The Wit in the Dungeon: The Life of Leigh Hunt

Author(s): Anthony Holden

Biography & Memoir

He was born in the year Dr Johnson died, and died in the year A.E. Houseman and Conan Doyle were born. The 75 years of Leigh Hunt's life uniquely span two distinct eras of English life and literature. A major player in the Romantic movement, the intimate and first publisher of Keats and Shelley, friend of Byron, Hazlitt and Lamb, Hunt lived on to become an elder statesman of Victorianism, the friend and chamption of Tennyson and Dickens, awarded a sate pension by Queen Victoria. Jailed in his twenties for insulting the Prince of Wales, Hunt ended his long, productive life vainly seeking the Poet Laureatship with fawning poems to Victoria. A tirelessly prolific poet, essayist, editor and critic, he has been described as having no rival in the history of English criticism. Yet Hunt's remarkable life story has never been fully told.
Anthony Holden's deeply researched and vibrantly written biography gives full due to this minor poet - but major influence on his great Romantic contempories.


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*'I am tearing through THE WIT IN THE DUNGEON with avaricious pleasure ... Gripping and wonderful' Stephen Fry *'[Holden] is well placed to appreciate Hunt's contradictions ... a level-headed affectionate portrait' DAILY TELEGRAPH *'Very well-researched and extremely readable' SUNDAY TELEGRAPH *'Enthusiastic and sensible' GUARDIAN *'Roe leaves Hunt on the Italian shore with Shelley's body, promising a further volume. This is unsatisfying. Holden tells the full story' DAILY MAIL '[Holden is] courageous in his assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Hunt as a poet ... he also gives us some fascinating new material' Michael Glover, FT MAGAZINE 'Anthony Holden's THE WIT IN THE DUNGEON is a more concise single-volume account of Hunt's eventful political life ... it is Holden, surveying the whole life, who tells the best stories ... Holden's biography is concise and unfailingly readable' Andrew Biswell, SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY 'Roe leaves Hunt on the beach at Viaregio, watching the flames play over the body of his heart's darling, Shelley. If you want to know what Hunt did next, then you must turn to Holden ... vivid and dramatic' Suzi Feay, INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY 'Mr Holden's pages on Thomas Carlyle's admiration, friendship and eventual exasperation [with Hunt] are especially telling, as is his dissection of Dickens, who clouded Hunt's last years with a cruel caricature of him as Harold Skimpole in BLEAK HOUSE' ECONOMIST 'Holden delivers a racy, engaging narrative, doffing his cap to literary critics ... Holden's strength is that he attends to Hunt's "afterlife" - his Victorian period, which Roe does not cover. This is in some ways the best part of THE WIT IN THE DUNGEON, as when he deals with Dickens's involvement and rightly exposes Dickens's slippery denials over the Skimpole affair' Duncan Wu, INDEPENDENT 'Anthony Holden's THE WIT IN THE DUNGEON covers the whole of Hunt's life with commendable verve ... Hunt is a fellow to be respected both for what he was and for what his more gifted contemporaries saw in him' Robert Nye, SCOTSMAN 'Anthony Holden has written a biography for the general reader ... he is a shrewd and skilful writer, and makes good use of sources. His account of the Examiner trial is a particularly successful set piece, and he has an excellent chapter on relations between Hunt and Dickens, the old lion and the young cub' LITERARY REVIEW 'Holden hints at the real reason for Hunt's marginalisation in his readable biography - Shelley was heir to a baronetcy, Byron was a lord but Hunt did not even belong to the wealthy merchant class ... As it is, only in the last few years have academics been paying serious attention to this remarkable figure. Perhaps, at last, his time has come' Lesley McDowell, SUNDAY HERALD 'Using the abundant written sources of the epoch, he has produced a long, well-researched life of Hunt from his fame as a schoolboy poet in 1800 to his death in 1859' SPECTATOR 'Pick up THE WIT IN THE DUNGEON. Holden makes sure you know who everyone is at the time he introduces them, and tactfully reminds you when you have forgotten. He has a punchy style and a feeling for anecdote - entertaining you with details ... He keeps a complicated story moving, like a good host at a good party, and the story has an upbeat ending. You become acquainted with an energetic, sociable, misunderstood, path-breaking journalist whose time has come at long last' IRISH TIMES

Anthony Holden is an award-winning journalist who has published more than thirty books, including biographies of Laurence Olivier, Tchaikovsky and Shakespeare. He has published translations of opera, ancient Greek plays and poetry. With his son Ben, he has edited Poems That Make Grown Men Cry and Poems That Make Grown Women Cry.

General Fields

  • : 9780349117706
  • : Little, Brown Book Group Limited
  • : Sphere
  • : May 2016
  • : 198mm X 137mm X 31mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : June 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 448
  • : 1
  • : Paperback
  • : Anthony Holden