Leigh Hunt

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Southgate, London
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Southgate, London

James Henry Leigh Hunt, also known as Leigh Hunt, was an English poet, essayist, journalist, editor, writer, and critic who was a key character in the English Romantic Movement. He was the editor of significant publications such as ‘The Reflector’ and ‘The Indicator’ during a time when periodicals were culturally prominent and on the rise. He composed diverse genres of poetry, including satires, epistles, narrative poems, short rhymes, odes, sonnets, and dramatic poetry. His works were renowned for their vivid and expressive language, as well as their rhythmic and emotional features. He was nature and environment lover and a master of temperament, which is shown in many of his works that exude vivacity and enthusiasm. The predominant subjects of his poems were patriotism, nature appreciation, and friendship. He translated poems written in several different languages, including French, Latin, Greek, and Italian. He introduced numerous poets, including Alfred Tennyson, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, and Robert Browning, who he inspired, including Walter Savage Landor, Charles Dickens, and Charles Lamb. His expertise in Italian and French versification is evident in his two most famous poems, “Jenny Kissed Me” and “Abou Ben Adhem.” Two of his notable plays are ‘A Legend of Florence’ and ‘Lovers’ Amazements,’ while ‘The Story of Rimini’ is considered to be his main poem.

Table of Contents

Youth and Early Life

He was born in Southgate, London, on October 19, 1784, to Isaac Hunt and Mary Shewell Hunt. His father was a lawyer from Barbados, while his mother was the daughter of a prominent Philadelphia merchant.

Following the commencement of the Revolutionary War, his family escaped from Philadelphia to England. He was the first child and youngest son born outside of the United States. Isaac Hunt eventually became an Anglican preacher but struggled to make a living.

He was named after James Henry Leigh, the nephew of James Brydges, the third Duke of Chandos, whom Isaac Hunt instructed.

In 1791, he entered in the free boarding school Christ’s Hospital, where he obtained his official education until 1799. While Samuel Taylor Coleridge received his diploma from the same school in early 1791, Charles Lamb left in 1789. Thomas Barnes was one of Hunt’s classmates.

His early childhood was characterized by extensive reading, meticulous writing, and an aptitude for classical literature, all of which were fostered by a school curriculum that emphasized these activities.

Due to his speech handicap, which was eventually corrected, he was unable to enroll in the university.
According to him, when he graduated from high school, he did little besides frequent bookstores and composing poetry.

Leigh Hunt’s Career

He was influenced by the works of William Collins and Thomas Gray, and many of his poems bear an uncanny resemblance to theirs. This was clear in ‘Juvenilia,’ his first collection of poems written during his school years. It was published in 1801 with the assistance of several important English and American subscribers acquired by his father.

“Juvenilia” was a collection of sonnets, elegies, translations, pastorals, and hymns that echoed the works of William Collins, Thomas Gray, and Alexander Pope. It earned favorable reviews from notable literary reviewers.
After leaving school, he began writing for newspapers, including a volume of theatre criticism published in 1807, a series of ‘Classic Tales,’ and essays on authors written critically.

After working as a clerk in his brother Stephen’s law office for a time, he joined his brother John’s newspaper in Strand, London, as its editor in 1808.
From 1810 to 1811, he also edited John’s quarterly magazine, ‘The Reflector,’ and wrote a satire, ‘The Feast of the Writers,’ which irritated William Gifford and a number of other poets.

In the meantime, ‘Examiner’ gained a reputation for its unorthodox political freedom, and when it censured Prince Regent in 1813, the two brothers faced prosecution and two years in prison. While incarcerated, he was visited by Charles Lamb, Thomas Moore, and Lord Byron, among others, whose relationships had a significant influence on the development of his career.

The 1816 publication of his great poem “The Story of Rimini” gave him a place in English literature. Despite being based on the melancholy chapter of ‘Francesca da Rimini’ contained in ‘Inferno’ – the first part of Dante Alighieri’s ‘Divine Comedy’ – Hunt presented it in a more upbeat manner, counter to the subject’s original tone.

In December 1816, he introduced Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats to the public by publishing their poetry in the “Examiner.”
Many writers, including Charles Lamb, Shelley, William Hazlitt, Benjamin Haydon, and John Keats, congregated around him in Hampstead and became known as the “Hunt Circle.”

Two volumes of ‘The Round Table’ including writings written by him and William Hazlitt between 1814 and 1817 and initially published in ‘The Examiner’ were released in 1817.
The foliage was a compilation of his poems published in 1818, following ‘Juvenilia’

In 1818, when his friend Shelley, whose generosity frequently assisted Hunt, left for Italy, his financial situation deteriorated much further.

His writings Bacchus and Ariadne’ and ‘Hero and Leander’ were published in 1819. In the same year, he joined Joseph Appleyard’s literary weekly, The Indicator, and edited it until 1821. He wrote numerous articles for the weekly, including essays, poems, stories, and reviews.

In 1821, Shelley and Lord Byron persuaded him to come to Italy to establish the quarterly magazine Liberal, which Hunt would edit and all three would contribute to. In pursuit of this objective, Hunt left for Italy on November 15, 1821. His journey was fraught with obstacles, including ill health, a storm, and other adversity, and he arrived in Italy on July 1, 1822.

Shelley’s untimely death devastated Hunt and made his situation more perilous. Now, he was physically reliant on Byron, who appeared less inclined to indulge Hunt’s large family. The return of Hunt to England occurred in September 1825.

Extreme poverty and illness plagued him, and his London Journal (1834-35) failed for a lack of subscribers.
In 1844, he received a £120 annuity from Mary Shelley and her son, and in 1847, he earned a £200 ‘Civil List Pension’, which mitigated his financial misery to some extent.

His noteworthy works include Lord Byron and His Contemporaries (1828), Captain Sword and Captain Pen (1835), A Legend of Florence (1840), Autobiography (1850), Stories in Verse (1855), and Lovers’ Astonishments (1855). (1858).

His significant translations include ‘Aminta’ by Torquato Tasso, renamed ‘Amyntas, A Tale of the Woods’ (1820), and ‘Bacchus in Tuscany’ by Francesco Redi (1825).

Personal History and Legacy

After years of romance, he wed Marianne Kent on July 3, 1809. They have 10 offspring.
His wife became an alcoholic over time and would disgrace him by secretly borrowing money from his acquaintances. Her sister Elizabeth Kent began assisting Hunt after her passing on January 26, 1857.

Thornton, his eldest son, once observed that Leigh Hunt would have been better off marrying Elizabeth, who was bright and had published two books herself.

On August 28, 1859, he died in Putney and was buried alongside his wife in London’s ‘Kensal Green Cemetery’ Elizabeth was buried alongside him as well.

Estimated Net Worth

Barbara Leigh Hunt’s estimated net worth is $3 million, with primary income sources being stage performer and film actor. We lack sufficient evidence regarding Barbara Leigh Hunt’s automobiles and way of life.

Trivia

In September 1966, one of the boarding dormitories at Christ’s Hospital school was given his name.