Liverpool via shrinking violets and Viareggio

Curious about the expression “You’re not exactly a shrinking violet”, I find from a reticent source on the Internet that it is believed to have first appeared in a saying from Leigh Hunt in a magazine The Indicator, published in 1820: There was the buttercup, struggling from a white to a dirty yellow and a faint-coloured poppy; and here and there by the thorny underwood a shrinking violet.

Leigh Hunt’s name has hovered on the fringe of my attention a number of times and it was clearly time for him to take his place in my personal panorama of early nineteenth century England. He was born on my birthday (but in 1784 not 1945) and died on my mother’s birthday (1859 not 1910). He attended Christ’s Hospital school near Horsham for which I had an unsuccessful interview (possibly stymied by my lack of knowledge of Pontius Pilate).

Otherwise, according to Wiki, Leigh Hunt was an English critic, essayist and poet, who co-founded The Examiner, a leading intellectual journal expounding radical principles. He was the centre of the Hampstead-based group that included William Hazlitt and Charles Lamb, known as the “Hunt circle”. He died in Putney and I hoped that he was buried in Putney Vale cemetery to give me an added reason to visit (I want to go there and see how Kerensky is getting on, who seemed to have had problems getting buried in New York where he had lived and ended up in Putney Vale). But Leigh Hunt is in Kensal Green, one of the magnificent seven (to my shame I  have only visited three of these cemeteries to date: Kensal Green, Highgate and Nunhead).

Leigh Hunt was a major cultural figure in his time and important for the introduction of Keats, Shelley, Browning and Tennyson. He also made enemies, among them Blake.

He is famous too for his appearance (with Byron) in Louis Edouard Fournier’s painting of Shelley’s funeral on the beach at Viareggio on the Tuscan coast (not on Italy’s east coast as I’d previously thought). This painting is in the Walker Gallery in Liverpool, giving me another reason for a visit to Liverpool and Birkenhead (I want to visit Port Sunlight too).

And now a pile of invoices awaits me to be listed, arranged and copied for my income tax return where I shall endeavour to reduce capital gains tax to a manageable amount; these from the time when I was involved in building a mediaeval cathedral on an island in Mälaren (it was a one-room extension actually but I didn’t get the impression that the builder was a man prone to undue haste and there was surely room for a flying buttress or two in his impressive sheaf of necessities to be paid for). It’s so much more pleasant to float around on the net filling the odd gap in knowledge than grubbing around with filthy lucre but such is the way of the world.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.