Jenny Kiss'd Me


When I was a child there was a slim volume of poems on the bookshelves. It looked like a book that would be given as a gift, all in red and black and white with smooth pages. I think they were all supposed to be love poems though I have my doubts about that since I clearly remember one of the poems was Annabel Lee which is downright tragic. There is one other poem I remember. I loved it because it had my name in it and all children are captivated when something has their name. The poem was Jenny Kiss'd Me by Leigh Hunt. I read it over and over until I had it memorized and, to this day, it is one of the only poems I can recite.

I always wondered why it was written. What did it mean? Why was he so happy that Jenny kissed him? I didn't really think it was a love poem but what was it? Recently, I was reading Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff and I found the answers to my questions. Jenny was Jane Carlyle, the wife of essayist Thomas Carlyle. According to Hanff:

The Hunts lived around the corner and Leigh used to drop in regularly. But he was sick one winter and was absent for so long that when he finally recovered and appeared in the Carlyles' doorway, Jane jumped up and kissed him. And a day or two later, one of the Hunt servants delivered a note. From Mr. Hunt to Mrs Carlyle. The note read:

                                          Jenny kissed me when we met,
                                          Jumping from the chair she sat in;
                                          Time, you thief, who love to get
                                          Sweets into your list, put that in:

                                          Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
                                          Say that health and wealth have missed me,
                                          Say I'm growing old, but add
                                          Jenny kissed me.

Isn't that a charming story?

8 comments

  1. When my late father went to school in the 1920s, they memorized lots of poetry. He amazed me when he would recite long poems and poems like Jenny Kiss'd Me, which seems very familiar to me. I memorized some poems in school, but I doubt they do that these days. I went through a phase when I decided to memorize shorter poems, one a week. I remember only two: Loveliest of Trees by A. E. Housman and Dust of Snow by Robert Frost. But I'm glad I learned them.

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    1. I like Dust of Snow. I don't read a lot of poetry. Maybe I should change that.

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  2. My love of this poem is a reason you are called Jenny.

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    1. I don't think I knew that. At least I like the poem!

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  3. I love everything about this blogpost, and how lovely that it turned out to be one of the reasons that you were named Jenny.
    I was never good at memorising poetry at school but this one I could probably have managed.

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    1. I am not good at memorization either. I wonder if that is because it is a skill we no longer practice.

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  4. I remember reading that poem some years ago. I thought that it showed how much value he placed on Jenny's kiss.

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    1. I suppose if he wrote a poem about it then it must have been important!

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