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Recollections of Writers
Leigh Hunt to Charles Cowden Clarke, 18 July [1834]

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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4, Upper Cheyne Row, July 18th.

I was much obliged to you for your letter, and rejoice to see that you continue to like the journal; but as to prejudice, thou Cowden, against “the Siddons,” I disclaim it, and do accuse thee (proof not being brought) of prejudice thyself in the accusation. The prejudice is nature’s;—what think you of that?—for I have no pique against the Kembles, excepting that they were an artificial generation, and their sister, with all her superiority, a sort of “mankind woman” as the old writers phrase it.

But now to better things,—Chaucer and first love; and first of the first; for love forbid that love should not go before Chaucer, seeing that love made Chaucer himself, or ought to have done so, and certainly made him a poet. I have read it twice, and both times with emotion. The only fault I find is that the uncle, under the circumstances, would not have stuck to his vow. He would at the utmost have gone to his rector or bishop with a case of conscience, and the bishop would have told him it was a wicked thing to stick to such a vow. As to the rest, all I say is, that the writer deserves to be a man’s first love and his last.

What you say about Lyonnet makes me “pause and wonder;” yet I cannot help thinking that it was unworthy of “his greatness” to put himself into such a state of fume and energy for such an object. What need had he to prove his energy, and by rope-dancing? Conceive the time it must have taken, and the grave daily joltering practice, an immortal soul (as an old divine or Johnson might have phrased it) bobbing up and down every day, with a grave face, and with
nothing better before it to warrant its saliences than the hope of beating a fellow at a fair! Sir, he had much better have taken Mrs. Lyonnet by the hand, and danced a pas-de-deux with her.

Boswell. There is a grace in that dance, sir.

Johnson. Yes, sir, and it promotes benevolence.

Boswell. And yet you would not have it danced every day, sir,—not with so formal a recurrence,—not as a matter of course.

Johnson. Why, no, sir; not ex-officio; not professionally; not like the clock, sir. Sir, I would not have a man horologically saltatory. An impulse should be an impulse, and circumstances should be considered besides.

Boswell. You have danced yourself, sir?

Johnson (with complacency). Yes, sir; (then with a shrewd look) though people would not easily suppose it. (Then rising with a noble indignation.) But, sir, I did not dance on the rope, like this Lyonnet, I left that to the paltry egotism of Frenchmen, fellows that think nothing too small to be made mighty by their patronage, that go and write the lives of caterpillars. . . .

I will come on Sunday week, if you will be good enough to let me know the hour.

Can you lend me for a day or two your copy of “Adam the Gardener”? I want to extract the description of the rainstorm for next Wednesday week.

Ever truly yours,
Leigh Hunt.

P.S.—I have omitted to speak of the Chaucer MS. after all. But you will see I had not forgotten him, either in MS. or letter. I need not repeat how I like your project, and as little, I am sure, need I apologize for the little corrections suggested in the preface.