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Percival Leigh

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Published : 11 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 3/11/1813
Death : 24/10/1889
Views : 2682

Comic writer. Studied medicine at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. L.S.A. 1834; M.R.C.S. 1835. For some years practised medicine; then abandoned that profession for writing. Joined staff of Punch shortly after periodical was founded; remained contributor to time of his death, though what he wrote in his later years was unusable. Among his Punch contributions was the text accompanying Richard Doyle's illustrations for Manners and Customs of ye Englyshe. Contributed to George Cruikshank's Table-Book; occasionally to Bentley's Miscellany and other periodicals. Author of The Comic Latin Grammar, The Comic English Grammar, both published 1840; and other similar books.


Leigh was not a close friend of Dickens, but he was at various times one of Dickens's guests; he played a role in Dickens's presentation, 1845, of Every Man in His Humour. Among references to Dickens in Leigh's writings is the comment that "the talented author of the Pickwick Papers" was one of the main figures responsible for making the "Victorian Age" the "Age of Comicality"; Dickens's genius, wrote Lelgh, "has revolutionized the republic of letters ... and has become, as it were, a mirror, which will reflect to all posterity the laughter loving spirit of his age" ("Introduction", Comic Latin Grammar).

Leigh became a contributor to H.W. at Dickens's invitation. Some weeks before the first number appeared, Dickens wrote to say that he would be "sincerely pleased" to have Leigh as one of the contributors. Dickens was enthusiastic about Leigh's "Tale of the Good Old Times", which expressed ideas on social progress similar to Dickens's own; he suggested some slight changes that would "adapt [the tale] perfectly to my purpose". The subject of "A Sample of the Old School" Dickens thought excellent, and the purpose commendable. He suggested that the article be written in the first person; as it appeared in H.W., it was so written (to Leigh, February 23, March 10, April 8, 1850; typescripts Huntington Library). With his scientific and medical training, Leigh was also useful to Dickens in writing papers on science for the layman. When Dickens obtained from Faraday the lecture notes of certain of Faraday's lectures, he entrusted them to Leigh to serve as the basis of H.W. articles.

Four of Leigh's H.W. contributions were reprinted in Harper's, with acknowledgment to H.W. Five were included in the Putnam volumes of selections from H.W.:Home and Social Philosophy, 1st and 2nd series. One was included in Choice Stories from Dickens' Household Words, published in Auburn, N.Y., 1854.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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