Famous Reviews eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 678 pages of information about Famous Reviews.
on reflecting upon the character of the poem, which they had read with a dangerous sympathy, not on account of its poetical merit, which is small indeed, but on account of those voluptuous scenes, so dangerous even to a pure imagination, when insidiously painted with the seeming colours of virtue,—­they were astounded at their own folly and their own danger, and consigned the wretched volume to that ignominious oblivion, which, in a land of religion and morality, must soon be the doom of all obscene and licentious productions.

The story of Rimini is heard of no more.  But Leigh Hunt will not be quiet.  His hebdomadal hand [**Pointing hand symbol] is held up, even on the Sabbath, against every man of virtue and genius in the land; but the great defamer claims to himself an immunity from that disgrace which he knows his own wickedness has incurred,—­the Cockney calumniator would fain hold his own disgraced head sacred from the iron fingers of retribution.  But that head shall be brought low—­aye—­low “as heaped up justice” ever sunk that of an offending scribbler against the laws of Nature and of God.

Leigh Hunt dared not, Hazlitt dared not, to defend the character of the “Story of Rimini.”  A man may venture to say that in verse which it is perilous to utter in plain prose.  Even they dared not to affirm to the people of England, that a wife who had committed incest with her husband’s brother, ought on her death to be buried in the same tomb with her fraticidal [Transcriber’s note:  sic] paramour, and that tomb to be annually worshipped by the youths and virgins of their country.  And therefore Leigh Hunt flew into a savage passion against the critic who had chastised his crime, pretended that he himself was insidiously charged with the offences which he had applauded and celebrated in others, and tried to awaken the indignation of the public against his castigator, as if he had been the secret assassin of private character, who was but the open foe of public enormity.  The attempt was hopeless,—­ the public voice has lifted up against Hunt,—­and sentence of excommunication from the poets of England has been pronounced, enrolled, and ratified.

There can be no radical distinction allowed between the private and public character of a poet.  If a poet sympathizes with and justifies wickedness in his poetry, he is a wicked man.  It matters not that his private life may be free from wicked actions.  Corrupt his moral principles must be,—­and if his conduct has not been flagrantly immoral, the cause must be looked for in constitution, &c., but not in conscience.  It is therefore of little or no importance, whether Leigh Hunt be or be not a bad private character.  He maintains, that he is a most excellent private character, and that he would blush to tell the world how highly he is thought of by an host of respectable friends.  Be it so,—­and that his vanity does not delude him.  But this is most sure, that, in such a case, the world will

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