LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Recollections of Writers
Leigh Hunt to Charles Cowden Clarke, 4 February 1858

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
To Charles and Mary-Victoria among the Gods.
Feb. 4th, 1858, Hammersmith.

My dear Friends,—Tho’ it was a very delightful moment to me when I was again received by the house in that manner—far more delightful, for reasons which you may guess, than when I was first received, (with such strange memories sometimes will the brain of a poor humanist be haunted) yet the crown of the crown of congratulation is, after all that which one receives from families and old friends; terrible nevertheless, as the absence is of that which one misses. Bitter was the moment, after that other moment, when on returning home, I could not go first of all, and swiftly, into one particular room. But I ought to give you none but glad thoughts, in return for the gladness which you have added to mine. I had several times reproached myself for not writing to thank certain most kind remembrances of me in Musical Times, and then (as always seems to be the retributive case) comes this loving congratulation, before I have spoken. But work is mine, you must know, still and ever, and must be so till my dying day, only leaving me too happy at last, if I do but render it as impossible for any one individual in private to mistake me, as it seems to be with the blessed public, for whom, as I sometimes feared, might be the case, I have not gone through my martyrdoms (such as they are) in vain. Great, great indeed was my joy when they seemed as it were, at that moment, to take me again, and in a special
manner, into their arms, the warm arms of my fellow-creatures. And now come yours, my dear friends, about me as warmly. Imagine me returning them with an ardour of heart, which no snows on my head can extinguish.

A few weeks ago there came to me from a certain pleasant-named house in New York a most magnificent book, full of handsome ladies, and better comments upon them, which till this moment I have thanked neither publishers nor authoress for, having wished to read it thro’ first in order to thank properly. My acknowledgments for it go accordingly to Nice and New York at the same time. The ladies are somewhat too much of a family, and of a drawing-room family, especially in the instances of the divine peasant, Joan of Arc, of lovely-hearted Pocahontas, who must still have been a Cherokee or Chickasaw beauty, and of what ought to have been the “beautiful plain” face of your Sappho. What a pity the artist had not genius enough in him to anticipate the happy audacity of that praise! The finery of her company I think, (for she seems to have guessed what sort of a book the publishers would make of it) has seduced our dear Mary-Victoria into a style florider and more elaborate than when she poured her undressed heart out in the charming “Iron Cousin” (my copy of which by the way, has just come home to me again in beautiful relaxed and dignified condition from its many perusals); but still the heart as well as head is there, and I have read every bit of the book with interest; unbribed, I cannot add, seeing what abundant warm-hearted reminiscences of me it contains; too many for it, I should have feared a little while ago; but not just now, for the promised edition of my “poetical works” has come out at Boston, and being welcomed with as universal cordiality in America, as my play has been by the press in London (for such you must know in addition to my reception on the stage, is the fact: at least so I am told, and have reason to believe; for I possess upwards of twenty eulogies from daily and weekly newspapers and reviews, and I hear there are half as many more, which I am yet to see). What think you of this unexpected (for indeed I never looked for it) winter-flowering, and in the two
hemispheres at once? An American friend of mine, who is one of the Secretaries of legation here, tells me, that there is but one exception to the applause in his country, and this in a penny paper; so at all events that amount of drawback is not worth twopence. No: it is not he who tells me,—first tho’ he was to give me the good news. I learn it from my other American friend, the editor of the “Works” who is going to feast the transatlantic half of my vanity with a collection of the praises; some of which, he adds, will make my “very heart leap within me.” Heaven be thanked for it.

And now you have seen a certain “Tapiser’s Tale,” which accompanies this letter—oh, but my vanity must not forget to add,—nay, my hope of solid good must not forget to add,—and unspeakable joys hanging thereon, that the manager anticipates a “long run” for the play, and says also, that he will, “carry it in triumph thro’ all the provinces.” Item, I have reason to hope, that he will bring out one, perhaps more, of certain MS. plays which I have by me, and for which I never expected any such chance; and furthermore I think there is playable stuff in them—and so—and then—why, it is not impossible, verily, that I may have a whole golden year of it; alas! that any sighs should mix with that thought, but it is wholesome that they should do so, to prepare me for disappointment. There would even be a certain sweet in them then. There are faces that in that case would not be so much missed.

But to return to the Tapiser. Here is a bold venture; bold to send to anybody and anywhere, but boldest of all to such Chaucerophilists as live at Nice. Luckily their love is equal to their knowledge; so extremes will meet in this as in other cases; and positively I trust to fare best where under less loving circumstances I might have had least reason to expect it. Besides, the subject is so beautiful in itself that a devout Chaucer student could not well take all interest out of it with the sympathetic.

So I shan’t fear that you will make any very heavy retaliations for what I have ventured to object up above; especially as in reference to the great poet, I am prepared to bow to any speeches of shortcoming that may be objected, saving
something in behalf of the wet eyes with which the tale was written . . . . It has appeared in
Fraser’s Magazine, and prospered.

Dear friends, imagine me blessing you both from the place which I occupy in your house, my house, you know, as well as your own. What if I should be able to see it some day, with eyes not of spirit only?

Your ever loving friend,
Leigh Hunt.