October 1845-July 1846

The Collected Letters, Volume 20


TC ON LEIGH HUNT ; June 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18460600-TC-MCLH-01; CL 20: 198-200


[June 1846?]



1. That Mr. Hunt is a man of the most indisputedly superior worth; a Man of Genius in a very strict sense of that word, and in all the senses which it bears or implies; of brilliant varied gifts, of graceful fertility, of clearness, lovingness, truthfulness; of childlike open character; also of most pure and even exemplary private deportment; a man who can be other than loved only by those who have not seen him, or seen him from a distance through a false medium.

2. That, well seen into, he has done much for the world;—as every man possessed of such qualities, and freely speaking them forth in the abundance of his heart for thirty years long, must needs do: how much, they that could judge best would perhaps estimate highest.

3. That, for one thing, his services in the cause of Reform, as founder and long as editor of the Examiner newspaper;1 as poet, essayist, public teacher in all ways open to him, are great and evident: few now living in this kingdom, perhaps, could boast of greater.

4. That his sufferings in that same cause have also been great; legal Prosecution and Penalty (not dishonourable to him; nay, honourable, were the whole truth known, as it will one day be):2 unlegal obloquy and calumny through the Tory press;—perhaps a greater quantity of baseless, persevering, implacable calumny, than any other living writer has undergone. Which long course of hostility (nearly the cruellest conceivable, had it not been carried on in half, or almost total misconception) may be regarded as the beginning of his other worst distresses, and a main cause of them, down to this day.

5. That he is heavily laden with domestic burdens, more heavily than most men, and his economical resources are gone from him.3 For the last twelve years he has toiled continually, with passionate diligence, with the cheerfullest spirit; refusing no task; yet hardly able with all this to provide for the day that was passing over him; and now, after some two years of incessant effort in a new enterprise4 that seemed of good promise, it also has suddenly broken down, and he remains in ill health, age creeping on him, without employment, means, or outlook, in a situation of the pain-fullest sort. Neither do his distresses, nor did they at any time arise from wastefulness, or the like, on his own part (he is a man of humble wishes, and can live with dignity on little); but from crosses of what is called Fortune, from injustice of other men, from inexperience of his own, and a guileless trustfulness of nature:—the thing and things that have made him unsuccessful make him in reality more loveable, and plead for him in the minds of the candid.

6. That such a man is rare in a Nation, and of high value there; not to be procured for a whole Nation's Revenue, or recovered when taken from us, and some 200l. a year is the price which this one, whom we now have, is valued at; with that sum he were lifted above his perplexities, perhaps saved from nameless wretchedness! It is believed that in hardly any other way could 200l. abolish as much suffering, create as much benefit, to one man, and through him to many and all.

Were these things set fitly before an English minister, in whom great part of England recognises (with surprise at such a novelty) a man of insight, fidelity and decision, is it not probable or possible that he, though from a quite opposite point of view, might see them in somewhat of a similar light; and, so seeing, determine to do in consequence? Ut fiat [So let it be]!

T. C.