Leigh Hunt

   James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) was an English poet and essayist, commonly known by the name of Leigh Hunt, over which he wrote. He was born at Southgate, near London. In his young manhood he engaged in newspaper work. In 1812 he was arrested for writing an article reflecting on the character of the prince regent. He called the prince "a corpulent Adonis of fifty." He was imprisoned for two years and fined $2,500. His confinement was more of an ovation than anything else. Flowers, books, games, and friends made time pass rapidly. Soon after his release he published the Story of Rimini, an Italian tale in verse. In 1818, he started a weekly paper, The Indicator, in imitation of The Spectator. He was a "bright and shining light," Stedman tells us, in what was derisively called the Cockney School of poets, which included Shelley, Keats, Hazlitt, and others. In 1822 he went to Italy to assist Byron and Shelley in their projected paper. Shelley died that same year and, as there was little sympathy between Byron and Hunt, the plan was abandoned. In 1828 he published a volume of Recollections of Lord Byron. Though not a writer of the first rank, a knowledge of Leigh Hunt and his works is requisite to a grasp of the literary history of the first half of the nineteenth century. His Men, Women, and Books, The Town, Its Memorable Characters and Events, Autobiography, and Table Talk are interesting reading. It is believed that Leigh Hunt was the original of the irresponsible Harold Skimpole in Dickens' Bleak House. Dickens denied this, and, if it be true, the character is, of course, exaggerated.