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Kbats once wished he had never read a book . He lived to see his error . He lived to see that true originality is not to be destroyed by the knowledge of what has been produced before . Genius is inextinguishable ; it is the Greek fire which burns
under water . If he had read more * Keats would never have written Endymion 5 and , perhaps he would have finished Hyperion . The difference between the travels of the wise and the foolish , is not that they take different roads , but that they see with different eyes . Humboldt is no less the Homer of travellers on the European highway than in the South American forest . Books
might have taught Keats to guide his power ; they could not possibly have taken it from him . He read few books ; he had a friend who read all books ; and yet whose poetry gave him a keen sense of enjoyment , Leigh Hunt entered upon the world with the ambition to be a poet ; not that we think there was in his composition any of that
irresistible gravitation towards poetry , which impelled the blind Ionian harper and the more glorious blind man of England , to ' break ; up the fountains of the deep' within them . It was not thus with the poet whose writings are before us ; it is the case with but one or two in a line of ages . Leigh Hunt was a poet not by necessity , but by choice . He had a lively imagination , stored with
sparkling images , which he had seen in nature through the spectacles ( or Lorraine glasses ) of books . He had fine animal spirits , and a deep thirst for fame , or rather , perhaps , for praise . He determined to be a poet ; and a poet he became . We well remember the time of the publication of his * Rimini / and some of itfc beautiful fragments yet f stick at our heart / Nothing can 1
' pluck them thence . He appeared one of the most original of the poets of his day ; but it was only because he had borrowed from a more recondite fountain . He was the idolater of the past . He belonged neither to the Satanic school , nor to the Lake school , noT to the Chivalrous school , nor to any other school of modern bardism . He was the emulator of old English poetry at large . Something compounded of Chaucer , of Spencer , and of
Dryden , would have been , if he could have hit it , his beau ideal of poetic excellence ; infusing into it a strong tincture of the old Greek mythology , and another equally strong of Italian romance . Forming himself upon such models , he produced a style of his own , very unlike any thing in the writings of his day and generation . Nevertheless we repeat , that his apparent originality was in great part the effect of more distant imitation . The burning instinct of song was not the master-passion of his being . If Chaucer , Spencer , and Dryden had not written , we * 8 vo . London . Moxon . 1832 .
THE POETICAL WORKS OF LEIGH HUNT ?
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), March 2, 1833, page 178, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2610/page/34/