They Asked For A Paper–“My Dear Child”–Leigh Hunt’s letter to his daughter


Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, They Asked For A Paper,”  highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.

By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library

James Henry Leigh Hunt by Samuel Laurence [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Leigh Hunt to Julia Trelawney Hunt, 18 August 1857, p. 1.

Leigh Hunt to Julia Trelawney Hunt, 18 August 1857, pp. 2 & 3.

Leigh Hunt to Julia Trelawney Hunt, 18 August 1857, p. 4.

Among the items in the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection is a tender letter from Leigh Hunt to his daughter, Julia Trelawney. She is staying on the Isle of Guernsey with George Godfrey. Although the letter is published in The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt (Smith, Elder and Company, 1862, page 281) parts of the letter were elided, including the delightful line at the beginning of the postscript:

Many thanks for the newspapers with which I mean to make myself thoroughly and Guernsically acquainted.

A transcript of the letter is provided below; the unpublished parts are in bold.

Hammersmith — Augt. 18

My dear Child,

We were very glad to hear from you so soon again, — the more so, inasmuch as you will have been glad yourself at having written. And you very properly fill your letter with as many particulars about the place, and your movements in it, and way of life, as you can; for it is
[Page 2]
this that absent friends are enabled to find themselves still together, as much as is possible.
I should certainly exclaim as you say I should, in threading your “beautiful” lanes; and I should think the kindness which every body shews you still more beautiful; for charming as inanimate nature ^is,^ there is nothing so charming, after all, as the expression of kindness in the human countenance.
[Page 3]
Pray look at the “house to let” by all means, and at any other house to let, provided it does ^would^ not tax ^my^ old limbs to get up to it. And be particular as to their rents and their gardens. I rejoice in what you tell me of your sitting at the piano. Walter has not yet come; but we saw Mr. & Mrs. Hooper here again on Thursday evening. Mr. Ollier and Edmund spent the greater part of Saturday evening with us; and simultaneous with their appearance was that of Mary Sayer, whom Jacintha
[Page 4]
entertained at tea in the back parlour while we took ours in the front, but all with open doors and in good fellowship; only Mr. Ollier’s health, I am sorry to say, continuing to be much tried, and strangers trying it more, we remained as I describe. She is coming to tea again on Wednesday evening to play us some Beethoven, and repeat some verses of mine in a kind of recitative, occasionally touching the instruments. We are still looking anxiously for Mr. Lee; and the moment he comes I will let you know. I tell you of Wednesday evening in order that you may imagine yourself with us: [so] [now] you know ^as much of^ us, past and future, as we know ourselves.
Your ever loving father
L. H.
[Written on top of Page]
P. S. Many thanks for the newspapers with which I mean to make myself thoroughly and Guernsically acquainted. Jacintha’a love, and she will write tomorrow, in order that you may have two days’ accounts of us, instead of one. All the pictures you send us, are beautiful. I read in today’s paper, that the queen is at sea and is expected to touch at the Channel Islands. If you see her, I expect that you will shake half a dozen handkerchiefs at her, instead of one. I have re-opened the letter, on purpose to say so.

AU 18
Miss Hunt —
Care of Geo: Godfrey Esqre
Claremont House,
Channel Islands
L. H.

The tiny letter (3.5″ x 4.5″) is tucked into an envelope mounted on the same page as a letter from Sir Walter Scott to Right Honorable The Lord Chief Baron &c &c Edward.

Page from the Henry DeCastro Autograph Album

The letters are collected into an album which belonged to “Henry De Castro / Cramlington Villa — Putney.”

Why is Leigh Hunt’s daughter on Guernsey? Who are the people she is staying with? Who are the other people mentioned in the letter? How did this letter get into Henry DeCastro’s collection? What are the “houses to let” he mentions? Why is the letter written on mourning paper? Is there a copy of the newspaper with which Hunt “Guernsically acquainted” himself?

Beyond the Brownings–William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)

William Cullen Bryant ABL 2

Courtesy of The Armstrong Browning Library

By Melinda Creech, Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

William Cullen Bryant, who was an American poet, journalist, and editor of the New York Evening Post, is best known for his poems “Thanatopsis” and “To a Waterfowl.”

Although he is mentioned in several of the Brownings’ letters, we have no record that he was a correspondent of the Brownings. The Brownings entertained Bryant at Casa Guidi in June 1858 and Bryant stayed in a hotel next door to the Brownings on a trip to Paris in July 1858.

The Armstrong Browning Library owns one letter from Bryant to Fanny Kemble and an autograph note in the Whittier Autograph Album. The ABL collection includes ten books, one of which, The Complete Poetical Works of William Cullen Bryant (1854), is a copy of the book that was given to Elizabeth Barrett Browning by Anna Ticknor.

Bryant,-Complete-Poetical-Works-1William Cullen Bryant. The Complete Poetical Works of William Cullen Bryant. London: Knight and Son, 1854.

Anna Ticknor was an American author and educator who founded the Society to Encourage Studies at Home, which was the first correspondence school in the United States.


RB-to-Perkins-3In a letter from July of 1858, Browning thanks his friend, Charles Perkins, art critic, author, organizer of cultural activities, for the music they enjoyed in Florence. He also describes their trip by boat from Florence to France.

… the ship was overcrowded from Leghorn to Genoa and my wife passed the night on the bare deck and a shawl or two rather than try the stifling berths below—thence to Marseilles  was a rougher business—but we rested a night got to Lyons next evening, Dijon the following midday and Paris on Tuesday night.

 He continues the letter, noting that in Paris William Cullen Bryant is his next door neighbor.

Mr Bryant happens to lodge in the Hôtel next door—which is pleasant to know–

RB-to-Perkins-4composite Browning also discusses future plans which include a proposed trip to Egypt, which never occurred.

… we shall certainly set our faces Southward in less than three months, and, I suppose, find you at Florence,—at least provisionally. For us, if we don’t go to Egypt, we shall winter at Rome—or so we say at present.

RB-to-Perkins-5Letter from Robert Browning to Charles Perkins.
11 July 1858.


Letter from William Cullen Bryant to Miss Fanny Kemble [Mrs. Pierce Mease Butler]. 28 February 1857.

Bryant makes arrangements for Miss Kemble to give her readings in New York in April. He looks forward to her coming, commenting that

 …there have been few entertainments of the kind this winter—none certainly that could take off its edge.