Leigh Hunt’s Parlour at Surrey Gaol

Two engravings of Leigh Hunt sitting at his desk in his cell at Surrey Gaol.

Contributor: Serena Baiesi

Location: Surrey Gaol, Horsemonger Lane, London. Detail from Edmund Blunden, ed., Leigh Hunt. A Biography (Archon Books, 1930)

Description: In 1812 Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) wrote that the Prince Regent was a violator of his word and a disreputable libertine in an article published in The Examiner — a radical newspaper he edited with his brother John. As a result he was sentenced to prison for two years from 1813 until 1815 for seditious libel and sent to Surrey Gaol, Horsemonger Lane. After a month spent in a small dwelling, Hunt was moved to a two-room suite in the prison infirmary. Here Hunt spent his days reading, writing, meeting with friends who constantly visited him, and enjoying the company of his wife and children. Even though during his prison days Hunt suffered several nervous attacks, characterised by palpitations, headaches, and uncontrollable anxiety, he describes this period in his autobiography, in many letters, and in reported conversations, as very convivial. Secluded in prison, Hunt became very productive, constantly contributing to The Examiner, writing poetry later collected in Foliage, composing the long poem The Story of Rimini, and beginning his drama The Descent of Liberty. He also became the centre of a very animated literary and liberal intellectual circle, which became legendary as a model for Romantic intellectual sociability.

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Thomas Moore’s Harp

 

Location: Royal Irish Academy, Dawson Street, Dublin, Ireland

Contributor: Francesca Benatti

Description: Thomas Moore’s harp is held in Dublin in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy, which also houses Moore’s personal library. It was donated to Moore in 1821 by Dublin harp maker John Egan in a publicity drive for his new line of Portable Irish Harps, which culminated the following year with an endorsement by King George IV. Moore’s Portable Irish Harp features in the anonymous portrait of Thomas Moore in his Study at Sloperton (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin), next to his cabinet piano. We know that, despite Egan’s efforts, which greatly expanded the sale of Irish harps in Ireland and Britain, Moore himself preferred the piano as an instrument.

During the eighteenth century, the Irish harp had become powerfully charged with nationalist symbolism through the publications of the Volunteers and the United Irishmen, who chose it as the emblem of their revolutionary movement. Continue reading “Thomas Moore’s Harp”

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