Portrait of Leigh Hunt
Name:James Henry Leigh Hunt
Dates:1784 - 1859
Address: 22 Upper Cheyne Row, SW3
Dates at address:1833 - 1840
Hunt’s Royalist parents fled America in 1776 and settled in London, becoming republicans. Regularly in debt, Hunt’s first memory is of the family imprisoned in King’s Bench prison. A sickly, nervous child with a stammer he later developed into a cheerful and easy-going adult. He was educated at Christ’s Hospital along with lifelong friend Charles Lamb. Other friends include Keats, Moore, Shelley and Dickens. He married Marianne Kent in 1809 after a long and difficult courtship.
A poet and an essayist Hunt published his works throughout his life, beginning with his Juvenilia in 1801. He was also an excellent journalist and editor, mixing political commentary with criticism and reviews. His best work was as editor for his brother John’s Liberal magazine The Examiner from 1808 to 1821, writing violent lampoons on English society. Prosecuted repeatedly, they were imprisoned in 1812 for calling the Prince Regent (later George IV) a “fat Adonis of 50”. A friend to many poets and an influential critic, Hunt introduced many great poets, including Reynolds, Keats and Shelley.
Settling in Chelsea late in life, with a brood of awful children and Marianne having taken to the bottle, Hunt had mixed memories of the area. His autobiography refers to Chelsea’s “refreshing” air and the “quiet of the thoroughfare so full of repose”. But on moving to Kensington a letter to Douglas Jerrold stated, “It will do your kindly eyes good to see the nice study into which I have escaped out of the squalidities of Chelsea.”
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