James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784 – 1859), more commonly known as Leigh Hunt, was an English critic, essayist, poet, and writer and friend of Charles Dickens.

Early Life.

Leigh Hunt was born in Southgate, Middlesex on 19th October 1784. His father was a clergyman who ran into financial difficulties and ended up in a debtor’s prison. Hunt was interested in politics and poetry and in 1808 he co-founded, with his brother John, The Examiner, a Sunday paper which became one of the most popular publications of the age.

Friendship with Charles Dickens.

Leigh Hunt first met Charles Dickens in 1837. He wrote of his impression of Dickens to John Forster, who at the time was the literary and dramatic critic at The Examiner, ‘What a face is his to meet in a drawing room! It has the life and soul in it of fifty human beings’.

In later life, Hunt suffered perennial financial difficulties. Charles Dickens also organised two theatrical benefit performances to help Hunt with his money problems.

I am now, to boot, in the wandering-unsettled-restless-uncontrollable state of being about to begin a new book.

Charles Dickens. Letter to Leigh Hunt, Friday, 4 May 1855.

Character of Harold Skimpole.

Leigh Hunt was the basis for Dickens’s character Harold Skimpole in Bleak House.