The Byron Journal

Leigh Hunt's Letters to Byron from Horsemonger Lane Gaol: A Commentary

The Byron Journal (2009), 37, (1), 21–32.

Abstract

This article explores the eight letters written by Leigh Hunt to Byron during his imprisonment in Horsemonger Lane Gaol that were printed in the last number of The Byron Journal. Particular attention is paid to Hunt's analysis of the character of Napoleon in reply to a letter from Byron, which is now missing but which Hunt's response allows readers to reconstruct in some detail. Byron seems to have been more sympathetic to the failings of Napoleon than Hunt, who could not approve of 'the useful desperation of patriotism'. There is a close connection between the arguments and the language of Hunt's letter and his dispute with Byron in the pages of the Examiner, where he prints three stanzas from 'Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte' and offers a review and a public corrective. Other letters involve a reaction to Hobhouse's letter on Napoleon in Paris, which Byron had transmitted and which had been published, in prudently truncated form, in the Examiner; and Hunt's effusive response to the news of Byron's forthcoming marriage. The letters are also examined for their significant evolution towards a more reciprocal form of address and for evidence of Hunt's intense need for prison visits from Byron.

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Author details

Webb, Timothy