James Henry Leigh Hunt

Welcome back to the Richmond Read-along! Today’s poem is from James Henry Leigh Hunt. Leigh Hunt led an eventful life, forming friendships with many other poets and influential figures, being imprisoned for anti-monarchy sentiments, and fathering 10 children. He often struggled for money and relied on his wealthier friends for survival; however, he would not be bought, as evidenced by his unfavourably blunt book on Byron published after the latter had ceased supporting him financially.

A nervous man, suffering from probable anxiety, Leigh Hunt was nonetheless very personable and struggled to remain cheerful and generous to his friends whilst never compromising his exacting values. He quickly gained a reputation while employed at The Examiner for being willing to target anyone on priciple, and was imprisoned for an attack on the Prince Regent and his treatment of Ireland. True to form, he had to be moved to the infirmary due to attacks of anxiety, but quickly transformed his rooms into a stunningly decorated space where he received endless illustrious visitors. Throughout his life he continued to contend with nervousness, poverty, the illnesses of himself and his wife, and the deaths of many of his friends and children. Despite this, he continued in his dedication to literature and the arts as well as advocating for a number of humanitarian causes. As well as being an editor, critic and poet, he promoted the works of many other poets who came to be – if anything – more well known than himself, not least John Keats.

To the Grasshopper and the Cricket

Green little vaulter in the sunny grass
Catching your heart up at the feel of June,
Sole voice that’s heard amidst the lazy noon,
When ev’n the bees lag at the summoning brass;
And you, warm little housekeeper, who class
With those who think the candles come too soon,
Loving the fire, and with your tricksome tune
Nick the glad silent moments as they pass;
Oh sweet and tiny cousins, that belong,
One to the fields, the other to the hearth,
Both have your sunshine; both though small are strong
At your clear hearts; and both were sent on earth
To sing in thoughtful ears this natural song,-
In doors and out, summer and winter, Mirth.

You can find this poem, along with others by Leigh Hunt, at All Poetry. Members of Richmond upon Thames Libraries can read more about Leigh Hunt’s life, friendships and enormous influence at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online.

Join us tomorrow for the next Richmond Read-along!