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Leigh Hunt to Mary Sabilla Novello, 1 August 1828

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX
John Keats
Charles Lamb
Mary Lamb
Leigh Hunt
Douglas Jerrold
Charles Dickens
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Highgate, 1st August, 1826.

Gypsy,—I know not what there is in this word gypsy, but somehow or other it makes me very tender, and if I were near you, I should be obliged to turn round and ask Vincent’s permission to give you a considerable thump on the blade-bone. I believe it is the association of ideas with tents, green fields, and black eyes—a sort of Mahomedan heaven upon earth—very touching to my unsophisticated notions. I wish we were all of us gypsies; I mean all of us who have a value for one another; and that we could go seeking health and happiness without a care up all the green lanes in England, half gypsy and half gentry, with books instead of pedlary. I should prefer working for three or four hours of a
morning, if it were only to give the rest of the day a greater zest; then we would dine early, chat or read under the trees, tea early (I think we must have some tea), and so to stray about by starlight if it is fine, and sit and hug ourselves with the thought of being well sheltered from the rain on a dripping night. I don’t think we would have candles. Our hours should be too good. Up with the lark, fresh air, green bowers, russetin-apple cheeks—why the devil doesn’t the world live in this manner, or allow honest people to do so that would? Oh, but we must wait a long while first, if ever; and meanwhile we must have a great number of children (“
Leigh Hunt for instance—just so”), purely to worry ourselves about more than will ever do them any good; and we must have a vast number of fine clothes, and visitors, and cooks (to provide us with all the fever we have not got already), and Doctors, and gossips, and tabernacles, and cheese-cakes, and other calamities; and we must all sacrifice ourselves for our children, and they must all sacrifice themselves for theirs, and they for theirs, and so on to the third and fourth generation of them that worry us, wondering all the while (poor devils! both we and they) how it is that so much good love and good will (for there the sting lies, that the unhappiness should arise out of the very love on all sides) does not hit upon modes of existence a little discreeter. Only let the world come to me—leave me alone with him, as the lady said; and I’d teach him how to make his children grateful, what pleasures to substitute for his cookery, and how he should cultivate mind and muscle by a pleasing alternation. But I am getting moral, and I am sure I didn’t intend to be so. Don’t think ill of me. I intended in this letter to be all full of pleasure, as I should be if we could do as I say. As to the cookery and all that, I sometimes fear that the theories of Vincent’s friends (which, between you and my conscience, are much better than their practice) set him upon an extreme of diet which has done him no good, and which it might be to his advantage to contradict a little more. He did himself harm by great sudden gulps of dinner and tea (no man being less of a gourmand than he was), rendered more hurtful by long fasting and overwork; and I sometimes fear
he too suddenly went counter to all this. Well, patience is a rascally necessity, as the poet said, and he has enough of it; but patience is rewarded at last. We have such miraculous accounts in the newspapers of cures of the spirits as well as body effected by the gymnastic exercises now spreading abroad, that I cannot help wishing Vincent would give them a trial when he returns; especially as in spite of the fat he had, I remember he used to be very active, and a vaulter over gates. So now, gypsy, stand in awe of me and my knowledge (which is what I like on the part of the sex), and then, suspecting me nevertheless to be not a jot more awful than yourself (rather the reverse, if you knew all), give me the most insolent pinch of the cheek you can think of (which is what I like much better), and in spite of all my airs and assumptions, keep for me one of the little corners that a large heart like yours possesses, and there let me occupy it when I please, with “dear
Mr. Arthur,” and dearer Statia, and one or two others who would willingly hold the rest of it, and its inmate among them, in their affectionate arms, till he got well and made us all happy again.

Ever most truly yours,
Leigh Hunt.

P.S.—Pray write again speedily, and we will be better boys and girls, and rewrite instantly. . . . Oh, the letters of Lady Suffolk and the Genlis which you ought to have had long ago. I send them now, with one or two other works which I think may amuse you, and a proof-sheet of an article of mine (the Dictionary of Love and Beauty), which you must take with all its mistakes of the press on its head. . . . Marianne begs her kindest remembrances. She is very well and in excellent spirits, with the exception of a swollen eye, given her by that mysterious personage called a Blight. I tell her it looks very conjugal; and yet I am sure I ought not to tell her so, but I may tell her that it is “all my eye.” Do you remember the Merry Wives of Tavistock? Statia and she are at present the Merry Wives of Highgate. We only want the other Tavistock one in good spirits again to beat the Windsor ones hollow.