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Monday, 14 February 2011

Leigh Hunt: Jenny Kiss'd Me


The Stolen Kiss
: Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1787-1789 (The Hermitage, St. Petersburg)

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
. Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
. Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
. Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
. . Jenny kiss'd me.

This post dedicated to Angelica

Leigh Hunt:
Jenny Kiss'd Me, c. 1835


TC said...

A bit of standard background bio-data on this wonderful moment in, er, the history of literature:

"In 1834 Leigh Hunt and his large family moved to Chelsea in London and became neighbor to poet and author, Thomas Carlyle, at his suggestion. The two became close friends and Hunt's home was always open to his circle of friends, of which there were many.

"During one winter Hunt was sick with influenza and absent for so long that when he finally recovered and went to visit the Carlyles, Jane jumped up and kissed him as soon as he appeared at the door. Two days later one of the Hunt servants delivered a note, addressed, 'From Mr. Hunt to Mrs. Carlyle.' It contained the poem, 'Jenny Kissed Me.'

"Thankfully, Hunt was a wise editor, because in the original draft Jenny was Nelly and the word 'jaundiced' was used instead of 'weary' in the fifth line.

"Reputedly, Leigh Hunt was a flirtatious man, often in trouble with his wife. Also reputedly, Jane Carlyle was a bit sour and better known for her acid tongue than for impulsive affection."

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Hunt, evidently, was quite the character, as well as a fine editor.

Wikipedia asserts the following, which I hadn't heard:

"Leigh Hunt was the original of Harold Skimpole in Bleak House. "Dickens wrote in a letter of 25 September 1853, 'I suppose he is the most exact portrait that was ever painted in words! ... It is an absolute reproduction of a real man'; and a contemporary critic commented, 'I recognized Skimpole instantaneously; ... and so did every person whom I talked with about it who had ever had Leigh Hunt's acquaintance.'"[7] G. K. Chesterton suggested that Dickens "may never once have had the unfriendly thought, 'Suppose Hunt behaved like a rascal!'; he may have only had the fanciful thought, 'Suppose a rascal behaved like Hunt!'" (Chesterton 1906)."

Thanks, Tom.




Thanks for this Valentine break in the weather -- wind and rain starting up here. . . .


light grey cloud against still invisible
top of ridge, motion of leaves on branch
in foreground, sound of wind in branches

opposite not marked, shadow
cast by dark below it

top of body, laid on ground,
after first gone down

grey-white clouds reflected in channel,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

There is something lovely in the idea of Leigh Hunt being Leigh Hunt, though what with the imprisonment, the poverty, the scrimping and grafting, the chattering, the dilettantism, one supposes that being Leigh Hunt was never easy.

But he did love pleasures so, and there are moments when his lightness seems the perfect cure for the gravity of life. Say, when it is dark, cold, raining, and the bone-ache of things cries out for relief.

Then I can appreciate Hunt best.

He invented, in effect, "suburban poetry", from that cottage in the Vale of Health, Hampstead, with the busts and pianoforte and children everywhere.

And, his sonnet about Hampstead Heath, peopled with gods and goddesses and nymphs (yet), tying up their hair,

Their white backs glistening through the myrtles green...

The coy voyeurism of that is Hunt to a T.

And his lines in the Story of Rimini, on Francesca's "stout notions on the marrying score", or his description of a romantic bower setting:

The two divinest things this world has got,
A lovely woman in a rural spot

That sort of thing impressed Keats at an impressionable stage, and its influence is responsible for some of the embarrassments in Endymion.

But though Keats came to resent that influence, in fact, at the end of Keats' days in England, when he was mortally ill and had nowhere else to stay, it was Hunt who took him in.

There seems to have been a good heart in there.

Nobody could do Hunt quite as well as Hunt did.

Though as you say, Don, Dickens did him pretty well too.

Anonymous said...

I was saving both of these posts for the end of a long, increasingly weird and dispiriting day and I'm very glad I did. What incredible delights. They make me look forward to tomorrow.