted on the original, grows in them stronger than all other powers of life. The mother in the child lives and acts anew; and numberless generations feel unconsciously the pressure of her hand. Happy are they who make that enduring pressure a beneficent one; and, though themselves unknown to the world, send forth from the heaven of their hearts poets and benefactors to all future time.
It is what we could hardly have expected, that Leigh Hunt is descended of a high Church and Tory stock. On his father's side his ancestors, were Tories and Cavaliers who fled from the tyranny of Cromwell and settled in Barbadoes. For several generations they were clergymen. His grandfather was rector of St. Michael's, in Bridgetown, Barbadoes. His father was intended for the same profession, but, being sent to college at Philadelphia, he there commenced, on the completion of his studies, as a lawyer, and married. It was, again, curious that, the Revolution breaking out, the conservative propensities of the family broke out so strong in him as to cause him to flee for safety to England, as his ancestors had formerly fled from it. He had been carted through Philadelphia by the infuriated mob, only escaped tarring and feathering by a friend taking the opportunity of overturning the tar-barrel set ready in the street, and, being consigned to the prison, he escaped in the night by a bribe to the keeper. On the arrival of his wife in England, some time afterward, she found him who had left America a lawyer, now a clergyman, preaching from the pulpit, tranquillity. Mr. Hunt seems to have been one of those who are not made to suceeed in the world. He did not obtain preferment, and fell into much distress. At one time he was a very popular preacher, and was invited by the Duke of Chandos, who had a seat near Southgate, to become tutor to his nephew, Mr. Leigh. Here he occupied a house at Southgate, called Eagle-hall; and here his son, the poet, was born, and was named after Mr. Leigh, his father's pupil.
Mr. Hunt, in his autobiography, describes his mother as feeling the distresses into which they afterward fell very keenly, yet bearing them patiently. She is represented as a tall, lady-like person, a brunette, with fine eyes, and hair blacker than is seen of English growth. Her sons much resembled her.
At seven, Leigh Hunt was admitted into the grammarschool of Christ's hospital, where he remained till he was fifteen, and received a good foundation in the Greek and Latin languages. Mr. Hunt describes very charmingly the two houses where, as a boy, he used to visit with his mother; one of these being that of West, the painter, who had married his mother's aunt; the aunt, however, being much of the same age as herself: the other was that of Mr. Godfrey Thornton, of the great mercantile house of that name. “How I loved,” says Leigh Hunt, “ the graces in the one, and every thing in the other! Mr. West had bought his house not long, I believe, after he came to England ; and