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The Tent: Bristol Hunt and Hampstead Hunt.
Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine  Vol. 5  No. 30  (September 1819)  639-42.
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No. XXX. SEPTEMBER, 1819. Vol. V.


[ . . . ]

In passing through Perth we picked up a copy of the Edinburgh Weekly Journal for the week, which we read aloud to Mr Ballantyne during the consumption, by him, of some three or four segars of the longest. We were both sorry to observe, that the ingenious Editor of that paper was still quite on the wrong key about the Manchester affair. “What’s this new whim that has taken your brother’s head, Mr John?” said we; “this will never do—one of the best principled and best written Newspapers in Scotland cannot indulge in such rashnesses as these, without very materially injuring its character, and, what is of still greater moment, its usefulness.” Our companion nodded assent. “A good newspaper,” we continued, “a newspaper such as this of our friend James’, is in Scotland an engine of very great importance, and if conducted with uniform and steady adherence to a lofty and truly Scottish standard of principle and feeling, may be likely to produce more of real and substantial benefit to the right cause—the cause of rational freedom and rational loyalty—than almost any other species of periodical publication. It is not, therefore, without great regret, and some little indignation too, that we have seen this paper condescending on an occasion of this kind to lend additional power, by its echo, to the mad and malevolent screams of the many far inferior papers, now as of old enlisted against the peace and against the honour of the country. Surely these paragraphs must have been penned in some very careless mood, for it is impossible that such views could have been in such a mind the result of deliberate investigation.” “Heaven knows,” quoth the other, “But I perfectly agree with you that they are absurd and ill-timed, and I hope we shall see no more of them.” “Nay,” said we, “if things go on at this rate, we shall certainly employ old Timothy Tickler to hit him over the fingers’ ends with ‘Letters to Eminent Literary Characters, No. X. (or whatever the Number may be) to Mr James Ballantyne’”—“Quite right, Editor,” was the answer, “and if that wont do, give him right over the shoulders with the flail of Idoloclastes, or draw and quarter him with the glaive of Lauerwinkel, if you will.” “We hope,” said we, “there will be no occasion for carrying matters to that extremity. His own correspondent L. T. has already tickled him pretty closely;* and it is but fair to wait till we see whether the milder medicine works a cure; it will at least have nature and a good sound constitution at bottom to assist it.”

“What sort of a looking fellow is this Hunt they talk so much about?” said the Bibliopole, willing, we suppose, to change the subject a little. “Did you ever see him?” “Oh yes, Mr Ballantyne,” replied we, “we have seen him, and that too long ago, before he had become at all so important a personage as people seem now to be in the habit of considering him. We happened to be in Bristol a good many years ago, when he made his first public entrée into that city. He had a large loaf stuck upon the pole of the Jarvie in which he travelled, and harangued the rabble all along with promises, that, give him annual parliaments and universal suffrage, he would soon raise the penny loaf to the same tempting dimensions. He is a coarse, thickset fellow, with an appearance half way between a stage-coachman and a black-leg—abundance of tongue, however, and withal of coolness—and an air of dry dogged plebeianism about every look and gesture, that reminds one of Cobbet at times, although longo intervallo.”—“What,” said our friend, “is the relationship between him and the Editor of the Examiner? are they brothers? or father and son? or uncle and nephew? or only cousins? They are evidently birds of the same nest, however.”—“Why, Mr John,” said we, “things certainly look very much that way; and whether your conjecture be founded in fact or not, there is no question it is founded in philosophy.

“The Cockney School of Politics, Mr Ballantyne,” we continued, “is so intimately connected with the Cockney School of Poetry, that it is almost impossible to describe the one without using many expressions equally applicable to the other. They are twin establishments erected about the same time, supported by the same dupes, and enlightened by the same quacks.
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It is not, indeed, to be denied, that the Cockney politics have been embraced and defended by some whose patronage of the Cockney poetry has not yet been proclaimed to the world. But the real organs of the two heresies, their missionaries and tub-orators are, we believe, essentially the same. It is, indeed, impossible that it should be otherwise. If a man can for a moment suppose, that the
Hampstead Hunt is a fit person to be associated with Byron, Scott, and Wordsworth; his perception of the differential qualities must be so blunted, that no one need stare at his believing the Bristol or Manchester Hunt to be worthy of a seat in the same senate with Canning, Wilberforce and Grattan. The patriotism of the one is as arrant a jade as the muse of the other. Under pretence of sacrificing at the altar of British freedom, the demagogue of Bristol burns impious incense to flatter the coarse nostrils of the idiot mob. He of Hampstead proclaims in notes, prefaces, and sonnets, that he is the rightful heir of that noble race which of old gave birth to Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton; and one of his deluded admirers has so far allowed himself to be gulled by his impudent assertions, as to make him a present of ‘a lock of milton’s hair!!!’ We have, begging the Doctor’s pardon, every reason to believe that he has been imposed upon by в fictitious pedigree. The Désirée of Lisson Grove has neither writings nor features to shew, that can lend the shadow of support to his ambitious Tree. To be sure he has great examples to plead in his favour; for we do believe he has quite as many claims to be the English Poet of our day, as old Scaliger had to the blood of the princes of Verona, or the late ingenious Monsieur Catholineau to that of St Lewis; or to give him an instance more in his way, as his illustrious namesake, the White-hatted hero, has to be the living representative of Hampden, Sydney, and Russell.

“Our friend Hampstead Hunt,”—we proceeded, “seems to have about as many strange inconsistencies in his character as ever before met together on the confines either of Parnassus or of Bedlam. He talks at times of the Wolseleys, the Burdetts, and the Shellys, in terms which would almost persuade one that he really entertained some feelings of decent reverence for the old phylarchic aristocracies of England; but whenever he has occasion to mention the name of poor Bristol Hunt, he destroys the hopes we had begun to form of him by some malicious sarcasm against that worthy kinsman of his. He is apprehensive, we suppose, thai the nation might think the House of Hunt—were sticking too much together, and were plotting their own rise on the ruins of the House of Hanover; and he adopts this unnatural style of severity in order to relieve our fears. Surely never was adjective more happily connected with substantive than in Mr Johnny Кeat’s favourite phrase of ‘kind Hunt.’

“The Hunts are indeed а vегу alarming family: we have no doubt that they are as ambitious as the Nevilles used to be, though probably the epithet of ‘kingmakers’ is not quite so mach coveted at Hampstead as it was of old at Warwick. Something, however, should certainly be done. Even the Douglasses never had more than one Bell-the-cat at a time; the fertility of the present heroic race is a thing totally unexampled. Their splendid Penates look with equal pride on the poet and the orator; the triumph of their line is alike apparent in the brawny white-feather of Cockspur-street, and the lank and sallow hypochondriack of the ‘leafy rise’ and ‘farmy fields’ of Hampstead. It is in vain for the members of the family to pretend that they have no connexion with each other. That is a palpable joke. Every old woman can see through the design of it. No one can listen for five minutes to the oral eloquence of Henry, without being reminded in the most lively manner of the ‘written wisdom’ of Leigh. They address, indeed, different audiences, and therefore there is some difference in the manner of their harangues. The one has to do with the bony and sinewy constituents of the street mob, and he attacks them with the bluster and swagger of a ring-fighter. The other speaks to a sorely dispersed remnant of ‘single gentlemen’ in lodgings, and single ladies we know not where—a generation afflicted with headaches, tea-drinking, and all the nosologia of the nerves; people who have never a wholesome taste in their mouths, and
Cockney Poetry and Cockney Politics641
are glad to rub their teeth upon any insipid drug that comes in their way. He therefore avoids any thing that might impertinently remind his valetudinarians of the health and vigour which they themselves have lost. The knowing quack-doctor has always performed some of his most wonderful cures upon himself, and maintains, that, after all, he could not hold out three months were it not for the infallible cordial. Hunt gains the good will of his patients by the same sort of tricks. He is always writing about headaches, bile, tea, and suppers of boiled eggs and lettuces, and so persuading his male subscribers, that he is ‘one of us.’ To win the affections of his ladies, he repeats the usual cant about the absurdity of marriage, and the glorious freedom of concubinage; and the dear creatures are in raptures to find their own ‘noble theories’ supported by a clever gentleman who publishes sixteen pages about the House of Commons, and the play-houses, every Sunday—besides sweet little volumes of verses every now and then, stuck full of beautiful eulogiums upon adultery and incest. It is the cue of Henry to copy the straight-forward knock-me-down style of
Cobbett, as far as his utter ignorance and stupidity can permit him to approach the manner of that vulgar and insolent, but forcible and English declaimer. But we doubt not, his chicken heart beats very piteously at times against the rugged disguise under which it is concealed. Leigh Hunt’s natural propensities are more accordant with his interests and wishes. It costs him no great struggle to appear a weak desponding drivelling garetteer—he is the enemy of greatness, because he is conscious of littleness—the apologist of vice, because he has not vigour enough to be virtuous.

Mr Bristol Hunt (as Mr Hampstead Hunt elegantly denominates him) is evidently, notwithstanding the unfortunate affair of Cockspur-street, a person of more manly habits, and therefore more fitted by nature for the duties of an active demagogue, than his sentimental namesake. ‘He of the rose and the violet’ is jealous, we suppose, of the more decided and visible species of ascendancy which has been acquired, by him of the large quartern loaf, over the minds of the more robust race of the Cockneys; so he takes every opportunity of disclaiming all connexion with his doings, and even insinuates, in so many words, that the Bristol orator is a rude vulgar dog, who could never be permitted for a moment to shew his nose in those elegant and intellectual coteries, where ‘crowns of ivy’ and locks of ‘glorious hair’ are presented to the bard of Rimini. This puts us in mind of a certain humorous scene in Roderick Random, wherein a ricketty valet-de-chambre, who has just got an ensign’s commission, and his lady, a faded Abigail, treat with high contempt their fellow-travellers in the northern waggon, and interrupt all the boisterous merriment of Joe and his company by perpetual and peevish interjections of ‘How low!’ Nobody can dispute the fact, that Bristol Hunt is a vulgar fellow; but it really is not a little amusing to hear this objection to his character from the lips of the founder of the Cockney School of Poetry. There are many kinds of vulgarity, and they are all disagreeable; but we are quite sure, that any man of taste, were he reduced to choice among difficulties, would prefer the company of the stage-coachman to that of the clerk of the coach office, and, by the same rule, would rather spend an evening at the cider-cellar with the rough jolly ex-candidate for Westminster, than one at Lisson Grove with the whining milksop sonneteer of the Examiner.

“Many, however, are of opinion, that all this is no hypocrisy on the part of Leigh; and if it be so, we have no doubt the contempt of the two Hunts is a mutual passion. ‘Χθϑαι αδελϕω’ χαχιστας—they hate each other cordially, as a Whitfieldite hates a Wesleyan, or as Mr Grose hates Mr Taylor. Bristol Hunt utterly despises ‘Foliage,’ Rimini,’ and ‘the Feast of the Poets;’ and cannot imagine how ‘annual parliaments and universal suffrage’ (the great objects, as he says, of all his own exertions) are to be brought about by a set of whiffling creatures, that fall into ecstacies at the chime of a musical snuff-box, and speak of a print of Mr Landseers with as much rapture as they should of the Magna Charta. Hampstead Hunt, on the other hand, fears, that if the House of Commons were re-modelled after the designs of the Bristol artist, things would be arranged in such a
642Cockney Poetry and Cockney Politics
way, that neither he, nor any of the delicate chirping members of the Round Table Club, could have any chance for seats; or that, at the best, were they so lucky as to be returned by the new-made burghs of Hampstead, Camberwell, Wapping, Pimlico, &c. they would be very little listened to by the tasteless, unmusical, and unpoetical majority of the regenerated assembly.—But surely there is no reason why good people, who agree so well upon all material points, should abuse each other with so much bitterness for the trifling discrepancies of their creeds. Some amiable compromise should be brought about by the ‘mutual friends’ of the parties; at all events, they should support each other manfully in the mean time, and not be falling out about the division of the spoil, while the victory is so vеrу uncertain. They have a great work in hand, and we suspect it may require the full compliment of their united strength to accomplish it. A few ill-armed and undisciplined insurgents cannot expect to destroy such a solid and venerable structure as the constitution of England, unless they club their might, and encourage each other by their cheers during the period of the assault. We advise them to make it up with all convenient speed.
Mr Waithman has by some means overcome the aversion which the Examiner long expressed for him, and now, it seems, has the best wishes of that popular oracle for all his great schemes in the city. It would be an easy matter for a man of so much address as the draper, to bring Leigh and Henry together some day over a shoulder of mutton, and persuade them to drown all their animosities in a pitcher of saloop. He would thus confer an important favour on the common cause; and as for himself, what could resist him if he should come to the Common Council Room, supported, at the same time, by two so eminent martyrs of liberty,—the one a paragraphic, who lay in jail two years for libelling the Prince Regent, and the other a hero that was kicked out of his lodgings in a Tory tavern, because he had railed at the Ministry to a mob in Palace-yard? With Mr Bristol Hunt to keep it up, viva voce, when he might chance to be weary, and Mr Hampstead Hunt to furnish a daily supply of songs and squibs, how triumphant would be the success of our aspiring Gilpin!”

At the close of this, which we meant for a sermon, we were rather surprised to find that the greater part of it at least had been little better than a soliloquy; for Mr John Ballantyne was as fast asleep as Charles XII. was during the pathetic narrative of Mazeppa—the segar had dropped half-smoked from his lips, and lay dissolved in untimely ashes on the collar of his hang-up. We roused him by chanting, to one of Purcell’s fine old English tunes, those exquisite verses from one of Mr Frere’s translations of Aristophanes,—so applicable to all the late shameful scenes in Manchester, London, and elsewhere.

Often-times have we reflected on a similar abuse
In the choice of men for office, and of coins for common use,
For the old and standard pieces, valued, and approved, and tried
Here among the Grecian nations, and in all the world beside;
Recognised in every realm for lawful stamp and pure assay,
Are rejected and abandoned for the coin of yesterday:
For a vile adulterate issue, clipt, and counterfeit and base,
Which the traffick of the city passes current in their place,
And the men who stand for office, noted for acknowledged worth,
And for manly deeds of honour, and for honourable birth,
Trained in exercise and arts, in sacred dances, and in song,
Are rejected and supplanted by a base ignoble throng;
Foreign stamp and vulgar mettle raise them to command and place,
Brazen, counterfeit pretenders, scoundrels of a scoundrel race,
Whom the state, in former ages, scarce would have allowed to stand
At the sacrifice of outcasts, as the scape-goats of the land!