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ENGLISH MEN OF LETTERS 

EDITED Br JOHN MORLET 

WILLIAM HAZLirr 



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WILLIAM HAZLITT 



BY 

AUGUSTINE BIRRELL 



** A man*s life is his whole life, not the 
last glimmering snuff of the candle ** 



Wetogotft 
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., Ltd. 
1902 

A^^ rights reserved 



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1 P':3;;.:;.'3KARY 
17002A 



OopTsieHT, 1902, 

bt the macmillan coMPAmr. 



Set up and de cU o ty ped June, x9oa. 



Korlsooli ^tt»» 

1. 8. Ciuhing ft Go. — Berwick ft Smith 

Norwood Mam. U^.A. 



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PREFACE 

The chief authorities for this Life of HasHiU are the 
following : — 

(1) Hazlitt's own books. 

(2) Literary Bemains of the late WtUiam Hazlitt: 

With a Notice of his Life by his /Son, and 
Thoughts on his Oenius and Writings^ by 
E. L. Bulwer, Esq., M.P., and Mr. Serjeant 
Talfourd. In two volumes, Saunders and 
Ottley, 1836. 

(3) Memoirs of William Hazlitt, by W. Carew 

Hazlitt (grandson). Two volumes, Richard 
Bentley, 1867. This book is cited as Life. 

(4) Four Generations of a Literary Family, by W. 

Carew Hazlitt. Two volumes. George Red- 
way, 1897. This book is cited as ffaditt 
Memoirs. 

(5) Lamb and Hazlitt, Edited by W. Carew Haz- 

litt. Elkin Matthews, 1900. 

(6) List of the Writings of William Hazlitt and 

Leigh Hunt, chronologically arranged and 
with notes, by Alexander Ireland. John 
Russell Smith, 1868. 



'\ 



vi PREFACE 

(7) WiUiam Hazlitt, Essayist and Critic. With 

Memoir by Alexander Ireland. Frederick 
Warne add Co., 1889. 

(8) A privately printed edition of the Liber Amoris, 

containing Mrs. Hazlitt's Journal of my Trip 
to Scotland. 1894. 

With regard to (3), (4), and (5), I have to thank 
Hazlitt's grandson, Mr. W. Carew Hazlitt, for his 
permission, most cordially extended to me, to make 
such use as I have done of these authorities. With- 
out that permission I should not have felt at ease in 
handling the valuable materials they contain. 



A. B. 



3 New Squabb, Lincoln's Inn, 
Noyember 23, 1901. 






CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I 

VAQM 

Passktaob — Birth — akd thb United States of 

AlUSBICA 1 

CHAPTER n 
Wbm 17 

CHAPTER III 
Coleridge 38 

CHAPTER IV 
The Louvre 66 

CHAPTER V 
First Books, Marriage, and London .... 78 

CHAPTER VI 
The Beginning of Strife 06 

CHAPTER Vn 

Life and Lectures 116 

vu 



viii CONTENTS 



CHAPTER Vni 

PAOK 

Quarrels, Essays, Delusions, and Picture Galleries 143 



CHAPTER IX 
Maxims, Travels, and The Spirit of the Aqb . . 181 

CHAPTER X 
The End of Strife 206 

CHAPTER XI 
Character and Genius . . ..... 226 



\ 

^ 111 



WILLIAM HAZLITT 



i 



WILLIAM HAZLITT 



CHAPTEE I 

PABENTAGE — BIBTH — AND THE UNITED STATES OF 

AMEBIGA 

It was the belief of Hazlitt's son, an amiable and ac- 
complished Registrar of the old Court of Bankruptcy, 
that the name his father made illustrious was of Dutch 
origin, and originally spelt Haesluyt. The diligent 
researches of the grandson, Mr. W. Carew Hazlitt, 
would not, however, justify the most conscientious of 
biographers in crossing a stormy sea to explore the 
ancient burying places of Haarlem and Leyden in 
search of the progenitors of the writer and critic 
whose passage through life has here to be shortly 
recorded. 

Cross the sea, however, that biographer must, but 
with his face turned to the west ; for it is in a lone 
churchyard in the county of Tipperary that the bones 
lie of John Hazlitt and Margaret his wife, the grand- 
parents of the famous writer, and farther back one 
cannot safely go. 

Tradition tells us of Hazlitts, or Hasletts, or even 
it may be of Haesluyts, who shortly after the days 
of Dutch William were to be found in Antrim and 
Coleraine and other northern parts of Ireland, pur- 

B 1 



2 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chjlp. 

suing various vocations^ and adhering to the dominant 
Protestant religion, though affecting the Presbyterian 
colour. Whether these possible ancestors were " the 
noble, silent men" about whom Carlyle, that prince of 
biographers, loved to discourse in his early chapters, 
"scattered here and there, each in his department 
silently thinking, silently working," or the most arrant 
chatterboxes in all Ireland, nobody now knows. For 
us, at all events, they are as silent as even Carlyle 
could wish. 

Some time, however, and 1736 is a likely date, John 
Haditt, a flax factor, left Antrim ; and in the company 
of one John Damer, who grew rich, and upon whose 
fortune a nephew maintained an earldom, came south 
and established himself in business at Shronell, or 
Shrone-hill, in county Tipperary, near the town of the 
same name. John Hazlitt probably brought his wife 
Margaret with him; and on the 18th of April 1737 
his eldest son was bom at Shronell and baptized, 
according to the Presbyterian ritual, William. This 
William Hazlitt it was who in due time became the 
father of another William Hazlitt who has made the 
name familiar to our ears. 

There were two other sons born to John and 
Margaret of Shronell — James and John. John 
emigrated to America in colonial days, but became 
on the first opportunity a rebel ; and, distinguishing 
himself as a soldier, died a colonel and a citizen of 
the United States. This Colonel John Hazlitt must 
not be confused with another warrior of the same 
name and rank, who also took arms against King 
George, and died at the head of his regiment on the 
field of Preston, 1777. This second Colonel John 



I.] PARENTAGE 8 

Hazlitt belonged to the Colerame branch, and was 
accounted a cousin. 

William Hazlitt the Elder, as I will usually call him 
by way of identification, remained in Ireland till his 
nineteenth year, when he went to the University of 
Glasgow, where, says his great-grandson, he had the 
good fortune to be contemporary with Adam Smith. 
Nothing is known now of William's university career 
except that he attended Professor Clow's Logic Class, 
and gave great satisfaction to Dr. Moor, the then 
Professor of Greek. He proceeded Artium Magister in 
due course. His younger brother James followed him 
to Glasgow, where he also graduated. The descend- 
ants of James are still living in Tipperary. 

William the Elder's university education being com- 
pleted in or about 1761, it became necessary for him 
to choose a vocation in life. This choice presented no 
difficulty. He belonged by the grace of God to the 
great and happy race of Parson Adams, whom he 
much resembled save in the accident of orthodoxy. 
When and how the elder Hazlitt became a Unitarian 
I have not learned. It may be that his mother, a 
thoughtful woman, who rejoiced that her firstborn 
should be a divine, had imbibed the subtle Arian 
heresy and transmitted it in a fiercer form to Professor 
Clow's pupil. A Unitarian, however, the elder Hazlitt 
became, being examined before he entered the ministry, 
and certified sound, by three eminent doctors of that 
faith — Dr. Price, Dr. Chandler, and Dr. Prior — all of 
whom he excelled in primitive fervour, republican zeal, 
and Hebraistical piety. 

If ever a man scorned this world and the things 
belonging to it, William Hazlitt the Elder was that 



4 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

man ; for in the pure white flame of his enthusiasm 
every shabby ambition, every mean and paltry aim, 
were shrivelled up before they had time to flutter. 
The impression he left upon his son, a born Epicurean 
in temperament, though not in philosophy, was tre- 
mendous, and is happily recorded in more than one 
passage of resounding vocables and true inspiration. 
I must but lightly pass over the adventures and 
characteristics of this fine old Nonconformist, but to 
ignore them altogether would be wrong ; for they had 
a great share in making the Hazlitt I am most con- 
cerned with what he was as a writer, if not what he 
was as a man. 

The history of the English Presbyterians during the 
eighteenth century and their lapse into Arianism and 
XTnitarianism is well known. It has been elucidated 
in the Court of Chancery, and expounded by Macaulay 
in the House of Commons. Small endowments kept 
tiny congregations together despite the unpopularity 
of their tenets ; their country ministers were frequently 
men of piety and learning, and usually imbued with a 
love of individual freedom and independent thought. 
They were almost always apostolically poor. During 
the bad times, when the eighteenth century came to 
an end, and the last century so heavily drew its early 
breath, the Unitarians were wholly an influence for 
good. 

The elder Hazlitt's first congregation was at Wis- 
beach, in the Isle of Ely, where he went in 1764, 
and remained two years. Wisbeach was, and indeed 
is, a great place for Dissent. You may read of it in 
De Foe, the first political Dissenter. The Godwins, 
though originally from Yorkshire, were long settled in 



I.] PARENTAGE 5 

Wisbeach, and the father of that grimy Gamaliel, the 
author of the Political Justice, was a predecessor of 
Hazlitt's at the Meeting House. The old Dissenting 
families of the neighbourhood cherished many stir- 
ring memories of persecution, toleration, and reaction ; 
but of their own bigotry, when predominant, not a 
tradition was to be found, so much easier is it to 
remember your heroism under misfortune than your 
pride in place. 

Out of one of these families the elder Hazlitt took 
a wife — Grace Loftus, whose father was an iron- 
monger in the market-place. The ironmonger had 
married an Oxfordshire lady, Grace Pentlow, who, 
though she was eleven years old when Queen Anne 
died, and remembered the news coming on a Sunday 
morning, and how greatly the Dissenters rejoiced as 
they repaired to the conventicles that had been threat- 
ened with compulsory closing, yet lived to the year 
1801. 

William Hazlitt and Grace Loftus were married on 
the 19th of January 1766 at Peterborough, in a parish 
church, which, unlike the Quakers, they were content 
to enter in order to preserve their children from the 
taint of bastardy. Grace Hazlitt, who, like her 
mother, lived to a great age, had many charms, and 
was reckoned very good-looking, though her marked 
resemblance in nose and lip to the younger Pitt is not 
by itself recommendatory of her person, and must 
have been a great trial to her son. 

After his marriage, the elder Hazlitt and his young 
wife — she was twenty-two — moved to Marshfield, in 
Gloucestershire, where he ministered to the needs of 
a small number of heretical maltsters^ and here his 



6 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

eldest son John (the painter) was born, as also was a 
boy Loftus, who died in early days. 

In 1770 Hazlitt the Elder came to Maidstone, where 
he was minister of the Earle Street Meeting House, a 
somewhat important place in the small community to 
which he was proud to belong. Here he made friends, 
some of celebrity, such as Dr. Priestley, Dr. Kippis, 
and even Benjamin Franklin ; but the elder Hazlitt, 
like his son, had no gifts for the great, and chose his 
companions for no better reason than because he en- 
joyed their society. His great cronies at Maidstone 
were Mr. Wiche, the Baptist minister, and Mr. Viny 
of Tenterden, at whose house it was he used to meet 
Franklin. Viny was Pro-English, and Hazlitt Pro- 
American, so there was no lack of conversation, which 
cannot have failed to be animated. 

At Maidstone, on the 10th of April 1778, in a house 
no longer recognisable, in a lane once called Mitre, 
and now Bullock, William Hazlitt was bom. On 
the 21st of June he was baptized by his father in 
the Meeting House; but, as he once said in words, 
the deep significance of which penetrate to the very 
core of his being, " I started in life with the French 
Eevolution," and certainly there were always more 
traces of the Revolution about Hazlitt than of the 
rite of Christian Baptism. 

Seven years earlier, but also at Maidstone, another 
child had been bom, and a very useful member of the 
family she proved to be — Margaret, commonly called 
Peggy, whose family diary, copious extracts from 
which were published for the first time in the Hazlitt 
Memoirs (1897), is full of interest. 

The travels and adventures of William Hazlitt the 



1 



. ^ 



I.] UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 7 

Younger began early ; for in 1780 his father, in con- 
sequence of one of those congregational quarrels which 
are the weakness of Independency, had to leave Maid- 
stone. He returned to Ireland, taking his family with 
him, and for three years abode at Bandon, near Cork, 
where, ever active in the cause of Humanity, and 
never averse to being in a hopeless minority, he 
pleaded with courage and success the cause of a num- 
ber of American rebels who were exposed to great 
hardships, and even wanton cruelty, at Kinsale 
Prison. 

These courageous and disinterested efforts made 
Bandon an uncomfortable place for a man with a 
young family ; and the elder Hazlitt in 1783, and in 
the face of strong advice to the contrary, given him 
by Dr. Price, who had, at HazlitVs instigation, sought 
Lord Shelburne's assistance in the case of the Kinsale 
prisoners, made up his mind to emigrate to America, 
with whom a treaty of peace was about to be con- 
cluded. Accordingly, on the 3rd of April 1783, the 
elder Hazlitt ; his wife Grace Hazlitt ; his son John, 
then fifteen; his daughter Margaret, aged twelve; 
William, just entering upon his sixth year; and a 
little Harriet, bom in Bandon, all sailed from Cork, 
on board the Henry bound for New York, hoping to 
find in the new Republic about to rise, as Peggy the 
diarist expresses it, "a perfect land where no tyrants 
were to rule, no bigots to hate and persecute their 
brethren, no intrigues to feed the flame of discord and 
fill the land with woe." 

Paradise was farther off in those days than it is 
now, for it was not until May the 12th, seven good 
weeks, that the Henry sighted Long Island. 



8 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

Hazlitt was thus destined to see New York before 
ever he set eyes on London. He is so essentially a 
child of the old world — of old plays, old books, old 
pictures, and old prejudices — that it is hard to think 
of him as living in a brand-new Eepublic across the 
Atlantic, as yet unenriched with any of the spoils of 
time. 

The United States were not, however, to be more 
than an episode in the lives of the Hazlitts; and 
within little more than four years all of them, save 
little Harriet, who did not bear transplanting, and an 
Esther born in the States, who did not live to come 
home, were back again in benighted old England. 

The scenery of the States did not make the impres- 
sion one would expect upon the young William. 
From five to nine are usually impressionable years; 
and Hazlitt, above most men, made good play with all 
his impressions on paper. The diary of his sister is 
full of the trees and birds and landscape; but in 
Hazlitt's writings nothing of America remains but, 
little epicure that he was, the taste of barberries — 
thaJt taste, he wrote, " I have in my mouth still after 
an interval of more than thirty years, for I have met 
no other taste in all that time at all like it." Perhaps 
Hazlitt's enthusiasms required the stimulus of a book 
in his hand or a picture on the wall. However this 
may be, these enthusiasms were kept virginal for the 
old world, for Eousseau, for Titian, for Mrs. Siddons, 
and for the range of lofty hills seen from Wem in 
pleasant Salop. 

The adventures of a wandering Parson Adams of 
the Unitarian persuasion and his family in those new 
States, whither the very ship that brought them also 



I.] UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 9 

brought the first news of the peace with the old and 
defeated conntry, as narrated in the diary of the eldest 
daughter, are full of movement and almost jomantic 
interest ; but they are not sufficiently relevant to the 
main issue of this little book to justify more than a 
reference. The diary might advantageously be edited 
and published as a whole. 

The arrival of the Hazlitts in New York created 
great excitement, for the reason already given. '' As 
soon as we cast anchor," records the diarist, "we 
were visited by some of the British officers, who came 
on board eager to hear the news. Ours was the first 
ship that brought an account of the treaty of peace. 
And then how they raved and swore, cursing both the 
Congress and those at home who had thus put a stop 
to their ravaging with fire and sword their brothers' 
land ; and in this our most valiant captain most 
piously joined, so much were their American brethren 
transformed in their eyes (by that little, magical 
word rebel) into bands of lawless banditti whom it 
would be meritorious to destroy." 

The family remained in New York but two days, 
and then started for Philadelphia, resting by the way 
at Burlington, where on Sunday Mr. Hazlitt, "by 
special request," preached before the New Jersey 
Assembly then in sitting, his first sermon on American 
soiL It sounds very grand, but the service was con- 
ducted in a small room with only benches to sit upon. 
Mrs. Hazlitt would have liked to have remained at 
Burlington, and to have opened a school there, a likely 
project which might have made an American of 
William Hazlitt, but the Divine had other aims than 
school-mastering, and insisted upon pushing on to Phil- 



10 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

adelphia. To this fair city, excellently well described 
in Peggy's diary, the family journeyed in a stage- 
waggon, driving for two days through the New Jersey 
woods, " full of majestic trees mingled with the blos- 
soms of the wild peach and apricot, and the sweet- 
scented yellow flowers of the locust-trees perfuming 
the air." 

In Philadelphia the Hazlitts remained fifteen 
months, having hired a house in Union Street, for 
which they paid £30 a year in English money. Im- 
mediately on arrival the elder Hazlitt and his son 
John hurried off to St. Peter's Church, not to return 
thanks for their safe arrival in the Land of Freedom, 
but to catch a glimpse of Freedom's hero. General 
Washington, who was attending church on some public 
occasion. 

They met in the neighbourhood other Hazlitts from 
Coleraine, and heard about the Colonel John, of whom 
mention has already been made. 

The elder Hazlitt during his stay in Philadelphia 
preached assiduously in such pulpits as were open to 
him, but in the matter of Unitarianism the States 
were not yet the Land of Freedom. Calvinistic ortho- 
doxy was still installed in Church and College ; and 
Subscription, the bondage of the spirit, was as much 
the fashion as in the old country. The presidency of 
a college at Carlisle, with a stipend of £300 a year, 
was offered Hazlitt, but on those terms of slavery. 
His reply was that he would sooner die in a ditch 
than submit to human authority in matters of faith. 
The language is familiar, but Hazlitt meant what he 
said. He had therefore to be content with the life of 
a wandering preacher and lecturer on the Evidences 






I.] UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 11 

of Christianity, going wherever he was invited. On 
some of these occasions his little son William accom- 
panied him even into the pulpit itself, where he would 
sit on a cushion at his father's feet, hid from sight, 
pursuing his own wandering thoughts, whilst far above 
his head he heard the familiar and beloved paternal 
voice unfolding and recounting his " dream of infinity 
and eternity, of death, the resurrection, and judgment 
to come." 

To Boston indeed the elder Hazlitt almost received 
" a call." It seemed a settled thing, but it was not to 
be. " The persecuting zeal of the orthodox sent one 
of their chosen brethren after him, and thus put a 
stop to his settling there." The fact is, Hazlitt w^ 
a pioneer. He was perhaps the first professed Uni- 
tarian in the States which had not yet been visited 
and organised by Priestley. Unitarianism was to have 
its day in Boston, and to rule supreme at Harvard ; 
but its day had not then arrived, and is now over, 
for I am given to understand that "a mild Episco- 
palianism " is the mode of religion found easiest of 
assimilation by the present inhabitants of Boston. 

In August 1774 the Hazlitts left Philadelphia for a 
beautiful home in Weymouth, some fifteen miles from 
Boston. 

"The house," so the diarist tells us, "stood in a 
most romantic spot, surrounded on three sides by very 
steep hills that sloped down just in sight of the win- 
dows, and were covered with locust-trees. 

" These trees grow to a great height, and their yellow 
blossoms, somewhat like the laburnum, perfumed the 
air in spring. On the green before the door stood a 
solitary pear-tree, beyond the shade of which in the 



12 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chai». 

hot days William was not allowed to go until four 
o'clock, when the sun was in some sort shaded hy the 
neighbouring hills. On the pales that enclosed this 
sloping green the woodpeckers were wont to sit, and 
make a noise with their bills like a saw. Beyond the 
garden and lane was a large meadow, which in the 
summer evenings, with its myriads of fire-flies, made 
a brilliant appearance. 

" On a little low hill to the eastward stood the house 
of prayer, and below it Dr. Tuft's, the road to Boston 
passing close by them; to the north King-Oak Hill, 
which in the winter, when covered with snow, reflected 
the golden and purple tints of the setting sun. Over 
this hill the road leading to Hingham was seen. . . . 
The hills behind the house are very steep, and it was 
one of our childish exploits, when they were covered 
with ice, to climb up and write our names on the 
frozen snow. 

" From the top of these hills we had a distant view 
of the Bay of Boston, and many of its islands and 
hills beyond it, with Dorchester heights, famous for 
the Battle of Kegs; Bunker's Hill, where so many 
British officers fell in the space of five minutes, singled 
out by the sharpshooters of the Yankees ; to the south, 
dark and frowning woods, and nearer to us the river, 
with a mill and two houses on its banks, and a variety 
of meadows, fields, and trees below. Here also was 
seen the house of Captain Whitman, a good friend of 
ours. He was so fond of William that the boy spent 
half his time in going with him to the woods, or to the 
fields to see them plough, or attending the milking of 
the cows, where I, too, was often present. . . ." 

A pleasant exterior, surely enough. Inside the 



I.] UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 13 

house " was a very large picture in oil of the meet- 
ing of Esau and Jacob. The embracing of the two 
brothers, the meeting of their followers on either side, 
with the groups of camels and other cattle, and the 
background wending up between the hills and seeming 
to vanish in the air completed the enchantment. On 
this picture I used to gaze with delight." So writes 
Peggy. 

The picture was one of the early works of Copley, 
and though John Hazlitt, a bit of a painter himself 
by this time, affected to think little of it, one cannot 
doubt that the young William shared his sister^s 
rapture, for " The Meeting of Esau and Jacob " must 
have been the first real canvas on which rested his 
devouring eye. It is strange he should never have 
mentioned it. In Peggy's account it is pleasant to 
recognise the family gusto, for she describes her one 
dull Copley with something of the same feeling that 
her little brother was in days to come to write of 
" that cold convent spire rising in the distance, amidst 
the blue sapphire mountains and the golden sky" of 
Titian's St. Peter Martyr, now, alas ! no longer to be 
seen, and of many another famous picture in London, 
Paris, Florence, and Rome. 

Long walks were things of necessity at Weymouth. 
Hingham, where the elder Hazlitt often preached, was 
five miles off. " How often," says the diarist, " have 
we stood at the window looking at my father as he 
went up the Hingham road with William in his nan- 
keen dress marching by his side like one that could 
never be tired." Thus early was the boy initiated 
into the charm of the road! A great pedestrian he 
remained all his life. He envied no man his travelling- 



14 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

chariot. " Give me the clear blue sky over my head, 
and the green tuif beneath my feet, a winding road 
before me and a three hours' march to dinner, and 
then to thinking. It is hard if I cannot start some 
game on these lone heaths. I laugh, I run, I leap, I 
sing for joy." 

A man's life is his whole life, and it was memories 
like these of joyful, exultant existence that must have 
prompted the last words Hazlitt ever uttered after 
living the life I have to record, " Well — I have had a 
happy life." 

Boston was beyond the six-year-old legs of William, 
but the elder Hazlitt and John thought nothing of a 
walk there and back, to preach or lecture, or see a 
Unitarian tract through the press. At Hingham, old 
Mr. Ebenezer Gay was minister, and there were those 
of his congregation who thought he might at ninety 
years of age retire, and make way for Mr. Hazlitt ; 
but Mr. Gay, who was " a very pleasant old man," and 
" fond of a good story," did not share this view, though 
always glad to let his young brother preach for him 
whenever so minded. No settlement could be found. 
In the summer of 1786 Hazlitt tried Cape Cod, " a 
neat little town, established chiefly by fishermen, and 
nothing to be seen but rucks and sands and the bound- 
less ocean." William was taken to Cape Cod, and 
on arriving he inquired whether any robins or Bob 
Lincolns came there, and on being told No, replied, 
" I suppose they do not like so ugly a place," which 
was a little hard on Cape Cod. 

Romantic Weymouth was given up after a year and 
eight months, when the family found it convenient to 
live nearer to Boston. Upper Dorchester was their 



I.] LONDON 15 

new home, five miles from Boston — in a small house 
on the high road. Hazlitt continued to preach as 
before in Boston, Salem, Hingham, and other places, 
but at last in despair he determined to go back home, 
which he did by himself, sailing from Boston in 
October 1786. He had not long been gone when old 
Mr. Gay died, and the Meeting House at Hingham 
might have been his. The diarist mourns over the 
mischance, and whatever might have been her brothers' 
lot, there can, I think, be little doubt that her life 
would have been a happier one had she remained in 
New England. 

After the elder Hazlitt's departure, his family re- 
mained at Dorchester for eight months, John studying 
painting as best he could, and teaching William, who 
worked like a fury, his Latin Grammar. Mrs. Hazlitt, 
wherever she went, was a great favourite, and they 
had many friends in Boston and its neighbourhood. 
On July 4, 1787, " the grand anniversary of American 
Independence," this small family of baffled Radicals 
sailed home, disembarking at Portsmouth on the 12th 
of August. The stage-coach took them to London, 
where they were joyfully received. After this fashion 
did William Hazlitt reach London. 

The earliest composition of Hazlitt's that has sur- 
vived is a letter to his father in London, evidently 
written from Dorchester. Letters of Hazlitt's are 
great rarities, and his first must be given at length. 
His many friends in America will find it easy to for- 
give. 

"12th of Nov. 

" My deak Papa, — I shall never forget that we came to 
america. If we had not came to america, we should not 



16 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. i. 

have been away from one and other, though now it can not be 
helped. I think for my part that it would have been a great 
deal better if the white people had not found it out. Let 
the (others) have it for themselves, for it was made for 
them. I have got a little of my grammar ; sometimes I get 
three pages and sometimes but one. I do not sifer any at 
aU. Mamma Peggy and Jacky are all veiy well, and I am 
to. — I still remain your most Affectionate Son, 

" William Hazutt. 

"The Rev. Mr. Hazutt, London. 

" To the care of Mr. David Lewis." 



CHAPTER II 

WEM 

The elder Hazlitt had spent the eight months between 
his own return home and that of his family in London 
in the house of Mr. David Lewis, a member of a Maid- 
stone family, to whom the Hazlitts were indebted for 
much of that kindness which, when it happens to be 
accompanied by delicacy, has often sweetened the hard 
lot of those who insist upon thinking for themselves 
in things spiritual. These hospitable folk received 
the whole family on its arrival from Portsmouth, and 
entertained it for some weeks, until a lodging was 
taken at Walworth near the once-celebrated Mont- 
pelier Tea Gardens. To this cheerful resort his 
friendly and companionable father used to take for a 
ramble the future essayist, who has painted for us the 
very place. 

" When I was quite a boy, my father used to take 
me to the Montpelier Teargardens at Walworth. Do 
I go there now ? No : the place is deserted, and its 
borders and its beds overturned. Is there, then, 
nothing that can 

* Bring back the hour 
Of glory in the grass, of splendour in the flower* ? 

Oh yes. I unlock the casket of memory, and draw 
back the warders of the brain ; and there this scene 
c 17 



18 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

of my infant wanderings still lives unfaded, or with 
fresher dyes. A new sense comes upon me, as in a 
dream ; a richer perfume, brighter colours start out ; 
my eyes dazzle ; my heart heaves with its new load of 
bliss, and I am a child again. My sensations are all 
glossy, spruce, voluptuous, and fine; they wear a 
candied coat, and are in holiday trim. I see the beds 
of larkspur with purple eyes ; tall hollyhocks, red and 
yellow; the brown sunflowers, caked in gold, with 
bees buzzing round them ; wildernesses of pinks and 
hot-glowing peonies ; poppies run to seed ; the sugared 
lily and faint mignonette, all ranged in order, and 
as thick as they can grow ; the box-tree borders ; the 
gravel-walks, the painted alcove, the confectionery, 
the clotted cream; — I think I see them now with 
sparkling looks, or have they vanished while I have 
been writing this description of them ? No matter ; 
they will return again when I least think of them. 
All that I have observed since, of flowers and plants, 
and grass-plots, and of suburb delights, seems, to me, 
borrowed from Hhat first garden of my innocence,* 
to be slips and scions stolen from that bed of mem- 
ory." * 

Another lodging in Percy Street soon received them, 
and here they stayed through the whole autumn of 
1787, receiving a visit of a months duration from old 
Mrs. Loftus already mentioned, who, though then 
eighty-four, had still fourteen years to live. John 
Hazlitt obtained admission into the studios of the 
great Sir Joshua, and pursued his art with the utmost 
zest. Margaret the diarist had also a strong artistic 

1 * Why distant objects please.' — Table^Talk, 



II.] WEM 19 

bent ; and whenever she could manage it, William and 
she would flatten their noses against the windows of 
the print shops in Fall Mall, and great was her rapture 
when her father actually took her into Boydell's 
Gallery and bought a print — "The Fish-stealers by 
Moonlight." 

The wanderings of the elder Hazlitt were now, 
however, nearly at an end. In the winter of 1787 he 
accepted the charge of a small congregation at Wem, 
in Shropshire, and at Wem he remained for more than 
a quarter of a century. 

Wem is a well-known name to all Hazlitt's readers. 
Wem, in Shropshire, and Winterslow Hutt, by Salis- 
bury Plain, were two places of joy in his self-torment- 
ing, self-rejoicing life ; and so well has he succeeded in 
infecting them with his own delight, that it is hard to 
be dull at Wem or indifferent at Winterslow. 

At Wem Hazlitt remained, with but few periods of 
absence, from his tenth to his twenty-second year, 
from 1788 to 1802 — a good slice out of life, and 
when impressions cut deepest, and indeed, like the 
mercy of God, endure for ever. Hazlitt, like Macau- 
lay, was a most tenacious person, though the tenacity 
of the latter had a Whiggish cast differentiating it from 
the tenacity of the born sentimentalist. " If I see a 
row of cabbage-plants or of peas or beans coming up, I 
immediately think of those which I used so carefully 
to water of an evening at Wem when my day's task 
was done, and of the pain with which I saw them 
droop and hang down their leaves in the morning's 
sun." Again, "I never see a child's kite but it seems 
to pull at my heart." 

At Wem William became in a very real sense his 



20 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

father's pupil, though he must also have attended a 
day school ; for in a long letter written to his brother 
from Wem in March 1788, he tells John that he goes 
to school at nine every morning, and after three of 
the boys have read from the Bible, he and two others 
(is this an early Conscience Clause protecting the 
young Dissenter ?) showed their exercises. After this 
odd distinction, the whole class read Enfield's Speaker, 
At spelling Hazlitt asserts he was almost always first. 
As for the boys, some he declares are' so sulky that 
they won't play, and others are quarrelsome because 
they cannot learn, and are fit only for fighting like 
stupid dogs and cats. '' I can jump four yards at a 
running jump and two at a standing jump. I intend 
to try you at this when you come down." 

This same letter reveals a taste both for drawing 
and reading. " You want to know what I do : I am a 
busybody, and do many silly things. I drew eyes 
and noses till about a fortnight ago. I have drawn a 
little boy since, a man's face, and a little boy's front- 
face taken from a bust. Next Monday I shall begin 
to read Ovid's Metamorphoses and Eutropius, I shall 
like to know all the Latin and Greek I can. I want 
to learn how to measure the stars. I shall not, I sup- 
pose, paint the worse for knowing everything else." 
The letter concludes thus: "I don't want your old 
clothes. I shall go to dancing this month. This is all 
I can say. — I am, your affectionate brother, William 
Hazlitt." 

Margaret's account of him at this time is as 
follows ; — 

" The first six years subsequent to our settlement at Wem 
he devoted to study, and under his father's guidance he 



11.] WEM 21 

made a rapid progress. He was at this time the most 
active, lively, and happiest of boys ; his time divided be- 
tween his studies and his childish sports passed smoothly 
on. Beloved by all for his amiable temper and manners, 
pleasing above his years, the delight and pride of his own 
fiunily." 

The slouch in the gait and the hand fumbling for 
the hidden dagger were things of another birth^ even 
if they were not, like the pimples with which Professor 
Wilson's young men in Blo/ckwood bespread Hazlitt's 
face, altogether the offspring of lurid fancy. 

During these years at Wem the character and atti- 
tude of mind towards both spiritual and political 
affairs of the elder Hazlitt made a great impression on 
the imagination of the son. There was sympathy 
between them. The original bent of the younger 
Hazlitt's mind was towards metaphysical reflection, 
nor had he any inborn distaste for theology, or even to 
going to chapel twice on Sundays. In the politics of 
the day he naturally took a keen interest ; and could, 
when ten years old, give the arguments for the Repeal 
of the Test and Corporation Acts as well as any living 
man in Parliament or pothouse. The father rejoiced 
exceedingly at this youthful prowess, and with " for- 
ward-reaching thoughts " already saw the boy he loved 
expounding from the pulpit with fiery eloquence and 
convincing force the principles of true religion, the 
charm of a holy life, and the rights of man. " My 
father," said Hazlitt, " would far sooner I had preached 
a good sermon than painted a Rembrandt '^ ; and this, 
not because the elder Hazlitt was blind to the sur- 
passing merit of Rembrandt, but because to him a 
sermon belonged to the Life Eternal. 



22 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

The study at Wem contained much massy divinity. 
Caryl's Commentaries on Job, in folio volumes, was 
amongst the lighter reading which greatly exercised 
the young Hazlitt's imagination, even though its 
perusal did not occupy much of his time. ^^It is 
delightful to repose on the Wisdom of the Ancients ; 
to travel out of one's self into the Chaldee, Hebrew, 
and Egyptian characters; to have the palm-trees 
waving mystically in the margin of the page, and the 
camels moving slowly on in the distance of three 
thousand years." His father and his father's books 
were always very near Hazlitt's heart ; and though the 
sermons he preached were not after his father's fash- 
ion, nevertheless the father was sometimes the text ; 
and whenever this was the case, the discourse glows 
with an eloquence not surpassed by Taylor or Bossuet. 
No biographer of Hazlitt can dispense with long quo- 
tation, although how this biographer will have the 
courage to resume the pen when his next quotation 
comes to an end he cannot think. 

*^ A Dissenting minister is a character not so easily to be 
dispensed with, and whose place cannot be well suppUed. It 
is a pity that this character has worn itself out ; that that 
pulse of thought and feeling has ceased almost to beat in the 
heart of a nation, who, if not remarkable for sincerity and 
plain downright well-meaning, are remarkable for nothing. 
But we have known some such, in happier days, who had 
been brought up and lived from youth to age in the one con- 
stant belief of God and of his Christ, and who thought all 
other things but dross compared with the glory hereafter to 
be revealed. Their youthful hopes and vanity had been 
mortified in them, even in their boyish days, by the neglect 
and supercilious regards of the world ; and they turned to 
look into their own minds for something else to build their 



II.] WEM 23 

hopes and confidence upon. They were trae priests. They 
set up an image in their own minds — it was truth ; they wor- 
shipped an idol there — it was justice. They looked on man 
as their brother, and only bowed the knee to the Highest. 
Separate from the world, they walked humbly with their 
Grod, and lived in thought with those who had borne testi- 
mony of a good conscience, with the spirits of just men in all 
ages. They saw Moses when he slew the Egyptian, and the 
prophets who overturned the brazen images, and those who 
were stoned and sawn asunder. They were with Daniel in the 
lions' den, and with the three children who passed through the 
fiery fiimace — Meshach, Shadrach, and Abed-nego; they did 
not crucify Christ twice over, or deny Him in their hearts, 
with St. Peter ; the Book of Martyrs was open to them ; they 
read the stoiy of William Tell, of John Huss, and Jerome of 
Prague, and the old one-eyed Zisca ; they had Neale's History 
of the Puritans by heart, and Calamy's Account of the Two 
Thousand Ejected Ministers, and gave it to their children to 
read, with the pictures of the polemical Baxter, the silver- 
tongued Bates, the mild-looking Calamy, and old honest 
Howe ; they believed in Lardner's Credibility of the Gospel 
History; they were deep read in the works of Fratres Poloni, 
Pripscovius, Orellius, Cracovius, who sought out truth in texts 
of Scripture, and grew blind over Hebrew points; their aspira- 
tion after liberty was a sigh uttered from the towers, * time- 
rent,' of the Holy Inquisition ; and their zeal for religious 
toleration was kindled at the fires of Smithfield. Their 
sympathy was not with the oppressors, but the oppressed. 
They cherished in their thoughts — and wished to transmit 
to their posterity — those rights and privileges for asserting 
which their ancestors had bled on scaffolds, or had pined in 
dungeons, or in foreign climes. Their creed, too, was 'Glory 
to Grod, peace on earth, goodwill to man.' This creed, since 
profaned and rendered vile, they kept fast through good 
report and evil report. This belief they had, that looks at 
something out of itself, fixed as the stars, deep as the firma- 
ment ; that makes of its own heart an altar to truth, a place 
of worship for what is right, at which it does reverence with 
praise and prayer like a holy thing, apart and content; that 



24 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

feels that the greatest Being in the universe is always near 
it ; and that all things work together for the good of His 
creatures, under His guiding hand. This covenant they 
kept, as the stars keep their courses; this principle they 
stuck by, for want of knowing better, as it sticks by 
them to the last. It grew with their growth, it does not 
wither in their decay. It lives when the almond-tree flour- 
ishes, and is not bowed down with the tottering knees. It 
glimmers with the last feeble eyesight, smiles in the faded 
cheek like infancy, and lights a path before them to the 
grave ! " * 

The last words of this magnificent utterance and 
large discourse were written in January 1818, and 
reprinted in the following year. The old man who 
inspired the whole passage died in July 1820, aged 
eighty-four. 

It would be a mistake to suppose from the filial 
pride and fervent language of Hazlitt that he was in 
the least inclined to become " a Rational Dissenter/^ 
It is only necessary to read his philosophical essay 
"On the Tendency of Sects" in the Bound Table 
(1817) to be disabused of such a notion. Politically, 
he admired the fidelity of the old Nonconformists to 
their unpopular opinions, and their " abstract attach- 
ment" to their principles; but philosophically he was 
as much alive as the late Dr. Martineau to the crudity 
of the Unitarian controversy, and to the ill con- 
sequences apt to flow from the habit of objecting to 
everything. Hazlitt was never a true Dissenter any 
more than he was ever a true Democrat. 

In 1790, when entering upon his thirteenth year, 
Hazlitt paid a long visit to some friends of his father's 
in Liverpool, called Tracy, good Unitarians, who took 

1 * On Court Influence.' — Political Essays, 



II.] WEM 25 

him to hear Mr. Yates on Sundays, and let him share 
the French lessons of a little Miss Tracy. Here he 
read T4Umaquey and began to qualify himself for that 
sensuous enjoyment of Rousseau which was to play such 
a part in his life. His letters home are most amusing. 
A few extracts must serve : — 

" Saturday aftemoon I and George, with Miss Avis, went 
to a Mrs. Barton's, who appeared to be an unhospitable 
English prim ^ lady/ if such she may be called. She asked 
us, as if she were afraid we should accept it, if we would 
stay to tea. And at the other English person's, for I am 
sure she belongs to no other country than to England, I got 
such a surfeit of their ceremonial unsociality, that I could 
not help wishing myself in America. I had rather people 
would tell one to go out of the house than ask one to stay, 
and, at the same time, be trembling all over for fear one 
should take a slice of meat, or a dish of tea, with them. 
Such as these require an Horace or a Shakespeare to describe 
them. I have not yet learned the gamut perfectly, but I 
would have done it if I could. I spent a very agreeable day 
yesterday, as I read 160 pages of Priestley, and heard two 
good sermons ; the best of which, in my opinion, was 
Mr. Lewin's, and the other Mr. Smith's. They both belong 
to Benn's Gardens Chapel." 

" I do not converse in French; but I and Miss Tracy have 
a book, something like a vocabulary, where we get the mean- 
ings of words. Miss Tracy never does accompts, but I take 
an hour or two every other day. I will follow your Greek 
precept. Give my best love to mamma, and tell her I shall 
write to her next time, and hope she will write to me in 
answer to it." 

His father replies with mild philosophy — 

" Your conversation upon the Test Act did you honour. 
If we only think justly, we shall always easily foil all the 
advocates of tyranny. The inhospitable ladies whom you 
mention were, perhaps, treated by you with too great severity. 



WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

We know not how people may be circumstanced at a par- 
ticular moment, whose disposition is generaUy friendly. 
They may, then, happen to pass under a cloud, which unfits 
them for social intercourse. We must see them more than 
once or twice to be able to form a tolerable judgment of their 
characters. There are but few, like Mrs. Tracy, who can 
always appear what they really are. I do not say, however, 
that the English ladies whom you mention are not exactly 
as you described them. I only wish to caution you against 
forming too hasty a judgment of characters who can seldom 
be known at a single interview. I wish you, if you can, to 
become master of the gamut while you are there. I am glad 
that you have made so great a progress in French, and that 
you are so very anxious to hear Mr. Olegg's lectures. It is a 
pity that you cannot have another month at the French, etc. 
But, as matters are, I hope you will be soon able to master 
that language. I am glad that you employed the last Sunday 
so well, and that the employment afforded you so much 
satisfaction. Nothing else can truly satisfy us but the 
acquisition of knowledge and virtue. May these blessings 
be yours more and more every day ! " 

At Liverpool Hazlitt went to his firsl^play. 

" On Friday I went to the play with Mr. Corbett, at 
whose house I dined and drank tea. The play was Love 
in Many Masks, and the farce JVo Song, No Supper, It 
was veiy entertaining, and was performed by some of the 
best players in London, as, for instance, Eemble, Suett, 
Dignum, the famous singer, Mrs. Williams, Miss Hagley, 
Miss Romanzini, and others. Suett, who acted in the char- 
acter of ' Ned Blunt,' was enough to make any one laugh 
though he stood still ; and Eemble acted admirably as an 
officer. Mr. Dignum sang beautifully, and Miss Hagley 
acted the country girl with much exactness. Mr. Corbett 
says he will take us to another play before we go. So much 
for last week." ^ 

i''I met Dignniu (the singer) in the street the other day; he 
was hamming a tune, and his eye though quenched was smilinji:. 



II.] WEM 27 

He is also taken for the first time in his life to the 
Established Churchy and thinks little of it. 

" On Sunday, after I had come from meeting, I went, but 
not willingly, to Mrs. Sydebotham's to dinner. In the after- 
noon we went to church, for the first time I ever was in one, 
and I do not care if I should never go into one again. The 
clergyman, after he had gabbled over half-a<iozen prayers, 
began his sermon, the text of which was as follows : — Zech- 
ariah, 3rd chapter, 2nd verse, latter part — 'Is not this a 
brand plucked out of the fire T If a person had come in 
five minutes after he began, he would have thought that he 
had taken his text out of Joshua. In short, his sermon had 
neither head nor tail. I was sorry that so much time should 
be thrown away upon nonsense. I often wished I was hear- 
ing Mr. Yates ; but I shall see I do not go to church again 
in a hurry." 

But he remains loyal to the Throne. " I cannot play 
any tune upon the harpsichord but 'God save the 
King.' '' Charles Lamb never managed even to hum 
it. 

He adds a postscript^ '' I shall have satis pecunios, 
dum tu habeas opportunitaiem mittendi aliquam partem 
mihV^ 

His father^ who was too good a Christian not to be 
fine-mannered, sends him careful directions how to 
deport himself on his departure from the Tracys, bid- 
ding him be careful to leave none of his things behind 
him, lest Mrs. Tracy should have the trouble of send- 

I conld scarcely forbear going up to speak to him. Why so? I 
had seen him in the year 1792 ( ? 1790) (the first time I was ever at 
a play (with Suett and Miss Romanzini and some others in No 
Songf No Supper; and ever since, that bright vision of my child- 
hood has played round my fancy with unabated, viyid delight.''— 
See The New School of Reform, in the Plain Speaker (1826). 



28 . WILLIAM HAZLITT [chaj». 

ing them after him, and reminding him after meeting 
to seek Mr. Yates in his vestry and say good-bye, and 
also to call on his friends who had showed him any 
attention. 

" But what must you say to Mrs. Tracy ? I leave that 
entirely to yourself. But present her with your mamma's 
respects and mine, and our sincere thanks, and tell her that 
we wish to see her again, and that we also hope for this 
pleasure with all the young ladies, and all of them quite 
happy." 

He adds, else he had not been a Unitarian Parson 
Adams, " My sermons will soon be printed. I shall 
embrace the first opportunity of sending Mrs. Tracy a 
copy." 

If in later life Hazlitt's manners left much to be 
desired, as seems to have been the case, it was not the 
Dissenting minister's fault. 

It was a grave bringing up for a man whose writings 
are chiefly remarkable for the fierce enjoyment they 
exhibit for all brave, sublunary things. 

" To see the golden sun, the azure sky, the outstretched 
ocean ; to walk upon the green earth, and to be lord of a 
thousand creatures ; to look down yawning precipices, or over 
distant sunny vales ; to see the world spread out under one's 
feet on a map; to bring the stars near; to view the smallest 
insects through a microscope ; to read history, and consider 
the revolutions of empire and the successions of generations ; 
to hear of the glory of Tyre, of Sidon, of Babylon, and of 
Susa, and to say all these were before me and are now noth- 
ing ; to say I exist in such a point of time, and in such a 
point of space ; to be a spectator and a part of its ever- 
moving scene ; to witness the change of season, of spring 
and autumn, of winter and summer ; to feel hot and cold, 
pleasure and pain, beauty and deformity, right and wrong ; 



II.] WEM 29 

to be sensible to the accidents of nature ; to consider the 
mighty world of eye and ear ; to listen to the stockdove's 
notes amid the forest deep ; to journey over moor and moun- 
tain j to hear the midnight sainted choir ; to visit lighted 
halls, or the cathedral's gloom, or sit in crowded theatres 
and see life itself mocked ; to study the works of art, and 
refine the sense of beauty to agony ; to worship fame, and 
to dream of immortality ; to look upon the Vatican and to 
read Shakespeare ; to gather up the wisdom of the ancients 
and to pry into the future ; to listen to the trump of war, 
the shout of victory; to question history as to the move- 
ments of the human heart ; to seek for truth ; to plead the 
cause of humanity ; to overlook the world as if time and 
nature poured their treasures at our feet — to be and to do 
all this, and then in a moment to be nothing." ^ 

This is the familiar strain of the most eloquent of 
English essayists, but in the beginning of things 
Hazlitt was slow of speech and sluggish in fancy — the 
bent of his mind being, as already remarked, specular 
tive and reflective. " When I was about fourteen," he 
writes, "in consequence of a dispute one day after 
meeting between my father and an old lady of the 
congregation respecting the repeal of the Corporation 
and Test Acts and the limits of religious toleration, 
I set about forming in my head (the first time I ever 
attempted to think) the following system of political 
rights and general jurisprudence." He began by 
trying to define what a right was, and then asked, 
shrewdly enough, What is law? What the real 
ground of Civil Government? Whence, he asked, 
has the community the right to coerce any of its 
members ? Hobbes he had not heard of, and probably 
he was indebted to Priestley, one of the gods of his 

1* On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth.*— Winterslow. 



80 WILLIAM HAZLITT [ohap. 

f ather^s idolatry^ for mucli assistance as lie pnrsaed 
his " dim and perilous way." Four corollaries follow- 
in due order^ leading up to the satisfactory conclusion 
that there are four things a man may call his own — his 
person^ his actions, his property, and his opinions. 
On each of these, however, there is a good deal to be 
said by way of definition, limitation, and necessary 
qualification; and we soon find Hazlitt discussing such 
a detail as the law against Nuisances, and enlivening 
the disquisition with a pleasant tale of the rector of 
Wem, who having, as befitted a Canonist, a quarrel 
with the local attorney, whose name was Wickstead, 
used to collect in his garden a heap of rubbish and 
weeds ; and when the wind was in the right quarter, 
would observe significantly to his gardener, " It is a 
fine Wickstead wind to^ay," and thereupon a match 
was applied. 

It is not to be supposed that the whole of the 
sensible discourse, now to be found printed in the 
Literary Remains (1836), was composed in Hazlitt's 
fourteenth year. By no means, but for some time, 
until indeed he began to ponder for another period of 
years his darling discovery in metaphysics, he seems 
to have kept turning the subject over and over in his 
mind, carrying it with him to Hackney Theological 
College, to which seminary of unorthodox religion he 
proceeded in that year of dread, 1793, with the intent 
on his father's side, at all events, of being turned into 
a Unitarian divine. 

From his letters home we obtain some knowledge of 
the course of study there pursued. Hazlitt's classical 
tutor lectured on Sophocles one week, and Quintilian 
the next, also on Greek Grammar and Antiquities. 



II.] WEM 81 

Hazlitt tells his father that he can translate better 
than any of his fellow collegers. Dr. Rees taught 
mathematics, and Dr. Price, I know not what — per- 
haps pastoral theology. Philosophy was represented 
by the interesting name of Hartley, then the pet philos- 
opher of Unitarians. Divinity fared badly with the 
inevitable Belsham. A tincture of Hebrew was im- 
parted, and there was a class in logic. Amidst these 
time-honoured pursuits it is odd to find shorthand 
being taught. Altogether, as things went in England 
in 1793, Hackney College was a better Studium QeneraJe 
than either Oxford or Cambridge at the same date. Of 
what sort was the teaching I cannot say. 

The letters home contain a moving account how 
Hazlitt succeeded in palming off upon his tutor the 
essay " On the Political State of Man," and in forcing 
that reluctant professor to accept it in lieu of the 
theme actually set. " My chief reason," he writes to 
his father, who had urged the abandonment of these 
speculations, "for wishing to continue my observations, 
is that by having a particular system of politics I 
shall be better able to judge of the truth or falsehood 
of. any principle which I hear or read, and of the 
justice or the contrary of any political transactions. 
Moreover, by comparing my own system with those of 
others, and with particular facts, I shall have it in 
my power to correct and improve it continually. . . . 
Besides, so far is my studying the subject from making 
me gloomy or low-spirited, I am never so perfectly 
easy as when I am or have been studying it." 
. Here we strike across the true Hazlitt vein — " my 
own system." " I am not to be browbeat or wheedled 
out of any of my settled convictions. Opinion to 



32 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

opinion I will face any man. Kings love power, misers 
gold, women flattery, poets reputation — and philoso- 
phers truth when they can find it. If to ^be wise 
were to be obstinate,'! might set up for as great a 
philosopher as the best of them, for some of my con- 
clusions are as fixed and as incorrigible to proof as 
need be." ^ If Hazlitt had been a Whig, he could not 
have said more. 

In the letter to his father just quoted there is a 
reference to gloom and low spirits, banished by agree- 
able system-making. There are many allusions at this 
time to "repeated disappointments," "long dejection," 
and other symptoms of boyish melancholy, and it is 
plain that Hackney College was not congenial. 

Philosophy and speculation had their rival even at 
Hackney, for once a fortnight Hazlitt was allowed to 
visit his brother John, whose studio was then in Long- 
acre, and spend a Sunday with him. No need to 
dwell on the influence of these fortnightly meetings. 
The brothers were greatly attached to one another. 
John was an enthusiast both for his Art and for the 
Revolution; and as William from boyhood seems to 
have fancied himself a painter, the wonder is that on 
leaving Hackney, as he did after little more than a 
year's experience of it, he did not at once fling himself 
headlong into a course of study and practice of those 
Fine Arts always dear to him. 

He did nothing of this kind ; but some time, prob- 
ably in 1794, went back to his father's house at Wem, 
and there remained, doing what respectable people 
call " nothing " for eight years. His father, whose ex- 

1' On Consistency of Opinion.' — Winterslow. 



II.] WEM 33 

pectations had been disappointed, probably found this 
inactivity the easier to bear, as it enabled him still to 
nurse the hope that his son might yet be reconciled to 
Priestley and Belsham, and become a preacher of 
rational religion and true holiness. 

These eight years (1794-1802) at Wem were impor- 
tant years in Hazlitt's life as well as in the history of 
Europe. Few young men have so long and so quiet 
a time to brood over their thoughts, to nurse their 
fancies, and, it well may be, to feed their delusions. 
For a sentimentalist in^grain a severer discipline, a 
more rigorous course of reading, would have been better. 
Both Hazlitt and his great contemporary Landor 
cultivated their self-will at too great a pace during 
these years.^ 

It is never safe to place much reliance upon the 
confessions of a man whose genius lies in picturesque 
expression. Hazlitt tells us that during these eight 
years he could do nothing. " I could not write a line, 
I could not draw a stroke, I was brutish. In words, 
in looks, in deeds, I was no better than a changeling." 
Again he says, " I was at that time dumb, inarticulate, 
helpless like a worm by the wayside, crushed, bleed- 
ing, lifeless." In 1796 he chanced to take up, on one 
of his many rambles, or perhaps in Shrewsbury, a 
number of the St James's Chronicle^ which contained 
a long extract from Burke's " Letter to a Noble Lord." 
It was the first time Hazlitt had read a line of Burke's. 
Hazlitt is famous for his " first times," and this was 
one of them. It was at once supreme delight and 

lit is traditionally reported that Hazlitt never read a book 
tlirougli after he was thirty. Much the same is said of Dr. 
Johnson. 



84 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

horrid pain. Delight to disport himself on those 
crested waves, to be borne along by their overwhelm- 
ing strength, to glory in their froth and fume — pain 
to think of himself " vainly trying year after year to 
write a single essay, nay, a single page, a sentence; 
and when to be able to convey the slightest conception 
of my meaning to others in words was the height of 
an almost hopeless ambition." 

To wrestle with native infirmities, to strive to pierce 
through the dull clay in which most of us are kneaded, 
is hard labour, but when health and spirits are unim- 
paired it is healthy toil; and side by side with the 
doleful passages from which I have quoted, other 
passages are to be found in Hazlitt's writings, in which 
he declares these same years of bitter strife to be the 
happiest years of all. '^ I had at this time, simple as 
I seemed, many resources. I could in some sort ' play 
at bowls with the sun and moon,' or at any rate there 
was no question in metaphysics I could not bandy to 
and fro for twenty, thirty, forty miles of the great 
North Eoad, and at it again the next day as fresh as 
ever. I soon get tired of this now, and wonder how 
I managed formerly, I knew Tom Jones by heart, 
and was deep in Peregrine Pickle ; I was intimately 
acquainted with all the heroes and heroines of Eichard- 
son's romances, and could turn from one to other as 
I pleased." For novels and plays there never was 
such a reader, nor was he over-critical — the most 
stilted of heroines, the palest of sentimental shadows, 
could always be relied upon to trundle her hoop into 
Hazlitt's heart. These things were more to him than 
actual events, and Shrewsbury was dearer to him 
because Farquhar had made it the scene of Ths 
MecruUing Officer. 



II.] WEM -^^ \ "^ 36 

To such a mind, so situated, and in the years 1796 
and onwards, Eousseau was manna from heaven — 
nectar from Olympus. " Many a dainty repast have 
I made of the New EMse; the description of the kiss, 
the excursion on the water, the letter of St. Preux 
recalling the time of their first loves, and the account 
of Julia's death, — these I read over and over again 
with unspeakable delight and wonder." " I spent two 
whole years in reading the Confessions and the New 
JEJlotse, and (gentle reader, it was when I was young) 
in shedding tears over them 

' As fast as the Arabian trees 
Their medicinal gums.* 

They were the happiest years of my life." 

When Hazlitt was not wrestling with a sluggish 
pen or revelling in Eousseau, he was walking. He 
scoured the country in all directions, visiting Burleigh 
House to see the pictures (notably a Rembrandt), go- 
ing on a pilgrimage to Wisbeach to visit the farm- 
house where his mother was born, so that he might 
lean upon the gate she leant against when, as a child 
of ten, she stood gazing at the setting sun. Occa- 
sional visits he paid to his brother John in London, 
where he met the Godwins, Holcroft, and on one occa- 
sion Mrs. WoUstonecraft. 

One friend he made at this time of his life, to whom 
on his literary side he owed much — Joseph Fawcett, 
a retired Unitarian minister, not without fame in 
his own day and circle. Fawcett is mentioned as liv- 
ing both at Hedgegrove in Hertfordshire and Wal- 
thamstow. Hazlitt delighted in his society, and 
gained much from his conversation. Of him Haz- 



86 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

litt writes : " He was almost the first literary acquaint- 
ance I ever made, and I think the most candid and 
unsophisticated. He had a masterly perception of 
all styles and of every kind and degree of excel- 
lence, sublime or beautiful, from Milton's Paradise 
Lost to Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad^ from Butler's 
Analogy to Humphrey Clinker, If you had a favour- 
ite author, he had read him too, and knew all the best 
morsels, the subtile traits, the capital touches. *So 
you like Sterne ? ' ^ Yes, to be sure,' he would say, 

* I should deserve to be hanged if I did not.' His re- 
peating some parts of Comus with his fine, deep, mel- 
low^toned voice, particularly the lines, ' I have heard 
my mother Circe with the sirens three,' etc., and the 
enthusiastic comments he made afterwards were a 
feast to the ear and to the soul. He read the poetry 
of Milton with the same fervour and spirit of devo- 
tion that I have since heard others read their own. 

* That is the most delicious feeling of all,' I have heard 
him exclaim, ' to like what is excellent, no matter whose 
it is.' In this respect he practised what he preached. 
He was incapable of harbouring a sinister motive, and 
judged only from what he felt. There was no flaw or 
mist in the clear mirror of his mind. He was as open 
to impressions as he was strenuous in maintaining 
them. He did not care a rush whether a writer was 
old or new in prose or in verse. ^ What he wanted,' 
he said, ^was something to make him think.' Most 
men's minds are to me like musical instruments out 
of tune. Touch a particular key, and it jars and 
makes harsh discord with your own. They like Gil 
BlaSy but can see nothing to laugh at in Don Q;aixote; 
they adore Eichardson, but are disgusted with Field- 



II.] WEM 37 

ing. Fawcett had a taste accommodated to all these. 
He was not exceptions. He gave a cordial welcome 
to all sorts, provided they were the best in their kind. 
He was not fond of counterfeits or duplicates." 

Hazlitt's devotion to Fawcett both in life and after 
death is a little marred by the too great pleasure he 
takes in contrasting his early friend's generous recog- 
nition of good wherever he could find it with Words- 
worth's steady reluctance to see good in anything but 
himself. But we must certainly rank Joseph Fawcett 
as among the good fortunes of our critic that is to be. 

In 1798, when Hazlitt was nearly twenty years old, 
and still " doing nothing " in his father's house, some- 
thing happened which put a period to his boyhood and 
gave him understanding and language — he met Cole- 
ridge, whose talk was " far above singing," and whose 
words might create a soul " under the ribs of death." 
How this meeting came about will be told next in lan- 
guage which, however familiar, can never grow stale, 
so full is it of humour, insight, and philosophy. 



CHAPTER III 

COLERIDGE 

CoLEBiBGE came to Shrewsbury in January 1798, with 
some notion of succeeding a Mr. Rowe in the charge 
of the Unitarian chapel, then, and still, to be found in 
that pleasant town. His fame in 1798 might have 
rested, not insecurely, on his published poems, which 
already included "The Monody to Chatterton" and 
the " Ode on the Departing Year " ; but to the Unita- 
rians of Shrewsbury he was probably only known for 
his vigorous efforts, so amusingly recorded by him, to 
procure subscribers for the Watchman, " preaching by 
the way in a blue coat and white waistcoat." 

Coleridge arrived in Shrewsbury by coach very late 
on Saturday night, much to the relief of Mr. Rowe, 
who was waiting for his substitute with the anxiety 
of a divine who had prepared no sermon for the mor- 
row. Mr. Rowe, on seeing Coleridge for the first 
time, found it hard to believe that the round-faced 
man in a shooting jacket was his successor — nor was 
he. 

At Shrewsbury, Coleridge remained three weeks — 
preaching, so he tells us, with much acceptance to a 
small congregation, which contained at least one mem- 
ber shrewd enough to remark that he would sooner 
hear Coleridge talk than preach. 

The news of this approaching visit to Shrewsbury 

38 



CHAP. III.] COLERIDGE 39 

reached Wem, and so stirred the heart of the younger 
Hazlitt, who had heard from the Godwins about the 
greatness of Coleridge, that he could not wait for the 
promised visit of the great man to his father's house, 
but he must needs walk in to Shrewsbury, ten miles 
there and as many back, to hear him preach. The 
rest must follow in Hazlitt's own words: — 

" It was in January 1798 that I rose one morning before 
dayUght to walk ten miles in the mud to hear this celebrated 
person preach. Never, the longest day I have to Hve, shall 
I have such another walk as this cold, raw, comfortless one, 
in the winter of the year 1798. II y a des impressions que 
ni le terns ni les circonstanees peuvent effacer, DussiS-je 
vivre des sidles entiers, le dcmx terns de ma jeunesse ne peut 
renaitre pour moiy ni s^effucer jamais dans ma m,Smoire, 
When I got there the organ was playing the lOOth Psalm ; 
and when it was done, Mr. Coleridge rose and gave out his 
text, ' And he went up into the mountain to pray. Himself, 
ALONE.' As he gave out this text his voice 'rose like a 
stream of rich distilled perfumes ' ; and when he came to 
the two last words, which he pronounced loud, deep, and 
distinct, it seemed to me, who was then young, as if the 
sounds had echoed from the bottom of the human heart, and 
as if that prayer might have floated in solemn silence through 
the universe. The idea of St. John came into my mind, * of 
one crying in the wilderness, who had his loins girt about, 
and whose food was locusts and wild honey.' The preacher 
then launched into his subject, like an eagle dallying with 
the wind. The sermon was upon Peace and War; upon 
Church and State — not their alliance, but their separation 
— on the Spirit of the World and the Spirit of Christianity, 
not as the same, but as opposed to one another. He talked 
of those who had ' inscribed the cross of Christ on banners 
dripping with human gore.' He made a poetical and pas- 
toral excursion ; and to show the fatal effects of war, drew 
a striking contrast between the simple shepherd boy, driving 
his team afield, or sitting under the hawthorn, piping to his 



40 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

flock, * as though he should never be old,* and the same poor 
country lad, crimped, kidnapped, brought into town, made 
drunk at an alehouse, turned into a wretched drummer-boy, 
with his hair sticking on end with powder and pomatum, a 
long cue at his back, and tricked out in the loathsome finery 
of the profession of blood. 

* Such were the notes our once-loved poet sung.' 

And for myself, I could not have been more delighted if I 
had heard the music of the spheres. Poetry and Philosophy 
had met together, Truth and Genius had embraced, under the 
eye and with the sanction of Religion. This was even beyond 
my hopes. I returned home well satisfied. The sun that 
was still labouring pale and wan through the sky, obscured 
by thick mists, seemed an emblem of the good cause ; and the 
cold dank drops of dew, that hung half melted on the beard 
of the thistle, had something genial and refreshing in them ; 
for there was a spirit of hope and youth in aU nature that 
turned everything into good. 

" On the Tuesday following the half-inspired speaker came. 
I was called down into the room where he was, and went 
half hoping, half afraid. He received me very graciously, and 
I listened for a long time without uttering a word. I did not 
suffer in his opinion by my silence. * For those two hours,' 
he afterwards was pleased to say, * he was conversing with 
WiUiam Hazlitt's forehead ! * ^ His appearance was different 
from what I had anticipated from seeing him before. At a 
distance, and in the dim light of the chapel, there was to me 
a strange wildness in his aspect, a dusky obscurity, and I 
thought him pitted with the smallpox. His complexion was 
at that time clear, and even bright — 

* As are the children of yon azure sheen.' 

His forehead was broad and high, light as if built of ivory, 
with large projecting eyebrows, and his eyes rolling beneath 

1 If Haydon is to be believed » Hazlitt never forgot his compli- 
ment to his forehead, which no doubt was almost as fine as the 
compliment. 



III.] COLERIDGE 41 

them, like a sea with darkened lustre. * A certain tender 
bloom his face overspread,' a purple tinge as we see it in the 
pale thoughtful complexions of the Spanish portrait-painters, 
Murillo and Velasquez. His mouth was gross, voluptuous, # 
open, eloquent ; his chin good-Lumoured and round.; but his I 
nose, the rudder of the fece, the index of the will, was small, i 
feeble, nothing — like what he has done. Ii^a»gfat seem that \ 
the genius of his face as from a height surveyed and projected 
him (with sufficient capacity and huge aspiration) into the 
world unknown of thought and imagination, with nothing to 
support or guide his veering purpose, as if Columbus had 
launched his adventurous course for the New World in a 
scallop, without oars or compass. So at least I comment on 
it after the event. Coleridge in his person was rather above 
the common size, inclining to the corpulent, or, like Lord 
Hamlet, ' somewhat fat and pursy.' His hair (now, alas ! 
grey) was then black and glossy as the raven's, and fell in 
smooth masses over his forehead. This long pendulous hair 
is peculiar to enthusiasts, to those whose minds tend heaven- 
ward, and is traditionally inseparable (though of a different 
colour) from the pictures of Christ. It ought to belong, as a 
character, to all who preach Christ crucifledy and Coleridge 
was at that time one of those ! 

" It was curious to observe the contrast between him and 
my father, who was a veteran in the cause, and then declin- 
ing into the vale of years. He had been a poor Irish lad, 
careftdly brought up by his parents, and sent to the Uni- 
versity of Glasgow to prepare him for his ftiture destina- 
tion. It was his mother's proudest wish to see her son a 
Pissenting minister. So, if we look back to past generations 
i(as far as eye can reach), we see the same hopes, fears, wishes, 
followed by the same disappointments, throbbing in the human 
teart ; and so we may see them (if we look forward) rising 

tp for ever, and disappearing, like vapourish bubbles, in the 
uman breast ! After being tossed about from congregation 
feo congregation in the heats of the Unitarian controversy, 
land squabbles about the American war, he had been relegated 
to an obscure village, where he was to spend the last thirty 
years of his life, far from the only converse that he loved, 



42 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

the talk about disputed texts of Scripture, and the cause 
of civil and religious liberty. Here he passed his days, 
repining, but resigned, in the study of the Bible and the 
perusal of the commentators — huge folios, not easily got 
through^ one of which would outlast a winter ! Why did 
he pore on these from mom to night (with the exception of 
a walk in the fields or a turn in the garden to gather broccoli 
plants or kidney beans of his own rearing, with no smaU 
degree of pride and pleasure) 9 Here were < no figures nor 
no fantasies,' neither poetry nor philosophy, nothing to dazzle, 
nothing to excite modem curiosity; but to his lack-lustre 
eyes there appeared, within the pages of the ponderoufl, 
unwieldy, neglected tomes, the sacred name of Jehovah in 
Hebrew capitals : pressed down by the weight of the style, 
wom to the last fading thinness of the understanding, there 
were glimpses, glimmering notions of the patriarchal wander- 
ings, with pahn-trees hovering in the horizon, and proces- 
sions of camels at the distance of three thousand years; 
there was Moses with the Burning Bush, the number of the 
Twelve Tribes, types, shadows, glosses on the law and the 
prophets ; there were discussions (dull enough) on the age of 
Methuselah, a mighty speculation ; there were outlines, rude 
guesses at the shape of Noah's Ark and of the riches of 
Solomon's Temple ; questions as to the date of the Creation, 
predictions of the end of aU things ; the great lapses of time, 
the strange mutations of the globe were unfolded with the 
voluminous leaf, as it turned over; and though the soul 
might slumber with an hieroglyphic veil of inscrutable 
mysteries drawn over it, yet it was in a slumber ill ex- 
changed for all the sharpened realities of sense, wit, fancy, 
or reason. My father's Ufe was comparatively a dream ; but 
it was a dream of infinity and eternity, of death, the resur- 
rection, and a judgment to come ! 

" No two individuals were ever more unlike than were the 
host and his guest. A poet was to my father a sort of non- 
descript ; yet whatever added grace to the Unitarian cause 
was to him welcome. He could hardly have been more sur- 
prised or pleased if our visitor had wom wings. Indeed, his 
thoughts had wings ; and, as the silken sounds rustled round 



III.] COLERIDGE 43 

our little wainscoted parlour, my father threw back his spec- 
tacles over his forehead, his white hairs mixing with its 
sanguine hue ; and a smile of delight beamed across his 
rugged cordial face to think that Truth had found a new 
ally in Fancy ! Besides, Coleridge seemed to take consider- 
able notice of me, and that of itself was enough. He talked 
very familiarly, but agreeably, and glanced over a variety of 
subjects. At dinner-time he grew more animated, and dilated 
in a very edifying manner on Mary WoUstonecraft and Mack- 
intosh. The last, he said, he considered (on my father's 
speaking of his Vindicioe Gallicce as a capital peiformance) 
as a clever scholastic man — a master of the topics — or as 
the ready warehouseman of letters, who knew exactly where 
to lay his hand on what he wanted, though the goods were 
not his own. He thought him no match for Burke, either 
in style or matter. Burke was a metaphysician. Mackintosh 
a mere logician. Burke was an orator (almost a poet) who 
reasoned in figures, because he had an eye for nature ; Mack- 
intosh, on the other hand, was a rhetorician, who had only 
an eye to commonplaces. On this I ventured to say that I 
had always entertained a great opinion of Burke, and that 
(as far as I could find) the speaking of him with contempt 
might be made the test of a vulgar democratical mind. This 
was the first observation I ever made to Coleridge, and he 
said it was a very just and striking one. I remember the 
leg of Welsh mutton and the turnips on the table that day 
had the finest flavour imaginable. Coleridge added that 
Mackintosh and Tom Wedgwood (of whom, however, he 
spoke highly) had expressed a very indifferent opinion of 
his Mend Mr. Wordsworth, on which he remarked to them, 
*He strides on so far before you, that he dwindles in the 
distance ! ' Godwin had once boasted to him of having car- 
ried on an argument with Mackintosh for three hours with 
dubious success; Coleridge told him, * If there had been a 
man of genius in the room, he would have settled the ques- 
tion in five minutes.' He asked me if I had ever seen Mary 
WoUstonecraft, and I said I had once for a few moments, 
and that she seemed to me to turn off Godwin's objections 
to something she advanced with quite a playful, easy air. 



44 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

He replied that ' this was only one instance of the ascend- 
ancy which people of imagination exercised over those of 
mere intellect.' He did not rate Godwin very high. He 
complained in particular of the presumption of his attemptr 
ing to establish the ^ture immortality of man, ^ without ' 
(as he said) * knowing what Death was or what Life was,' 
and the tone in which he pronounced these two words seemed 
to convey a complete image of both. I forget a great num- 
ber of things, many more than I remember; but the day 
passed off pleasantly, and the next morning Mr. Coleridge 
was to return to Shrewsbury. When I came down to break- 
fast, I found that he had just received a letter from his 
friend, T. Wedgwood, making him an offer of XI 50 a year 
if he chose to waive his present pursuit and devote himself 
entirely to the study of poetry and philosophy. Coleridge 
, seemed to make up his mind to close with this proposal in the 
i act of tying on one of his shoes. It threw an additional damp 
on his departure. It took the wayward enthusiast quite frx)m 
us and cast him into Deva's winding vales, or by the shores of 
old romance. Instead of living at ten miles' distance, of being^ 
the pastor of a Dissenting congregation at Shrewsbury, he was 
henceforth to inhabit the Hill of Parnassus, to be a shepherd 
on the Delectable Mountains. Alas ! I knew not the way 
thither, and felt very little gratitude for Mr. Wedgwood's 
bounty. I was presently relieved from this dilemma; for 
Mr. Coleridge, asking for a pen and ink, and going to a table 
to write something on a bit of card, advanced towards me 
with undulating step, and giving me the precious document, 
said that that was his address, Mr, Coleridge, Nether-Stowey^ 
Somersetshire ; and that he should be glad to see me there in 
a few weeks' time, and, if I chose, would come half-way to 
meet me. I was not less surprised than the shepherd boy 
(this simile is to be found in Cassarvd/ra) when he sees a 
thunderbolt fall close at his feet. I stammered out my 
acknowledgments and acceptance of this offer (I thought Mr. 
Wedgwood's annuity a trifle to it) as well as I could ; and 
this mighty business being settled, the poet preacher took 
leave, and I accompanied him six miles on the road. It 
was a fine morning in the middle of winter, and he talked 



III.] COLERIDGE 46 

the whole way. The scholar in Chaucer is described as 
going 

* Sounding on his way.' 

So Coleridge went on his. In digressing, in dilating, in pass- 
ing from subject to subject, he appeared to me to float in 
air, to slide on ice. He told me in confidence (going along) 
that he should have preached two sermons before he accepted 
the situation at Shrewsbury — one on Infant Baptism ; the 
other on the Lord's Supper, showing that he could not admin- 
ister either — which would have eflFectually disqualified him for 
the object in view. I observed that he continually crossed me 
on theway by shifting from one side of the footpath to the other. 
This struck me as an odd movement ; but I did not at that 
time connect it with any instabiUty of purpose or involuntary 
change of principle, as I have done since. He seemed unable 
to keep on in a straight line. He spoke slightingly of Hume 
(whose * Essay on Miracles,' he said, was stolen from an 
objection started in one of South's sermons — Credat Jtidceus 
Apella /). I was not very much pleased at this account of 
Hume ; for I had just been reading, with infinite relish, that 
completest of all metaphysical choke-pears, his * Treatise on 
Human Nature,' to which the * Essays,' in point of scholastic 
subtilty and close reasoning, are mere elegant trifling, light 
summer reading. Coleridge even denied the excellence of 
Hume's general style, which I think betrayed a want of taste 
or candour. He, however, made me amends by the manner 
in which he spoke of Berkeley. He dwelt particularly on his 
* Essay on Vision ' as a masterpiece of analytical reasoning. 
So it undoubtedly is. He was exceedingly angry with Dr. 
Johnson for striking the stone with his foot, in allusion to this 
author's Theory of Matter and Spirit, and saying, * Thus I 
confute him, sir.' Coleridge drew a parallel (I don't know 
how he brought about the connection) between Bishop 
Berkeley and Tom Paine. He said the one was an instance 
of a subtle, the other of an acute mind, than which no two 
things could be more distinct. The one was a shopboy's 
quality, the other the characteristic of a philosopher. He 
considered Bishop Butler as a true philosopher, a profound 



46 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

and conscientious thinker, a genuine reader of nature and of 
his own mind. He did not speak of his Analogy^ but of his 
Sermons at the RolW Chapel, of which I had never heard. 
Coleridge somehow always contrived to prefer the unknown 
to the Jcnoum, In this instance he was right. The Analogy 
is a tissue of sophistry, of wire-drawn, theological special- 
pleading ; the Sermons (with the Preface to them) are in a 
fine vein of deep, matured reflection, a candid appeal to our 
observation of human nature, without pedantry and without 
bias. I told Coleridge I had written a few remarks, and was 
sometimes foolish enough to believe that I had made a dis- 
covery on the same subject (the Natural Disinterestedness of 
the Humam, Mind), and I tried to explain my view of it to 
Coleridge, who listened with great willingness, but I did not 
succeed in making myself understood. I sat down to the task 
shortly afterwards for the twentieth time, got new pens and 
paper, determined to make clear work of it, wrote a few 
meagre sentences in the skeleton style of a mathematical 
demonstration, stopped half-way down the second page ; and, 
after trying in vain to pump up any words, images, notions, 
apprehensions, facts, or observations, from that gulf of 
abstraction in which I had plunged myself for four or five 
years preceding, gave up the attempt as labour in vain, and 
shed tears of helpless despondency on the blank unfinished 
paper. I can write fast enough now. Am I better than I 
was then ? Oh no ! One truth discovered, one pang of 
regret at not being able to express it, is better than all the 
fluency and flippancy in the world. Would that I could go 
back to what I then was ! Why can we not revive past times 
as we can revisit old places ? If I had the quaint muse of 
Sir Philip Sidney to assist me, I would write a * Sonnet to the 
Road between Wem and Shrewsbury,' and immortalise every 
step of it by some fond enigmatical conceit. I would swear 
that the very milestones had ears, and that Harmer HiU 
stooped with all its pines to listen to a poet as he passed ! 
I remember but one other topic of discourse in this walk. 
He mentioned Paley, praised the naturalness and clearness of 
his style, but condemned his sentiments, thought him a mere 
time-serving casuist, and said that the fact of his work on 



III.1 COLERIDGE 47 

Moral arui Political Philosophy being made a textbook in 
our universities was a disgrace to the national character. We 
parted at the six-mile stone; and I returned homeward, 
pensive but much pleased. I had met with unexpected notice 
from a person whom I believed to have been prejudiced 
against me. ^ Kind and affable to me had been his conde- 
scension, and should be honoured ever with suitable regard.' 
He was the first poet I had known, and he certainly answered 
to that inspired name. I had heard a great deal of his powers 
of conversation, and was not disappointed. 

" On my way back, I had a sound in my ears — it was 
the voice of Fancy ; I had a light before me — it was the 
face of Poetry. The one still lingers there, the other has not 
quitted my side ! Coleridge, in truth, met me half-way on the 
ground of philosophy, or I should have not been won over to his 
imaginative creed. I had an uneasy, pleasurable sensation 
all the time, till I was to visit him. During those months 
the chill breath of winter gave me a welcoming ; the vernal 
air was balm and inspiration to me. The golden sunsets, 
the sQver star of evening, Ughted me on my way to new 
hopes and prospects. / was to visit Colei^idge in the spring. 
This circumstance was never absent from my thoughts, 
and mingled with aU my feelings. I wrote to him at the 
time proposed, and received an answer postponing my in- 
tended visit for a week or two, but very cordially urging me 
to complete my promise then. This delay did not damp, 
but rather increased, my ardour. In the meantime, I went 
to LlangoUen Vale, by way of initiating myself in the 
mysteries of natural scenery; and I must say I was en- 
chanted with it. I had been reading Coleridge's descrip- 
tion of England, in his fine ' Ode on the Departing Year,' 
and I applied it, con amore^ to the objects before me. 
That valley was to me (in a manner) the cradle of a new 
existence ; in the river that winds through it my spirit was 
baptized in the waters of Helicon ! 

" I returned home, and soon after set out on my journey 
with unworn heart and untired feet. My way lay through 
Worcester and Gloucester, and by Upton, where I thought 
of Tom Jones and the adventure of the muff. I remember 



48 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

getting completely wet through one day, and stopping at an 
inn (I think it was at Tewkesbury), where I sat up all night 
to read Paul and Virginia. Sweet were the showers in 
early youth that drenched my body, and sweet the drops of 
pity that fell upon the books I read ! I once hinted to 
Wordsworth, as we were sailing in his boat on Grasmere 
lake, that I thought he had borrowed the idea of his Poems 
on the Naming of Places from the local inscriptions of the 
same kind in Paul a/nd Virginia. He did not own the 
obligation, and stated some distinction without a difference 
in defence of his claim to originality. Any, the slightest 
variation, would be sufficient for this purpose in his mind ; 
for whatever Ae added or altered would inevitably be worth 
all that any one else had done, and contain the marrow of 
the sentiment. I was still two days before the time fixed 
for my arrival, for I had taken care to set out early enough. 
I stopped these two days at Bridgewater ; and when I was 
tired of sauntering on the banks of its muddy river, returned 
to the inn and read CamfiUla, So have I loitered my life 
away, reading books, looking at pictures, going to plays, 
hearing, thinking, writing on what pleased me best. I have 
wanted only one thing to make me happy; but wanting 
that, have wanted everything ! 

" I arrived, and was well received. The country about 
Nether Stowey is beautifril, green and hilly, and near the 
seashore. I saw it but the other day, after an interval of 
twenty years, frx)m a hill near Taunton. How was the map 
of my life spread out before me, as the map of the country 
lay at my feet ! In the afternoon Coleridge took me over to 
AIl-Foxden, a romantic old family mansion of the St. Aubins, 
where Wordsworth lived. It was then in the possession of 
a friend of the poet's, who gave him the free use of it. Some- 
how that period (the time just after the French Revolution) 
was not a time when nothing was given for nothing. The 
mind opened, and a softness might be perceived coming over 
the heart of individuals beneath * the scales that fence * our 
self-interest. Wordsworth himself was from home, but his 
sister kept house, and set before us a fingal repast ; and 
we had free access to her brother's poems, the Lyrical 



HI.] COLERIDGE 49 

Ballads^ which were still in manuscript, or in the form 
of Syhilline Leaves, I dipped into a few of these with 
great satisfaction, and with the faith of a novice. I 
slept that night in an old room with blue hangings, and 
covered with the round-faced family portraits of the age of 
Greorge I. and II., and from the wooded declivity of the 
adjoining park that overlooked my window at the dawn of 
day could 

* Hear the loud stag speak.* 

" That morning, as soon as breakfast was over, we strolled 
out into the park ; and seating ourselves on the trunk of an 
old ash-tree that stretched along the ground, Coleridge read 
aloud with a sonorous and musical voice the ballad of ' Betty 
Foy.' I was not critically or sceptically inclined. I saw 
touches of truth and nature, and took the rest for granted. 
But in the * Thorn,' the * Mad Mother,* and the * Complaint 
of a Poor Indian Woman,' I felt that deeper power and 
pathos which have been since acknowledged, 

* In spite of pride, in erring reason^s spite/ 

as the characteristics of this author ; and the sense of a new 
style and a new spirit in poetry came over me. It had to 
me something of the effect that arises from the turning up 
of the fresh soil, or of the first welcome breath of spring, 

* While yet the trembling year is unconfirmed.* 

Coleridge and myself walked back to Stowey that evening, 
and his voice sounded high 

* Of Providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate, 
FlxM fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute * 

as we passed through echoing grove, by fairy stream' or water- 
fall, gleaming in the summer moonlight ! He lamented that 
Wordsworth was not prone enough to believe in the traditional 
superstitions of the place, and that there was a something cor- 
poreal, a matter-of'factness^ a clinging to the palpable, or 



60 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

often to the petty, in his poetiy, in consequence. His 
genius was not a spirit that descended to him through the 
air ; it sprung out of the ground like a flower, or unfolded 
itself from a green spray, on which the goldfinch sang. He 
said, however (if I remember right), that this objection 
must be confined to his descriptive pieces ; that his philo- 
sophic poetry had a grand and comprehensive spirit in it, so 
that his soul seemed to inhabit the universe like a palace, 
and to discover truth by intuition rather than by deduction. 
The next day Wordsworth arrived fix)m Bristol at Cole- 
ridge's cottage. I think I see him now. He answered in 
some degree to his friend's description of him, but was more 
gaunt and Don Quixote-like. He was quaintly dressed 
(according to the costume of that unconstrained period) in 
a brown fustian jacket and striped pantaloons. There was 
something of a roll, a lounge in his gait, not unlike his own 
* Peter Bell.' There was a severe, worn pressure of thought 
about his temples, a fire in his eye (as if he saw something 
in objects more than the outward appearance), an intense, 
high, narrow forehead, a Roman nose, cheeks furrowed by 
strong purpose and feeling, and a convulsive inclination to 
laughter about the mouth, a good deal at variance with the 
solemn, stately expression of the rest of his face. Chan- 
trey's bust wants the marking traits, but he was teased 
into making it regular and heavy ; Haydon's head of him, 
introduced into the Entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, is 
the most like his drooping weight of thought and expres- 
sion.^ He sat down and talked very naturally and freely, 
with a mixture of clear gushing accents in his voice, a deep 
guttural intonation, and a strong tincture of the northern 
burr, like the crust on wine. He instantly began to make 
havoc of the half of a Cheshire cheese on the table, and said 
triumphantly that *his marriage with experience had not 
been so productive as Mr. Southey's in teaching him a 
knowledge of the good things of this life.' He had been to 
see the Castle Spectre by Monk Lewis while at Bristol, and de- 
scribed it very well. He said * it fitted the taste of the audi- 

^ Hazlitt's own head is introduced into the same picture. 



III.] COLERIDGE 61 

ence like a glove.' This ad captandum merit was, however, 
by no means a recommendation of it, according to the severe 
principles of the new school, which reject rather than court 
popular effect. Wordsworth, looking out of the low, lat- 
ticed window, said, ' How beautifully the sun sets on that 
yellow bank ! ' I thought within myself, * With what eyes 
these poets see nature ! * and ever after, when I saw the 
sunset stream upon the objects facing it, conceived I had 
made a discovery, or thanked Mr. Wordsworth for having 
made one for me ! We went over to All-Foxden again the 
day following, and Wordsworth read us the story of * Peter 
Bell ' in the open air ; and the comment upon it by his face 
and voice was very different from that of some later critics ! 
Whatever might be thought of the poem, ' his face was as a 
book where men might read strange matters,' and he an- 
nounced the fate of his hero in prophetic tones. There is a 
c?iaunt in the recitation both of Coleridge and Wordsworth, 
which acts as a spell upon the hearer, and disarms the 
judgment. Perhaps they have deceived themselves by 
making habitual use of this ambiguous accompaniment. 
Coleridge's manner is more fvJl, animated, and varied ; 
Wordsworth's more equable, sustained, and internal. The 
one might be termed more dramatic, the other more lyrical, 
Coleridge has told me that he himself liked to compose in 
walking over uneven ground, or breaking through the strag- 
gling branches of a copsewood ; whereas Wordsworth 
always wrote (if he could) walking up and down a straight 
gravel-walk, or in some spot where the continuity of his 
verse met with no collateral interruption. Returning that 
same evening, I got into a metaphysical argument with 
Wordsworth, whUe Coleridge was explaining the different 
notes of the nightingale to his sister, in which we neither of 
us succeeded in making ourselves perfectly clear and intelli- 
gible. Thus I passed three weeks at Nether Stowey and in 
the neighbourhood, generally devoting the afternoons to a 
delightful chat in an arbour made of bark by the poet's 
friend Tom Poole, sitting under two fine elm-trees, and lis- 
tening to the bees humming round us, while we quaffed our 
flip. It was agreed, among other things, that we should 



62 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

make a jaunt down the Bristol Channel as far as Linton. 
% We set off together on foot — Coleridge, John Chester, and 
I. This Chester was a native of Nether Stowey, one of 
those who were attracted to Coleridge's discourse as flies are 
to honey, or bees in swarming time to the sound of a brass 
pan. He ^ followed in the chase like a dog who hunts, not 
like one that made up the cry.' He had on a brown cloth 
coat, boots, and corduroy breeches, was low in stature, bow- 
legged, had a drag in his walk like a drover, which he 
assisted by a hazel switch, and kept up a sort of trot by the 
side of Coleridge, like a running footman by a state coach, 
that he might not lose a syllable or sound that fell from 
Coleridge's lips. He told me his private opinion, that 
Coleridge was a wonderful man. He scarcely opened his 
lips, much less offered an opinion, the whole way ; yet of 
the three, had I to choose during that journey, I would be 
John Chester. He afterwards followed Coleridge into Ger- 
many, where the Kantean philosophers were puzzled how 
to bring him under any of their categories. When he sat 
down at table with his idol, John's felicity was complete ; 
Sir Walter Scott's, or Mr. Blackwood's, when they sat down 
at the same table with the King, was not more so. ' We 
passed Dunster on our right, a small town between the 
brow of a hill and the sea. I remember eyeing it wistfully 
as it lay below us : contrasted with the woody scene 
around, it looked as clear, as pure, as embrowned and ideal 
as any landscape I have seen since of Caspar Poussin's or 
Domenichino's. We had a long day's march — our feet 
kept time to the echoes of Coleridge's tongue — through 
Minehead and by the Blue Anchor^ and on to Linton, 
which we did not reach till near midnight, and where we 
had some difficulty in making a lodgment. We, however, 
knocked the people of the house up at last, and we were 
repaid for our apprehensions and fatigue by some excellent 
rashers of fried bacon and eggs. The view in coming along 
had been splendid. We walked for miles and miles on dark 
brown heaths overlooking the Channel, with the Welsh hills 
beyond, and at times descended into little sheltered valleys 
close by the seaside, with a smuggler's face scowling by us, 



III.] COLERIDGE 53 

and then had to ascend conical hills with a path winding up 
through a coppice to a barren top, like a monk's shaven 
crown, from one of which I pointed out to Coleridge's notice 
the bare masts of a vessel on the very edge of the horizon, 
and within the red-orbed disc of the setting sun, like his 
own spectre-ship in the AncteTU Mariner, At Linton the 
character of the seacoast becomes more marked and rugged. 
There is a place called the Valley of Rocks (I suspect this 
was only the poetical name for it), bedded among precipices 
overhanging the sea, with rocky caverns beneath, into which 
the waves dash, and where the seagull for ever wheels its 
screaming flight. On the tops of these are huge stones 
thrown transverse, as if an earthquake had tossed them 
there, and behind these is a fretwork of perpendicular 
rocks, something like the Gtanfs CattseuHzy, A thunder- 
storm came on while we were at the inn, and Coleridge was 
running out bareheaded to eigoy the commotion of the ele- 
ments in the Valley of Rocks ; but as if in spite, the clouds 
only muttered a few angry sounds, and let fall a few refresh- 
ing drops. Coleridge told me that he and Wordsworth 
were to have made this place the scene of a prose tale, 
which was to have been in the manner of, but far superior 
to, the * Death of Abel,' but they had relinquished the 
design. In the morning of the second day we breakfasted 
luxuriously, in an old-fashioned parlour, on tea, toast, eggs, 
and honey, in the very sight of the beehives firom which it 
had been taken, and a garden full of thyme and wild 
flowers that had produced it. On this occasion Coleridge 
spoke of Virgil's Georgics, but not well. I do not think he 
had much feeling for the classical or elegant. It was in 
this room that we found a little worn-out copy of the Seor 
sonSf lying in a window-seat, on which Coleridge exclaimed, 
* That is true fame ! ' He said Thomson was a great poet 
rather than a good one ; his style was as meretricious as his 
thoughts were natural. He spoke of Cowper as the best 
modem poet. He said the Lyrical Ballads were an experi- 
ment about to be tried by him and Wordsworth, to see how 
far the public taste would endure poetry written in a more 
natural and simple style than had hitherto been attempted ; 



64 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

totally discarding the artifices of poetical diction, and mak- 
ing use only of such words as had probably been common 
in the most ordinary language since the days of Henry XL 
Some comparison was introduced between Shakespeare 
and Milton. He said 'he hardly knew which to prefer. 
Shakespeare appeared to him a mere stripling in the art ; 
he was as tall and as strong, with infinitely more activity 
than Milton, but he never appeared to have come to man's 
estate ; or if he had, he would not have been a man, but a 
monster.' He spoke with contempt of Gray, and with intol- 
erance of Pope. He did not like the versification of the 
latter. He observed that ' the ears of these couplet-writers 
might be charged with having short memories that could 
not retain the harmony of whole passages.' He thought 
little of Junius as a writer ; he had a dislike of Dr. John- 
son ; and a much higher opinion of Burke as an orator and 
politician than of Fox or Pitt. He, however, thought him 
very inferior in richness of style and unageiy to some of our 
elder prose-writers, particularly Jeremy Taylor. He liked 
Richardson, but not Fielding ; nor coidd I get him to enter 
into the merits of Caleh Williams, In short, he was pro- 
found and discriminating with respect to those authors 
whom he liked, and where he gave his judgment fair play ; 
capricious, perverse, and prejudiced in his antipathies and 
distastes. We loitered on the 'ribbed sea-sands' in such 
talk as this a whole morning, and I recollect met with a 
curious seaweed, of which John Chester told us the country 
name ! A fisherman gave Coleridge an account of a boy 
that had been drowned the day before, and that they had tried 
to save at the risk of their own lives. He said ' he did not 
know how it was that they ventured, but, sir, we have a 
nature towards one another.' This expression, Coleridge 
remarked to me, was a fine illustration of that theory of 
disinterestedness which I (in common with Butler) had 
adopted. I broached to him an argument of mine to prove 
that likeness was not mere association of ideas. I said that 
the mark in the sand put one in mind of a man's foot, not 
because it was part of a former impression of a man's foot 
(for it was quite new), but because it was like the shape of 



III.] COLERIDGE 66 

a man's foot. He assented to the justness of this distinc- 
tion (which I have explained at length elsewhere, for the 
benefit of the curious), and John Chester listened ; not from 
any interest in the subject, but because he was astonished 
that I should be able to suggest anything to Coleridge that 
he did not already know. We returned on the third morn- 
ing, and Coleridge remarked the silent cottage-smoke curl- 
ing up the valleys where, a few evenings before, we had 
seen the lights gleaming through the dark. 

" In a day or two after we arrived at Stowey, we set out, 
I on my return home, and he for Germany. It was a Sun- 
day morning, and he was to preach that day for Dr. Toul- 
min of Taunton. I asked him if he had prepared anything 
for the occasion ? He said he had not even thought of the 
text, but should as soon as we parted. I did not go to 
hear him — this was a fault — but we met in the evening 
at Bridgewater. The next day we had a long day's walk to 
Bristol, and sat down, I recollect, by a well-side on the road 
to cool ourselves and satisfy our thirst, when Coleridge re- 
peated to me some descriptive lines from his tragedy of 
Remorse ; which I must say became his mouth and that 
occasion better than they, some years after, did Mr. Ellis- 
ton's and the Drury Lane boards — 

* O memory I shield me from the world's poor strife, 
And give those scenes thine everlasting life.' " ^ 

1 First pnblished in the Examiner, Jan. 12, 1817. Reprinted 
with additions in the Liberal (1823) , again in Literary Remains 
(1836), ii. 359, and again in Winterslow (1850). The qnotation I 
have made, thongh long, is not complete. 



CHiy?TER IV 

THE LOUYBE 

Hazlitt's grandson tells us that the obscurest part 
of his grandfather's youth succeeds the meeting with 
Coleridge, and the events Hazlitt has himself recorded 
which followed immediately upon that great occasion. 
He still continued to live at Wem under his father's 
roof, and to torment himself and tease his pen, that 
must have itched for other matter, about that " Nat- 
ural Disinterestedness of the Human Mind," which he 
thought he had discovered, and pined to make plainer 
to the world than he had been able to do to Coleridge 
' on the Shrewsbury Eoad. This much belaboured and 
beloved essay did not get printed till 1805, but it lay 
fermenting in the mind all these years. 

This also was the time, 1799-1802, when Hazlitt 
made that intimate, soul-searching acquaintance with 
the poetry of Coleridge and Wordsworth which en- 
abled him at any time with equal dexterity to please 
with exquisite praise or to wound with deadly sarcasm 
the self-love of its producers. There have been many 
Wordsworthians during the last hundred years ; but 
never a man among them knew Wordsworth's poetry 
more intimately, or entered into its true unfettered 
spirit with greater reality than Hazlitt. No finer 
compliment can be paid a poet than to let the best of 
him become a portion of your being. Whenever 

66 



CHAP. IV.] THE LOUVKE 57 

Hazlitt was stirred to his depths, we may discern 
Wordsworth moving on the face of the waters. 

In 1799 Crabb Robinson, in that diary of his which 
is of so much assistance in helping one to trace the 
history of feeling during the early part of the last 
century, mentions how he met Hazlitt, then just of 
age, and reckoned him one of the cleverest men he 
had ever seen — which in 1799 was perhaps not saying 
much, but a compliment was intended. Robinson, 
like Hazlitt, had been brought up among Socinians, 
and in some respects they were like-minded, but their 
temperaments were as different as their destinies. 
Robinson stands eternally in Hazlitt's debt ; for it was 
to Hazlitt he owed his introduction to the Lyrical 
Ballads and the poems generally of Coleridge, Words- 
worth, and Lamb. An introduction indeed! What 
gift could any fairy godmother bestow equal to that 
of having your face turned early to the light? As 
time went on the good Robinson, as Carlyle might 
say, found Hazlitt not a little trying ; his style, like 
Burke's, was forked, and crested as a serpent's; he 
was not of the stuff poet-worshippers are made of ; his 
"tap" was too bitter, his stride too long, his point of 
view too independent to suit Robinson, who, living 
down to our own day, used to suffer agony when his 
brilliant young friend Walter Bagehot would vehe- 
mently express his preference for Hazlitt over Lamb. 
"You, sir," so Robinson would cry in his anguish, 
" you prefer the works of that scoundrel, that odious, 
that malignant writer, to the exquisite essays of that 
angelic creature ! " 

Hazlitt, though mainly at Wem, continued to visit 
his brother John in London. John had many f riends. 



68 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

all of a liberal hue — Godwins, Wollstonecrafts, Hol- 
crof ts, Eickmans, Burneys, and the like ; and through 
these, or some of them, Hazlitt made the acquaintance 
of the man — of all the men then living in London the 
one best worth knowing — Charles Lamb. Him he met 
for the first time at the Godwins', where a dispute was 
going on of rather an undergraduate complexion, a 
" boshy '' kind of talk, as to whether it were best to 
have man as he was or as he is to be. Coleridge said 
one thing, and Godwin another, and Holcroft both, 
when Lamb stuttered forth, " Give me man as he is 
not to be." Long friendships are often founded on 
stray remarks — the one between Johnson and Rey- 
nolds, for example — and this saying of Lamb's took 
Hazlitt by storm and established relations which, 
though not unbroken, were always renewed, and con- 
tinued to the bitter end. The exact date of their first 
meeting is not known ; it may have been in the eigh- 
teenth century, but probably it was in the nineteenth. 
Hazlitt also at this time became intimate with John 
Stoddart, whose sister Sarah he was to marry later on. 
John and Sarah were the only children of a retired 
lieutenant in the navy who lived at Salisbury, and 
had a small property at Winterslow. John was at 
this time a student of the Civil Law and a member of 
Lincoln's Inn, of strong revolution principles, and a 
hater of William Pitt. He seems to have persuaded 
Hazlitt to attend with him a famous course of lectures 
on "Things in General," delivered in Lincoln's Inn 
Hall by Mackintosh. Three references to these lec- 
tures are to be found in some " Remarks on the Systems 
of Hartley and Helvetius," which Hazlitt printed in 
1806 along with his essay " In Defence of the Natural 



IV.] THE LOUVRE 69 

Disinterestedness of the Human Mind." It must have 
been a wonderful course of lectures ; but I cannot 
believe the lectures themselves were so well worth 
hearing as Hazlitt's account of them is still worth 
reading : — 

" There was a greater degree of power, or of dashing and 
splendid effect (we wish we could add, an equally humane 
and hberal spirit), in the ' Lectures on the Law of Nature 
and Nations,' formerly deUvered by Sir James (then Mr.) 
Mackintosh in Lincoln's Inn Hall. He showed greater confi- 
dence; was more at home there. The effect was more 
electrical and instantaneous, and this ehcited a prouder dis- 
play of intellectual riches and a more animated and imposing 
mode of dehvery. He grew wanton with success. Dazzling 
others by the brilhancy of his acquirements, dazzled himself 
by the admiration they excited, he lost fear as well as pru- 
dence; dared everything, carried eveiything before him. 
The Modem Philosophy, counter-scarp, outworks, citadel, 
and all, fell without a blow, by * the whdff and wind of his 
fell doctrine,^ as if it had been a pack of cards. The vol- 
cano of the French Revolution was seen expuing in its own 
flames, hke a bonfire made of straw ; the principles of 
Reform were scattered in all directions, like chaff before the 
keen northern blast. He laid about him like one inspired ; 
nothing could withstand his envenomed tooth. Like some 
savage beast got into the garden of the fabled Hesperides, 
he made clear work of it, root and branch, with white, 
foaming tusks — 

^Laid waste the borders, and overthrew the bowers.* 

The havoc was amazing, the desolation was complete. As 
to our visionary sceptics and Utopian philosophers, they stood 
no chance with our lecturer ; he did not * carve ^them as a 
dish fit for the gods, but hewed them as a carcase fit for 
hounds.' Poor Godwin, who had come, in the bonhomie 
and candour of his nature, to hear what new Hght had 
broken in upon his old friend, was obhged to quit the field. 



60 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

and slunk away after an exulting taunt thrown out at ' such 
fanciful chimeras as a golden mountain or a perfect man.' 
Mr. Mackintosh had something of the air, much of the dex- 
terity and self-possession, of a political and philosophical 
juggle; and an eager and admiring audience gaped and 
greedily swallowed the gilded bait of sophistry, prepared for 
their sedulity and wonder. Those of us who attended day 
after day, and were accustomed to have all our previous 
notions confounded and struck out of our hands by some 
metaphysical legerdemain, were at last at some loss to know 
whether ttoo and ttvo make four till we had heard the lec- 
turer's opinion on that head. He might have some mental 
reservation on the subject, some pointed ridicule to pour 
upon the common supposition, some learned authority to 
quote against it. It seemed to be equally his object, or the 
tendency of his discourses, to unsettle every principle of rea- 
son or of common sense, and to leave his audience at the mercy 
of the dictum of a lawyer, the nod of a minister, or the 
shout of a mob. To effect this purpose, he drew largely on 
the learning of antiquity, on modem literature, on history, 
poetry, and the belles-lettres, on the Schoolmen, and on 
writers of novels, French, English, and Italian. In mixing 
up the sparkling julep, that by its potent operation was to 
scour away the dregs and feculence and peccant humours of 
the body politic, he seemed to stand with his back to the 
drawers in a metaphysical dispensary, and to take out of 
them whatever ingredients suited his purpose. In this way 
he had an antidote for every error, an answer to every folly. 
The writings of Burke, Hume, Berkeley, Paley, Lord Bacon, 
Jeremy Taylor, Grotius, Puffendorf, Cicero, Aristotle, Tacitus, 
Livy, Sully, MachiaveUi, Guicciardini, Thuanus, lay open 
beside him, and he could instantly lay his hand upon the 
passage, and quote them chapter and verse to the clearing 
up of all difficulties and the silencing of all oppugners." ^ 

The friendship between John Stoddart and Hazlitt 
was not a lasting one. The former went to Malta as 

1 ' Sir James Mackintosh.' — T?ie Spirit of the Age. 



IV.] THE LOUVRE 61 

King's Advocate in 1803, taking his sister with him, 
and there the following year Coleridge visited him 
and grew painfully interested in Sir Alexander Ball, 
as all of us who once thought it a duty to read The 
Friend know to our cost. 

But I have not yet reached 1803. The new century 
brings us face to face with a difficulty in Hazlitt's life. 
How came it about that he, still in labour with his 
Metaphysical Essay, but full to the brim of the new 
wine of Coleridge and Wordsworth, and the "old 
October" of Congreve and Fielding, suddenly conies 
before us as a painter ? I have already referred to his 
brother's influence, but that had always been at work. 
Why had he let so many years slip by? It is not 
to be supposed he ever meant to be a preacher — an 
author he cannot have dreamt of being — as a means 
of livelihood Metaphysics are not to be thought of; 
besides, he could not so much as finish one small 
essay. A painter he had determined to be in boy- 
hood. Why did he postpone it so long, and why hav- 
ing done so, did he begin it now ? 

His own account is as follows : — 

"My first initiation in the mysteries of the art was at 
the Orleans Gallery ; it was there I formed my taste, such 
as it is, so that I am irreclaimably of the old school in 
painting. I was staggered when I saw the works there 
collected, and looked at them with wondering and with 
longing eyes. A mist passed away firom my sight; the 
scales fell off. A new sense came upon me. I saw the soul 
speaking in the face — ' hands that the rod of empire had 
swayed ' in mighty ages past — ' a forked mountain or blue 
promontory,* 

* With trees upon 't 
That nod unto the world, and mock our eyes with air.* 



02 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

Old Time had unlocked his treasures, and Fame stood por- 
tress at the door. We had aU heard of the names of Titian, 
Raphael, Guido, Domenichino, the Caracci ; but to see them 
£ftce to isyce, to be in the same room with their deathless 
productions, was like breaking some mighty spell — was 
almost an dfect of necromancy. From that time I lived in 
a woiid of pictures. Battles, si^es, speeches in Parliament, 
seemed mere idle noise and fury, * signifying nothing,' com- 
pared with those mighty works and dreaded names that 
spoke to me in the eternal silence of thought. This was the 
more remarkable, as it was but a short time before that I 
was not only totally ignorant of, but insensible to the beau- 
ties of art As an instance, I remember that one afternoon 
I was reading the Frowned Husband with the highest 
relish, with a green woody landscape of Ruysdael or Hob- 
bima just before me, at which I looked off the book now and 
then, and wondered what there could be in that sort of work 
to satisfy or delight the mind — at the same time asking 
myself as a speculative question, whether I should ever feel 
an interest in it like what I took in reading Yanbrugh and 
Cibberr'* 

But the Orleans Gallery was in Paris, whither Haz- 
litt did not go until 1802, after he had^ made up his 
mind to be a painter, and had worked hard for a season 
to fit himself to be one. Northcote, whose acquaint- 
ance Hazlitt had made early in the century, may have 
had something to do with his sudden resolution ; and 
it has been suggested that reading Richardson's Essays 
on the Fine Arts greatly affected his mind. The Rem- 
brandt at Burleigh House had something to do with 
it. A painter he decided to be ; and set to work with 
so great a fury, that somehow or other he made enough 
progress, real or apparent, to enable him to obtain a 
commission from a Manchester man, who wanted to 

1 * On the Pleasure of Painting.' — Criticisms on Art, 



IV.] THE LOUVRE 63 

live surrounded by copies of the old masters, to go to 
the Louvre and reproduce Titian. 

To the Louvre Hazlitt went in .October 1802, and in 
Paris he remained four of the happiest months of his 
or any man's life. His life in Paris was a hard one ; 
the weather was bitter cold, his lodgings were poor, 
his purse empty, but his power of enjoyment, like the 
gaiety of Falstaff or the good-nature of my Uncle 
Toby, breaks the bounds of his individuality and over- 
flows the world. Both his mind and his brush were 
kept hard at work, and feverishly happy. 

" I had made some progress in painting when I went to 
the Louvre to study, and I never did anything afterwards. 
I shall never forget conning over the catalogue which a friend 
lent me just before I set out. The pictures, the names of 
the painters, seemed to rehsh in the mouth. There was one 
of Titian's * Mistress at her Toilette.' Even the colours with 
which the painter had adorned her hair were not more golden, 
more amiable to sight, than those which played round and 
tantalised my fancy ere I saw the picture. There were two 
portraits by the same hand — * A Young Nobleman with a 
glove ' ; another, * A Companion to it.' I read the descrip- 
tion over and over with fond expectancy ; and filled up the 
imaginary outhne with whatever I could conceive of grace, 
and dignity, and an antique gusto — all but equal to the 
original. There was * The Transfiguration ' too. With what 
awe I saw it in my mind's eye, and was overshadowed with 
the spirit of the artist ! Not to have been disappointed with 
these works afterwards was the highest compliment I can pay 
to their transcendent merits. Indeed, it was from seeing other 
works of the same great masters that I had formed a vague, 
but no disparaging, idea of these. The first day I got there 
I was kept for some time in the French Exhibition room, and 
thought I should not be able to get a sight of the old masters. 
I just caught a peep at them through the door (vile hin- 
drance), Uke looking out of Purgatory into Paradise — from 



64 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

Poossin's noble, mellow-looking landscapes to where Rubens 
hung out his gaudy banner, and down the glimmering vista 
to the rich jewels of Titian and the Italian school. At last, 
by much importunity, I was admitted, and lost not an instant 
in making use of my new privilege. It was un beau jour to 
me. I marched delighted through a quarter of a mile of the 
proudest efforts of the mind of man, a whole creation of genius, 
a universe of art ! I ran the gauntlet of all the schools from 
the bottom to the top ; and in the end got admitted into the 
inner room, where they had been repairing some of their 
greatest works. Here * The Transfiguration,' the * St. Peter 
Martyr,' and the ' St. Jerome ' of Domenichino stood on the 
floor, as if they had bent their knees, like camels stooping, to 
unlade their riches to the spectator. On one side, on an easel, 
stood ' Hippolito de Medici ' (a portrait by Titian), with a 
boar-spear in his hand, looking through those he saw, till you 
turned away from the keen glance ; and thrown together in 
heaps were landscapes of the same hand, green pastoral hills 
and vales, and shepherds piping to their mild mistresses 
/Underneath the flowering shade. Reader, 'if thou hast not 
seen the Louvre, thou art damned ! ' — for thou hast not seen 
the choicest remains of the works of art ; or thou hast not 
seen all these together, with their mutually reflected glories. 
I say nothing of the statues ; for I know but little of sculp- 
ture, and never liked any till I saw the Elgin marbles. . . . 
Here, for four months together, I strolled and studied, and 
daily heard the warning sound, * Qtuitre heures pass^esy il 
faut fermeTy Gitoyens * (ah ! why did they ever change their 
style?), muttered in coarse provincial French; and brought 
away with me some loose draughts and fragments, which I 
have been forced to part with, like drops of life-blood, for 
* hard money.' How often, thou tenantless mansion of God- 
like magnificence — how often has my heart since gone a 
pilgrimage to thee." ^ 

Writing in his later life, Hazlitt says that when he 
was at the Louvre nothing would serve his turn but 
heads like Titian ; but this is not strictly true. No 

^ * On the Pleasure of Painting.' — CriticitrM on Art, 



IV.] THE LOUVRE 66 

man's taste is immaculate; and Hazlitt, surrounded 
though he was with all the glories of the Louvre of 
1802, then rich with the loot of Eome and Dresden, 
" triumphant spoils '' is Hazlitt's own phrase, fell in 
love with a picture by Lana, " The Death of Clorinda," 
which he describes in a letter to his father, so graphi- 
cally suggestive of all its imbecilities, that the conclu- 
sion comes like a pistol-shot. " It is in my mind the 
sweetest picture in the place." One is forced to re- 
member how Hazlitt preferred Warton's Sonnets 
to Shakespeare's. At least a fortnight was devoted 
to copying the charms of the expiring Clorinda, who 
points to her wounded breast and fiwaits baptism at 
the hands of Tancred, whose helmet serves as font. 
In 1867 this copy, always dear to Hazlitt, was still " in 
possession of the family." ^ 

Whilst absent from home Hazlitt was a good corre- 
spondent, and tells his father how much disappointed 
he was not to see the First Consul, who was away from 
Paris. Charles Fox he did see, going the round of the 
pictures, speaking rapidly but unaffectedly, " All those 
blues and greens and reds are the Guercinos, you may 
kiiow them by their colours." "He talked a great 
deal, and was full of admiration." Fox was the last 
man to have acted in the spirit of Carlyle's gloomy 
admonition, "to perambulate your picture gallery in 
silence." 

When Hazlitt left Paris in January in 1803 he 
carried away with him at least eleven copies he had 
made in the Louvre, " The Death of Clorinda," Titian's 
" Man in Black," Titian's " Mistress," " A Holy Family " 

1 The original is to be seen in the Turin Gallery. 

F 



06 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

by Raphael^ " The Deluge" by Poussin, various figures 
from '^The Transfiguration/^ and the sketch of a head 
from Tintoret being among the number. 

For three years after his return from Paris Hazlitt 
led the life of an itinerant portrait painter. He had a 
capital pair of legs, loved the road, and wielded the 
brush with great courage. He was not a timid painter. 
A man who could paint a recognisable portrait in oils, 
with an undoubted suggestion of Kembrandt about it, 
and would do so for five guineas, was not likely to be 
without work in the north of England. " Kings lay 
aside their crowns to sit for their portraits, and poets 
their laurels to sit for their busts. The beggar in the 
street is proud to have his picture painted, and will 
almost sit for nothing." Hazlitt began with the poets 
— the two finest in England, if not in Europe, Coleridge 
and Wordsworth, whose equine physiognomy Hazlitt 
greatly admired. Unluckily, neither picture was a 
success. According to Southey, Hazlitt made Cole- 
ridge look like a horse-stealer on his trial, evidently 
guilty, but clever enough to have a chance of getting 
off; whilst the Wordsworth, according to another 
critic, represented a man upon the gallows-tree deeply 
affected by a fate he felt to be deserved. Failures no 
doubt, but not insipid failures. Hazlitt also painted 
the little Hartley Coleridge, reserved for an imkind 
fate, but who lives for ever "a happy child" in 
Wordsworth's verse. 

Hazlitt is said when in Cumberland to have fallen 
in love both with Dorothy Wordsworth and with a 
village beauty, and narrowly to have escaped ducking 
in a pond by a rival for the hand or favours of the 
latter. Hazlitt's love affairs are either too shadowy or 



IV.] THE LOUVRE 67 

too silly to bear investigation. The less we can man- 
age to say about them (though the shadows can do us 
no harm), the better it will be. 

From Keswick the painter proceeded to Manchester, 
where he had friends and acquaintances. Here he 
painted a half-length portrait of a manufacturer "who 
died worth a plum " ; and as the artist had been living, 
as an experiment, so he assures us, for a fortnight on 
coffee, and was very hungry, he rather slurred over 
the coat, which was a reddish brown, in order that 
he might feel the manufacturer's five guineas in the 
pocket. As soon as the guineas were safe, Hazlitt 
hurried to the market-place and dined on sausages and 
mashed potatoes, " a noble dish for strong stomachs ; 
and while they were getting ready, and I could hear 
them hissing on the pan, I read a volume of GHl Bias, 
containing the account of the fair Aurora." Already 
was Literature beginning to reassert herself. 

It was near Manchester that Hazlitt painted the 
Head of the Old Woman about which he has so much 
to tell us in his essay On the Pleasures of Painting : — 

" The first head I ever tried to paint was an old woman 
with the upper part of the face shaded by her bonnet, and 
I certainly laboured it with great perseverance. It took 
me numberless sittings to do it. I have it by me still, and 
sometimes look at it with surprise, to think how much pains 
were thrown away to httle purpose ; yet not altogether in 
vain if it taught me to see good in everything, and to know 
that there is nothing vulgar in Nature seen with the eye of 
science or of true art. Kefinement creates beauty every- 
where; it is the grossness of the spectator that discovers 
nothing but grossness in the object. Be this as it may, I 
spared no pains to do my best. If art was long, I thought 
that life was so too at that moment. I got in the general 



68 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

effect the first day ; and pleased and surprised enough I was 
at my success. The rest was a work of time — of weeks 
and months (if need were) of patient toil and careful finish- 
ing. I had seen an old head by Rembrandt at Burleigh 
House ; and if I could produce a head at all like Rembrandt 
in a year, in my lifetime, it would be glory and felicity and 
wealth and fame enough for me ! The head I had seen at 
Burleigh was an exact and wonderful facsimile of Nature, 
and I resolved to make mine (as nearly as I could) an exact 
facsimile of Nature. I did not then, nor do I now believe, 
with Sir Joshua, that the perfection of art consists in giving 
general appearances without individual details, but in giving 
general appearances with individual details. Otherwise, I 
had done my work the first day. But I saw something 
more in Nature than general effect, and I thought it worth 
my while to give it in the picture. There was a gorgeous 
effect of light and shade ; but there was a delicacy as well as 
depth in the chiaroscuro, which I was bound to follow into 
all its dim and scarce perceptible variety of tone and shadow. 
Then I had to make the transition from a strong light to as 
dark a shade, preserving the masses, but gradually softening 
off the intermediate parts. It was so in Nature ; the diffi- 
culty was to make it so in the copy. I tried, and failed 
again and again ; I strove harder, and succeeded as I thought. 
The wrinkles in Rembrandt were not hard lines, but broken 
and irregular. I saw the same appearance in Nature, and 
strained every nerve to give it. If I could hit off this edgy 
appearance, and insert the reflected light in the furrows of 
old age in half a morning, I did not think I had lost a day. 
Beneath the shrivelled yellow parchment look of the skin 
there was here and there a streak of the blood colour tinging 
the face; this I made a point of conveying, and did not 
cease to compare what I saw with what I did (with jealous 
lynx-eyed watchfulness) till I succeeded to the best of my 
ability and judgment. How many revisions were there! 
How many attempts to catch an expression which I had seen 
the day before ! How often did we try to get the old position, 
and wait for the return of the same light ! There was a 
puckering up of the lips, a cautious introversion of the eye 



IV.] THE LOUVRE 60 

under the shadow of the bonnet, indicative of the feebleness 
and suspicion of old age, which at last we managed, after 
many trials and some quarrels, to a tolerable nicety. The 
picture was never finished, and I might have gone on with 
it to the present hour.^ I used to set it on the ground when 
my day's work was done, and saw revealed to me with swim- 
ming eyes the birth of new hopes and of a new world of 
objects. The painter thus learns to look at Kature with 
different eyes. He before saw her ' as in a glass darkly, but 
now face to face.' He understands the texture and meaning 
of the visible universe, and * sees into the life of things,' not 
by the help of mechanical instruments, but of the improved 
exercise of his faculties, and an intimate sympathy with 
Nature. The meanest thing is not lost upon him, for he 
looks at it with an eye to itself, not merely to his own 
vanity or interest, or the opinion of the world. Even where 
there is neither beauty nor use — if that ever were — still 
there is truth, and a sufficient source of gratification in the 
indulgence of curiosity and activity of mind. The humblest 
painter is a true scholar ; and the best of scholars — the 
scholar of Nature. For myself, and for the real comfort and 
satisfaction of the thing, I had rather have been Jan Steen, 
or Gerard Dow, than the greatest casuist or philologer that 
ever lived." * 

At Gateacre, a village near Liverpool, he painted 
a head of Dr. Shepherd, a friend of his father's, and 
the minister of the Unitarian chapel — the father, 
so it is believed, of a certain Sally Shepherd who 
occasionally whisks her petticoats across the page of 
an essay. 

In 1804 Hazlitt painted his father's portrait, and 
his account of his doing so I will reprint, familiar as it 

1 It is at present covered with a thick slough of oil and varnish 
(the perishable vehicle of the English school), like an envelope of 
gold-beaters' skin, so as to be hardly visible. — Note by W. G. H. 

3 * On the Pleasures of Painting.*— Criticisms on Art. 



70 WILLIAM HA2LITT [chap. 

must be to many. He calls the picture one of his first 
attempts, but it was hardly that : — 

** One of my first attempts was a picture of my father, who 
was then in a green old age, with strong-marked features, and 
scarred with the smallpox. I drew it with a broad fight 
crossing the face, looking down, with spectacles on, reading. 
The book was Shaftesbuiy's Characteristics^ in a fine old 
binding, with Gibelin's etchings. My father would as fief it 
had been any other book ; but for him to read was to be 
content, was ' riches fineless.' The sketch promised weU ; and 
I set to work to finish it, determined to spare no time nor 
pains. My father was wilfing to sit as long as I pleased ; for 
there is a natural desire in the mind of man to sit for one's 
picture, to be the object of continued attention, to have one's 
fikeness multipfied ; and besides his satisfaction in the picture, 
he had some pride in the artist, though he would rather I 
should have written a sermon than painted like Rembrandt or 
like Raphael. Those winter days, with the gleams of sun- 
shine coming through the chapel windows, and cheered by the 
notes of the robin redbreast in our garden (that ' ever in the 
haunch of winter sings ') — as my afternoon's work drew to a 
close — were among the happiest of my life. When I gave 
the effect I intended to any part of the picture for which I 
had prepared my colours, when I imitated the roughness of 
the skin by a lucky stroke of the pencil, when I hit the clear 
pearly tone of a vein, when I gave the ruddy complexion of 
health, the blood circulating under the broad shadows of one 
side of the face, I thought my fortune made, in my fancying 
that I might one day be able to say with Correggio, * I also 
am a painter ! ' It was an idle thought, a boy's conceit ; but 
it did not make me less happy at the time. I used regularly 
to set my work in the chair to look at it through the long 
evenings ; and many a time did I return to take leave of it 
before I could go to bed at night. I remember sending it with 
a throbbing heart to the Exhibition, and seeing it hung up 
there by the side of one of the Honourable Mr. Skeffington 
(now Sir George). There was nothing in common between 
them, but that they were the portraits of two very good- 
natured men. 



IV.] THE LOUVRE 71 

"The picture is left; the table, the chair, the window 
where I learned to construe Livy, the chapel where my 
father preached, remain where they were ; but he himsefr 
is gone to rest, full of years, of faith, of hope, and 
charity ! " ^ 

It had been suggested that as Hazlitt began his 
career as a portrait painter by falling in love with two 
damsels of different degree in Cumberland, he brought 
it to an end by actually courting a Miss Kailton, the 
daughter of an old friend and patron in Liverpool. 
John Hazlitt made a beautiful miniature portrait of 
this lady, but the affair came to nothing, and the vision 
of Miss Eailton joins the other shadows, and even has 
the honour in the essay " On Beading Old Books " to 
be associated with Miss Walton, the heroine in the 
Man of Feeling. "I have a sneaking kindness for 
Mackenzie's Julia de Roubign4 ; for the deserted man- 
sion and struggling gilliflowers on the mouldering gar- 
den wall ; and still more, for his Man of Feeling, not 
that it is better, nor so good, but at the time I read 
it I sometimes thought of the heroine Miss Walton 
and of Miss Eailton together, ' and that ligament, fine 
as it was, was never broken.' " 

Hazlitt, it must never be forgotten, was a senti- 
mentalist of the first water. 

His last portrait known to fame is the one of 
Charles Lamb which, after the vicissitudes of the 
auction-room, is now safely lodged in the National 
Portrait Gallery. It is a capital specimen of Hazlitt's 
style. 

In 1805 Hazlitt abandoned painting as a profes- 

1 ' On the Pleasures of Painting.' — Criticisms on Art. 



72 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. iv. 

sion. He never scaled as a painter the steep stair- 
case that leads to the mastery of any art. In an 
essay contributed near the end of his life to a maga- 
zine, and called Engli^ Students at Rome^ he had 
(I think) himself and his own failure in mind when 
he wrote : — 

" The brooding over excellence with a feverish importu- 
nity, and stimulating ourselves to great things by an abstract 
love of fame, can do little good, and may do much harm. It 
is, no doubt, a very delightful and enviable state of mind to 
be in, but neither a very arduous nor a very profitable one. 
Nothing remarkable was ever done, except by followiug up 
the impulse of our own minds, by grapphng with difficulties 
and improving our advantages, not by dreaming over our 
own premature triumphs, or doting on the achievements of 
others." 

^ Reprinted in CritidsrM on Art, 



i 



CHAPTER V 

FIBST BOOKS; MABBIA6E, AND LONDON 

Hazlitt's first book was that Essay in Defence of 
the Natural Disinterestedness of the Human Mind, or, 
as he sometimes called it, On the Principles of Human 
Action, which had for too many years weighed so 
heavily on his own mind. To this disquisition were 
added iSome Remarks on the Systems of Hartley and 
Helvetius. The publisher was good-natured Mr. John- 
son, Cowper's friend, who had already printed the 
Select Discourses of the elder Hazlitt, and enabled that 
excellent man to send a copy to Mrs. Tracy in Liver- 
pool. The date of the first edition of Hazlitt's meta- 
physical essay was 1805. After a lapse of more than 
thirty years, namely, in 1836, when its author had dis- 
appeared " from the banks and shoal of time," Mr. John 
Miller of Oxford Street, a man, so Mr. Ireland notes, 
"of thought and intelligence, and a member of the 
Debating Society described in Daniel Dercmda,^' brought 
out a second edition of the Essay and Remarks, and 
added an unpublished paper on Ahstra^^ Ideas, the 
whole making a tiny book of 176 pages, and dedicated 
in the name of the departed author to " Edward Lytton 
Bulwer, M.P., one of the brightest ornaments of his 
country." 

Neither in 1805, nor in 1836, nor at any time since, 
did Hazlitt's metaphysical discovery attract attention. 
Kobody minded it. A copy was sent out to Mackintosh, 

73 



74 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

who, says an enthusiastic admirer of Hazlitt, was able 
" even amid the enervating heat of Hindostan " to pro- 
nounce it " a work of great ability." Its one eloquent 
passage was said by Southey, who hated Hazlitt, not 
without reason, to be something between the manner 
of Milton and Jeremy Taylor. But the metaphysicians 
cannot be brought to take any interest in the essay, 
and Mr. Leslie Stephen dismisses it with frigid 
indifference.* 

It is, however, useful to remember that Hazlitt 
commenced author as a metaphysician and that amid 
all his sensuous enjoyment of what are called realities, 
of Mrs. Siddons rubbing her hands in the night scene 
of Macbeth, of the sound of Mrs. Jordan's voice, 
perhaps as Miss Prue in Love for Love, " whose laugh 
was to drink nectar," of the azure skies and golden 
sunsets of Claude, of the smooth ivory foreheads of 
Vandyke, of an old play, or a new Waverley novel, 
Hazlitt ever entertained an equally passionate attach- 
ment to abstract ideas and general propositions. 

It would be unpardonable for a biographer of Hazlitt 
not to state what was his metaphysical discovery; and 
I will do so, not in the hard dry style of the original 
communication, but by a few extracts from the letter to 
Gifford (1819), at the end of which the writer insisted 
upon repeating and restating at great length his dis- 
covery : — 

" I have been called a writer of third-rate books. For 
myself there is no work of mine which I should rate so high, 
except one which I daresay you have never heard of — an 
Essay on the Principles of HuTtvam Action,^' 

1 See Hours in a Library. — * William Hazlitt.' 



v.] FIRST BOOKS, MARRIAGE, AND LONDON 76 

"The object of that essay is to remove a stumblingblock 
in the metaphysical doctrine of the innate and necessary 
selfishness of the human mind." 

" This doctrine, which has been sedulously and confidently 
maintained by Hobbes, etc., and is a comer-stone of what is 
called Modem Philosophy, has done a great deal of mischief, 
and I believe I have found out a view of the subject which 
gets rid of it unanswerably and for ever." 

" The word Self denotes three different selves — my Past 
self, my Present self, and my Future self, and my personal 
identity is founded only on my personal consciousness, which 
does not eoctend bet/ond the present moment" 

" I have a peculiar, exclusive self-interest or sympathy with 
my Present Self by means of Sensation^ and with my Past 
Self by means of Memory; but I have no peculiar exclusive 
or independent faculty, like Sensation or Memory y giving me 
the same instinctive interest in my Future Self." 

" The only faculty by which I can anticipate what is to 
befall myself in the Future is the Im^ination, which is not 
a limited narrow faculty, but commonj discursive, and social" 

" It may be said that I do feel an interest in my own future 
welfare which I do not and cannot feel in that of others. 
ITiis I grant; but that does not prove a metaphysical ante- 
cedent, self-interest, precluding the possibility of all interest 
in others, but a practical self-interest arising out of habit 
and circumstance." 

" My identity with myself must be cgnfined to the con- 
nection between nrypast and present being; for how can this 
pretended unity of consciousness, which makes me so little 
acquainted with the future that I cannot tell for a moment 
how long it will be continued, or whether it will be entirely 
interrupted by death, or renewed in me after death, or multi- 
plied in I don't know how many different persons — how, I 
ask, can a principle of this sort transfiise my present into 
my fiiture being ? " 

This seems to me, 'who am not a metaphysician, 
sensible enough, but lamentably unimportant. Man 
need not be selfish with regard to the future, but habit 



76 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

and circumstance will probably, though not ineyitably, 
make him so ; and as most men think it right to pro- 
vide for the morrow, the imagination is likely to prove 
as active a source of selfishness as either sensation or 
memory. But selfishness is not innate — that seems 
to be the discovery. 

The passage Southey admired ran as follows : — 

"There are moments in the life of a soUtary thinker 
which are to him what the evening of some great victory is 
to the conqueror and hero — though milder triumphs are 
long remembered with truer and deeper delight. And 
though the shouts of multitudes do not hail his succ^ 
though gay trophies, though the sounds of music, the gUt- 
tering of armour, and the neighing of steeds do not mingle 
with his joy, yet shall he not want monuments and wit- 
nesses of his glory ; the deep forest, the willowy brook, the 
gathering clouds of winter, or the silent gloom of his own 
chamber, ' faithful remembrances of his high endeavour and 
his glad success,' that, as time passes by him with unretum- 
ing wing, still awaken the consciousness of a spirit patient 
and indefatigable in the search of truth, and a hope of sur- 
viving in the thoughts and minds of other men." 

The publication of this little book in 1806 was a 
great relief to Hazlitt, if no great benefit to the world. 
He says about it : "I felt a certain weight and tight- 
ness about my heart taken ofP, and cheerful and con- 
fident thought springing up in the place of anxious 
fears and sad forebodings." 

His next publication (1806) was a political pamphlet, 
writ in the new style which was now to be his. It was 
called Free Thoughts on Public Affairs, or Advice to a 
Patriot, in a Letter Addressed to a Member of the Old 
Opposition* This pamphlet was admittedly inspired 



v.] FIRST BOOKS, MARRIAGE, AND LONDON 77 

by a famous article of Coleridge's which had appeared 
in the Morning Post six years before — on the 19th of 
March 1800 — and what Hazlitt has to say in his 
pamphlet about the character of Pitt was almost word 
for word the same with what Coleridge had already 
said in the Morning Post, 

The pamphlet had no sale, and but one copy is 
believed to exist ; but as Hazlitt thought fit more than 
ten years afterwards to insert " The Character of 
Pitt " in the Round Table (1817), he thereby enabled 
Gifford, who was probably already on the lookout for 
a reputed Jacobin, to spit his venom in the Quarterly 
Review after this fashion : " We are far from intending 
to write a single word in answer to this loathsome 
trash [the Character of Pitt], but we confess that these 
passages chiefly excited us to take the trouble of 
noticing the work (the Round Table) ; but if the crea- 
ture in his endeavour to crawl into the light must 
take his way over the tombs of illustrious men, dis- 
figuring the records of their greatness with the sHme 
and filth which marks his track, it is right to point 
out to him that he may be flung back to the situation 
in which Nature designed that he should grovel." * 

What a pleasant prospect lay before Hazlitt ! It 
would have been better for his happiness had he fin- 
ished his course at Hackney and led the life of his old 
friend the Rev. Joseph Fawcett. 

Some readers may be curious to have a specimen of 
"the slime and filth" which Hazlitt borrowed from 
Coleridge's article of 1800, printed in his pamphlet of 
1806, and reprinted in the Round Table in 1817 : — 

1 Quarterly Review, vol. zvii. p. 159. 



78 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

" Without insight into human nature, without sympathy 
with the passions of men, or apprehension of their real de- 
signs, he seemed perfectly insensible to the consequences of 
things, and would belieye nothing till it actually happened. 
The fog and haze in which he saw everything communicated 
itself to others ; and the total indistinctness and uncertainty 
of his own ideas tended to confound the perceptions of his 
hearers more effectually than the most ingenious misrepre- 
sentation could have done. Indeed, in defending his con- 
duct, he neyer seemed to consider himself as at all responsible 
for the success of his measures, or to suppose that future 
events were in our own power ; but that, as the best laid 
schemes might fail, and there was no providing against all 
possible contingencies, this was a sufficient excuse for our 
plunging at once into any dangerous or absurd enterprise 
without the least regard to consequences. . . . Nothing 
could ever drive him out of his dull forms and naked gener- 
alities, which, as they are susceptible neither of degree nor 
variation, are therefore equally applicable to every emer- 
gency that can happen ; and in the most critical aspect of 
affairs he saw nothing but the same flimsy web of remote 
possibilities and metaphysical uncertainty. In his mind the 
wholesome pulp of practical wisdom and salutary advice was 
immediately converted into the dry chaff and husks of a 
miserable logic. From his manner of reasoning, he seemed 
not to have believed that the truth of his statements depended 
on the reality of the facts, but that the facts themselves 
depended on the order in which he arranged them in words. 
You would not suppose him to be agitating a serious ques- 
tion, which had real grounds to go upon, but to be declaim- 
ing upon an imaginary thesis, proposed as an exercise in the 
schools. He never set himself to examine the force of the 
objections that were brought against him, or attempted to 
defend his measures upon clear, solid grounds of his own ; 
but constantly contented himself with first gravely stating 
the logical form, or dilenuna to which the question reduced 
itself; and then, after having declared his opinion, proceeded 
to amuse his hearers by a series of rhetorical commonplaces, 
connected together in grave, sonorous, and elaborately con- 



v.] FIRST BOOKS, MARRIAGE, AND LONDON 79 

structed periods, without ever showing their real application 
to the subject in dispute. Thus, if any member of the oppo- 
sition disapproved of any measure, and enforced his objec- 
tions by pointing out the many evils with which it was 
fraught, or the difficulties attending its execution, his only 
answer was * that it was true there might be inconveniences 
attending the measure proposed, but we were to remember 
that every expedient that could be devised might be said to 
be nothing more than a choice of difficulties, and that all 
that human prudence could do was to consider on which side 
the advantages lay ; that, for his part, he conceived that 
the present measure was attended with more advantages and 
fewer disadvantages than any other that could be adopted ; 
that if we were diverted from our object by every appear- 
ance of difficulty, the wheels of government would be clogged 
by endless delays and imaginary grievances ; that most of 
the objections made to the measure appeared to him to be 
trivial, others of them unfounded and improbable ; or that, 
if a scheme, free fix)m all these objections, could be proposed, 
it might, after all, prove inefficient ; while, in the meantime, 
a material object remained unprovided for, or the opportunity 
of action was lost.' ... He has not left behind him a single 
memorable saying — not one profound maxim, one solid ob- 
servation, one forcible description, one beautiful thought, one 
humorous picture, one affecting sentiment. He has made no 
addition whatever to the stock of human knowledge. He 
did not possess any one of those faculties which contribute 
to the instruction and delight of mankind — depth of under- 
standing, imagination, sensibility, wit, vivacity, clear and 
solid judgment." 

If this be not true of Pitt, it is, at any rate, true of 
other practitioners in the same way of business. 

The year 1807 was a busy year in Hazlitt's life. 
He expended much time upon, and took great pains 
with, an abridgment of Abraham Tucker's Light of 
Nature Pursued, Tucker's book is a discursive but 
original work in seven large volumes, which have been 



80 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chjlp. 

more praised than read, and more often pilfered from 
than quoted. These seven volumes Hazlitt, by mas- 
terly compression, reduced to one. Johnson was again 
its publisher; and Mackintosh, when compiling his 
dissertation for the Encydopcedia Britannica " On the 
Progress of Ethical Philosophy," took occasion to 
praise Hazlitt's preface. In this preface Tucker is 
described in terms which have always reminded me 
of Mr. Bagehot : — 

" To the ingenuity and closeness of the metaphysician he 
unites the practical knowledge of the man of the world and 
the utmost sprightUness and even levity of imagination. He 
is the only philosopher who appears to have had his senses 
always about hvniy or to have possessed the enviable faculty 
of attending at the same time to what was passing in his 
own mind and what was going on without him. He apphed 
everything to the purposes of philosophy ; he could not see 
anything, the most familiar objects or the commonest events, 
without connecting them with the iUustration of some diffi- 
cult problem ; the tricks of a young kitten, or a Uttle child 
at play, were sure to suggest to him some useful observation 
or nice distinction." 

This passage not only reminds me of Mr. Bagehot, 
but of a good many passages in Mr. Bagehot's books. 

Hazlitt was also engaged this same year in making 
a selection from great Parliamentary speakers, called 
The Eloquence of the Bntish Senate, to which he added 
biographical and critical notes. This is a better known 
book than the abridgment of Tucker ; and the sketches 
it contains of the characters of Chatham, Burke, and 
Fox are full of insight, vivacity, and fervour. Hazlitt 
afterwards reprinted these characters in his Political 
Essays (1819). 



v.] FIRST BOOKS, MARRIAGE, AND LONDON 81 

How quickly Hazlitt found his style after he had 
purged his bosom of the perilous stuff of metaphysics 
is well illustrated by the third book he published, 
anonymously, like the others, during 1807. I mean 
his E^ly to the Essay on Population by the Rev. T, B. 
MaUhus in a Series of Letters, 

This book is composed in a flowery, almost volup- 
tuous vein, and lacks the control usually characteristic 
of Hazlitt's style, outspoken and personal though that 
style may be ; but the reader certainly notices in this 
Reply to Malthus the opening of the floodgates of 
Hazlitt's rhetoric : — 

" I never fell in love but once, then it was with a girl who 
always wore her handkerchief pinned tight round her neck, 
with a fair face, gentle eyes, a soft smile, and cool auburn 
locks. It was not a raging heat, a fever in the veins ; but 
it was like a vision, a dream like thoughts of childhood, an 
everlasting hope, a distant joy, a heaven, a world that might 
be. The dream is still left, and sometimes comes confusedly 
over me, in solitude and silence, and mingles with the soft- 
ness of the sky, and veils my eye from mortal grossness." 

An answer to Malthus indeed: akin to Carlyle's 
more manly strain, " Pretty Sally in my Alley proves 
too much for stout John in yours." 

The book concludes in a nobler spirit, with a passage 
which pleases, as does Newman's eloquence, by its 
mingled force and feeling, pith and pity: — 

" I have thus attempted to answer the different points of 
Mr. Malthus's argument, and give a truer account of the 
various principles that actuate human nature. There is but 
one advantage that I can conceive of as resulting from the 
admission of his mechanical theory on the subject, which is 



82 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

that it would be the most effectual recipe for indifference that 
has yet been found out. No one need give himself any 
farther trouble about the progress of vice or the extension of 
misery. The office of moral censor, that troublesome, uneasy 
office which every one is so ready to set up in his own breast, 
which I verily believe is the occasion of more imhappiness 
than any one cause else, would be at an end. The professor's 
chair of morality would become vacant, and no one would 
have more cause than I to rejoice at the breaking up for the 
holidays ; for I have plagued myself a good deal about the 
distinctions of right and wrong. The pilot might let go 
the helm and leave the vessel to drift carelessly before the 
stream. When we are once convinced that the degree of 
virtue and happiness can no more be influenced by human 
wisdom than the ebbing and flowing of the tide, it must be 
idle to give ourselves any more concern about them. The 
wise man might then enjoy an Epicurean languor and repose 
without being conscious of the n^lect of duty. Mr. Mal- 
thus's system is one, ' in which the wicked cease from troub- 
ling, and in which the weary are at rest.' To persons of an 
irritable and nervous disposition, who are fond of kicking 
against the pricks, who have tasted of the bitterness of the 
knowledge of good and evil, and to whom whatever is amiss 
in others sticks not merely like a burr, but like a pitch 
plaister, the advantage of such a system is incalculable. 

" Happy are they who live in the dream of their own exist- 
ence and see all things in the light of their own minds ; who 
walk by faith and hope, not by knowledge ; to whom the 
guiding-star of their youth still shines from afar, and into 
whom the spirit of the world has not entered ! They have 
not been * hurt by the archers,' nor has the iron entered their 
souls. They live in the midst of arrows and of death, un- 
conscious of harm. The evil thing comes not nigh them. 
The shafts of ridicule pass unheeded by, and malice loses its 
sting. Their keen perceptions do not catch at hidden mis- 
chiefs, nor cling to every folly. The example of vice does 
not rankle in their breasts, like the poisoned shirt of Nessus. 
Evil impressions fall off from them, like drops of water. The 
yoke of life is to them light and supportable. The world has 



v.] FIRST BOOKS, MARRIAGE, AND LONDON 83 

no hold on them. They are in it, not of it ; and a dream and 
a glory is ever about them." 

With Hazlitt's argument against Malthus the reader 
will not wish me to concern myself ; but my duty com- 
pels me to say that one of the points made against 
Malthus lie conceived to be original, and somewhat 
jealously guarded against De Quincey, who had picked 
it up by the way. Malthus, in Hazlitt's words, 
"made a monster of the principle of population," and 
in the words of Coleridge, "wrote a quarto volume 
to prove that man could not live without eating," a 
proposition by no means so terrible in itself but that, 
in order to drive his monster home to men's bosoms, 
it was necessary for Malthus to promulgate the prop- 
osition that whilst the species who live by eating 
increase in a geometrical ratio, the means of their 
subsistence increase only in an arithmetical ratio. 
Hence the gloom of the situation. But, said Hazlitt, 
this is only true when the whole earth is under 
culivation. " A grain of corn has the same or greater 
power of propagating its species than a man has till 
there is no longer any room for it to grow or spread 
further." LongfiMm® pttblished the hook* - 

None of these efforts can have brought much grist 
to the mill ; but as Hazlitt continued to divide his time 
between his father's house at Wem and his brother's 
studio in London, his expenses cannot have been great, 
for he was never an extravagant man. 

His friendship with Lamb at this time was at its 
height, and he seldom missed a Wednesday evening 
in Mitre Court, when Lamb's talk was like "snap- 
dragon" and his own "like a game of ninepins." 



84 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

In Mr. W. G. Hazlitt's pleasant little book Lamb and 
Hazlitt (1900) he supplies the history of an elaborate 
hoax or ^' mystification " of the kind in which Elia 
ever delighted^ practised upon Hazlitt about this time^ 
into the humour of which the latter fully entered, and 
played up to with the utmost spirit. The jest turned 
upon a report circulated by Lamb and Joseph Hume 
of the Victualling Office, Somerset House, ^Hhat 
W. H., a portrait painter in Southampton Buildings, 
Holbom, put an end to his existence by cutting his 
throat in a shocking manner," and gruesome details 
follow. Thereupon Hazlitt prepared and presented a 
lengthy Petition and Remonstrance protesting against 
the report, and seeking to establish the fact of his 
continued existence by setting out in twelve para- 
graphs his manner of life, and concluding thus: — 

" With all the sincerity of a man doubtful between life and 
death, the petitioner declares that he looks upon the said 
Charles Lamb as the ringleader in this uigust conspiracy 
against him, and as the sole cause and author of the jeopardy 
he is in ; but that as losers have leave to speak, he must say 
that, if it were not for a poem he wrote on Tobacco about two 

years ago, a farce called Mr. H he brought out last winter 

with more wit than discretion in it, some prologues and 
epilogues he has since written with good success, and some 
lively notes he is at present writing on dead authors, he sees 
no reason why he should not be considered as much a dead 
man as himself, and the undertaker spoken to accordingly. 

" A true copy. 

"W. Hazlitt. 
"Dated Sunday, the 10th of Jany. 
" 1808." 

Lamb and Hume affected to treat this petition as 
either a forgery or a ghostly communication, and 



v.] FIRST BOOKS, MARRIAGE, AND LONDON 86 

about it Lamb descants in a style that is now the 
delight of two continents. After first remarking that 
the reason most commonly assigned for the reappear- 
ance of disembodied spirits is the revealing of hoarded 
treasure, he proceeds : — 

'' It is highly improbable that he should have accumulated 
any such vast treasures, for the revealing of which a miracle 
was needed, without some suspicion of the fact among his 
friends during his lifetime. I for my part always looked upon 
our dear friend as a man rich rather in the gifts of his mind 
than in earthly treasures. He had few rents or comings in 
that I was ever aware of, small (if any) landed property ; and 
by all that I could witness, he subsisted more upon the well- 
timed contributions of a few chosen friends who knew his 
worth than upon any estate which could properly be called 
his own. I myself have contributed my part. God knows, 
I speak not this in reproach. I have never taken, nor indeed 
did the deceased offer, any toritten acknowledgments of the 
various sums which he has had of me, by which I could make 
the fact manifest to the legal eye of an executor or adminis- 
trator. He was not a man to affect these niceties in his 
transactions with his friends. He would often say money 
was nothing between intimate acquaintances; that golden 
streams had no ebb ; that God loved a cheerful giver ; that 
a paid loan makes angels groan, with many such like sayings. 
He had always free and generous notions about money. His 
nearest friends know this best. Induced by these considera- 
tions, I give up that commonly received notion of Kevealable 
Treasures in our Mend's case. Neither am I too forward to 
adopt that vulgar superstition of some hidden murder to be 
brought to Ught, which yet I do not universally reject ; for 
when I resolve that the defunct was naturally of a discour- 
sible and communicative temper (though of a gloomy and close 
aspect, as bom under Saturn), a great repeater of conversations, 
which he generally carried away verbatim, and would repeat 
with syllabic exactness in the next company where he was 
received (by which means, I that have stayed at home, have 



86 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

often reaped the profit of his travels without stirring from my 
elbow chair), I cannot think that if he had been present at 
so remarkable a circumstance as a murder he would so soon 
have forgotten it as to make no mention of it at the next 
place where he dined or supped, or that he could have re- 
strained himself from giving the particulars of a matter of 
fact like that in his lifetime. I am sure I have often heard 
him dilate upon occurrences of a much less interesting sort 
than that in question. I am most inclined to support that 
opinion which favours the establishing of some speculative 
point in religion : a frequent cause, says Wierus, for spirits 
returning to the earth to confute Atheists, etc., when I con- 
sider the education which our friend received from a venerable 
parent, his religious destination, his nurture at a seminary 
appropriated to young ministers. But whatever the cause of 
this reappearance may prove to be, we may now with truth 
assert that our deceased friend had attained to one object of 
his pursuits, one hour's separate existence gives a dead man 
clearer notions of metaphysics than all the treatises which in 
this state of carnal entanglement the least-immersed spirit can 
outspin." 

The whole story should be read in the little book 
already mentioned. 

At an earlier date than this mystification, viz. on the 
10th of December 1806, Hazlitt had sat with Lamb in 
the front row of the pit in Drury Lane when another 
Mr. H was undeniably damned — that strange- 
fortuned farce which lives for ever in the hour of its 
shame. Not to be outdone in kindnesses, Lamb in 
his turn, namely, on Sunday the 1st of May 1808, 
accompanied Hazlitt to St. Andrew's Church, Holborn, 
and stood by and saw his friend married to Miss Sarah 
Stoddart. 

Between Mary Lamb and Sarah Stoddart there had 
long been friendship ; and it was possibly due to the 



v.] FIRST BOOKS, MARRIAGE, AND LONDON 87 

offices of the most incomparable of old maids that the 
marriage of Hazlitt was brought about. Miss Stoddart 
was not romantic, but determined to be married, 
though with a settlement upon herself and her issue 
of her cottages at Winterslow, which produced the 
annual sum of £120. She had many affairs of the 
heart, all of which she discussed in a business-like 
spirit with Miss Lamb, who was greatly amused with 
her tales, so unlike those of Shakespeare's women. 
Miss Stoddart's letters to her confidante are not forth- 
coming ; but from Miss Lamb's letters to her, we can 
still dimly discern the embarrassed phantoms of a 
Mr. Turner, a Mr. White, a Mr. Dowling, and a certain 
"William" of partridge-shooting proclivities, all on, 
and then, for one reason or another, all off. But Miss 
Stoddart's mind to be married with a settlement 
remains unchanged. 

Mary Lamb, in a letter in which she delicately 
inquires what her friend means to do with Mr. Turner, 
introduces the name of William Hazlitt. She writes : 
" William Hazlitt, the brother of him you know, is in 
town. I believe you have heard us say we like him. 
He came in good time, for the loss of Manning made 
Charles very dull, and he likes Hazlitt better than 
anybody except Manning." 

Hazlitt and Miss Stoddart were probably known to 
one another before the date of this letter; for, as 
already mentioned, in 1799, Hazlitt and John Stoddart 
were friendly. 

How the matter was actually arranged is not known, 
though we hear of John Hazlitt's being " mightily 
pleased" ; but not so John Stoddart, on whom Hazlitt 
now looked sourly, for he had married a clergyman's 



88 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

daughter and abandoned the abstract principles of the 
French Revolution, spoke well of legitimate monarchs, 
and would no longer drink confusion to the Holy 
Alliance. Miss Lamb was full of sympathy, though 
she had her doubts, as may be perceived from the 
following letter, or end of a letter addressed to Miss 
Stoddart : — 

" Farewell ! Determine as wisely as you can in regard to 
Hazlitt ; and if your determination is to have him, Heaven 
send you many happy years together. If I am not mis- 
taken, I have concluded letters on the Corydon courtship 
with this same wish. I hope it is not ominous of change ; 
for if I were sure you would not be quite starved to death, 
nor beaten to a mummy, I should like to see Hazlitt and 
you come together, if (as Charles observes) it were only for 
the joke sake." 

Of Hazlitt's prae-nuptial letters to Miss Stoddart but 
one survives. I give part of it : — 

" Tuesday night. 

"My dear Love, — Above a week has passed, and I 
have received no letter — not one of those letters * in which 
I live, or have no Hfe at all.' What is become of you? 
Are you married, hearing that I was dead (for so it has been 
reported) ? Or are you gone into a nunnery 1 Or are you 
fallen in love with some of the amorous heroes of Boccaccio f 
Which of them is it 1 Is it with Cymon, who was trans- 
formed from a clown into a lover, and learned to spell by the 
force of beauty ? Or with Lorenzo, the lover of Isabella, 
whom her three brethren hated (as your brother does me), 
who was a merchant's clerk? Or with Federigo Alberigi, 
an honest gentleman, who ran through his fortune, and won 
his mistress by cooking a fair falcon for her dinner, though 
it was the only means he had left of getting a dinner for 
himself? This last is the man; and I am the more per- 



v.] FIRST BOOKS, MARRIAGE, AND LONDON 89 

suaded of it, because I think I won your good liking myself 
by giving you an entertainment — of sausages, when I had 
no money to buy them with. Nay now, never deny it! 
Did not I ask your consent that very night after, and did 
you not give it 1 Well,- I should be confoundedly jealous of 
those fine gallants if I did not know that a living dog is 
better than a dead lion ; though, now I think of it, Boccaccio 
does not in general make much of his lovers — it is his women 
who are so delicious. I almost wish I had lived in those 
times, and had been a little more amiable. Now if a 
woman had written the book, it would not have had this 
effect upon me ; the men would have been heroes and angels, 
and the women nothing at all. Isn't there some truth in 
that ? Talking of departed loves, I met my old flame the 
other day in the street. I did dream of her one night since, 
and only one ; every other night I have had the same dream 
I have had for these two months past. Now, if you are at 
all reasonable, this will satisfy you. . . . For, indeed, I 
never love you so well as when I think of sitting down with 
you to dinner on a boiled scrag-end of mutton and hot pota- 
toes. You please my fancy more then than when I think 
of you in — no, you would never forgive me if I were to 
finish the sentence. Now I think of it, what do you mean 
to be dressed in when we are married? But it does not 
much matter I I wish you would let your hair grow ; though 
perhaps nothing will be better than ' the same air and look 
with which first my heart was took.' But now to business. 
I mean soon to call upon your brother in form, namely, as 
soon as I get quite well, which I hope to do in about another 
fortnight ; and then I hope you will come up by the coach 
as fast as the horses can carry you, for I long mightily to be 
in your ladyship's presence — to vindicate my character. I 
think you had better sell the small house — I mean that at 
4.10 — and I will borrow £100. So that we shall set off 
merrily in spite of all the prudence of Edinburgh. — Good- 
bye, Kttle dear ! W. H. 

" Miss Stoddart, 
"Winterslow, Salisbury, Wilts." 



90 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

The only guests known to be at Hazlitt's wedding 
were John Stoddart, commonly called Dr. Stoddart, 
and his wife, and Charles and Mary Lamb. Charles, 
as his wont was on solemn occasions, laughed so loudly 
that he was like to be turned out several times during 
the ceremony. 

Mrs. Hazlitt carried her black-browed lord off to 
one of her Winterslow cottages. Winterslow is a 
small village some seven miles from Salisbury on the 
Andover Eoad. Stonehenge is nine miles off. Hazlitt 
loved Salisbury Plain, whose undulating slopes, show- 
ing " the earth in its primeval simplicity, bare with 
^naked breasts, varied only by the shadows of the clouds 
;hat pass across it," loom large and fade mistily away 
into the horizon of many of his word pictures. 

A New and Improved Ghramraar of the English Tongue, 
for the Use of Schools, containing though it is said to 
do sentiments respecting the substantive and adjective, 
and new and ingenious remarks on the verb, seems 
hardly the occupation for a sentimentalist during the 
first months of married life ; but Hazlitt was as angry 
with the blindness and obstinacy of Lindley Murray 
as ever he was with the atrocities of Malthus, or of 
those philosophers who would have us believe that we 
could be innately selfish with regard to the future. 
Grammar has its fascinations; and even such men 
as John Milton and John Wesley, no less than 
William Cobbett and William Hazlitt, succumbed to 
its charms. 

Hazlitt's Grammar did not find a publisher till 1810, 
and never found its way into schools at all, where 
Lindley Murray, in spite of Home Tooke and Hazlitt, 
continued to teach that a noun is the name of a thing. 



/ 



▼.] FIRST BOOKS, MARBIAG£, AND LONDON 91 

<< Is Quackery a thing, i.e. a substance ? ^^ cries Hazlitt 
in his wrath. 

Painting as a recreation was not wholly abandoned 
during these years ; for in 1809 Hazlitt was working 
"like Satan" at a picture of "Jacob's Ladder," a 
subject which had always attracted him. In a long 
and pleasant letter to his wife, printed in lAmb and 
Hazlitt (1900), he describes himself as "sometimes 
glazing and sometimes scumbling, as it happens, now 
on the wrong side of the canvas and now on the right, 
but still persuading myself that I have at last found 
out the true secret of Titian's golden hue and the 
oleaginous touches of Claude Lorraine. I have got in 
a pretty good background, and a conc^tion of the 
ladder which I learned from the upping stone on the 
down, only making the stone into gold, and a few 
other improvements. I have no doubt there was such 
another on the field of Luz, and that an upping stone 
is the genuine Jacob's ladder. But where are the 
angels to come from? That's another question, which 
I am not yet able to solve. My dear Sarah, I am too 
tired and too dull to be witty, and therefore I will not 
attempt it." 

In October 1809 the Lambs paid the Hazlitts a visit 
at Winterslow that long lived in all their memories. 
" I used to walk out at this time with Mr. and Miss 
Lamb of an evening, and look at the Claude Lorraine 
skies over our heads melting from azure into purple 
and gold, and to gather mushrooms that sprang up at 
our feet, to throw into our hashed mutton at supper." 
Of Lamb in the country he makes the quotation that 
he was "like the most capricious poet Ovid among the 
Goths." Hazlitt took his delightful guests to Oxford, 



WILLIAM HAZLITT [ohap. 

where he expanded in the Bodleian^ and to Blenheim, 
where he was a cicerone to the pictures ; but, as Crabb 
Robinson told Lamb on the latter's return to London, 
forgot to show them the Titian Gallery, if indeed it 
would have been shown to Mrs. Hazlitt and Miss 
Lamb — such was the delicacy of the noble proprietor. 
This visit inspired one of the first of the essays of 
Elia, " Oxford in the Vacation." 

Thomas Holcroft, the author of that excellent piece 
The Road to Ruin, had died in 1809, leaving behind 
him Memoirs, the editing and completing of which 
was intrusted to Hazlitt, who by the end of 1810 had 
three volumes (small ones) ready for the press. A 
fourth is said still to remain in manuscript. It was 
difficult to find or agree upon a publisher, and Mary 
Lamb writes to Mrs. Hazlitt in November 1810 : "Mrs. 
Holcroft still goes about from Nicholson to Tuthill, 
from Tuthill to Godwin, and from Godwin to Tuthill, 
and from Tuthill to Nicholson, to consult on the 
publication or no-publication of that good man her 
husband. It is called The Life Everlasting, How does 
that same life get on in your hands?" The three 
volumes were published in 1816, and are good reading 
— particularly in the early parts. 

Such leisure as Hazlitt had at this time he devoted 
to a careful study of Hobbes, Berkeley, Locke, Butler, 
and other philosophers, English and French, for he 
had begun to meditate a history of English philosophy. 

On the 26th of September 1811 the future Registrar 
in Bankruptcy was born, the second child of the 
marriage, the firstborn having died at Winterslow in 
July 1809. 

Nobody's birth, not even the Child Angel's in the 



v.] FIRST BOOKS, MARRIAGE, AND LONDON ©8 

essay of Elia, was ever made the subject of pleasanter 
congratulations than those which reached Winterslow 
from the Temple. Miss Lamb wrote to the mother, 
and her brother to the father : — 

"2 Oct. 1811, Temple. 

" My dear Sarah, — I have been a long time anxiously 
expecting the happy news that I have just received. I 
address you because, as the letter has been lying some days 
at the India House, I hope you are able to sit up and read 
my congratulations on the little Hve boy you have been so 
many years wishing for. As we old women say, ' May he 
Hve to be a great comfort to you.' I never knew an event 
of the kind that gave me so much pleasure as the little, 
long-looked-for, come-at-last's arrival ; and I rejoice to hear 
his honour has begun to suck. The word was not distinctly 
written, and I was a long time making out the wholesome 
fact. I hope to hear from you soon, for I am anxious to 
know if your nursing labours are attended with any diffi- 
culties. I wish you a happy getting-up and a merry 
christening. 

" Charles sends his love, perhaps though he will write a 
scrap to Hazlitt at the end. He is now looking over me ; he 
is always in my way, for he has had a month's holiday at 
home ; but I am happy to say they end on Monday, when 
mine begin, for I am going to pass a week at Richmond with 
Mrs. Bumey. She had been dying ; but she went to the Isle 
of Wight and recovered once more. When there I intend to 
read novels and play at piquet all day long. — Yours truly, 

"M. Lamb." 

" Dear Hazlitt, — I cannot help accompanying my 
sister's congratulations to Sarah with some of my own to 
you on this happy occasion of a man child being bom. 

" Delighted fancy already sees him some future rich alder- 
man or opulent merchant, painting perhaps a Uttle in his 
leisure hours for amusement, like the late H. Bunbury, Esq. 

" Pray, are the Winterslow estates entailed ? I am afraid 



94 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. v. 

lest the young dog, when he grows up, should cut down the 
woods, and leave no groves for widows to take their lonesome 
solace in. The Wem estate, of course, can only devolve on 
him in case of your brother leaving no male issue. 

" Well, my blessing and Heaven's be upon him, and make 
him like his £either, with something of a better temper and a 
smoother head of hair; and then all the men and women 
must love him. 

" Martin and the card-boys join in congratulations. Love 
to Sarah. Sorry we are not within caudle-shot. ' 

**C. Lamb." * 

A few months after the child's birth the Hazlitts 
came to live in London. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE BEGINNIKG OF 8TBIFB 

Hazlitt was thirty-four years of age when he first 
settled in London to earn a living for himself and his 
family. Hitherto he had led, though not a cloistered, 
yet a solitary life, free from responsibility, and he had 
been for the most part at liberty to chew the cud of his 
own thoughts, to direct the course of his own studies, 
and to write as much or as little as he liked. His 
good old father at Wem and his good-natured brother 
in Great Russell Street were always glad to see him 
and give him board and lodging in exchange for his 
society. Although already an author in 1812, except 
for his " Character of Pitt," which was inspired by, not 
to say borrowed from, Coleridge, some spirited notes to 
his compilation of speeches, and a flutter of the wing 
in his Reply to Malthua and in his Preface to Tucker, 
he had written nothing in the style and manner now 
soon to be known as his. 

He was not at any time a man of many friendships. 
His manners were not good, his temper had become 
uncertain, and despite his sentiment he had not a 
warm heart. If any one insisted upon shaking hands 
with him, he held out something (so Leigh Hunt com- 
plained) like the fin of a fish. •. His political opinions 
were decidedly unpopular; for though he had never 
shared the rhapsodical dreams of Coleridge, the ex- 

95 



06 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

travagant hopes of Wordsworth, or the petulant sedi- 
tion of Southey and Landor, he had rejoiced with a 
fierce joy over the disgrace of the Bourbons, and 

«( When to whelm the disenchanted nation, 
Like fiends embattled by a wizard's wand. 
The monarchs marched in evil day 
And Britain joined the dire array," 

Hazlitt was darkly furious. On no one's eyes did the 
beams of '^ the sun of Austerlitz " pour more resistless 
day; and when that sun for ever set, his heart was 
near breaking. Talfourd tells us how Hazlitt stag- 
gered under the blow of Waterloo ; for he had accepted 
Bonaparte not merely as the Child of the Eevolution, 
but as the Champion of Freedom ; and to him the Holy 
Alliance was a conspiracy of stupid monarchs s^inst 
the abstract rights of the people, and Hazlitt never 
found it difficult to connect a cause with a person. 
He had followed Bonaparte's career "like a lover," 
had watched him trample on the pride of old royal 
houses with malicious glee. To witness his disgrace 
and captivity wrought " like madness in the brain." 
Nor was his temper improved by being condemned to 
witness the somewhat smug recantations of Words- 
worth, Coleridge, Southey, and a host of lesser men, 
who having indulged in vagaries of opinion and vio- 
lence of revolutionary language far transcending any 
of his, were now to be heard like a congregation of 
rooks cawing round the old steeple. He exclaims in 
a splenetic note to his essay on " Patronage and Puff- 
ing " ; "I have endured all this marching and counter-' 
marching of poets and philosophers over my head as 
well as I could *like the camomile that thrives the 



VI.] THE BEGINNING OF STRIFE 97 

more 'tis trodden upon.' By Heavens! I think I'll 
endure it no more." 

A man of Hazlitt's temper and opinions, and with 
the gifts of expression now discovered to be his, was 
not likely to live at peace with his fellow-men, circa 
1812-1820. 

He began peacefully enough by setting up his 
establishment in No. 19 York Street, Westminster, 
then a comfortable red-brick house with a small 
garden in front, and one of the numerous London 
residences of John Milton. 

In 19 York Street Milton lived for six memorable 
years from 1662 to 1668. Here his first wife died, 
likewise his "late espoused saint"; here he became 
totally blind ; here he wrote his Second Defence, pro 
populo Anglicano, perhaps the hest example of that 
prose style that prompted Lander's remark that there 
was as much poetry in Milton's prose as there was 
prose in Wordsworth's poetry ; here also he composed 
that " soul-animating strain," his sonnet on The Late 
Massacre in Piedmont, and five other of his sonnets, 
including the one to the "Memory of his Second 
Wife " ; here also he began Paradise Lost ; and here he 
remained until the Eestoration led him to lie hid for a 
season in Bartholomew Close, nor did he after the Act 
of Oblivion and Indemnity return to York Street. 

In Hazlitt's time the house was the property of that 
tough old Reformer, Jeremy Bentham, who lived in a 
mansion with a large garden just behind. The door 
of No. 19 opened into a square hall or kitchen, and 
Hazlitt occupied as his own a big wainscoted room, 
reputed to be the poet's, upstairs, with two windows 
overlooking the old philosopher's garden. Hazlitt, 

H 



WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

finding that none of his neighbours knew or cared 
anything about Milton, recorded the fact that the 
poet had lived there on a tablet placed over the front 
door — an act of piety and devotion then rare. 

Hazlitt's first bit of work in London was to deliver 
a course of lectures at the Eussell Institution in 
Bloomsbury, not on the poets, but on the philosophers, 
his subject being " The Rise and Progress of Modern 
Philosophy, containing an Historical and Critical 
Account of the Principal Writers who have treated on 
Moral and Metaphysical Subjects from the time of 
Lord Bacon to the Present Day." The course con- 
sisted of ten lectures, of which large fragments remain, 
and may be read in the first volume of The LUerary 
Remains (1836). 

In the lecture on Hobbes, Hazlitt referred to a 
prospectus he had prepared of a history of a phi- 
losophy. Who attended these lectures or any of them 
is not known, but they were well worth listening to. 
Coleridge had set the fashion of lecturing, and was at 
this very date, January 1812, finishing a course on 
Shakespeare and Milton, which had been attended by 
as many as one hundred and fifty people at a time ! 
Hazlitt began on the 14th of January, and made it 
his business to combat modem philosophy, by which, 
as he understood it, all thought is resolved into sensa- 
tion, all morality into the love of pleasure, and all 
actions into mechanical impulse. " These three propo- 
sitions taken together embrace almost every question 
relating to the human mind, and in their different 
ramifications and intersections form a net not unlike 
that used by the enchanters of old, which whosoever 
has once thrown over him will find all his efforts to 



VI.] THE BEGINNING OF STRIFE 09 

escape vain^ and his attempts to reason freely on any 
subject in which his own nature is concerned baffled 
and confounded in every direction." 

Por Hobbes and Berkeley, as well as for Bishop 
Butler's Sermona (not the Analogy), Hazlitt had great 
reverence, despite strong differences of opinion. Of 
Locke he had been taught by Coleridge to speak dis- 
respectfully as a timid plagiarist from Hobbes, an 
accommodator of truth to the spirit of the age, an in- 
tolerable thing in a metaphysician, however prudent 
in a legislator. 

I must not enter these fields, though I should like 
to give a pr4ci8 of Hazlitt's lecture on " Liberty and 
Necessity," were it only to remind a babyish age of 
the grandeur of the controversies that once engaged 
the attention of philosophers and theologians. Over the 
philosophical doctrine of Necessity a lurid light has 
been thrown by the Augustinian theology. Its pale 
crest of thought is reddened by the fires of hell, but 
with this side issue Hazlitt had no concern. No such 
pr4cis shall be given ; but in order to supply an illus- 
tration of Hazlitt's method and style, and at the same 
time to pay a vicarious homage to a favourite author, 
I will transcribe a single passage, and then hurry on 
to where Poetry and the Drama, 

** Knit with the Graces and the Hours, in dance 
Lead on the Eternal Spring." 

" To return to the doctrine of Necessity. I shall refer to 
the authority of but one more writer, who has indeed ex- 
hausted the subject, and anticipated what few remarks I had 
to offer upon it. I mean Jonathan Edwards, in his treatise 
on the Will This work, setting aside its Calvinistic ten- 



sL 7002 A 



100 WILLIAM HAZLrrr [chap. 

dency, with which I have nothing to do, is one of the most 
closely reasoned, elaborate, acute, serious, and sensible among 
modem productions. No metaphysician can read it without 
feeling a wish to have been the author of it. The gravity 
of the matter and the earnestness of the manner are alike 
admirable. His reasoning is not of that kind, which con- 
sists in having a smart answer for every trite objection, but 
in attaining true and satisfactory solutions of things per- 
ceived in all their difficulty and in all their force, and in 
every variety of connection. He evidently writes to satisfy 
his own mind and the minds of those who, like himself, are 
intent upon the pursuit of truth for its own sake. There is 
not an evasion or ambiguity in his whole book, nor a wish 
to produce any but thorough conviction. He does not 
therefore lead his readers into a labyrinth of words, or 
entangle them among the forms of logic, or mount the airy 
heights of abstraction, but descends into the plain, and 
mingles with the business and feelings of mankind, and 
grapples with common-sense, and subdu^ it to the force 
of true reason. All philosophy depends no less on deep and 
real feeling than on power of thought. I happen to have 
Edwards' * Inquiry concerning Freewill ' and Dr. Priestley's 
' Illustrations of Philosophical Necessity ' bound up in the 
same volume ; and I confess that the difference in the man- 
ner of these two writers is rather striking. The plodding, 
persevering, scrupulous accuracy of the one, and the easy, 
cavalier, verbal fluency of the other, form a complete con- 
trast. Dr. Priestley's whole aim seems be to evade the 
difficulties of his subject, Edwards' to answer them. The 
one is employed, according to Berkeley's allegory, in flinging 
dust in the eyes of his adversaries, while the other is taking 
true pains in digging into the mine of knowledge. All 
Dr. Priestley's arguments on this subject are mere hack- 
neyed commonplaces. He had in reality no opinions of his 
own ; and truth, I conceive, never takes very deep root in 
those minds on which it is merely engrafted. He uniformly 
adopted the vantage ground of every question, and borrowed 
those arguments which he found most easy to be wielded, 
and of most service in that kind of busy intellectual war- 



VI.] THE BEGINNING OF STRIFE 101 

fare to which he was habituated. riSe was an able con- 
troversialist, not a philosophical rean^oner.*' 

These lectures over, and there being no living to be 
got out of "Divine Philosophy," Hazlitt descended 
from the sublime to the (comparatively) ridiculous; 
from Hobbes and Berkeley to Castlereagh and Burdett, 
for he went as a reporter to the gallery of the House 
of Commons. He at once, the fact cannot be too 
early or too bluntly stated, took to drink; but soon 
becoming aware of the devastation wrought by this 
evil habit, like another, earlier, and greater Parliar 
mentary reporter, he altogether eschewed fermented 
liquors, and remained for the rest of his days a rigid 
total abstainer, only one lapse (was ever conversion so 
complete ?) being recorded against him. His tea was 
always of the strongest, it is true, and completely 
ruined his digestion, but his " abstinence " was com- 
plete. In the matter of strong drink no man is in a 
position to throw a stone at Hazlitt. 

"Ye Prudes in Virtue, say. 
Say, ye severest, what would you have done ? " i 

The House of Commons made a great impression 
upon Hazlitt, and the experience he gained in the gal- 
lery enriches many of his essays. He was no slavish 
stenographer — no verbatim man; for though he had 
been taught shorthand as well as Hebrew at Hackney, 
he had forgotten both. He listened to the speeches 
with the ear of a connoisseur in rhetoric, and he fixed 

1 There is some uncertainty wlien Hazlitt first eschewed strong 
drink, though none as to the fact that he long did so. See Proc- 
ter's Charles Lamb, p. 27. 



loif WILLIAM HAZLrrr [chap. 

upon the orator the ts^e of a portrait painter, and after- 
wards at bis leisure reprodaced such portions of their 
speeches as remained in his memory. How completely 
he entered into the spirit of the House of Commons, 
and how well he knew the conditions of oratorical 
success in that assembly, it would be easy to illustrate 
by many quotations, but I must limit myself to one : — 

"An orator can hardly get beyond commonpldces ; if he 
does, he gets beyond his hearers. The most successful 
speakers, even in the House of Commons, have not been the 
best scholars or the finest writers, neither those who took 
the most profound views of their subject, nor who adorned it 
with the most original fancy or the richest combinations of 
language. Those speeches that in general told best at the 
time are not now readable. What were the materials of 
which they were chiefly composed t An imposing detail of 
passing events, a formal display of official documents, an 
appeal to established maxima, an echo of popular clamour, 
some worn-out metaphor newly vamped up ; some hackneyed 
argument used for the hundredth, nay, thousandth time, to 
fall in with the interests, the passions, or prejudices of listen- 
ing and devoted admirers ; some truth or falsehood, repeated 
as the shibboleth of party time out of mind, which gathers 
strength fiom sympathy as it spreads, because it is under- 
stood or assented to by the million, and finds, in the in- 
creased action of the minds of numbers, the weight and force 
of an instinct. ... To give a reason for anything is to 
breed a doubt of it, which doubt you may not remove in the 
sequel ; either because your reason may not be a good one, 
or because the person to whom it is addressed may not be 
able to comprehend it, or because others may not be able to 
comprehend it. He who offers to go into the grounds of an 
acknowledged axiom risks the unanimity of the company 
' by most admired disorder,' as he who digs to the foundation 
of a building to show its solidity risks its falling. But a 
commonplace is enshrined in its own unquestioned evidence, 
and constitutes its own immortal basis. Nature, it has been 



VI.] THE BEGINNING OF STRIFE 103 

said, abhors a vacuum; and the House of Commons, it 
might be said, hates everything but a conmionplace ! " — 
Tlain Speaker "On the Difference between Writing and 
Speaking." 

Lest, however, it should be supposed Ha^litt was 
only bored in the gallery, I add another quotation from 
the same essay : — 

"The excitement of leading the House of Commons 
(which, in addition to the immediate attention and applause 
that follows, is a sort of whispering galleiy to all Europe) 
must act upon the brain like brandy or laudanum upon the 
stomach ; and must, in most cases, produce the same debili- 
tating effects afterwards. That any one accustomed all his 
life to the tributary roar of applause from the great council 
of the nation should think of dieting himself with the pros- 
pect of posthumous fame as an author, is like offering a con- 
firmed dram-drinker a glass of fair water for his morning's 
draught." 

Of all the speeches Hazlitt heard from the gallery, 
one made by Plunkett on the Catholic Question struck 
him as far the best. Tradition says Hazlitt was so 
excited by it that he quite forgot he was in the gallery 
for a purpose, and sat motionless and entranced. He 
admits that Plunkett was very indifferently reported ; 
but adds, with the composure of a philosopher em- 
ployed at so much a week to take down the words of 
ordinary mortals, " though the best speeches are the 
worst reported, the worst are made better than they 
are, and so both find a convenient newspaper level.'' 

Hazlitt very wisely did not remain long in the 
gallery, but found other employment in the Morning 
Chr(mide,of which Mr. Perry, the father of Sir Erskine 
Perry and of the Miss Perrys, beloved of Thackeray, 
was editor and proprietor. 



104 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

It was Perry's ill-luck to have two or three men of 
genius on his staff, and he has suffered accordingly. 
Between the brains and the capital of a newspaper 
the relations are usually strained. Mr. Perry, so 
Hazlitt thought, was unmindful of the countless col- 
umns of wit and wisdom contributed to an otherwise 
dull organ of public opinion by his now ready pen. 
On the other hand, the proprietor had his grievances. 
" Poor Perry," writes Hazlitt, " what bitter complaints 
he used to make that by running amuck against lords 
and Scotchmen I should not leave him a place to dine 
out at I The expression of his face at these moments 
as if he were shortly to be without a friend in the 
world was truly pathetic." The humdrum is the 
safest style. A man of genius and biting tongue is as 
awkward a colleague on a newspaper as on the Treas- 
ury Bench. 

Hazlitt descended from the gallery of the House of 
Commons to the pit of the theatre, and became dra- 
matic critic for the Chronicle in October 1813, and con- 
tinued to write regularly in that capacity until May 
1814. He also wrote political articles for the same 
paper. Specimens of his activity in both these direc- 
tions will be found in his View of the English Stage 
(1818) and in the Political Essays (1819). 

After leaving the Chronicle Hazlitt wrote for the 
Examiner both dramatic and literary pieces. The 
essays we now read in the Round Table (1817) for the 
most part appeared in the Examiner^ where also were 
published two savage notices of Southey's Lay of the 
Laureate^ which did not fail to attract the attention of 
the Quarterly Review. Hazlitt became a man marked 
out for insult 



VI.] THE BEGINNING OF STRIFE 105 

As Hazlitt practically left off regular dramatic 
criticism in 1819, his performances in that direction 
fall first to be considered. 

The best advice ever given to players was bestowed 
by Shakespeare in the famous passage in Hamrdet, but 
who is to advise playgoers ? An actor, like any other 
artist, is usually in his early stages willing to learn, 
but the public is seldom in a mood to be taught. The 
poor wretch thinks it knows, and as a consequence is 
always ready to applaud players who have neither the 
accent of Christians, nor the gait of Christian, pagan, 
nor man, but who can strut and bellow and tear a 
passion to tatters. Shakespeare, says Mr. Lewes in his 
book on Actors and Acting (1875), "saw the public 
mistaking violence for passion, turbulence for art, and 
he bade them remember the purpose of playing, which 
is to hold the mirror up to Nature." But not only do 
players need advice, encouragement, and reproof, and 
playgoers the discipline of education and the cruci- 
fixion of the natural man ; but playwrights, those most 
sensitive of authors, usually require to be reminded of 
many things. To be a good, sensible, dramatic critic 
of players, playgoers, and playwrights is a heavy task. 

Hazlitt was in no sense a child of the greenroom. 
He was born in the study. He knew no players except 
(he says) Liston, nor was he, imtil he became a critic 
of the play, a very regular playgoer.^ Like most sen- 
sible men, he went to the playhouse when it was con- 
venient to do so. In 1796 he first saw John Kemble 
in CoriolamLS, and fell in love with the stately bearing 

1 " That was indeed going to the play when I went twice a year 
and had not been more than half-a-dozen times in my life." — 
From the Letter-Bell in Sketches and Essays (1839) . 



106 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

and scholarly manner of that old campaigner. The 
School for Scandal was one of the chief delights of his 
early days. '^ Jack Palmer was the man for Joseph 
Surface. With what an air he trod the stage ! " 
"Nobody was fit to succeed Palmer." We all have 
our Jack Palmers. Of Mrs. Siddons, Hazlitt always 
wrote in an ecstasy of passion. She was to him on the 
mimic stage what Bonaparte was on the real stage. 
" The stateliest ornament of the public mind, she not 
only was the idol of the people, not only hushed the 
shout of the pit in breathless expectation ; but to the 
retired and lonely student through long years of soli- 
tude her face shone as if an eye had appeared in heaven. 
To have seen Mrs. Siddons was an event in every one's 
life. . . . While the stage lasts there will never be 
another Mrs. Siddons. Tragedy seemed to set with 
her. It is pride and happiness enough for us to have 
lived at the same time with her and one person more." 
Hazlitt brought to his task-work, enthusiasm, elo- 
quence, a considerable stock of miscellaneous reading, 
and a liking for the play. "We do not much like any 
persons who do not like plays." Hazlitt, it is to be 
feared, was never sorry for a reason for disliking 
"persons." It has often been said that his liking for 
plays was three parts bookish. He preferred the 
words to the action, an eloquent passage to the most 
superb pantomime. He pronounces Shakespeare to be 
too great for the stage, and bluntly declares that he 
would never go to see a play of Shakespeare acted if 
he could help it, his " most exquisite reason " being 
that " not only are the more refined poetical beauties, 
the minuter strokes of character, lost to the audience, 
but the most striking and impressive passages, those 



Ti.] THE BEGINNING OF STRIFE 107 

which having once read we can never forget, fail 
comparatively of their effect except in one or two 
instances." This cannot be good dramatic criticism, 
and would have made Shakespeare stare. Mr. John 
Forster, who was by the cabman's report "a very 
harbitrary gent," has gone so far as to affirm positively 
and in the teeth of Landor, Lamb, and Hazlitt, that 
the author of Lear " would rather have seen his play 
acted, however wretchedly, in a barn than heard it 
read to perfection in a palace." The bam might have 
amused, but the " Shakespearean Reading " in the 
palace must have bored Shakespeare well nigh to 
death. 

Talfourd's remark that "the players put Hazlitt 
out " is often quoted, and cannot be disregarded. It 
probably meant no more than that the critic got easily 
tired of stage niceties and "business," and preferred 
pursuing his own thoughts and snuffing the perfume 
of his own sentimental memories to keeping his atten- 
tion fixed upon the exits and entrances of the com- 
pany. If seeing Hazlitt's favourite Kean was like 
reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning, so reading 
Hazlitt's criticism of Kean is like seeing that actor 
by flashes of lightning. The gaps Hazlitt filled up out 
of his own head. 

I expect, it is true, that fond as Hazlitt may have 
been of the play, he enjoyed old plays and old play- 
bills far more than he did turning out to go to Drury 
Lane to write a column and a half even about Kean. 
His was a literary, not a dramatic gusto. 

" If, indeed, by any spell or power of necromancy, all the 
celebrated actors, for the last hundred years, could be made 



108 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

to appear again on the boards of Covent Garden and Drury 
Lane for the last time, in their most brilliant parts, what 
a rich treat to the to¥m, what a feast for the critics, to go 
and see Betterton, and Booth, and Wilks, and Sandford, 
and Nokes, and Leigh, and Penkethman, and Bullock, and 
Estcourt, and Dogget, and Mrs. Barry, and Mrs. Montfort, 
and Mrs. Oldfield, and Mrs. Bracegirdle, and Mrs. Gibber, and 
Gibber himself the prince of coxcombs, and Macklin, and 
Quin, and Rich, and Mrs. Glive, and Mrs. Pritchard, and Mrs. 
Abingdon, and Weston, and Shuter, and Garrick, and all the 
rest of those who ' gladdened life, and whose death eclipsed 
the gaiety of nations ' ! We should certainly be there. We 
should buy a ticket for the season. We should eiyoy cur 
hundred days again. We should not miss a single night. 
We would not, for a great deal, be absent from Betterton's 
Hamlet or his Brutus, or from Booth's Gato, as it was first 
acted to the contending applause of Whigs and Tories. We 
should be in the first row when Mrs. Barry (who was kept 
by Lord Rochester, and with whom Gtway was in love) 
played Monimia or Belvidera ; and we suppose we should go 
to see Mrs. Bracegirdle (with whom all the world was in 
love) in all her parts. We should then know exactly whether 
Penkethman's manner of picking a chicken, and Bullock's 
mode of devouring asparagus, answered to the ingenious 
account of them in the Tatler ; and whether Dogget was 
equal to Dowton ; whether Mrs. Montford or Mrs. Abingdon 
was the finest lady ; whether Wilks or Gibber was the best 
Sir Henry Wildair ; whether Macklin was really * the Jew 
that Shakespeare drew'; and whether Garrick was, upon 
the whole, so great an actor as the world would have made 
him out ! Many people have a strong desire to pry into the 
secrets of futurity ; but for our own parts, we should be 
satisfied if we had the power to recall the dead, and live the 
past over again, as often as we pleased ! " — Griticisms of the 
English stage. On Actors and Acting, 

Hazlitt's name as a dramatic critic is linked with 
Edmund Kean's, "the little man in a great passion," as 
his enemies called him. Hazlitt was in Drury Lane 



< 



VI.] THE BEGINNING OF STRIFE 109 

on the 26th of January 1814, when " Mr. Kean from 
the Theatre Royal, Exeter," assumed the part of 

I Shyloek, and the criticism of Kean's Shylock appeared 

I in the Morning Chronicle the next day. Eighty-seven 

years have taken the fire out of Hazlitt's first notice 
of Kean ; but followed up as that notice was by other 
criticisms of the same great actor^s Hamlet, Othello, 
lago, Macbeth, and Richard the Third, parts which, 

^ according to the happy practice of the time, succeeded 

one another with exciting and stimulating rapidity, 
Hazlitt's praise produced a great impression, and gave 
rise to the report, absolutely without foundation, that 
the critic had received £1500 from the management 
of Drury Lane to puff Kean. 

Hazlitt had been told by his editor to give Kean 

* as favourable a notice as he could, and he gave a true 

one. He rejoiced over Kean as the first gleam of 
genius thrown across the stage for many a long day. 
He found in him, for all his faults and shortcomings, 
a great actor, and he said so over and over again. His 
praise was discriminating. He was, I need not say, 
no stage-struck admirer, no fatuous, foolish-faced 
devotee, like those of old to whom 

**Pritchard's genteel and Garrick six feet high." 

To Hazlitt Kean did not cease to be a little man 
with a hoarse voice simply because he could act 
Othello, nor did he find it necessary to belittle Kemble 
^ because in certain parts and in certain ways he pre- 

I ferred Kean. Mr. Lewes, who used to see Kean 

between the years 1825 and 1832, agrees with Hazlitt 
in thinking Othello his greatest part. Lewes, like 
Hazlitt, was a great admirer, and accounted Kean, 



110 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

when measured by his strongest part, as incomparably 
the greatest actor he had ever seen. Both critics refer 
with delight to his acting of the scene with Anne in 
Kichard the Third — to both Kean was a happy life- 
long memory. What nonsense it is about Shakespeare 
not being an acting dramatist! Kean's Eomeo did 
not excite Hazlitt's admiration. " We never saw any- 
thing less ardent or less voluptuous. In the balcony 
scene, in particular, he was cold, tame, and unimpres- 
sive. It was said of Garrick and Barry in this scene 
that the one acted as if he would jump up to the lady, 
and the other as if he would make the lady jump down 
to him. Mr. Kean produced neither of these effects. 
He stood like a statue of lead." 

Hazlitt collected his dramatic criticisms, and made 
a volume of them in 1818 ; but before that date he had 
turned them to considerable use in preparing for the 
press his well-known book, the Characters of Shakes- 
pearls Plays (1817). This work is not usually connected 
with Hazlitt^s stage criticisms ; but no inconsiderable 
part of it, and that part the best, consists of extracts 
bodily uplifted from the Chronicle^ the Champion, and 
the Examiner. It is only necessary to compare the Mac- 
beth of the Characters with the criticism of Mr. Kean's 
Macbeth that appeared in the Champion of November 
13, 1814 ; the Othello of the Characters with the criti- 
cism of Mr. Kean's Othello that appeared in the 
Examiner of July 24, 1814, and January 7, 1816; 
the Coriolanus of the Charad^rs with the criticism of 
Mr. Kemble's Coriolanus that appeared in the Examiner 
of December 15, 1816 ; and to do the same with the 
Hamlet and Midsummer's Night's Dream of the 
Giaracters with the Chronide of March 14, 1814, and 



VI.] THE BEGINNING OF STRIFE 111 

the Eocaminer of January 21, 1816, to see clearly that 
but for. the newspapers and Kean, Hazlitt would never 
have written his Characters. 

Another noticeable thing is, how like a Criticism is 
to a Ckara/^er, and how like a Character to a Criticism, 
Whether Hazlitt is criticising Shakespeare in his 
study, or from a side-box in the theatre, hardly makes 
any difference. 

The obvious origin of the Character's explains a main 
defect. Hazlitt seldom gets away from the play in 
which the character he is discussing occurs ; there are 
few side-lights, cross-quotations ; he does not compare 
one character in one play with another in another 
play, but sticks to the "book of the play" more 
closely than there was any need for a literary critic to 
to do. When criticising a play as acted, why, then; 
the play is the thing ; but when writing at large about 
Shakespeare and his men and women, you may surely 
roam freely through his whole spacious domain. If 
there is too much of the library in Hazlitt's theatre, 
so perhaps there is a little too much of the theatre 
in Hazlitt's library. 

He did not confine himself during the years 1814- 
1816 to dramatic criticism ; he wrote de omnibus rebus 
in the pages of the Examiner ; and in 1817 the Bound 
Table appeared, containing fifty-two essays, all but 
twelve being Hazlitt's. The Examiner belonged to 
Leigh Hunt, whose original plan was that there should 
appear in it a series of papers in the manner of the 
Spectator and the Tatler by divers hands. Hence the 
title given to the series as it appeared in the columns 
of the paper. But Bonapai-te^s activity, so Hazlitt 
declares, broke up the Bound Table ; Hunt, who wrote 



112 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

the dozen papers that were not Hazlitt's, busied him- 
self in other ways ; no third pen was found ready, and 
the task of keeping up the Bound Table fell chiefly 
upon Hazlitt. 

In these two volumes we first meet with Hazlitt^ 
the miscellaneous writer. Montaigne was in Hazlitt's 
opinion the first person who in his essays led the way 
to this kind of writing among the modems, being, 
according to Hazlitt, the first who had the courage to 
say as an author what he felt as a man. ' Hazlitt had 
plenty of this kind of courage — put a pen in his hand, 
and he would say anything. In the Round Table he 
applies his mind to subjects so varied as the " Causes 
of Methodism " and " John Buncle,'' and to abstract 
themes such as " The Tendency of Sects " and " Post- 
humous Fame," and the analysis of character. 

For writing of this kind Hazlitt had many qualifica- 
tions; he is never priggish, and seldom even for a 
moment dull ; his fits of ill-temper and spleen are 
conveyed with a petulance that is never unpleasant ; 
whilst he is always full, perhaps to overflowing, of 
human nature and the love of things. " Give a man," 
he says in " The Fight," " a topic in his head, a throb 
of pleasure in his heart, and he will be glad to share 
it with the first person he meets." In this sentence 
you may see Hazlitt, the miscellaneous writer, the 
horror of landladies, so prone was he to scribble topics 
for essays in blacklead on their walls and mantel- 
pieces. When he found his topic, his heart throbbed, 
and still throbs, in a dozen volumes — "A tall Eng- 
lish yeoman " — I have still " The Fight " open before 
me — " was making such a prodigious noise about rent 
and taxes and the price of com now and formerly that 



VI.] THE BEGINNING OF STRIFE 113 

he had prevented us being heard at the gate. The 
first thing I heard him say was to a shuffling person 
who wanted to be off a bet for a shilling glass of 
brandy and water, 'Confound it, man — don't be 
insipid,' Thinks I, that is a good phrase." From 
insipidity, the curse of the miscellaneous writer, 
Hazlitt is wholly delivered. 

These Bound Table papers appeared in the Examiner 
between January 1815 and January 1817. Hazlitt 
never wrote better in his life. It was unfortunate 
that when he came to reprint these essays, he thought 
fit to include among them the "Character of Pitt," 
taken from Coleridge, and already part of his Fi^ee 
Thoughts pamphlet of 1806. An author who at last 
gets a hearing is tempted to force the public to listen 
to what it once refused to hear. How Gifford fell 
upon the Bound Table has been already told, nor did 
the Characters of Slwkespean^s Plays escape the same 
foul-mouthed condemnation. The readers of the 
Quarterly Beview were told that Hazlitt in composing 
his Characters disgraced literature, and proved that 
his knowledge of Shakespeare and the English lan- 
guage was on a par with the purity of his morals and 
the depth of his understanding. This diatribe is pro- 
fessedly based on some remarks upon "Coriolanus" 
which had first done duty in the Examiner as a criti- 
cism of Mr. Kemble in that character, and were after- 
wards used afresh in the CharacterSy but the ferocity of 
Gifford was entirely due to the fact that he regarded 
Hazlitt as a sour Jacobinical fellow who was against 
the Government. Had he written hymns, the same 
measure would have been meted out to him. Gifford's 
abuse stopped the sale of the Characters ; but, happily, 



114 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. ti. 

there is no need to grow tearful oyer Hazlitt's wrongs. 
He had enough bile in his hold to swamp a dozen 
GiffordSi of whom he was to speak his mind both in 
his Letter to William Oiffordf Esq. (1819)^ and in his 
Spirit of the Age (1825). 



CHAPTER VII 

LIFE AND LECTURES 

Having seen Hazlitt fairly matriculated in the school, 
to use his own bitter words, of " squint-eyed suspicion, 
idiot wonder, and grinning scorn," it will be as well 
to return for a short while to his life, as he led it, 
apart from his manifold scribblings in the press. We 
left him sitting in Milton's wainscoted room on the 
first floor of No. 19 York Street, out of the windows 
of which he could see his landlord, old Jeremy Ben- 
tham, skipping about his garden " in eager conversa- 
tion with some opposition member, some expatriated 
patriot or transatlantic adventurer, urging the extinc- 
tion of close boroughs, or planning a code of laws for 
some Uone island in the watery waste,' his walk 
almost amounting to a run, his tongue keeping pace 
with it in shrill, clattering accents, negligent of his 
person, his dress, and his manners, intent only on his 
grand theme of Utility." ^ Hazlitt is as good a hand 
at a description as Carlyle himself. 

Unluckily, the marriage with Miss Stoddart did not 
turn out a success. It would have been strange if 
it had. Neither party had bargained for happiness. 
It was not a case of love flying out of the window, for 
the love was never there. Mrs. Hazlitt was unroman- 
tic, undomestic, untidy, and selfish, and her husband 

1 * Jeremy Bentham.' — The Spirit of the Age. 

116 



116 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

was a sentimentalist on paper, irregular in habits, 
uncertain in temper, and at least as selfish as his 
spouse. The result was uncomfortable. The couple 
had neither money, manners, nor love to keep them 
together. With Gifford ravening like a wolf in 
Albemarle Street, and Bonaparte shut up with Sir 
Hudson Lowe in Longwood, it would have been a 
consolatory circumstance had there been an Angel in 
the house in York Street. Charles Churchill is not a 
sincere poet, but his lines ring true : — 

** *Tis not the babbling of a busy world, 
Where praise and censore are at random hurled, 
Which can the meanest of my thoughts control, 
Or shake one settled purpose of my soul ; 
Free and at large might their wild curses roam 
If all, if all, alas I were well at home." 

All was not well at home, but the Hazlitts got on at 
least as well as might be expected. They never laid 
hands on each other, and indeed remained through the 
very oddest occurrences good friends enough. Their 
little boy was a source of pleasure and a comfort to 
both his parents. Haydon, whose acquaintance Haz- 
litt made in Northcote's studio, has recorded in his 
diary how he once went by invitation to York Street 
to attend the somewhat delayed christening of the 
young William, now a boy three years old. On arriv- 
ing at the door Haydon found Hazlitt out, and no 
signs of any impending rite. Mrs. Hazlitt was in a 
bedgown and low spirits, and said that her husband 
had gone out to look for a parson. Haydon went in 
search and found the father in St. James's Park in a 
great rage, all the parsons being away from home. 
The ceremony had to be postponed, but later in the 



Til.] LIFE AND LECTURES 117 

afternoon Charles Lamb and his sister arrived, and 
one or two others, and there was good talk, but no 
food. The boy was duly christened (I hasten to add) 
in St. Margaret's Church on the 26th of September 1814. 

Mrs. Hazlitt had good cause for her low spirits and 
indifferent health, as may be found stated with un- 
usual bluntness in her grandson's Memoirs of William 
Hazlitt (1867). Another son, christened John, was 
born in 1815, but, to his father's lasting sorrow, died 
before he had lived a year. 

Although Hazlitt was not a man famous for his 
friendships, he was a good hand at making acquaint- 
ances. He was excellent company on the top of a 
stage-coach or in the parlour of an old inn. He had 
no passion for respectability, and did not insist on 
genius. He was not fond of parties ; and though he 
looked well on his way to Mr. Curran's " in black silk 
smalls and blue coat and gilt buttons," he did not 
willingly wear such clothes. The Bloomsbury gran- 
deur of the Montagus did not impress him. He pre- 
ferred the company of any Mr. John Simpkins, 
"hosier in the Strand," or of Mr. Fisher, "the potd-r 
terer in Duke Street," who, wiser than Lamb, could 
enjoy both Oil Bias and Don Quixote^ and doted on 
Sterne, to that of dull members of Parliament, or of 
authors in love with themselves. His essays are full 
of references to odd acquaintances whose society and 
characteristic, if not profound, remarks tickled his 
fancy : ^ " One of the most pleasant and least tiresome 

1 " I know an undertaker that is the greatest prig in the streets 
of London, and an Aldermanhnry haberdasher that has the most 
military strut of any lounger in Bond Street or St. James's." --' Essay 
on Fashion in Sketches and Essays (1839). 



118 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

of our acquaintance is a hnmourist who has three or 
four quaint witticisms and proverbial phrases which he 
always repeats over and over ; but he does this with the 
same yivacity and freshness as ever, so that you feel the 
same amusement with less effort than if he had startled 
his hearers with a succession of original conceits." 

Mr. George Mounsey of Staple Inn, of the firm of 
Mounsey and Gray, Solicitors, lives in Hazlitt's Essay 
on Coffee-house Politicians, after the same, though 
not quite the same fashion, as does George Dyer in 
the Essays of Elia. Hazlitt never grew tired of 
Mounsey, though others speedily did. This excellent, 
though bibulous solicitor, was the oldest frequenter 
and longest sitter-up of the Southampton Coffee-house 
standing at the corner of Southampton Buildings and 
Chancery Lane.* Just the place for a solicitor. " I 
never knew Mounsey approve of anything unfair or 
illiberal. There is a candour and uprightness about 
his mind which can be neither wheedled or browbeat 
into unjustifiable complaisance. He looks straight 
forward as he sits with his glass in his hand, turning 
neither to the right nor to the left. . . . Mounsey with- 
out being the most communicative is the most conver- 
sible man I know. ... If he has nothing to say, he 
drinks your health. . . . His favourite phrase is, 
' We have all of us something of the coxcomb.' " 

Mounsey in his day had consorted with wits. At 
least he said he knew Tobin, Porson, Wilson, Paley, 
Erskine, and others, and he could speak of the pleas- 
antness of Paley and the potations and Greek of 
Porson. But of Greek in cider cellars Mounsey had 

1 He disappears from the Law Lists about 1832. 



VII.] LIFE AND LECTURES 119 

no great opinion; and on Hazlitt's saying that he 
once, and only once, saw Porson, and that was in the 
library of the London Institution in Finsbury Square, 
when he was dressed in an old rusty black coat with 
cobwebs hanging to the skirts of it, and with a large 
patch of brown paper covering the whole length of 
his nose, looking for all the world like a drunken 
carpenter, and talking to one of the proprietors with 
an air of suavity approaching condescension, Mounsey 
observed, " I submit, sir, whether common-sense is not 
the principal thing." 

Another acquaintance was Joseph Parkes, also a 
solicitor, a Birmingham man, and the author, if I mis- 
take not, of an exceedingly interesting, not to say 
exciting. History of the Court of Chancery composed 
in a spirit of rational reform which it has taken half 
a century partially to realise. Parkes had his lighter 
moments, which have secured him a fame which has 
already outlived the old Court he wrote about, for he 
figures in Hazlitt's famous "Fight": "Joe and I, 
though we seldom met, were an alter idem on this 
memorable occasion, and had not an idea that we did 
not candidly impart ; and so carelessly did we fleet the 
time, that I wish no better when there is another fight 
than to have him for a companion on my journey down 
and to return with my friend Jack . Pigott talking of 
what was to happen, or what did happen, with a noble 
subject always at hand, and liberty to digress to others 
whenever they offered." 

What was the noble subject always at hand when in 
company with Jack Pigott ? Had it been " Bob Pigott," 
"the Englishman of the French Revolution," the answer 
would be easy ; but Robert Pigott died in 1794. 



120 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

Between Lamb and Hazlitt there was real friend- 
ship; and, in the true sense of a phrase now soiled by 
ignoble use, mutual admiration. They quarrelled at 
times — once, but not for long, over an early copy of 
Wordsworth's Excursion^ sent to Lamb for the purpose 
of a review in the Quarterly of all places. Hazlitt 
heard of its arrival, and sent Martin Bumey to lay 
hands on it, which Martin did, and brought it back to 
Hazlitt, who at once sat himself down and wrote a 
long and eloquent but independent critique, which was 
forthwith printed in the Eocaminer, and afterwards re- 
printed in the Bound Table, and all this before Lamb 
had time to compose a sentence of his review for 
the Quarterly, which when it did appear was so 
mangled by the editor as to be worthless. Elia was 
annoyed, and no wonder ; and Hazlitt was so annoyed 
at his being annoyed, that he called at the Temple and 
gave Charles and his sister "a good blowing-up." 
There are several references to this affair in Lamb's 
letters to the Wordsworths. Afterwards a more serious 
quarrel, about what I know not, separated the two 
friends for too long a period; but Lamb's famous 
letter to Southey, which appeared in the London 
Magazine for October 1823, contained an allusion to 
Hazlitt in terms which made a reconciliation inevitable. 

A well-known essay of Hazlitt's is called " Persons 
one would wish to have seen," and purports to be a 
record of the talk at one of Lamb's "Wednesdays" in 
the Temple. I do not think it is one of his happiest 
efforts, and it is impossible to accept it as a specimen 
of Lamb's mode of talk. Hazlitt had not the temperar 
ment of a Boswell, his disposition was too indolent, 
his wit too quick, his historic conscience too sluggish, 



VII.] LIFE AND LECTURES 121 

to make him a trustworthy reporter of other men's 
talk.^ His book on Northcote illustrates his method. 
It no doubt contains some of the things Northcote 
said; but how much should be Northcote, and how 
much Hazlitt, talking as if he were Northcote, was 
determined by the whim of the moment of writing. 

A better account of Lamb and his friends is to be 
found in the essay On the Conversation of Authors : — 

" This was the case formerly at Lamb's, where we used to 
have many lively skirmishes at their Thursday evening parties. 
for the pen of John Buncle to consecrate a petit souvenir 
to their memory 1 There was Lamb himself, the most de- 
hghtful, the most provoking, the most witty and sensible of 
men. He always made the best pun and the best remark in 
the course of the evening. His serious conversation, like his 
serious writing, is his best. No one ever stammered out 
such fine, piquant, deep, eloquent things in half-a-dozen half 
sentences as he does. His jests scald like tears, and he 
probes a question with a play upon words. What a keen, 
laughing, hair-brained vein of home-felt truth ! What choice 
venom ! How often did we cut into the haunch of letters 
while we discussed the haunch of mutton on the table ! How 
we skimmed the cream of criticism 1 How we got into the 
heart of controversy ! How we picked out the marrow of 
authors ! * And, in our flowing cups, many a good name 
and true was fireshly remembered.' Recollect (most sage and 
critical reader) that in all this I was but a guest ! Need I 
go over the names ? They were but the old everlasting set 
— Milton and Shakespeare, Pope and Dryden, Steele and 
Addison, Swift and Gay, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, Richard- 
son, Hogarth's prints, Claude's landscapes, the cartoons at 
Hampton Court, and all those things that, having once been, 
must ever be. The Scotch novels had not then been heard 
of; so we said nothing about them. In general, we were 
hard upon the moderns. The author of the Rambler was 

1 His memory was seldom at fault (see Lamb's ' Mystification/ 
before quoted) , but he had no conscience in such matters. 



122 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

only tolerated in Boswell's Life of him; and it was as much 
as any one could do to edge in a word for Junius. Lamb 
could not bear Gil BUu. This was a fault. I remember 
the greatest triumph I ever had was in persuading him, after 
some years' difficulty, that Fielding was better than Smollett. 
On one occasion he was for making out a list of persons 
famous in history that one would wish to see again — at the 
head of whom were Pontius Pilate, Sir Thomas Browne, and 
Dr. Faustus — but we blackballed most of his list! But 
with what a gusto would he describe his &yourite authors, 
Donne, or Sir Philip Sidney, and call their most crabbed 
passages delicious I He tried them on his palate as epicures 
taste olives, and his observations had a smack in them, like 
a roughness on the tongue. With what discrimination he 
hinted a defect in what he admired most — as in saying that 
the display of the sumptuous banquet in Paradise Regained 
was not in true keeping, as the simplest fare was aU that was 
necessary to tempt the extremity of hunger, and stating that 
Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost were too much like married 
people. He has furnished many a text for Coleridge to preach 
upon. There was no fuss or cant about him ; nor were his 
sweets or his sours ever diluted with one particle of aflfectation. 
I cannot say that the party at Lamb's were all of one descrip- 
tion. There were honorary members, lay brothers. Wit and 
good fellowship was the motto inscribed over the door. When 
a stranger came in, it was not asked, 'Has he written any- 
thing ? ' — we were above that pedantry; but we waited to see 
what he could do. If he could take a hand at piquet, he was 
welcome to sit down. If a person liked anything, if he 
took snuff heartily, it was sufficient. He would understand 
by analogy the pungency of other things besides Irish black- 
guard or Scotch rappee. A character was good anywhere, in 
a room or on paper. But we abhorred insipidity, affectation, 
and fine gentlemen. There was one of our party who never 
failed to mark Hwo for his Nob' at cribbage, and he was 
thought no mean person. This was Ned Phillips, and a 
better fellow in his way breathes not. There was Bickman, 
who asserted some incredible matter-of-fact as a likely para- 
dox, and settled all controversies by an ipse dixi% Ajiat of 



VII.] LIFE AND LECTUBES 128 

his will, hammering out many a hard theoiy on the anvil 
of his brain — the Baron Munchausen of politics and practical 
philosophy ; there was Captain Bumey, who had you at an 
advantage by never understanding you ; there was Jem White, 
the author of Fatstaff^s Letters, who the other day left this 
dull world to go in search of more kindred spirits, 'turning like 
the^atter end of a lover's lute * ; there was Ayrton, who some- 
times dropped in, the Will Honeycomb of our set ; and Mrs. 
Reynolds, who, being of a quiet turn, loved to hear a noisy 
debate. An utterly uninformed person might have supposed 
this a scene of vulgar confusion and uproar. While the 
most critical question was pending, while the most difficult 
problem in philosophy was solving, Phillips cried out, * That's 
game,' and Martin Bumey muttered a quotation over the last 
remains of a veal pie at a side-table. Once, and once only, 
the Uterary interest overcame the general. For Coleridge was 
riding the high German horse, and demonstrating the cate- 
gories of the transcendental philosophy to the author of the 
Road to Ruin ; who insisted on his knowledge of German 
and German metaphysics, having read the Critique of Pure 
Reason in the original. * My dear Mr. Holcroft,' said Cole- 
ridge, in a tone of infinitely provoking conciliation, *you 
really put me in mind of a sweet pretty German girl, about 
fifteen, that I met with in the Hartz forest in Germany, and 
who one day, as I was reading the Limits of the Knowable 
and the UnknowahUf the profoundest of all his works, with 
great attention, came behind my chair, and leaning over, said, 
" What, you read Kant ? Why, / that am a German bom 
don't understand him 1 " ' This was too much to bear ; and 
Holcroft, starting up, called out in no measured tone, * Mr. 
Coleridge, you are the most eloquent man I ever met with, 
and the most troublesome with your eloquence ! ' Phillips 
held the cribbage-peg that was to mark him game suspended 
in his hand, and the whist table was silent for a moment. I 
saw Holcroft downstairs ; and on coming to the landing-place 
in Mitre Court, he stopped me to observe that * he thought 
Mr. Coleridge a very clever man, with a great command of 
language, but that he feared he did not always affix very 
precise ideas to the words he used.' After he was gone we 



124 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

had oar laugh out, and went on with the argument on the 
nature of Reason, and Imagination, and the Will. I wish I 
could find a publisher for it ; it would make a supplement 
to the Biographia Literaria in a volume and half octavo." ^ 

Hazlitt's finances were never prosperous ; but though 
not a good accountant, be was a practical economist, 
bis tastes being simple and bis habits inexpensive, 
though two ounces at breakfast and two at tea-time 
of Souchong, at twelve shillings a pound, bought at 
Robinson's in Piccadilly, must have cost a good deal 
more by the end of the year than Lamb's porter. As a 
journalist and dramatic critic he earned a fair wage ; 
and from 1814 to the end of his life he was a regular, 
and until the advent of Macaulay, the most brilliant, 
contributor to the Edinburgh Review. Hardly any man 
is altogether free from the taint of respectability ; and 
there is something half touching, half ludicrous, in the 
pride Hazlitt always had in becoming and remaining 
a contributpr to the " Blue and Buff," although, as a 
matter of fact, he wrote far better for Hunt's Yellow 
Dwarf thBJi ever he did for Jeffrey in the Edinburgh, 

His income from all sources was never large, five or 
six hundred a year at the most ; and as Mrs. Hazlitt 
had no domestic gifts, it is not surprising to come 
across traces of distress and anxiety. The philosophic 
Bentham seems so far to have forgotten his abhorrence 
of attorneys and our absurd juridical system, as to 
put an execution for rent into Milton's house; and, 
when remonstrated with, to have excused himself by 
saying he had never heard of Hazlitt as an author, 
and regarded him only as a tenant. And yet the old 

1 * On the Conversation of Authors.* — T?ie Plain Speaker. 



VII.] LIFE AND LECTURES 125 

man had visited Leigh Hunt in prison ; and finding 
the author of Rimini playing battledore and shuttle- 
cock with his jailer, not only watched the game with 
interest, but at its close volunteered a practical reform 
in the constitution of shuttlecocks, which struck the 
jailer as excellent, and has remained unattended to 
from that day to this. 

But Hazlitt's money matters, like his domestic affairs, 
might have been worse than they were. He was never 
in prison for debt, or even inside a sponging-house, as 
was Dr. Johnson. 

His last work as a dramatic critic was done for the 
TiraeSy a paper which, though it abused Bonaparte, 
managed to stroke Hazlitt the right way ; for in his 
preface to his View of the English Stage (1818) he advises 
" any one who has an ambition to write, and to write 
his best in the periodical press, to get, if he can, a posi- 
tion in the Times newspaper, the editor, of which is a 
man of business, and not a man of letters. He may 
write there as long and as good articles as he can with- 
out being turned out for it." 

This is handsomely put, though whether Hazlitt 
meant to give pleasure to Mr. Walter, or pain to Mr. 
Perry, it were rash to affirm. 

Mr. Alsager, who was at this time the commercial 
editor of the Tirrvesy was also on the Committee of the 
Surrey Institution in the Blackfriars Eoad, Mr. P. G. 
Patmore being the secretary. On Mr. Alsager's 
introduction, Hazlitt proposed to the Committee to 
deliver a course of lectures in the evening on the Eng- 
lish Poets. The offer was accepted, and the lectures 
delivered, and, proving successful, two other courses 
followed, and the three courses form three volumes : — 



126 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

I. Lectures on the English Poets. 1818. 
II. Lectures on the English Comic Writers. 1819. 

III. Lectures on the Dramatic Literature of the Age 
of Elizabeth. 1820. 

These poetical lectures were better attended than 
the metaphysical ones of 1812; but the number of 
persons likely to turn out on January evenings to 
hear a journalist, and the late dramatic critic of the 
Chronidey discourse on Shakespeare and Milton in the 
Blackf riars Boad, could never be large. Coleridge was 
again lecturing, sometimes on the very same evening, 
in a small hall in Flower-de-luce Court, off Fetter Lane. 
Two such lecturers at Coleridge and Hazlitt are not on 
Major Pond's list, but the great world never gets the 
best of anything — it always waits too long. 

Mr. Patmore, in his FViends and Acqtuiintances 
(1854), says he remembers walking home to York 
Street with Hazlitt after the first lecture, and how 
at first Hazlitt declined to take the proffered arm of 
the secretary; but on its being pressed upon him, 
took hold of it " as if it had been a bar of hot iron, 
and fingered it gingerly." 

Like most lecturers, Hazlitt had to put up as best 
he could with his audiences. The motives that prompt 
men and women to go to lectures on winter nights 
are varied, and include many which have nothing to 
do with respect for the lecturer or interest in his 
subject. Talfourd's account of the lectures is too 
good to be omitted: — 

"Mr. Hazlitt delivered three courses of lectures at the 
Surrey Institution, to the matter of which we have repeatedly 
alluded — on *The English Poets,' on *The English Comic 



VII.] LIFE AND LECTURES 127 

Writers,' and on * The Age of Elizabeth ' — before audiences 
with whom he had but * an imperfect sympathy.* They con- 
sisted chiefly of Dissenters, who agreed with him in his hatred 
of Lord Castlereagh, but who * loved no plays * ; of Quakers, 
who approved him as the opponent of Slavery and Capital 
Punishment, but who * heard no music ' ; of citizens, devoted 
to the main chance, who had a hankering after 'the im- 
provement of the mind,' but to whom his favourite doctrine 
of its natural disinterestedness was a riddle ; of a few enemies, 
who came to sneer ; and a few friends, who were eager to learn 
and to admire. The comparative insensibility of the bulk of 
his audience to his finest pafisages sometimes provoked him to 
awaken their attention by points which broke the train of his 
discourse, after which he could make himself amends by some 
abrupt paradox which might set their prejudices on edge, and 
make them fancy they were shocked. He startled many of 
them at the onset by observing that since Jacob's dream 
' the heavens have gone further off and become astronomical,' 
a fine extravagance, which the ladies and gentlemen who had 
grown astronomical themselves under the preceding lecturer 
felt called on to resent as an attack on their severer studies. 
When he read a well-known extract from Cowper, comparing 
a poorer cottager with Voltaire, and had pronounced the line 
* a truth the brilliant Frenchman never knew,' they broke into 
a joyous shout of self-gratulation, that they were so much 
wiser than a wicked Frenchman. When he passed by Mrs. 
Hannah More with observing that ' she had written a great 
deal which he had never read,' a voice gave expression to the 
general commiseration and surprise by calling out, * More pity 
for you ! ' They were confounded at his reading, with more 
emphasis perhaps than discretion, Gay's epigrammatic lines 
on Sir Richard Blackmore, in which scriptural persons are 
freely hitched into rhyme ; but he went doggedly on to the 
end, and, by his perseverance, baffled those who, if he acknow- 
ledged himself wrong by stopping, would have hissed him 
without mercy. He once had an edifying advantage over 
them. He was enumerating the humanities which endeared 
Dr. Johnson to his mind ; and at the close of an agreeable 
catalogue mentioned, as last and noblest, 'his canying the 



128 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

poor victim of disease and dissipation on his back through 
Fleet Street,' at which a titter arose from some, who were 
struck by the picture as ludicrous, and a murmur fh)m others, 
who deemed the allusion unfit for ears polite. He paused 
for an instant, and then added in his sturdiest and most 
impressive manner, ' an act which realises the parable of the 
Good Samaritan,' at which his moral and delicate hearers 
shrank rebuked into deep silence. He was not eloquent in 
the true sense of the term ; for his thoughts were too weighty 
to be moved along by the shallow stream of feeling which an 
evening's excitement can rouse. He wrote all his lectures, 
and read them as they were written ; but his deep voice and 
earnest manner suited his matter well. He seemed to dig 
into his subject — and not in vain. In delivering his longer 
quotations, he had scarcely continuity enough for the versi- 
fication of Shakespeare and Milton, ' with linked sweetness 
long drawn out'; but he gave Pope's brilliant satire and 
divine compliments, which are usually complete within the 
couplet, with an elegance and point which the poet himself 
would have felt as their highest praise." ^ 

Hazlitt had, however, one auditor who would have 
de-vulgarised Tammany Hall, for John Keats regu- 
larly attended the first course, and wrote: "Hazlitt's 
last was on Gray, Collins, Young, etc., and he gave a 
very fine piece of discriminating criticism on Swift, 
Voltaire, and Rabelais. I was very disappointed with 
his treatment of Chatterton." What Hazlitt had said 
about Chatterton was this: " He did not show extraor- 
dinary powers of genius, but extraordinary precoc- 
ity. Nor do I believe he would have written better 
had he lived. He knew this himself, or he would 
have lived." It is easy to understand this rough-fibred 
sentence, which smacks of Chelsea, falling harshly on 
the sensitive ear of Keats, who, with nothing yet done, 

1 See Literary RemainSf i, czzvii. 



VII.] LIFE AND LECTURES 129 

had but three feverish years to live, in which, however, 
he was to build for himself an immortality of fame. 

These lectures of Hazlitt's must have had many 
students ; for it is impossible to read them without 
noticing how firmly he has managed to imbed, or pot 
out, his ideas and opinions about the English poets 
into the clay of our compositions. To-day all ordinary, 
well-read, sensible people, the commonplace critics 
about whom Hazlitt wrote in the Bound Table almost 
as amusingly as Dr. Johnson had done before him in 
the Bambler, entertain as their own the lecturer's 
opinions about Chaucer and Spenser, Gray and Collins, 
Swift and Goldsmith ; but in 1818, when Dr. Darwin 
and Hayley were still preferred to Cowper and Bums, 
whilst Akenside (the favourite poet of Hannah More) 
and Young loomed large in the general mind, these 
opinions of Hazlitt's were very far from being "in 
widest commonalty spread." 

Hazlitt's success in circulating his opinions is largely 
attributable to the fact that, like his sworn admirer 
in our own day, Mr. Bagehot, he has always been a 
favourite author with journalists and ready-writers. 
His views are infectious, his style attractive, and his 
words very quotable with or without acknowledg- 
ment. Indeed, it is very hard always to remember 
when you are quoting Hazlitt. No more original 
miscellaneous writer can easily be named than this 
same Mr. Bagehot, and yet he occasionally gives you 
half a page of Hazlitt without a word said about it. 
Compare Bagehot's description of Southey in his essay 
on " Shakespeare " (IJterary Studies, i. 137) with Haz- 
litt's sketch of Southey in The Spirit of tJie Age, and 
what I mean will be made plain. Gracious rills from 



130 WILLIAM HAZLITT [ckap. 

the Hazlitt watershed have flowed in all diiectionsy 

fertilising a diy and thirstj land. Yon can mark 

their track as, to quote Cowper's beautiful lines about 

real rills, they 

'* lose themaelves at length ^ 

In matted grass that with a liyelier green 
Betrays the secret of their silent course.** 

Hazlitt approached his task as a critic of poetry in 
a manly spirit of appreciation. He liked poetry as 
he liked Salisbury Plain and Mrs. Siddons and Titian 
and Claude, for the pleasure it gave him and the good 
it did him. Poetry tickled his ear, excited his fancy, 
moved his heart. He was not a regular student, origi- 
nal research was no more in his way than in John- 
son's. Indeed, he would have done better had he 
taken more pains. 

He was quite above the miserable affectation of pre- 
tending to care only for poetry. He cared, as we 
know, for a great many other things. "Poetry," he 
says in his essay on "People with One Idea," "is a 
very fine thing, but there are other things besides." 
"I deny," he wrote in his preface to the Political 
Tracts, "that liberty and slavery are convertible terms; 
that right and wrong, truth and falsehood, plenty and ^ 

famine, the comforts or wretchedness of a people, are 
matters of perfect indifference." For Hazlitt, poetry 
was no mere 

'* Stretched metre of an antique song '* ; 

it was food for the mind, matter for the heart — some- ^ 

thing that helped him to go on living, thinking, loving, 
and it must be added, hating. He loved Milton for his 



VII.] LIFE AND LECTURES 131 

republicanism at least as much as for his versification ; 
and he certainly would have found something to say 
for Modoc and the Curse of Kehartia had not Southey 
deserted his first love and taken up with the false 
Duessa, that hateful Legitimacy, by which word Haz- 
litt always means the cause of those European kings 
with whose crowns Bonaparte had once played so 
glorious a game of bowls. 

Fine literary folk who think a new play by Shake- 
speare would be cheaply purchased with the Bill of 
Rights will never be quite reconciled to Hazlitt. 

In both poetry and prose Hazlitt's preferences were 
frankly avowed and his dislikes outspoken. He never 
hesitated to say as an author what he felt as a man. 
He belonged to no school or coterie. His knowledge 
and taste for poetry was increased and purified by his 
friendship with Lamb ; and he had felt the stimulus 
of Coleridge in poetry as well as in metaphysics and 
politics, but he remained his own man — a solitary 
and'independent figure. He liked Blair's Orave and 
Warton's Sonnets, and he said so. Sir Philip Sidney's 
Arcadia bored him to death, and he said so. Sir 
Thomas Browne's strained fancifulness and jargonised 
speech teased him, and he said so. On the other 
hand, what member of the Anglican Church has so 
bathed the name of Jeremy Taylor in the sunshine 
of eloquent appreciation as has this Jacobinical son 
of a Socinian preacher? 

In singling out Hazlitt's treatment of Swift for espe- 
cial praise, Keats showed that recognition of the great 
merits of Swift's versification which the author of 
the Ode to Autumn shared with the author of (Enone, 
" There is not only," said Hazlitt, " a dry humour, an 



182 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

exquisite tone of irony in these productions [the Imi- 
tations of Horojce and the Dean's verses on his own 
death], but there is a touching, unpretending pathos 
mixed up with the most whimsical and eccentric 
strokes of satire." Glorious John was wrong for once 
when he said, "Cousin Swift, you will never be a 
poet,'' but perhaps Dryden meant a poet "in the 
grand style/' 

Young, Hazlitt had the courage to dismiss as a 
gloomy epigrammatist who had abused great powers 
of thought and language. Of Young's powers of lan- 
guage there can be no doubt — he served his turn and 
stirred to the pitch of enthusiasm the boyish admira- 
tion of Edmund Burke. The genius of Collins, some- 
what of a test case in 1818, Hazlitt proudly hails ; and 
he puts him above Gray, his usual yoke-fellow in the 
publisher's harness, though Hazlitt was very glad to 
extol the merits of the Elegy, since it enabled him to 
have a sly dig at Wordsworth, who once undertook 
to show that the language of that famous piece is 
" unintelligible," yet, says Hazlitt dryly, " it has been 
understood." To Dryden, Hazlitt fails to do complete 
justice, but his Pope is perfect. Gay, he oddly pre- 
fers to Prior. Akenside, he banished in a sentence, 
which must have made many of his hearers very angry, 
for in liberal Nonconforming circles Akenside was long 
considered only second to Milton. 

With our earlier poets Hazlitt had but a haphazard 
acquaintance. The poetry he had not read would 
fill many volumes. Donne's poems he evidently did 
not know ; and though he displays his critical gift by 
his treatment of Marvell, he frankly admitted he had 
never read the "Ode upon Cromwell's Return from 



VII.] LIFE AND LECTURES 188 

Ireland/' which contains the famous lines upon the 
death of the king. 

For Drummond of Hawthomden, Suckling, and 
Wither he exhibits an unexpected tenderness, prob- 
ably attributable to his spending an evening with 
Charles Lamb. The secret of Herrick's charm was 
never revealed to him. 

For the Elizabethan dramatists other than Shake- 
speare, Hazlitt had no feeling, and with their writings 
but small familiarity. He shared Landor's indiffer- 
ence. Ben Jonson he could not but greatly admire, 
but he had made no study of his plays, which have 
been called works. Yet for all this, Hazlitt's intro- 
ductory lecture to these dramatists is a splendid per- 
formance, and in one of the most perfunctory of the 
lectures he showed his fine poetic feeling by quoting 
from John Lyly's Alexander and Campaspe the Apelles 
song " Cupid and my Campaspe played.'' 

It was probably Hazlitt's quotation that led to this 
superb lyric being included in Chambers's EncydopoRdia 
of English Literaiurey a popular collection which did 
more in its day to instil good taste and the love of 
literature in the minds of young England and Scot- 
land than Church, State, or University. 

As for the four dramatists, Wycherley, Congreve, 
Vanbrugh, and Farquhar, Hazlitt is probably the 
last critic likely to be read who writes about their 
plays with a complete abandonment to their point of 
view. In 1818 the dramas of these distinguished wits, 
or some of them, still held the boards. "Munden's 
FwesighJtp wrote Hazlitt, " if it is not just the thing, 
is a wonderful rich and powerful piece of comic act- 
ing. His look is planet-struck, his dress and appear- 



184 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

ance like one of the signs of the zodiac taken down. 
Nothing can be more bewildered, and it only wants 
a little more helplessness, a little more of the doating 
querulous garrulity of the age, to be all that one con- 
ceives of the superannuated, star-gazing original." 
Munden in Congreve's Foresight evidently did not put 
Hazlitt out. This is true dramatic criticism. Milla- 
mant in Congreve's Way of the World is one of Hazlitt's 
many literary loves. He describes her in detail, and 
declares that he would rather have seen Mrs. Abing- 
don's Millamant than any Eosalind that ever appeared 
on the stage. Mrs. Abingdon he never saw ; but Mrs. 
Jordan, who used to play Miss Prue in Love for Love, 
Miss Peggy in The Country Wife, Miss Hoyden in the 
Relapse, and Corinna in the Confederacy, he had seen 
in all these parts, and never could make up his mind 
which was best. Hazlitt maintains that Miss Peggy 
is a character that will live for ever, "so built is it 
on first principles and brought out in the fullest 
broadest manner." He reminds us how Sir John 
Brute in The Provoked Wife was one of Garrick's 
favourite characters, and he dates the decline of 
English comedy from the death of Farquhar in 
1709. 

It is very necessary to keep on one's guard against 
the sham raptures of men of literary genius. Great 
gifts of expression always seeks employment; and if 
writers so endowed wish to describe themselves as 
basking in glorious sunshine, they will not be de- 
terred from doing so by the fact that at the moment 
of writing the rain is falling heavily to the ground. 
It is Talfourd, I think, who advises Hazlitt's readers 
" to allow for the wind." 



VII.] LIFE AND LECTURES 136 

But we are safe iu assuming Hazlitt's enthusiasm 
for these four worthies to be quite genuine, vouched 
for as it is in a variety of ways*. The reason why but 
few people now living can share Hazlitt's intense en- 
joyment of these playwrights is not any failure to 
appreciate their wit, or the consummate skill of their 
dialogue, of which Sheridan's is often but a metallic' 
' echo, nor is it any unconquerable aversion to the occa- 
sional coarseness of their speech or frivolity of their 
tone — it is their heartlessness, or rather their stony- 
heartedness, which dries up in us the capacity to take 
any pleasure in their plays. Love for Love is perhaps 
the wittiest play ever written ; but in the first scene 
the wittiest character in it displays such sheer brutal- 
ity and callosity as to make a modern sick and able to 
read no more that day. 

Hazlitt's lectures are animated, manly discourses, 
full of substance and sense, and abounding in passages 
of eloquence and fancy : — 

"Many people suppose that poetry is something to be 
found only in books, contained in Hnes of ten syllables, with 
Uke endings ; but wherever there is a sense of beauty, or 
power, or harmony, as in the motion of a wave of the sea, 
in the growth of a flower, that 'spreads its sweet leaves 
through the air, and dedicates its beauty to the sun,' there 
is poetry. . . . 

" The child is a poet, in fact, when he first plays at hide- 
and-seek, or repeats the story of Jack the Giantkiller ; the 
shepherd boy is a poet when he first crowns his mistress with 
a garland of flowers ; the countryman when he stops to look 
at the rainbow ; the city apprentice when he gazes after the 
Lord Mayor's show ; the miser when he hugs his gold ; the 
courtier who builds his hopes upon a smile ; the savage who 
paints his idol with blood ; the slave who worships a tyrant, 
or the tyrant who fancies himself a god; the vain, the 



136 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

ambitious, the proud, the choleric man, the hero and the 
coward, the beggar and the king, the rich and the poor, 
the young and the old, all live in a world of their own mak- 
ing ; and the poet does no more than describe what all the 
others think and act." 

<* Poetry is not a branch of authorship ; it is the stuff of 
which our life is made." 

I will quote another passage which reminds me of a 
corresponding passage in one of Dr. Newman's books, 
and indeed the resemblance is often close between 
these two animated authors : — 

" The poet of nature is one who, from the elements of 
beauty, of power, and of passion in his own breast, sympa- 
thises with whatever is beautiful, and grand, and impas- 
sioned in nature, in its simple majesty, in its immediate 
appeal to the senses, to the thoughts and hearts of all men ; 
so that the poet of nature, by the truth, and depth, and 
harmony of his mind, may be said to hold communion with 
the very soul of nature ; to be identified with, and to fore- 
know, and to record, the feelings of all men, at all times 
and places, as they are liable to the same impressions ; and 
to exert the same power over the minds of his readers that 
nature does. He sees things in their eternal beauty, for he 
sees them as they are; he feels them in their universal 
interest, for he feels them as they affect the first principles 
of his and our common nature. Such was Homer, such was 
Shakespeare, whose works will last as long as nature, be- 
cause they are a copy of the indestructible forms and ever- 
lasting impulses of nature, weUing out from the bosom as 
from a perennial spring, or stamped upon the senses by the 
hand of their Maker. The power of the imagination in them 
is the representative power of all nature. It has its centre 
in the human soul, and makes the circuit of the universe." 

Nor will any but the veriest curmudgeon find fault 
with a child of the Kevolution for concluding his first 



VII.] LIFE AND LECTURES 187 

lecture on poetry in general with some remarks on 
"four of the principal works of poetry in the world — 
Homer, the Bible, Dante, and Ossian.'' 

" We turn the weeding-clips aside, 
And spare the symbol dear." 

If Hazlitt loved Ossian, so did Goethe. 

Selma, Sagar, and Malvina, all are forgotten; but 
as we still chatter about style, one quotation must be 
assigned to that subject : — 

"Arbuthnot's style is distinguished from that of his 
contemporaries even by a greater degree of terseness and con- 
ciseness. He leaves out every superfluous word ; is sparing 
of connecting particles and introductory phrases ; uses always 
the simplest forms of construction ; and is more a master of 
the idiomatic peculiarities and internal resources of the lan- 
guage than almost any other writer. There is a research in 
the choice of a plain, as well as of an ornamental or learned, 
style; and, in fact, a great deal more. Among common 
English words, there may be ten expressing the same thing 
with different degrees of force and propriety, and only one of 
them the very word we want, because it is the only one that 
answers exactly with the idea we have in our minds. Each 
word in familiar use has a set of associations and shades of 
meaning attached to it, and distinguished from each other 
by inveterate custom ; and it is in having the whole of these 
at our command, and in knowing which to choose, as they are 
called for by the occasion, that the perfection of a pure con- 
versational prose style consists." 

In the last lecture of the first course Hazlitt boldly 
tackles "The Living Poets." The fact that a man 
was alive never seemed to Hazlitt any reason for not 
saying what you thought of him in print. Hazlitt's 
essays came to be almost as much dreaded as Pope's 



138 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

couplets. The living poets if they saw Hazlitt's pro- 
spectus must have felt uneasy. The poet Rogers is 
most uncivilly treated; his breakfasts count simply 
for nothing ; he is " an elegant but feeble writer," and 
there is no fault to be found with the Pleasures of 
Memory, except "a want of taste and genius"; the 
thoughts are " obvious/' the words " tinsel," and the 
verses are poetry " chiefly because no particle, line, or 
syllable reads like prose." The poet Campbell is 
unfairly treated, and declared to belong to the same 
"hot-pressed superfine-wove paper" school as the 
poet Rogers. "He is a timid poet; and when he 
launches a sentiment that you think will float him 
triumphantly for once to the bottom of the stanza, he 
stops short at the end of the first or second line, and 
stands shivering on the bank of beauty." This may 
be true ; but Campbell's verses on Hohenlinden have 
more than "considerable spirit and animation," nor 
ought the Battle of the Baltic to have been forgotten. 
What, however, probably annoyed Campbell most was 
the accusation that in altering Blair's lines — 

"Its visits, 
Like those of angels, short and far between," 

into "" " 

" Like angel's visits, few and far between," 

he had spoilt them. " ^ Few ' and * far between ' are 
the same thing." It was nastily put, and made an 
enemy for life. 

Tom Moore gets off very easily, though they were 
to quarrel afterwards over "The Fudge Family." 
Hazlitt liked his sentimental vein of fluttering fancy 



VII.] LIFE AND LECTURES 139 

" glittering in the sun," and said he ought never to 
have written "Lalla Rookh" for three thousand 
guineas, which is a hard saying. Had he written it 
for nothing, one might have wondered. 

Had Byron not wavered in his allegiance to Napo- 
leon, he would have been a greater favourite with 
Hazlitt than he was ; for they were both children of 
the Revolution, akin to Ossian and to Werther and the 
rest of that company of winds which, though 

** Upgathered now like sleeping flowers," 

once blew " great guns." They quarrelled, as relations 
sometimes will, over an inheritance. But Hazlitt is 
Byronic enough in his description of the poet to sat- 
isfy the most fancy-inflamed mantua-maker that ever 
in her garret by a spluttering farthing-dip pored over 
the Corsair : — 

" His brow collects the scattered gloom, his eye flashes livid 
fire that withers and consumes. But still we watch the 
progress of the scathing bolt with interest, and mark the ruin 
it leaves behind with awe. ... He chooses elements and 
agents congenial to his mind — the dark and ghttering ocean, 
the frail bark hurrying before the storm, pirates and men that 
'house on the wild sea with wild usages.* He gives the 
tumultuous eagerness of action and the fixed despair of 
thought. In vigour of style and force of conception he in 
one sense surpasses every writer of the present day." 

Great indeed was Byron. Just as a mournful 
Scotch proprietor judges of the strength of a gale of 
wind by walking through his plantations after it has 
dropped, and " moaning the expense " of many a fallen 
tree, so it is only by reading the lives and letters 
of his astonished contemporaries and immediate 



140 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 



1 



successors that you are able to form some estimate | 

of the force of Byron. 

For Scott's poetry Hazlitt had a true affection, 
though one destined to be swallowed up in his passion 
for the Waverley novels. 

He next raises his hat to salute Wordsworth, "the 
most original poet now living " ; he then read aloud 
the whole of "Hartleap Well," which was hardly 
treating his audience fairly ; and when it was over, 
he observed fiercely, "Those who do not feel the 
beauty and the force of this may save themselves the 
trouble of inquiring further '' — an offer that was prob- 
ably freely accepted. This civility was suspicious. 
" I knew Jock Campbell meant to hang him from the 
first," said a barrister present at Palmer's trial for 
murder at Stafford, " he was so confoundedly polite to 
the prisoner." Hazlitt, after these preliminaries, pro- 
ceeded to hang, not Wordsworth indeed, but his theory 
of poetry. " Wordsworth does not like even to share 
his reputation with his subject, for he would have it all 
to proceed from his own power and originality of 
mind." Hence that affection for idiot boys and mad 
mothers — 

*^Now heayen has placed it high 'mid human joys 
To talk with elf-lock girls and ragged boys '^ (^Landor), 

which so irritated many of Wordsworth's contem- 
poraries. "He tolerates only what he himself cre- 
ates ; " and then follows a vehement passage uplifted 
from one of his political articles subsequently re- 
printed in the Political Essays, Hazlitt was a Conser- 
vative in poetry, nor was he ever a true revolutionary 
in politics. 



I 

I 



VII.] LIFE AND LECTURES 141 

The lecture on " Living Poets," the last of the first 
series, concludes thus : — 

" Coleridge's Condones ad Populum, Watchman, etc., are 
dreary trash. Of his Friend I have spoken the truth else- 
where. But I may say of him here, that he is the only per- 
son I ever knew who answered to the idea of a man of genius. 
He is the only person from whom I ever learned anything. 
There is only one thing he could learn from me in return, but 
that he has not. He was the first poet I ever knew. His 
genius at that time had angelic wings, and fed on manna. He 
talked on for ever ; and you wished him to talk on for ever. 
His thoughts did not seem to come with labour and effort ; 
but as if borne on the gusts of genius, and as if the wings of 
his imagination lifted him from off his feet. His voice rolled 
on the ear hke the pealing organ, and its sound alone was the 
music of thought. His mind was clothed with wings ; and, 
raised on them, he lifted philosophy to heaven. In his 
descriptions you then saw the progress of human happiness 
and liberty in bright and never-ending succession, like the 
steps of Jacob's ladder, with airy shapes ascending and de- 
scending, and with the voice of God at the top of the ladder. 
And shall I, who heard him then, listen to him now ? Not 
I ! That spell is broke ; that time is gone for ever ; that 
voice is heard no more ; but still the recollection comes rush- 
ing by with thoughts of long-past years, and rings in my ears 
with never-dying sound. 

^ What though the radiance which was once so bright 
Be now for ever vanish'd from my sight, 
Though nothing can bring back the hour 
Of glory in the grass, of splendour in the flower ; 

I do not grieve, but rather find 

Strength in what remains behind ; 

In the primal sympathy, 

Which having been, must ever be ; 

In the soothing thoughts that spring 

Out of human suffering ; 
In years that bring the philosophic mind ! ' 



142 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. vii. 

" I have thus gone through the task I intended, and have 
come at last to the level ground. I have felt my subject 
gradually sinking from under me as I advanced, and have 
been afraid of ending in nothing. The interest has unavoid- 
ably decreased at almost every successive step of the progress, 
like a play that has its catastrophe in the first or second act. 
This, however, I could not help. I have done as well as I 
could." 



I 



CHAPTER VIII 

QUARRELS, ESSAYS, DELUSIONS, AND PICTURE 

GALLERIES 

GiFFORD, " with his sword undrawn," if his weapon 
of offence is entitled to so honourable a noun, was 
always lying in wait for a new book by Hazlitt ; and on 
the appearance of the Lectures on the English Poets, the 
editor of the Qwarterly Review hastened to inform the 
respectable reading ^public that the lectures were 
"predatory incursions on truth and common-sense," 
threw "no gleam of light" upon their subject, "left 
no trace upon the mind of the reader," being indeed 
nothing but " an incoherent jumble of grand words." 
Hazlitt was declared, like Hannibal, to have bound 
himself by an oath, not against Rome, but against 
" accurate reasoning, just observation, and precise, or 
even intelligent, language." * 

All contemporary criticism was not equally insensate. 
The Quarterly Review , with which Scott and South ey 
were proud to be connected though powerless to control, 

1 Gifford had been reading Dryden : — 

*^ As Hannibal did to the altars come, 
Sworn by his sire a mortal foe to Rome, 
So Shadwell swore, nor should his vow be vain, 
That he till death true dulness would maintain. 
And in his father's right and realm's defence 
Ne'er to have peace with wit nor truce with sense." 

— MacFlbgknob. 
143 



144 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

was by far the worst offender. The Scotsman published, 
in May and June 1818, two long reviews, friendly in 
tone, indeed highly laudatory, and at the same time 
discriminative. The reviewer observes with a force 
every reader of Hazlitt must appreciate, "It is no 
ordinary matter to peruse a book of Mr. Hazlitt's. 
There is a certain hurry of the spirit, which never fails 
to accompany the fine show of reason and taste under 
which the mind is hardly at leisure to select beauties 
or start objections." A hurry of the spirit is a fine 
phrase, very applicable to Hazlitt, who bustles you 
along. The Scotsman, naturally and properly, defends 
a "brother Scot," the poet Campbell, against the 
strictures of the Southron body. 

After the publication of the third course a reviewer 
in the Edinburgh discoursed with skill and taste con- 
cerning Hazlitt's critical gifts. Hazlitt, like Burke, is 
so eloquent himself, that those who write about either 
the one or the other generally try to be so too ; but 
after the reviewer has got over the effort of telling us 
how Hazlitt does not " dissect the form to show the 
springs whence the blood flows," but makes us feel 
" in the sparkling or softened eye, the wreathed smile 
and the tender bloom," he becomes more useful, and it 
would be hard to improve upon the following parar 
graph : — 

" Hazlitt has no lack of the deepest feehngs, the profound- 
est sentiments of humanity, or the loftiest aspirations after 
ideal good. But there are no great leading principles of taste 
to give singleness to his aims, nor any central points in his 
mind, around which his feehngs may revolve and his imagi- 
nations cluster. There is no sufl&eient distinction between his 
intellectual and his imaginative faculties. He confounds the 



vm.] QUARRELS 146 

truths of imagination with those of fact ; the processes of 
argument with those of feeling ; the immunities of intellect 
with those of virtue. Hence the seeming inconsistency of 
many of his doctrines. Hence the want of all continuity in 
his style. Hence his failure in producing one single, harmoni- 
ous, and lasting impression on the hearts of his hearers. He 
never waits to consider whether a sentiment or an image is in 
place, so it be in itself striking. That keen sense of pleasure 
in intellectual beauty, which is the best charm of his writings, 
is also his chief deluder. He cannot resist a powerful image, 
an exquisite quotation, or a pregnant remark, however it 
may dissipate, or even subvert, the general feeling which his 
theme should inspire. ... He will never be contented to 
touch that most strange and curious instrument, the human 
heart, with a steady aim, but throws his hand rapidly over the 
chords, mingling strange discord with * most eloquent music* 
Instead of conducting us onward to a given object, he opens 
so many delicious prospects by the wayside, and suffers us to 
gaze at them so long, that we forget the end of our journey. 
He is perpetually dazzled among the sunbeams of his fancy, 
and plays with them in elegant fantasy, when he should 
point them to the spots where they might fall on truth and 
beauty, and render them visible by a clearer and lovelier 
radiance than had yet revealed them."* 

That this is searching criticism cannot be denied ; 
but Time, that old arbitrator, has, I think, corrected 
the reviewer in one respect. Hazlitt's gusto has served 
him in such excellent stead that, despite the absence 
of principles of taste and central points, and the 
encroachment of his intellectual upon his imaginative 
faculties, he has succeeded in making a permanent, 
though a mixed impression. We know what his point 
of view was, and can flatter ourselves upon our ability, 
real or supposed, to outline his judgments upon the 
books, pictures, and plays of to-day. For a critic to 

"^Edinburgh Review ^ vol. zzxiy. 



146 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

be alive eighty years after publication of his criti- 
cisms is in itself a feat. Hazlitt can say with the 
Abbe, J^ai vScu. 

In 1819 Hazlitt was in no temper to put up with 
the insolence of Gifford. The sale of the Characters of 
Shakespear^s Plays had ceased in consequence, as Haz- 
litt was perhaps right in thinking, of Gifford's attack ; 
his delightful contributions to the Round Table had 
been stigmatised by the same authority as ^Uoathsome 
trash," "vulgar descriptions," "silly paradoxes," "flat 
truisms," " misty sophistry," " broken English," and 
now the Lectures on the English Poets were pronounced 
"predatory incursions on truth and common-sense." 
And all this by Gifford ! Who was Gifford ? " It is 
time," says Hazlitt, "you were told what you are," and 
down he sat to tell him. The result was — 

A 
LETTER 

TO 

WILLIAM GIFFORD, Esq. 

FBOM 

WILLIAM HAZLITT, Esq. 



** Fit pugil, et medicnm uiget " 

LONDON 
PRINTED FOR JOHN MILLER BURLINGTON ARCADE 

PICCADILLY 



1819 

Price Three Shillings. 



VIII.] QUARRELS 147 

Hazlitt was never more philosophical than when in 
a passion. He always gets a good thought-basis for his 
hatreds ; and he proceeded in this case to build up a 
William Gifford, whom he afterwards criticises, with 
that intimate acquaintance with the weak points of a 
structure only the builder possesses. This gives fresh- 
ness to what would otherwise be the dullest of dull 
things — the abuse of a dead editor by a dead author. 
Hazlitt, again like Burke, excelled in a quarrel, and 
for the same reason : both were more than politicians, 
more than authors, more than critics — they were, or 
once had been, philosophers. Did any one quarrel, or 
differ with, or abuse, either Burke or Hazlitt, straight- 
way that person became in the eyes of both these 
eminent men the personification of every evil influence 
of the age, the abstract and brief chronicle of infamy. 
Gifford, a spiteful creature enough, who had led a life 
far harder than Hazlitt's, became, like the Review he 
edited, " a receptagle for the scum and sediment of all 
the prejudice, bigotry, ill-will, ignorance, and rancour 
afloat in the kingdom." Everything that Hazlitt most 
hated, dreaded, and despised, Gifford, so Hazlitt was 
persuaded, loved and cherished, whilst whatever Haz- 
litt accounted worthy of all acceptation this miserable 
Gifford spat upon and loathed. 

" The character of Mr. Gifford's mind," so he wrote in his 
y^ir'j on that person to be found in The Spirit of the Age^ 

' r t ^^^^^ ^^^^ ^^ independence and magnanimity. He 
cjf'^ '0 alone, he must have crutches, a go-cart and tram- 
mejs,HOii^he is timid, fretful, and helpless as a child. He 
cannot cmeieive of anything different from what he finds it, 
and hate^ eil^^^e who pretend to a greater reach of intellect 
or boldnedw«.4^ spirit than himself. He inchnes, by a natural 



/ 

/ 
1 



148 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

and deliberate bias, to the traditional in laws and govern- 
ment ; to the orthodox in religion ; to the safe in opinion ; 
to the trite in imagination; to the technical in style; to 
whatever implies a surrender of individual judgment into the 
hands of authority, and a subjection of individual feeling to 
mechanic rules. If he finds any one flying in the face of 
these, or straggling fom the beaten path, he thinks he has 
them at a notable disadvantage, and falls foul of them with- 
out loss of time, partly to soothe his own sense of mortified 
self-consequence, and as an edifying spectacle to his legiti- 
mate friends." 

And again— 

" He may call out with the fellow in the Tempest, I am 
not Stephano, but a cramp. He would go back to the 
standard of opinions, style, the faded ornaments, and insipid 
formalities that came into fashion about forty years ago. 
Flashes of thought, flights of fancy, idiomatic expressions, he 
sets down among the signs of the times — the extraordinary 
occurrences of the age we live in. They are marks of a rest- 
less and revolutionary spirit ; they disturb the composure of 
his mind and threaten the safety of the state." 

One can still read this with pleasure, and give it 
other names than Gifford's, which proves how neces- 
sary it is, would you keep your rage alive for a century, 
to have a philosophic basis. If you cannot do this, the 
wisest, as also the Christian thing to do, is to agree 
with your adversary quickly. A specimen of the styk 
of the letter must be given ; and as it was not all 
losophy, I will select a fragment in which r 
predominates. Gifford in his criticism of thf 
Table had pretended not to be able to tell / 
ence between Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt.. 
Hazlitt — ' 



1/ 



VIII.] ESSAYS 149 

" If, sir, your friend Mr. Hoppner, of whom, as you tell 
us, you discreetly said nothing while he was struggling with 
obscurity, lest it should be imputed to the partiality of 
friendship, but whom you praised and dedicated to as soon 
as he became popular, to show your disinterestedness and 
deference to public opinion, — if even this artist, whom you 
celebrate as a painter of flattering likenesses, had undertaken 
to unite in one piece the most striking features and charac- 
teristic expression of his and your common friends ; had im- 
proved your lurking archness of look into Mr. Murray's 
gentle, downcast obliquity of vision ; had joined Mr. Can- 
ning's drooping nose to Mr. Croker's aspiring chin, the clear 
complexion (the spiendida hilis) of the one to the candid 
self-complacent aspect of the other ; had forced into the same 
preposterous medley the invincible hauteur and Satanic 
pride of Mr. Pitt's physiognomy, with the dormant meaning 
and admirable nonchalance of Lord Castlereagh's features, 
the manly sleekness of Charles Long, and the monumental 
outline of John Kemble — what mortal would have owned 
the likeness ! I too, sir, must claim the privilege of the 
prindpium individutationis for myself as well as my neigh- 
bours ; I will sit for no man's picture but my own, and not 
to you for that ; I am not desirous to play as many parts as 
Bottom ; and as to his ass's head, which you would put upon 
my shoulders, it will do for you to wear the next time you 
show yourself in Mr. Murray's shop, or for your friend Mr. 
Southey to take with him whenever he appears at Court." 



In this spirited passage we see the portrait-painter. 

Hazlitt could not help admiring Castlereagh's looks. 

The miscellaneous writers of to-day are sometimes 

^ blamed for their zeal in collecting their anonymous 

^contributions to the papers and magazines, and making 

mcis bonest book of them, fit for the shelves ; but these 

cannot Nnen may, if they care to provoke comparisons, 

and hatei^ examples of Hazlitt, Lamb, and De Quincey. 

or boldnea».^g ^ hardened re-printer, and those who know 



; 



) 



\ 



160 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

all his books get familiar with passages which occur, 
word for word, in more even than two places. He 
repeats himself, using the same quotations, quite 
unblushingly, though the quotations indeed are seldom 
word for word the same, and still less frequently are 
they right. 

Of all Hazlitt's books, the one most open to the 
dread charge of " Journalism " is the Political Essays, 
published in 1819, and dedicated in a manly strain to 
John Hunt : — 

" The tried, steady, zealous, and conscientious advocate of 
the liberty of his country and the rights of mankind ; — 

"One of those few persons who are what they would be 
thought to be ; sincere without offence, firm but temperate ; 
uniting private worth to public principle ; a friend in need, 
a patriot without an eye to himself; who never betrayed an 
individual or a cause he pretended to serve — in short, that 
rare character, a man of common sense and common honesty, 
" This volume is respectfully and gratefully 

"Inscribed by 

" The Author." 

The preface excited the admiration of so good and 
sensible a judge as the author's son, who thought it 
the finest and most manly exposition of high political 
principle ever put forth ; and were the book nothing 
but dedication and preface, it would be unexception- 
able, but it is a closely printed octavo, numbering 439^ 
pages, and of these 264 are devoted to reprinting let- T 
ters to the newspapers, and articles therein, abusin 
Legitimacy, the war with France, the finances of Pi^*^,^ 
sham patriotism, Coleridge, and Southey, wiife* ^ q^qq 
and wit, but after a furiously unfair and p^ irtisan 
fashion. The repetitions of this book beco^^ , weari- 

/ 







VIII.] ESSAYS 161 

some; we are all by this time sick of Wat Tyler. 
Southey (the more's the pity) has written himself 
down, and there's an end of it. 

The rest of the book is made up by again reprinting 
" The Character of Pitt," and taking the characters of 
Chatham, Fox, and Burke from The Eloquence of the 
British Senate^ and adding to these ten articles from 
Leigh Hunt's short-lived Yellow Dwarf, 

This publication did not turn away the wrath of 
" William Gifford, Esq.," who, recognising, I suppose, 
the value of a philosophic basis, now denounced Haz- 
litt in the Quarterly as "the slanderer of the human 
race." 

With this epithet hurled at, but hardly sticking to 
him, I must approach some personal incidents in 
Hazlitt's life. 

It will not have escaped notice how completely we 
have lost sight (save in the eloquent outburst reprinted 
from the Yellow Dwarf at the end of the Political 
Essays) of the elder Hazlitt. What, too, has become 
of the mother whose birthplace in the far Fen country 
her sentimental son had visited on foot, and of Peggy 
the affectionate diarist. Hazlitt was once glad enough 
of the shelter of his father's house in Wem. He was 
a very bad correspondent, says his grandson, who con- 
ceives it to be possible that since he moved from 
home, he never traced a line to his father, mother, or 
sister. "He never held," proceeds his biographer, 
"any epistolary communicVtion he could avoid with 
his wife, son, or publishers, and friends of thirty 
years' standing had not a scrap of his handwriting. 
It was an idiosyncrasy." It was also a great pity, so 
far at least as his father, mother, and sister were thus 



152 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

neglected. With his wives and publishers I am not 
concerned. 

Those who have to earn their livings by daily writ- 
ing for the press may be excused if they are bad 
correspondents. Garlyles are rare, and, besides, Car- 
lyle was never a journalist. The fact that Hazlitt 
found it easier to write splendid disquisitions about 
the essential grandeur of his father's character for 
money, than to drop the old man an occasional line 
of greeting for love, is regrettable, but quite consistent 
with the genuineness of his filial pride. A senti- 
mentalist is usually better qualified to force you to 
honour his father and his mother than he is to keep 
the fifth commandment himself. 

The elder Hazlitt had left Wem in 1814 ; and, after 
one or two changes, had settled down in retirement at 
Crediton, in an old house called Wins wood, rental 
£24 a year. Here he died on the 16th of July 1820 
in his eighty-fourth year, ministered to by his wife 
and daughter. His eloquent son was not by his 
father's side, nor was his address known at Wins- 
wood at the time. As a matter of fact, he was at 
Winterslow Hutt. 

It was the duty of the diarist to tell her brother of 
their father's death. She did so as follows : — 

" Deab William, — If we had known where to direct to 
you, we should not have sent Mary ^ to tell you of our father's 
death, hut would have written to you directly j hut neither 
your mother nor I were well enough to write at the time, 
and we thought Sarah might be on the road, and have been 
expecting her every night since. Your father's death was 
unexpected at last; for though we had been at one time 

1 John HazUtt's second daughter. 



vm.] ESSAYS 157 

hitch them into an essay, as if that made any difference. I 
pique myself on doing what I can for others ; but I cannot say 
that I have found any suitable returns for this, and hence per- 
haps my outrageousness of stomach ! For instance, I praised 
you in the Edinburgh Review; and when in a case of life and 
death I tried to lecture, you refused to go near the place, and 
gave this as a reason, saying it would seem a collusion if you 
said anything in my favour after what I had said of you. 2. I 
got Reynolds to write in the Edinburgh Review at a time 
when I had a great reluctance to ask any favour of Jeffrey, 
and from that time I never set eyes on him for a year and a 
half after. 3. I wrote a book in defence of Godwin some years 
ago, one-half of which he has since stolen without acknowledg- 
ment, without even mentioning my name, and yet he comes 
to me to review the very work, and I write to Jeflrey to ask 
his consent, thinking myself, which you do not, the most mag- 
nanimous person in the world in the defence of a cause. 4. I 
have taken all opportunities of praising Lamb, and I never 
got a good word from him in return, big or little, till the other 
day. He seemed struck all of a heap if I ever hinted at the 
possibility of his giving me a lift at any time. 5. It was but 
the other day that two friends did all they could to intercept 
an article about me from appearing in the E. R,, saying * it 
would be too late,* * that the editor had been sounded at a 
distance, and was averse,' with twenty other excuses ; and at 
last I was obliged to send it myself, graciously and by main 
force, as it were, when it appeared just in time to save me 
from drowning. Coulson had been backwards and forwards 
between my house and Bentham's for between three or four 
years; and when the latter philosophically put an execution in 
my house, the plea was that he had never heard of my name ; 
and when I theorised on this the other day as bad policy, and 
fdo de se on the part of the Radicals, your nephew * and that 
set said, * Oh, it was an understood thing — the execution, 
you know ! * My God, it is enough to drive one mad. I have 
not a soul to stand by me, and yet I am to give up my only 
resource and revenge, a theory — I won't do it, that's flat. 

1 Mr. Henry Leigh Hunt, of the firm of Hunt and Clarke. 



158 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

Montagu ^ is, I fancy, cut at my putting him among people 
with one idea, and yet when the Blackwoods (together with 
your) shirking out of that business put me nearly under- 
ground, he took every opportunity to discourage me ; and one 
evening, when I talked of going there, I was given to under- 
stand that there was * a party expected.* Yet after this I am 
not to look at him a little in ahstraeto. This is what has 
soured me, and made me sick of friendship and acquaintance- 
ship. When did I speak ill of your brother John 1 He never 
played me any tricks. I was in a cursed ill humour with you 
for two or three things when I wrote the article you find fault 
with (I grant not without reason). If I had complained to 
you, you would only have laughed ; you would have played 
me the very same tricks the veiy next time ; you would not 
have cared one farthing about annoying me ; and yet you com- 
plain that I draw a logical conclusion from all this, and pub- 
lish it to the world without your name. As to Shelley, I do 
not hold myself responsible to him. You say I want imagi- 
nation. If you mean invention or fancy, I say so too ; but 
if you mean a disposition to sympathise with the claims or 
merits of others, I deny it. I have been too much disposed 
to waive my own pretensions in deference to those of others. 
I am tired with playing at rackets all day, and you will be 
tired with this epistle. It has little to do with you ; for I 
see no use in raising up a parcel of small, old grievances. 
But I think the general ground of defence is good. 

" W. H. 

" I have given Hogg's papers to Baldwin, and wish you 
would write a character of me for the next number. I want 
to know why everybody has such a dislike to me." 

Hazlitt may have been unreasonable in finding fault 
with Lamb, whose opportunities of praising Hazlitt 
cannot have been many, but what he says as to his 
own conduct in praising Lamb whenever he got a 

1 Mr. Basil Montagu. 



i 



VIII.] ESSAYS 169 

chance is only the truth. But when Southey thought 
fit to reproach Lamb in public for his friendship (then, 
as it happened, suspended) with Hazlitt, nobly indeed 
did Elia take the field and rout the foe. 

Hazlitt's " I want to know why everybody has such a 
dislike to me " is pathetic. He could not understand it. 

The reference to " playing rackets all day " justifies 
a word or two about Hazlitt's fondness for the game, 
which he played with a fierce eagerness, sometimes 
lying awake a whole night trying to score out the last 
ball of an interesting game in a particular corner of the 
court which he had missed from nervousness. He 
philosophises even about rackets, remarking that 
though it is very like any other game, very much a 
thing of skill and practice, it is also a thing of opinion, 
" subject to all the skiey influences." " If you think 
you can win, you can win. Faith is necessary for 
victory," and so on down half a page.^ 

He was also very fond of fives, both of playing and 
seeing it played. His short life of John Cavanagh is 
one of Hazlitt's finest performances. One could wish 
that Boxiana was in the least like it, and that Hazlitt 
had written the History of Fisticuffs instead of a Life 
of Napoleon. 

" Died at his house in Burbage Street^ St. Giles's, John 
Cavanagh, the famous hand fives-player. When a person 
dies who does any one thing better than any one else in the 
world, which so many others are trying to do well, it leaves a 
gap in society. It is not likely that any one will now see the 
game of fives played in its perfection for many years to come, 

1 Haydon once met Hazlitt returning from the Fives-court with 
his shirt in his pocket. He had been playing rackets with such 
energy that his shirt was like a wet rag. ^Hazlitt Memoirs, ii. 36. 



IflO WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

for Cayanagh is dead, and has not left his peer behind him. | 

It may be said that there are things of more importance than 
striking a ball against a walL There are things indeed which 
make more noise and do as little good, such as making war 
and peace, making speeches and answering them, making 
verses and blotting them, making money and throwing it 
away. But the game of fives is what no one despises who has 
ever played at it. . . . As it was said of a great orator that 
he never was at a loss for a word, and for the properest word, 
so Cavanagh always could tell the degree of force necessary 
to be given to a ball, and the precise direction in which it 
should be sent. He did his work with the greatest ease ; 
never took more pains than was necessary ; and while others 
were fagging themselves to death, was as cool and collected as 
if he had just entered the court. His style of play was as 
remarkable as his power of execution. He had no affectation, 
no trifling. He did not throw away the game to show off an 
attitude or try an experiment. He was a fine, sensible, 
manly player, who did what he could, but that was more than 
any one else could even affect to do. His blows were not 
undecided and ineffectual, lumbering like Mr. Wordsworth's 
epic poetry, nor wavering like Mr. Coleridge's lyric prose, nor 
short of the mark like Mr. Brougham's speeches, nor wide of 
it like Mr. Canning's wit, nor foul like the Qvarterly^ not let 
balls like the Edinburgh Review. Cobbett and Junius to- 
gether would have made a Cavanagh. He was the best ujh 
hill player in the world; even when his adversary was 
fourteen, he would play on the same or better ; and as he 
never flung away the game through carelessness and conceit, 
he never gave it up through laziness or want of heart. The 
only peculiarity of his play was that he never volleyed^ but let 
the baUs hop ; but if they rose an inch fix)m the ground, he 
never missed having them. There was not only nobody equal, 
but nobody second to him. It is supposed that he could give 
any other player half the game, or beat him with his left 
hand. His service was tremendous. He once played Wood- 
ward and Meredith together (two of the best players in 
England) in the Fives-court, St. Martin's Street, and made 
seven-and-twenty aces following by services alone — a thing 



( 



VIII.] ESSAYS 161 

unheard of. He another time played Peru, who was con- 
sidered a first-rate fives-player, a match of the best out of 
five games ; and in the three first games, which of course decided 
the match, Peru got only one ace. Oavanagh was an Irishman 
by birth, and a house-painter by profession. ... He used 
frequently to play matches at Copenhagen House for wagers 
and dinners. The wall against which they play is the same 
that supports the kitchen chimney; and when the wall 
resounded louder than usual, the cooks exclaimed, ' Those are 
the Irishman's balls,' and the joints trembled on the spit ! 
Goldsmith consoled himself that there were places where he too 
was admired ; and Oavanagh was the admiration of all the 
fives-courts where he ever played. . . . Mr. Powell, when 
he played matches in the Court in St. Martin's Street, used 
to fill his gallery at half-a-crown a head with amateurs and 
admirers of talent in whatever department it is shown. He 
could not have shown himself in any ground in England but 
he would have been immediately surrounded with inquisitive 
gazers, trying to find out in what part of his frame his un- 
rivalled skill lay, as politicians wonder to see the balance of 
Europe suspended in Lord Castlereagh's face, and admire the 
trophies of the British Navy lurking under Mr. Croker's 
hanging brow. Now Cavanagh was as good looking a man as 
the Noble Lord, and much better looking than the Right 
Hon. Secretary. He had a clear, open countenance, and did 
not look sideways or down. He was a young fellow of sense, 
humour, and courage. He once had a quarrel with a water- 
man at Hungerford stairs, and, they say, served him out in 
great style. In a word, there are hundreds at this day who 
cannot mention his name without admiration as the best 
fives-player that perhaps ever lived (the greatest excellence of 
which they have any notion), and the noisy shout of the ring 
happily stood him in stead of the unheard voice of posterity ! 
The only person who seems to have excelled as much in an- 
other way as Cavanagh did in his was the late John Davies, 
the racket-player. It was remarked of him that he did not 
seem to foUow the baU, but the ball seemed to follow him. 
Give him a foot of wall, and he was sure to make the ball. 
The four best racket-players of that day were Jack Spines, 



1<B WILLIAM HAZLTTT [chap. 

Jem Harding, Annitage, and Church. Davies oould give any 
one (rf* these two hands a timei that is, half the game, and each 
of these^ at their best, ooold give the best player now in 
London the same odds. Such are the gradations in all exer- 
tions of human skill and art. He once played four capital 
players together and beat theoL He was also a first-rate 
tennis-player, and an excellent fives-player. In the fleet or 
King's Boidi he would have stood against Powell, who was 
reckoned the best open-ground playo- of his time. This last- 
mentioned play» is at present the keeper of the Fives-court^ 
and we might recommend to him for a motto over his door, 
*Who enters here, forgets himself, his country, and Ids 
firiends.' And the best of it is, that by the calculation of the 
odds, none of the three are worth remembering ! Gavanagh 
died finom the bursting of a blood-vessd, which prevented him 
finom playing for the last two or three years. This, he was 
often heard to say, he thought hard upon him. He was fiist 
recovering, however, when he was suddoily carried ofi^ to the 
r^ret of all who knew him. As Mr. Peel made it a qualifica- 
tion of the present Speako*, Mr. Manners Sutton, that he was 
an excellent moral character, so Jack Gavanagh was a zealous 
GatholiC) and oould not be persuaded to eat meat on a Friday, 
the day on which he died. We have paid this willing tribute 
to his memory — 

* Let no rode hand deface it, 
And his foriom Hie Jacet' " ^ 

If any reader thinks this too long a qnotation about 
a fives-player, I will silence him with another, a very 
short one, from the essay On the Ignorance of the 
Learned — 

" It is better to be able neither to read nor write than to 
be able to do nothing else.'' 

The famous " Fight " appeared in 1822 in the New 
Monthly Magazine. From it I will not quote. As 

1 ' The Indian Jugglers.' — Tahle^Talk. 



VIII.] ESSAYS 163 

Oxford was once declared to be, by an enthusiast, 
after dinner, " it is a perfect whole," and must not be 
curtailed, as I was compelled to curtail Cavanagh. It 
is full of poetry, life, and motion ; Shakespeare, Ho- 
garth, and Nature. The description of the actual 
fight is not long, which perhaps is as well, for it is 
vivid. A phrase Tennyson has made famous occurs 
in it, for Hazlitt speaks of Bill Neate making " red 
ruin " of Tom Hickman's cheek. 

Tahle-Talk has already been mentioned more than 
once ; but it should be here formally recorded that it 
was another collection of miscellaneous essays, only a 
few of which (less than half a dozen) had been printed 
before. Mr. Henry Colburn, a pushing, advertising 
publisher, alleged to have royal blood in his veins, 
brought it out in two volumes (1821 and 1822). 

These two volumes standing alone contain enough 
to establish Hazlitt's reputation as one of the greatest 
miscellaneous writers that ever lived. The very titles 
of the papers make you a-hungered to read them. The 
essays "On Going a Journey," "On the Fear of 
Death," « On Patronage and Puffing," " The Indian 
Jugglers," " On a Landscape by Nicolas Poussin," are 
compositions of which no sensible man, who happens 
to be fond of reading (and many sensible men are not), 
can ever grow tired. Of the miscellaneous writer one 
does not demand settled principles of taste or deep 
searching criticism ; it is enough if he at once arrests, 
and throughout maintains our attention ; if he hurries 
our sluggish spirit up and down animated pages ; if he 
is never vapid, or humdrum, or foolish, or blatant, or 
self-satisfied ; if he forces us to forget ourselves ; and 
by renewing our delight in boots, poetry, plays, 



164 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

pictures, and in the humours and emotions of life, 
makes us feel that it was really worth our while not 
only to have learned to read, but to have gone on read- 
ing ever since. 

Gifford was content on the appearance of TabU'Talk 
to add to the title of " Slanderer of the Human Race" 
that of " Slang Whanger," meaning thereby, he was 
good enough to explain, "a gabbler who employs 
slang to amuse the rabble." But any deficiency of 
abuse noticeable in the style of the Quarterly was 
amply atoned for by Professor Wilson's merry men in 
Blackwood, who declared that the Table-Talker was 
not a man, but an ulcer ; that his two volumes were 
one gaping sore of wounded feeling and vanity ; nor 
were they content with a single reference to Hazlitt, 
.who henceforth became one of the favourite marks of 
their goat-footed merriment. 

Hazlitt, if Mr. Patmore is to be believed, was driven 
almost mad by these Yahoos ; and it may be that the 
irregularities and coarse excesses of this period of his 
life may be in part attributed to an unhinging of the 
mind occasioned by repeated personal abuse. It is a 
pity Hazlitt was not a fighting man ; he might then 
have called Christopher North out ; and if he had by 
chance deposited several large slugs in the Professor's 
acromion process, " thereby endangering his life and 
lacerating the clavicle of his right shoulder," only 
good would have been done. He did threaten legal 
proceedings with one good result — Mr. John Murray 
refused any longer to act for " Maga " in London. 

The establishment in 1820 of the London Magazine, 
sometimes called Baldmn^s, and sometimes Taylor's 
Magazine, should be mentioned in a Life of Hazlitt, 



VIII.] ESSAYS 166 

who for a few years contributed to it both dramatic 
and fine art criticisms, as well as numerous miscella- 
neous essays, which were all afterwards reprinted in 
the Plain Speaker (1826) or elsewhere, with one 
notable exception — an article in the October number 
for 1820 on the " Present State of Parliamentary Elo- 
quence." 

In this essay Hazlitt passes in review Mackintosh, 
Brougham, Whitbread, Tierney, Ponsonby, Plunkett, 
Castlereagh, Wilberforce, Canning, and other speakers 
in an admirable and for the most part convincing 
fashion, though I find it hard to bear the references 
to Sir Samuel Romilly. " I did not much like Rom- 
illy's significant oracular way of laying down the law 
in the House, his self-important assumptions of second- 
hand truths, and his impatience of contradiction, as if 
he gave his time there for nothing." How well do I 
know the style I but that it should be Romilly's I I 
cannot, I must not, believe it. 

The early numbers of the London Magazine contain 
as their proud possessions the first essays of " Elia." 
" The South Sea House " is in the August number for 
1820, " Oxford in the Vacation " follows in October, 
and " Christ's Hospital Five and Thirty Years Ago " 
is in the November number, which also contained a 
savage onslaught upon Blackwood, to be succeeded in 
the December number by an even more furious attack 
upon the same shameless offender. These Blackwood 
articles impart a melancholy to the early volumes of 
the Londcm Magazine which even " Elia " cannot dis- 
pel ; for they still seem red with the blood of John 
Scott, the first editor, who was, so it is believed, the 
writer of the articles in question. 



166 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

Whether John Scott in abusing Blackwood as he did 
in his new magazine was chiefly animated by holy 
wrath, and a desire to avenge the undoubted wrongs 
of Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt, and of a greater than 
either, or by that first and last infirmity of the jour- 
nalist's mind, to attract attention to his new venture, 
cannot be told. Mr. Lockhart, whose name was freely 
mentioned in the December article, considered him- 
self aggrieved, bade farewell to his young wife about 
to lie in of her first child — Hugh Littlejohn, known 
to us all — and came to London to demand and receive 
satisfaction, which Scott would not give unless Lock- 
hart first repudiated any connection, either bs editor, 
or financially, with the management of Blackwood, 
Lockhart, who acted throughout under the advice of 
his old Balliol friend Mr. J. H. Christie, a man of 
the nicest honour, who viewed with no little disaj)- 
proval Lockhart's unhappy connection with the Edin- 
burgh press, refused to give Scott more than an 
assurance that he was not editor of Blackwood. There 
was therefore a deadlock; but honour being a nice 
matter resting in report, both Lockhart and Scott 
took to printing " Statements " for circulation among 
friends, and Lockhart in his first statement, an early 
copy of which he sent to his adversary with the sig- 
nificant message that the sender would remain in Lon- 
don for twenty-four hours, denied that he was editor 
of Blackwood, but said nothing as to deriving any 
benefit from the management of the magazine. A few 
hours after sending Scott this statement, Lockhart and 
Christie were advised by Dr. Stoddart (Hazlitt's 
brother-in-law, then in charge of a paper called Tlie 
New Times, of so limited a circulation as to prompt 



▼m.] ESSAYS 167 

Hazlitt, who hated Stoddart, to say that any one who 
really wished to keep a secret could not do better than 
confide it to the columns of his relative's newspaper) 
that Lockhart's'case would be improved by the addi- 
tional statement that he had never derived any pecu- 
niary benefit from the management of Blackwood, 
This addition was made, and the statement thus 
amended circulated. When Scott saw the amended 
statement, which he did not do until Lockhart had 
left London, he at once pounced upon the new matter, 
and in one of his statements ^ said that Lockhart had 
told his friends something he had not told Scott, but 
which if he had been told would have made a meeting 
possible. This was a nasty thrust, and made an imme- 
diate answer from Christie, Lockhart being away, 
an absolute necessity. Mr. Christie therefore told in 
print how the addition came to be made on the advice 
of Stoddart ; and added a few sarcastic words to the 
effect that if after his explanation Scott had any 
friends who were not satisfied, he was welcome to the 
whole weight of their good opinion. Thereupon Scott, 
who had not seemed over-eager to fight Lockhart, fell 
upon Christie and demanded that he should say in 
public that he meant nothing disrespectful to Scott, 
and on Christie's refusal sent him a challenge. 

The story so far is a Comedy of Errors; it was 
now to become a Tragedy. Scott's " friends'' were 
Mr. Patmore (the father of the poet) and Mr. Ho- 
ratio Smith, two hopelessly incompetent persons. Mr. 
Christie's friend was Mr. Traill, the father of Mr. 
H. D. Traill. Mr. Patmore alone was with Scott at 

1 Scott's statements may be read in the London Magazine for 
February 1821, and Lockhart's in Mr. Lang's Life. 



168 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 



Chalk Farm on the 16th of February 1821. Christie 
fired in the air, Scott fired and missed. The matter 
ought then to have been ended by Mr. Patmore 
declaring himself satisfied; but second shots were 
allowed to be interchanged, and this time Scott fell 
mortally wounded. He died on the 27th of the month, 
leaving a widow and two children. 

Mr. Langy who recounts the whole affair with \ 

candour and feeling in his Life of Lockhartj success- I 

fully vindicates Lockhart from any blame in this 
unfortunate and bungled business; and as for Mr. 
Christie, if he had been a Generalissimo of Spain, 
instead of a Conveyancer of Lincoln's Inn, he could 
not have behaved better. 

The poet Campbell, who never forgot the charge 
of plagiarising Blair's Angela Visits, used to go about 
saying that Hazlitt had egged Scott on to fight by 
remarking that, of course, he (Hazlitt) was not a fight- 
ing man; but if he had been, why then, etc., etc. 
There is no need to believe this. Scott and Hazlitt 
were not intimate friends, and no traces remain of 
the latter having been personally mixed up in the 
affair either in its early stages with Lockhart or at 
the end with Christie. 

It is impossible in a Life of Hazlitt entirely to over- 
look the brutalities of the early numbers of Blackwood^ s 
Magazine, but they are now far off, if not forgotten, 
things ; and even as I write, there comes to hand from 
the firm of William Blackwood & Sons, in their series 
of English Classics, an excellently made selection (with 
a portrait without pimples) from Hazlitt's Lectures and 
Essays on Poetry and Poets, The editor, Mr. D. Nichol 
Smith, whilst sarcastically observing that Gifford's 



VIII.] ESSAYS 169 

treatment of Hazlitt in the Quarterly forms an inter- 
esting chapter in the history of reviewing, maintains a 
judicious silence about any other reviews or reviewers. 
The less said the better. Let us keep a guard upon 
our own tongues and pens. Biographers must, how- 
ever, be allowed a reasonable licence. Hazlitt was 
unhappily, unlike Sir Joshua Eeynolds, a vulnerable 
man ; and if he was hit hard and below the belt, he 
hit back again as hard as he could, and sometimes I 
am afraid below the belt.^ 

Two matters, however, in which Hazlitt was un- 
deniably mixed up now present themselves for treat- 
ment — the divorce in Scotland, and the affair with 
Miss Walker, which latter unpleasant delusion has to 
be mentioned only because it is buried or embalmed 
in a book of Hazlitt's it is impossible to ignore, though 
disagreeable to read — the Liber Amoris (1823). 

Of the two incidents, the Scotch divorce, involving 
as it does a few legal points, is (by comparison) almost 
cheerful. 

Hazlitt's relations with his wife were, what we have 
seen, uncomfortable; they did not hate each other, 
and they were both attached to the boy, but they 

1 It is impossible to offer any apology for some of Hazlitt's 
articles in the Examiner and Edinburgh Review aboat Coleridge. 
Whether the latter took a worthy revenge in concocting or adapt- 
ing the foUowing epitaph or epigram on hearing of Hazlitt's death, 
I leave for the reader's consideration : — 

" Under this stone does William Hazlitt lie 
Who valued nought | ^^^ ^ ^^ ^^^ ^^^^ 
Thankless of all ) '* 

He lived like one who never thought to die, 
He died like one who dared not hope to live." 

As a criticism of Hazlitt it is singularly mal h propos. 



170 WILLIAM HAZLTTT [chap. 

were quite willing to part company. Hazlitt's habits 
as a husband had become bad ; and but for an amazing 
bluntness of feeling on his wife's part, would have 
been unendurable. He also made complaints about 
her. In 1819 they had given up joint housekeeping 
in York Street, and were living apart In August 
1820 Hazlitt saw Miss Walker, and became infatuated. 
The married pair were minded to be quit of the yoke. 
How was it to be done ? 

In England until 1857 there was no Divorce Court, 
such as is now the pride of the land, but the Spiritual 
Court would on proof of certain matrimonial offences 
decree a separation a mensa et thoro ; and then if it 
was the husband who had obtained the decree, he could, 
if rolling in money, and after recovering damages 
in a civil action, promote the passage through both 
Houses of Parliament of a Bill which, if it passed, put 
an end altogether to the marriage formerly subsisting 
between him and his wife, and left both at liberty to 
marry again. It was, I believe, the practice of the 
Bishops in the House of Lords when a Divorce Bill 
was in Committee to depute one of their number to 
move an amendment forbidding either the husband 
or wife to marry again during the lifetime of the 
other, and this amendment was usually allowed to 
be carried, on the honourable understanding that at 
a later stage the original clause should be restored — 
as it always was. 

England was clearly of no use in Hazlitt's case. 
Some kind friend directed his attention to Scotland. 
There the law was very different. In Scotland in 
1823, as now, either spouse could on proof of the un- 
faithfulness of the other obtain in the proper Court 



VIII.] DELUSIONS 171 

a decree annulling the marriage and restoring to both 
parties the freedom to marry again. This sounds 
fair, and may be so ; but the result is, that whenever 
the parties to a matrimonial contract or relationship 
in Scotland are minded to be rid of the obligation, 
and the husband has no incurable objection to formal 
proof being tendered of a single act of unfaithfulness 
on his part, there is an end of the marriage. 

Hazlitt had no delicacy of this disabling kind, and 
to Scotland accordingly the parties went, not to be 
married, but to be divorced.^ The husband stopped, 
or was stopped, perhaps, by want of money, at Stam- 
ford, where he could find, so he tells us, no more 
agreeable way of passing the time than by writing 
in a tradesman's book — a butterman's, I think — the 
first part of the Liber Amoris. Mrs. Hazlitt followed 
by sea, landing at Leith one Sunday morning in April 
1822; and in Edinburgh she chiefly remained till the 
18th of July, when her marriage being annulled, at 
all events, by Scotch law, she returned to London on 
the smack Favourite 2i> free woman. Her husband was 
in Edinburgh or the neighbourhood during the same 
period, and they occasionally met, had a cup of tea 
together, and abused with all the ingratitude of suitors 
" the law's delay." Hazlitt managed to turn an honest 
and much-needed penny by lecturing at Glasgow at 
the Andersonian Institute on Milton and Shakespeare, 

iJn 1823 it was settled law in Scotland that if the defender in an 
action for divorce had been resident for forty days within Scotland, 
he was amenable to the jurisdiction of the Goart. This is no longer 
good Scotch law, and was never recognised as law at all in England. 
Hazlitt's second marriage in England was bigamous. (See R. v. 
Lollepf RusseU and Ryan, 237. This case was commented upon by 
Brougham in the Edinburgh RevieWf vol. xlvii. p. 112.) 



172 WILLIAM HAZLTTT [chap. 

Thomson and Bums; and chancing to hear Dr. 
Chalmers preach, he made excellent copy out of the 
occasion for publication in that terrible paper the 
Liberal, which in Wordsworth's inflamed fancy " was 
to be directed against everything in religion, in 
morals, and probably in Grovemment and literature, 
which onr forefathers have been accustomed to rever- 
ence." Poor Mrs. Hazlitt had no such gifts, and was 
sometimes left with only four shillings and sixpence 
in her pocket, but none the less she somehow managed 
pendente lite to enjoy herself not a little, whiling away 
the time between repeated adjournments by a trip 
through the Trossachs, roaming through the fair 
domains of Dalmeny, and even taking shipping to 
Ireland and visiting both Dublin and Belfast. 

The whole scheme was nearly wrecked and Hazlitt 
driven distracted by this good woman's scruples. She 
was confronted with the oath de calumniOf which, as 
it required her to swear on her knees with her right 
hand on the Gospels that there had been no concert 
between her and her husband in order to obtain a 
divorce, might well occasion her some uneasiness, for 
no other business had brought them both to Edin- 
burgh. In her distress, for she was not a dishonest 
woman, she consulted a member of the Scottish Bar, ^ 
who assured her that the oath was only meant to hit 
cases where no real matrimonial offence had ever been 
committed ; and as in her case Hazlitt had committed 
such offences both in London and in Edinburgh, she 
might fairly take it, which accordingly she did. 

Hazlitt, I need not say, put in no substantial defence 

1 Mr. CraDstoon, afterwards Lord Ck>rehoii8e. 



VIII.] DELUSIONS 173 

to his wife's plaint; formal proof was tendered of a 
matrimonial offence in Edinburgh, and the desired 
decree pronounced. The expenses were inconsider- 
able, £26y 10s. 9d.i 

Mrs. Hazlitt's Journal kept in Scotland during this 
visit is published in a recent edition of the Liber 
AmoriSj and is worth a cartload of such books. It 
is, in its n^vet^ and bluntness, a remarkable record 
of the most unsentimental journey ever taken — not 
but what Mrs. Hazlitt had, as the Journal shows, a 
fine eye for scenery, and could criticise the pictures 
in Dalkeith Palace with the eye of a connoisseur. 

This collusive divorce, though separating the parties, 
in no way affected their friendliness of feeling. Mrs. 
Hazlitt frequently visited old Mrs. Hazlitt and Peggy, 
and never wrote or spoke otherwise than affectionately 
of " William," and they also occasionally met. Their 
son was happily able to entertain sincere affection for 
both his parents. 

The other matter might be disposed of once for all 
in Hazlitt's own words, written the very same year 
that saw the publication of the Liber Amoris — he is 
citing acquaintances of his own who have been ruined 
with their eyes wide open by some whim or fancy, and 
he mentions one " who divorced his wife to marry a 
wench at a lodging-house, who refused to have him, 
and whose cruelty and charms are the torments of his 

1 My friend Mr. Wmiam Mitchell, S.S.C., of Edinburgh, has been 
kind enough to examine in the General Record Room in the Register 
Honse the process of Divorce in the Consistorial Coart of Stoddart 
or Hazlitt v. Hazlitt^ which, he tells me, verifies in all particulars 
Mrs. Hazlitt's narrative, whilst rendering no support to the scan- 
dalous version Hazlitt is reported to have given to Landor in Flor- 
ence (see Lander's LifCt vol. ii. p. 207). 



174 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

own life and that of all his friends/' This is very near 
the truth, though as Hazlitt was not a Tudor monarch, 
he could hardly have divorced his wife, even in Scot- 
land, had she not been quite willing to be quit of him 
on account of his infidelities. 

. The loves of the middle-aged are never agreeable 
subject-matter for the pens of third parties. 

** A fool at forty is a fool indeed," 

and this affair of Hazlitt's must be briefly handled. 

The lAher Amoris, which has been written about in 
glowing terms by a gentle lady, and pronounced " de- 
lightful " by a noble lord, is divided, into three parts. 
The first, written at Stamford in the circumstances 
before stated, consists of conversations supposed to 
have been held between the anonymous author and 
the girl at the lodging-house. The second consists of 
extracts from letters actually addressed to an unnamed 
friend (Patmore), in which are unfolded the passion, 
fury, and delusion of the writer, who declares the 
persistency of his devotion in spite of muct that might 
well have killed it. The third part is made* up of 
three long letters to another unnamed friend (Mr. 
Sheridan Knowles) narrating the conclusion of the 
affair — the treachery, wantonness, and hypocrisy of 
the girl who would have nothing to say to him, pre- 
ferring the addresses of another lodger. 

The facts upon which the book is supposed to rest 
are now offensively familiar. Miss Walker was not a 
servant girl properly so called, but a tailor's daughter 
whose mother kept a lodging-house in Southampton 
Buildings. The tailor had three daughters. The 



VIII.] DELUSIONS 176 

eldest had married respectably, and she and her hus- 
band were known to Hazlitt; Sarah, the second 
daughter, is described by Procter as having a round 
small face, glassy eyes, a snake-like walk, and being 
very silent and demure, with a steady unmoving, un- 
comfortable gaze upon the person she was addressing, 
but Hazlitt gives a slightly more agreeable portrait in 
his TMe-Talk where he writes : — 

" The greatest hypocrite I ever knew was a little, demure, 
pretty, modest-looking girl with eyes timidly ca«t upon the 
ground and an air soft as enchantment. The only circum- 
stance that could lead to a suspicion of her true character 
was a cold, sullen, watery, glazed look about the eyes, which 
she bent on vacancy, as if determined to avoid all explanation 
with yours. I might have spied in their glittering, motion- 
less surface the rocks and quicksands that awaited one below." ^ 

Of the genuineness of Hazlitt's infatuation there 
can be no doubt, although Liber Amoris itself is not a 
book of good faith. Procter's account of it would be 
amusing but for the subject-matter. "His (Hazlitt's) 
intellect was completely subdued by an insane passion. 
He was, for a time, unable to think or talk of anything 
else. He abandoned criticism and books as idle 
matters, and fatigued every person whom he met by 
expressions of her love, of her deceit, and of his own 
vehement disappointment. This was when he lived 
in Southampton Buildings, Holborn. Upon one occa- 
sion I know that he told the story of his attachment 
to five different persons in the same day, and at each 
time entered into minute details of his love story. ' I 
am a cursed fool,' said he to me. ' I saw J going 

1 Essay on the Knowledge of Character, 



176 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

into Wills' Coffee House yesterday morning ; he spoke 
to me. I followed him into the house, and whilst he 
lunched I told him the whole story. Then I wandered 

into the Regent's Park, where I met one of M ^'s 

sons. I walked with him some time, and on his using 
some civil expression, by Jove, sir, I told him the whole 
story ! ' (Here he mentioned another instance which I 
forget.) * Well, sir ' (he went on), * I tiien went and 
called on Haydon, but he was out There was only 
his man, Sabnon, there ; but, by Jove, I could not help 
myself. It all came out — the whole cursed story. 
Afterwards I went to look at some lodgings at Pimlico. 
The landlady at one place, after some explanations as 
to rent, etc., said to me very kindly, '' I am afraid you 
are not well, sir ? " "No, ma'am," said I, "I am not 
well," and on inquiring further, the devil take me if I 
did not let out tiie whole story from beginning to end.' " * 
Lord Houghton once wrote in the Fortnightly Review 
" of the wondrous servant girl who drove Hazlitt mad 
by the dignity that petrified her beauty and froze the 
passion it inflamed." * " Wondrous " and " dignity " 
are strange words to apply to the Liber Anwris ; but 
no doubt when he set about concocting the book, the 
literary point Hazlitt wished to make was that, like the 
madman in Don Quixote he is for ever quoting, "he 
had worshipped a statue, hunted the wind, and cried 
aloud in the desert." His literary failure to make out 
any adequate image of a damsel in stone is to be ac- 
counted for by his having printed in the book too 
much of his original letters to Patmore and Knowles. 
He did not cut out enough, and what he left in spoiled 

1 Procter's Autobiographical Fragments (1873). 

3 Fortnightly Review, January 1881, ' Notes on Endymion,' 



VIII.] DELUSIONS 177 

the romance without telling the truth. The letters, as 
actually written by Hazlitt to Patmore and Knowles, 
are now unhappily in print. How they came to be 
preserved is beyond guessing. Preserved however 
they were, and printed they have been. I will say no 
more about them than that they make the subject 
intolerable. If the statements made in them are true, 
the tailor's wife was a Doll Tearsheet, and her house 
and her daughter (her prudish tongue notwithstand- 
ing) what the house and daughter of Doll Tearsheet 
might be expected to be. On the other hand, it would 
be grossly unfair not to remember that neither tailor's 
wife nor daughter has ever been heard in her own 
defence ; and that the girl, whose wisdom in refusing 
to marry Hazlitt cannot be disputed, subsequently 
made, as her sister before her had done, what is called 
a respectable marriage. 

Anyhow, the whole sentimental structure of the 
Liher Amoris now sinks below the stage, and joins the 
realm of things unspeakable — "vile kitchen stuff," 
fit only for the midden. 

Hazlitt got £100 for the Liber Amoris, which John 
Hunt published in 1823. It is easy to imagine the 
unholy joy of Blackwoodj whose writers were not 
likely to overlook a casual reference it contains to 
Craigcrook, "where lives the prince of critics and the 
king 6f men." It was certainly hard upon Jeffrey to 
be dragged into such mire. 

Two things may usefully be remembered. Hazlitt 
wrote some of his best essays during the duration of 
this madness — for example, nearly the whole of the 
second volume of Table-Talk, including the noble 
discourse "On the Fear of Death"; and in another 



178 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

style, but equally triumphant, the famous "Fight." 
Secondly, the filial language of Hazlitt's son: "For 
some time previous to this my father had fallen into 
an infatuation which he himself illustrated in glowing 
and eloquent language in a regretted publication called 
Liber Anurris, The subject is a painful one, and 
admits of but one cheerful consolation — that my 
father's name and character was but momentarily 
dimmed by what indeed was but a momentary delu- 
sion.'' 

"0 Art, lovely Art, *balm of hurt minds, chief 
nourisher in life's feast, great Nature's second course,' 
thee we invoke, and not in vain." In this somewhat 
braggadocio mood do we find Hazlitt, in the December 
number of the London Magazine for 1822, beginning a 
spirited description of the Angerstein Gallery, now 
happily included in our great National Collection. 

At the end of 1822, after he had got his bit of John 
Bundeism, as his grandson aptly describes his sham 
Liber Amoris, off his hands, Hazlitt, with the undesir- 
able Patmore as a companion, made a round of the 
most famous picture collections in England — the 
Angerstein, the Dulwich, and Lord Stafford's galleries, 
those of Windsor Castle, Hampton Court, Wilton, 
Stourhead, Petworth, Burleigh House, Fonthill Abbey, 
and Blenheim, all of which he describes in fine style 
in the London Magazine during the year 1823. 

In these accounts we find Hazlitt himself again. 
He is greatly enjoying himself, and goes his round in 
search of pleasing sensations and ecstatic moments, 
finding them in a ruff or a wrinkle of Rembrandt's, in 
a portrait by Vandyke, in a Rubens or a Claude, in 
Guidos, Correggios, and the Caracci. He took no 



VIII.] PICTURE GALLERIES 179 

notes, feeling that he would rather make a mistake 
now and then than spoil his whole pleasure in look- 
ing at a fine collection. Hazlitt made many mistakes, 
but he never spoilt his pleasure or ours. Hazlitt is a 
good critic of pictures in much the same way as he 
is a good critic of books. As one who had at least 
tried to be a painter, he knew that much of the 
painter's art is mechanical ; and as one who had wor- 
shipped the great masters of the art, perhaps only too 
fiercely, he also knew how much was incommunicable. 
Beyond this he took no great pains to qualify himself 
as a critic of the Fine Arts. He had read Richard- 
son's book and Sir Joshua's and Flaxman's Discourses, 
and Burke on "The Sublime and Beautiful," and 
Hume on Taste, and had talked Art with Northcote 
and Haydon ; but he had little of the hard student in 
his composition, being always well content, with Lord 
Foppington in one of his favourite plays, to rely upon 
the sprouts of his own brain. 

Hazlitt excels in describing a picture ; and when, as 
in the case of Titian's "Peter Martyr," the original 
has been destroyed, a description by Hazlitt is a pos- 
session; otherwise I do not know that an eloquent, 
and probably in details inaccurate, description of a 
picture is of much service. It is the same thing with 
descriptions of places in poetry — they are usually 
failures the moment they descend to the particular 
details. Wordsworth can describe a glen, but not 
Glencoe. 

The value of Hazlitt's art-criticism is that it disposes 
you to be fond of pictures. Mr. Gosse has well said : 
"At a time when little attention was paid to art 
criticism, when in England at least it was bound up 



180 WILLIAM HAZLTTT [chap. vui. 

with an empty connoisseurship, and lost in the jai^n 
of the dilettante, it is the gloiy of Hazlitt that he 
claimed for it the dignity of a branch of literatore and 
expended on it the wealth of his own fervid and 
impassioned imagination."' 

1 See Pteface to CoRverto/toiu of Jamet Northeoie, edited by 
Edmiind Goaae. (B. Bentley and Son, 1S9L) 



CHAPTER IX 

MAXIMS^ TBAVEL8, AND THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE 

Nothing was more characteristic of Hazlitt than the 
attempt he made in this year 1823 to epitomise in a 
series of sentences, maxims, or reflections, his philoso- 
phy of life. It is true that after a prolonged period of 
stubbornness of mind and stiffness of pen, a period upon 
which he looked back with an odd mixture of pride 
and shame, he had now become one of the most fluent 
of authors, and poured out his mind on a hundred 
themes with abundant ease; but none the less, he 
never lost his admiration for hard thinking and rocky 
sentences. His own writings are full of outbursts of 
eloquent reminiscence, of sentimental dreams, of auto- 
biographical detail, but that is not the style he most 
admired. What he loved best was the downright 
unadorned honesty of purpose of Jonathan Edwards, 
and the reticence that prevented Tucker from ever 
mentioning the fact that by the time he came to write 
the last volumes of the lAgTit of Nature pursued he 
was blind. "The golden mean," so Hazlitt writes, 
" is indeed an exact description of the mode of life I 
should like to live, and of the style I should like to 
write, but, alas ! I am afraid I shall never succeed in 
either object of my ambition." ^ 

1 Tour in France and Italy, 
181 



182 WILLIAM HAZLTTT [chap. 

He says in the preface to the Characteristics^ a small 
book published anooymouslyy to escape abuse, in 1823, 
that it was suggested by La Rochefoucauld, but it 
jumped with his humour though alien to the style now 
become his. Hazlitt tried his best to squeeze his 
humours into a narrow bed, to pen his flocking fancies 
and prejudices into one fold. His success is partial. 
He could not keep his passion for Bonaparte or his 
dislike of Pitt out of his maxims, which at times 
run to a length unendurable in a maxim, however 
praiseworthy in a sermon or commendable in an essay. 

A few specimens shall be given of his gallant at- 
tempt, worthy of imitation by the whole quill-driving 
fraternity, to cut himself short : — 

'* It is harder to praise a friend than an enemy. By the 
last we may acquire a reputation for candour ; by the first 
we only seem to discharge a debt." 

'* Society is a more level surface than we imagine. Wise 
men or absolute fools are hard to be met with, as there are 
few giants or dwarfe. The learned in ^books is ignorant 
of the world ; and he who is ignorant of books is often well 
acquainted with other things, for life is of the same length 
to all, and the mind cannot be idle." 

" The study of metaphysics has this advantage at least — 
it promotes an uprightness of understanding which is a cure 
for the spirit of lying. He who has devoted himself to the 
discovery of truth feels neither pride nor pleasure in the in- 
vention of falsehood. If you find a person given to vulgar 
shifts and rhodomontade who at the same time tells you he is 
a metaphysician, do not believe him." 

*' It is wonderful how soon men acquire talents for offices 
of trust and importance. We assume an equality with 
circumstances." 

" Men will die for an opinion as soon as for anything 
else." 

" We are only justified in r^ecting prejudices when we 



iz.] MAXIMS 183 

can explain the grounds of them, or when they are at war 
with Nature, which is the strongest prejudice of all/' 

"It is a sign that real religion is in a state of decay 
when passages in compUment of it are applauded at the 
theatre." 

" If the world were good for nothing else, it is a fine sub- 
ject for speculation." 

I have chosen eight out of four hundred and thirty- 
four maxims or reflections, nor will their good quality 
be denied. It is strange to think of the Liber Amoris 
and the Charcicteristics appearing within a few months 
of each other. Neither had any sale. 

Although the cottages at Winterslow, which were 
settled upon Mrs. Hazlitt, had been long exchanged 
for an annuity payable to the lady during her life 
(under a power, I presume, contained in the settle- 
ment), Hazlitt retained the habit of spending a good 
deal of his time in the neighbourhood, his usual quar- 
ters being an ancient inn known as " The Hutt," on 
the Great Western Eoad. Close by were the woods of 
Tudorsleigh and Clarendon. Stonehenge was within 
a walk, and here Hazlitt's perturbed spirit found its 
nearest approach to peace. He wrote much during his 
later years at the Hutt, Winterslow. 

In 1824 Hazlitt got married to a widow lady he 
appears to have met for the first time in a stage coach, 
and on a stage coach nobody could well be more 
agreeable than Hazlitt. Very little is known of this 
incident, not even the lady's maiden name. Her late 
husband was a Colonel Bridgewater, who in his will 
is described as of the island of Grenada, and by that 
disposition left his widow Isabella £300 a year. As 
the second Mrs. Hazlitt lived on till 1869, she was in 



184 WILtJAM fiAZLTTT [chap. 

1824 probably a good deal younger than her new hus- 
band, then in his forty-seventh year. 

When or where the ni|trruige took place is not 
recorded, but on the 1st of September 1824 the couple 
left Brighton in the Dieppe packet. Hazlitt was 
essentially a man who liyed by writing. Whatever he 
did, creditable or discreditable, wise or f ooHsh, he put 
it first upon paper, and then upon the market. Accord- 
ingly, we have a full record of his travels in France 
and Italy made in the circumstances just narrated. 
Happily there are no love rhapsodies. The second 
Mrs*. Hazlitt remains unsung, only one, and that the 
very barest, reference being made to her. The " Tour '' 
first appeared in the Morning ChronvcLej and was after- 
wards published in book form by Hunt and Clarke 
in 1826. There is no need to accuse Hazlitt of making 
mercenary marriages, for both his wives must have 
been economical dames if they did not spend all they 
had upon themselves. Hazlitt had always to scribble 
for his living. Had he had his own way, he would 
have been a country gentleman of good estate, retired 
habits, and philosophical opinions ; writing in a style 
founded upon Arbuthnot's on the plagiarisms of Locke 
and Malthus and the true principles of human action ; 
and fleeting away the time not so occupied in turning 
over old prints, devouring the Waverley Novels, and 
mooning about his shrubberies with Rousseau in one 
pocket and Congreve or Vanbrugh in another. But no 
such way of life was ever open to him, and no such 
snug retreat was ever to be his. 

The Notes of a Journey through France and Italy is a 
manly, sensible, if perhaps a little drawn out, record of 
travel. Hazlitt dishes up his opinions and modes of 



IX.] TRAVELS 186 

thought, whims and fancies, over and over again ; but 
it is not easy to grow tired of them ; there is always 
meat on his bones for the reader to consume. 

His travels, like everything else he did with his pen, 
are intensely literary. The style is excellent, but for 
the truth you would not always vouch. Hazlitt^s 
description of his fellow-passengers on the steam- 
packet, though lifelike, is not so convincing as Carlyle. 
You do not feel sure they were on the boat : — 

" We had a fine passage in the steamboat (Sept. 1, 1824). 
Not a cloud, scarce a breath of air ; a moon, and then star- 
light, tiU the dawn, with rosy fingers, ushered us into Dieppe. 
Our fellow-passengers were pleasant and imobtrusive : an 
English party of the better sort ; a member of Parliament, 
delighted to escape from * late hours and bad company * ; an 
English general, proud of his bad French ; a captain in the 
navy, glad to enter a French harbour peaceably ; a country 
squire, extending his inquhies beyond his paternal acres; the 
younger sons of wealthy citizens, refined through the strainers 
of a university education, and finishing off with foreign 
travel; a young lawyer, quoting Peregrine Pickle, and 
divided between his last circuit and projected tour. There 
was also a young Dutchman, looking mild through his mus- 
tachios, and a new married couple (a French Jew and Jew- 
ess) who grew uxorious from the effects of sea-sickness, and 
took refuge from the qualms of the disorder in paroxysms of 
tenderness. We had some difficulty in getting into the 
harbour, and had to wait till morning for the tide/' 

The first thing Hazlitt did on getting to Paris was 
to hurry to the Louvre, there to be reminded of 1802, 
when Bonaparte was First Consul, when the galleries 
were full of " loot," and Hazlitt himself was to be a 
painter. 

" Oh 1 for the change 'twixt Now and Then." 



186 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

Still Hazlitt, as his wont was, enjoyed himself^ even 
though Bonaparte was dead, and Legitimacy squatted 
like a toad in every comer of the gallery. He searched 
curiously for the pictures he had copied with such 
feverish haste two-and-twenty years before. Oddly 
enough, some one else was wandering through the same 
galleries searching for the same pictures, and bitterly 
disappointed because she could not find them. The 
first Mrs. Hazlitt, ever fond of a jaunt, was also in 
Paris, looking for " The Transfiguration " William had 
copied. The two met and renewed their chat. This 
Mrs. Hazlitt, writing home to her boy, then at school 
in Tavistock, mentions that she had found his father 
in Paris " splendidly situated " as to his rooms, in 
"The H6tel des ifitrangers," Rue Vivienne, and getting 
his food cooked in the English way, " which is a very 
great object to him, but terribly expensive." Hazlitt 
confided to his former wife how Taylor and Hessey 
would not give him what he wanted for the book of 
travels he was writing, and that he meant to sell it to 
the highest bidder on his return. Mrs. Hazlitt also 
tells the boy that his father had " talked of sending 
him some money," but " found himself rather short." 
No mention is made of the other Mrs. Hazlitt. 

Hazlitt had now no affection for the French, who 
had been content to forget Bonaparte and go back 
like whipped dogs to the Bourbon kennels; and he 
philosophises about their character, their poetry, their 
drama, and their pictures in an unfriendly spirit. He 
positively prefers the English, of whom he remarks 
with great point that their vanity does not heal the 
wounds made in their pride, nor do they ever forgive 
the men by whose corruption or stupidity those 



IX.] TRAVELS 187 

wounds have been inflicted ; but the French, he adds 
with bitter significance, are soon reconciled to fate. 
Even English cooking could not make Paris in 1824 a 
pleasant place. Hazlitt had preached peace with 
France, and now peace there was, but with a France 
with whom he would be at war. On the whole, he 
keeps his temper pretty well, though I doubt whether 
a more venomous footnote was ever penned, even by a 
commentator, than the one in which Hazlitt stabs his 
brother-in-law, Dr. Stoddart, who is, d propos of noth- 
ing, suddenly informed that had he remained a revo- 
lutionary, he would probably have been as ridiculous 
as he was as a renegade — "the great misfortune of a 
certain class of persons being that they were ever born 
or heard of." 

Hazlitt's descriptions of Paris and Eome as those 
cities were in 1824 are frank and vigorous. Paris, he 
says bluntly, is a beast of a city to be in. There is 
not a place, so he declared, where you can set your 
foot in peace or comfort, unless you can take refuge in 
one of their hotels, where you are locked up as in an 
old-fashioned citadel, without any of the dignity of 
romance. 

" Fancy yourself in London with the footpath taken away, 
80 that you are forced to walk along the middle of the streets 
with a dirty gutter runnmg through them, fighting your way 
through coaches, waggons, and hand-carts trundled along by 
large mastiff-dogs, with the houses twice as high, greasy 
holes for shop windows, and piles of wood, greenstaUs, and 
wheelbarrows placed at the doors, and the contents of wash- 
hand basins pouring out of a dozen stories, — fancy all this 
and worse, and, with a change of scene, you are in Paris. 

" Pans is a vast pile of tall and dirty alleys, of slaughter- 
houses and barbers' shops — an immense suburb huddled 



188 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

together within the walls so close, that you cannot see the 
loftiness of the buildings for the narrowness of the streets, 
and where all that is fit to live in, and best worth looking 
at, is turned out upon quays, the boulevards, and their im- 
mediate vicinity." 

Over the garden of the Tuileries he grows eloquent, 
but hardly as much as he does over — what think you ? 
— the west end of London. 

" But for a real West End, for a solid substantial cut into 
the heart of a metropolis, conunend me to the streets and 
squares on each side of the top of Oxford Street, with Gros- 
venor and Portman Squares at one end, and Cavendish and 
Hanover at the other, linked together by Bruton, South 
Audley, and a hundred other fine old streets, with a broad, 
airy pavement, a display of comfort, of wealth, of taste, and 
rank all about you, each house seeming to have been the 
residence of some respectable old English family for half a 
century past, and with Portland Place, looking out towards 
Hampstead and Highgate, with their hanging gardens and 
lofty terraces, and Primrose Hill nestling beneath them, in 
green, pastoral luxury, the delight of the Cockneys, the 
aversion of Sir Walter and his merry men ! " 

Borne cannot number Hazlitt among her victims. 

« < As London is to the meanest country town, so is Rome 
to every other city in the world.' 

" So said an old firiend of mine, and I believed him till I 
saw it. This is not the Rome I expected to see. No one 
from being in it would know he was in the place that had 
been twice mistress of the world. I do not understand how 
Nicolas Poussin could tell, taking up a handful of earth, that 
it was * a part of the Eternal City.* In Oxford an air of 
learning breathes from the very walls; halls and colleges 
meet your eye in every direction ; you cannot for a moment 



IX.] TRAVELS 189 

forget where you are. In London there is a look of wealth 
and populousness which is to be found nowhere else. In ) 

Kome you are for the most part lost in a mass of tawdry, , 

fulsome commonplaces. It is not the contrast of pig-styes 
and palaces that I complain of, the distinction between the 
old and new; what I object to is the want of any such 
striking contrast, but instead an almost uninterrupted suc- 
cession of narrow, vulgar-looking streets, where the smell of 
garlic prevails over the odour of antiquity, with the dingy, 
melancholy flat fronts of modem built houses, that seem in 
search of an owner. A dunghill, an outhouse, the weeds 
growing under an imperial arch offend me not; but what 
has a greengrocer's stall, a stupid English china warehouse, 
a putrid trattoria^ a barber's sign, an old clothes or old 
picture shop, or a Gothic palace, with two or three lacqueys 
in modem liveries lounging at the gate, to do with ancient 
Home ? No ; this is not the wall that Romulus leaped . 
over; this is not the Capitol where Julius Csesar fell. 
Instead of standing on seven hills, it is situated in a low 
valley ; the golden Tiber is a muddy stream ; St. Peter's is 
not equal to St. Paul's; the Vatican falls short of the 
Louvre, as it was in my time ; but I thought that here 
were works immovable, immortal, inimitable on earth, and 
lifting the soul half-way to heaven. I find them not, or only 
what I had seen before in different ways. The stanzas of 
Raphael are faded, or no better than the prints ; and the 
mind of Michael Angelo's figures, of which no traces are to be 
found in the copies, is equally absent from the walls of the 
Sistine Chapel. Rome is great only in ruins : the Colosseum, 
the Pantheon, the Arch of Constantino ftdly answered my 
expectations ; and an air breathes round her stately avenues, 
serene, blissM, like the mingled breath of spring and winter, 
betwixt life and death, betwixt hope and despair. There is 
little verdure, nor are any trees planted, on account of their 
bad effects on the air. Happy climate ! in which shade and 
sunshine are alike fatal. The Jews (I may add, while I ■ 
think of it) are shut up here in a quarter by themselves. 
I see no reason for it. It is a distinction not worth the 
making." 



190 WILLIAM HAZUTT [chap. 

On St. Peter's he philosophises as follows : — 

" After all, St. Peter's does not seem to me the chief boast 
or most imposing display of the Catholic religion. Old 
Melrose Abbey, battered to pieces and in ruins, as it is, 
impresses me much more than the collectiye pride and pomp 
of Michael Angelo's great work. Popeiy is here at home, 
and may str^t and swell and deck itself out as it pleases, on 
the spot and for the occasion. It is the pageant of an hour. 
But to stretch out its arm fifteen hundr^ miles, to create a 
voice in the wilderness, to have left its monuments standing 
by the Teyiot-side, or to send the midnight hymn through 
the shades of Yallombrosa, or to make it echo among Alpine 
solitudes, that is faith, and that is power. The rest is a 
puppet-show! I am no admirer of Pontificals, but I am 
a slave to the picturesque. The priests talking together in 
St. Peter's, or the common people kneeling at the altars, 
make groups that shame all art. The inhabitants of the 
city have something French about them — something of the 
cook's and the milliner's shop, something pert, gross, and 
cunning; but the Roman peasants redeem the credit of their 
golden sky. The yoimg women that come here firom Crensano 
and Albano, and that are known by their scarlet bodices 
and white head-dresses and handsome good-humoured faces, 
are the finest specimens I have ever seen of human nature. 
They are like creatures that have breathed the air of heaven 
till the sun has ripened them into perfect beauty, health, and 
goodness. They are universally admired in Rome. The 
Englishwomen that you see, though pretty, are pieces of 
dough to them. Little troops and whole fiimilies, men, 
women, and children, firom the Gampagna and neighbouring 
districts of Rome, throng the streets during Easter and 
Lent, who come to visit the shrine of some favourite saint, 
repeating their Aves aloud, and telling their beads with all 
the earnestness imaginable. Popery is no farce to them. 
They surely think St. Peter's is the way to heaven. You 
even see priests counting their beads and looking grave. If 
they can contrive to get possession of this world for them- 
selves, and give the laity the reversion of the next, were it 



IX.] TRAVELS 191 

only in imagination, something is to be said for the exchange. 
I only hate half-way houses in religion or politics, that take 
from us all the benefits of ignorance and superstition, and 
give us none of the advantages of liberty or philosophy in 
return." 

He was greatly irritated by the Stuart monument 
in St. Peter's. He was persuaded it never could have 
been put up without the consent of the Hanoverian 
dynasty, and that men who derived their title under 
the Act of Settlement should recognise Legitimacy 
was more than he could bear. "Is the dread of 
usurpation become so strong that a reigning family 
are half ready to acknowledge themselves usurpers in 
favour of those who are not likely to come back to 
assert their claim ? We did not expel the slavish and 
tyrannical Stuarts from our soil to send a whining 
and Jesuitical recantation and writ of error after them 
to the other world a hundred years afterwards." If 
Hazlitt had lived to read Macaulay, he would have 
greatly rejoiced, though he must have condemned as 
a momentary lapse the touching lines of the historian 
on the Jacobite's grave in Rome, save so far indeed as 
even they contain some privy thrusts at the " slavish 
and tyrannical Stuarts." 

Hazlitt, the man of sentiment, stands nakedly re- 
vealed in the comment he makes upon a story he 
repeats from M. Beyle's "charming little book entitled 
VAmcmrP The story is that of the Madonna Pia 
referred to by Dante in the Fifth Canto of the Parga- 
torio, and the comment is as follows : — 

" This story is interesting and well told. One such inci- 
dent, or ode page in Dante or in Spenser, is worth all the 
route between this and Paris, and all the sights in all 



192 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

the post-roads in Europe. O Sienna ! If I felt charmed 
with thy narrow, tenantless streets, or looked delighted 
through thy arch^ gateway over the subjected plain, it was 
that some recollections of Madonna Pia hung upon the beat- 
ings of my spirit, and converted a barren waste into the 
regions of romance ! " 

The "Tour" concludes in a passage so much in the 
very style of Mr. Froude as to make a sensitive reader 
start and rub his eyes, which wander to where, in 
their places, stand the Short Studies: — 



« 



I confess London looked to me on my return like a 
long, straggling, dirty country town; nor do the names 
of Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, or Coventry 
sound like a trumpet in the ears, or invite our pilgrim steps 
like those of Sienna, of Cortona, Perugia, Arezzo, Pisa, and 
Ferrara. I am not sorry, however, that I have got back. 
There is an old saying. Home is home, be it never so homely. 
However delightfdl or striking the objects may be abroad, 
they do not take the same hold of you, nor can you identify 
yourself with them as at home. Not only is the language 
an insuperable obstacle, other things as well as men speak a 
language new and strange to you. You Uve comparatively 
in a dream, though a brilliant and a waking one. It is in 
vain to urge that you learn the language; that you are 
famiUarised with manners and scenery. No other language 
can ever become our mother-tongue. We may learn the 
words; but they do not convey the same feelings, nor is 
it possible they should do so, imless we could begin our 
Uves over again, and divide our conscious being into two 
different selves. Not only can we not attach the same 
meaning to words, but we cannot see objects with the same 
eyes, or form new loves and friendships after a certain period 
of our lives. The pictures that most delighted me in Italy 
were those I had before seen in the Louvre *with eyes of 
youth.' I could revive this feeling of enthusiasm, but not 
transfer it. Neither would I recommend the going abroad 



IX.] TRAVELS 193 

when young to become a mongrel being — half French, half 
English. It is better to be something than nothing. It is 
well to see foreign countries to enlarge one's speculative 
knowledge and dispel false prejudices and libellous views 
of human nature; but our affections must settle at home. 
Besides, though a dream, it is a splendid one. It is fine to 
see the white Alps rise in the horizon of fancy at the 
distance of a thousand miles ; or the imagination may wing 
its thoughtful flight among the castellated Apennines, roam- 
ing from city to city over cypress and olive grove, viewing 
the inhabitants as they crawl about mouldering palaces or 
temples, which no hand has touched for the last three 
hundred years, and see the genius of Italy brooding over 
the remains of virtue, glory, and liberty, with Despair at 
the gates, an EngUsh minister handing the keys to a foreign 
despot, and stupid members of ParUament wondering what 
is the matter ! " 

Whilst in Florence, Hazlitt, attired in a dress-coat 
and nankeen trousers half-way up his legs, leaving his 
stockings well visible over his shoes, presented him- 
self at the Palazzo Medici and demanded to see Landor, 
an act of courage which excited the admiration and 
aroused the fears of the English residents. The two 
men got on exceedingly well. Hazlitt had reviewed 
the first two volumes of the Imaginary Conversations 
in the Edinburgh; and though he had, with all the 
"spectacled gravity" of an austere critic, found his 
author guilty of a strange lack of temper and decorum, 
and full of arrogance and caprice, he had also greatly 
delighted in many of the ConversaHons, and had writ- 
ten of them with feeling and enthusiasm. Between 
Hazlitt and Landor there were obvious resemblances. 
Both hated kings far better than they loved peoples. 
Neither of them was the least a democrat. In fact, 
the anti-Gallican phrensy which possessed the British 



194 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

natioiii and had so disgusted both Landor and Hazlitt^ 
though Landor learned to alter his mind^ was what 
the latter had once called it — "a drunken democracy." 
Popular wars, and wars usually are popular to begin 
with, are and must be democratic orgies. , Landor, in 
a letter to Parr, once opined that there were, perhaps, 
thirty people then alive in the world to whom the 
word vulgar would not apply ; and as for the public 
at large, why, there is not, wrote Hazlitt, "a more 
mean, stupid, dastardly, pitiful, selfish, spiteful, envi- 
ous, ungrateful animal in existence.'' Both men had 
idolised Napoleon, who was referred to in Lander's 
OeUr (1798) as 

** A mortal man beyond all mortal praise.*' 

And though the line and the admiration that engen- 
dered it were both to disappear, Landor made up for 
his recantation by continuing to abuse all English 
ministers after a fashion far beyond the resources of 
Hazlitt's comparatively mild vocabulary. Both Haz- 
litt and Landor were in Paris in 1802 — the one as a 
poor artist, and the other as a man of fortune, but in 
very much the same temper of mind. Both men, despite 
their violent self-will, were saner politicians than were 
Southey and Wordsworth, either when " Society was 
their glittering bride" and "airy hopes their chil- 
dren"; or when, as Mr. Forster tersely puts it, they 
had made out their return journey from Utopia to 
Old Sarum. About Southey, whom Landor always 
loved, they might have quarrelled, had they not pre- 
ferred to laugh, as also they might over Locke, for 
whom Landor entertained the greatest reverence. As 
critics, indeed, it would be hard to compare them. 



IX.] TRAVELS 196 

Landor was a hundred times the better equipped and 
caparisoned — a high priest of literature in costly 
vestments — whilst Hazlitt may be compared to a 
mendicant friar of prodigious eloquence, preaching 
the joys of good books, good plays, and good 
pictures. 

The conversation between Landor and Hazlitt is 
partly recorded in Landor's Life by Mr. Forster, 
vol. ii. p. 207. It took an odd turn. The pair parted 
in amity ; and Landor, with his accustomed profusion, 
paid Hazlitt some very high compliments in the new 
series of Imaginary Conversations, compliments after- 
wards struck out under the influence of Southey and 
Julius Hare. 

The "Tour" ended on the 16th of October 1825, 
when Hazlitt and his son, who had joined his father 
and stepmother somewhere en route, returned home 
by way of St. Omer and Calais. Mrs. Hazlitt did not 
come home with her husband, on whom she never set 
eyes again. They parted peaceably ; but when, after 
a fortnight, Hazlitt wrote to her in Switzerland, 
inquiring when he should come over and escort her 
back, she gave him to understand she was never 
coming back. She went to live in Scotland, the 
country to which she belonged by descent, and where 
she died in September 1869. Hazlitt's grandson 
thinks that his father, in 1825 a manly outspoken 
little fellow, who took his mother's part, had some- 
thing to do in making up the lady's mind to proceed 
no further in the business.* Fortunately there is 



I The lady may have been advised that her marriage was biga- 
mous. (See note on p. 171.) 



196 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

nothing written on either side. The subject was 
allowed to drop^ and Hazlitt after his return home 
resumed life in London and at " The Hutt," Winters- 
low. By this time he was meditating upon a Life 
of Napoleon. 

During the last few months of the " Tour " there had 
appeared in Colbum's Magazine — the new monthly — 
a periodical edited at different times, and always very 
badly, by Campbell, Bulwer, Hook, and Hood — a 
series of contemporary portraits called 7%e Spirit of 
the Age, which, as all could see, though no name was 
added, were from the pen of Hazlitt. It was an 
alarming prospect, — full length characters or word- 
portraits of Coleridge, Southey, Wordsworth, Scott, 
Byron, Gifford, Bentham, Malthus, Campbell, etc., 
with descriptions of their manners and customs by 
the biting pen of Hazlitt, — who would not feel uneasy 
in handling such a volume for the first time ? Happily 
The Spirit of the Age, Hazlitt's best book, as many 
think, is composed in a spirit, if not of Christian for- 
giveness, yet of a mellowed animosity. Hazlitt has 
not changed his mind or swerved an inch from the 
straight lines of his sinewy convictions (the expres- 
sion is his own), but his temper is improved. It is 
only necessary to compare the Southey of the Political 
Essays with the Southey of The Spirit of the Age to 
observe the difference. There is something almost 
gracious in the latter essay, and the same holds good 
with regard to Coleridge and Wordsworth. Hazlitt 
was never petty and personal after De Quincey's 
fashion, but he was furious and reckless. He is no 
longer so in 77ie Spirit of the Age, He was as much 
entitled to his opinions as any of the men he criticised 



IX.] THE 8PIBIT OF THE AGE 197 

were to theirs. There was no earthly reason why he 
should crook his knee to any of them, or why he 
should abstain from unmasking the meanness of Gif- 
f ord, or the essential intellectual poverty of Brougham ; 
but if it were done, it were well 'twere done good- 
humouredly. To call Tlie Spirit of the Age a good- 
humoured book would be extravagant, but it is not a 
book disfigured by passion and prejudice. The late 
Mr. GilfiUan, an effusive and far from trustworthy 
critic, but who yielded to none in his hearty enjoy- 
ment of a good book, used a happy phrase about The 
Spirit of the Age when he called it the "Harvest 
Home" of Hazlitt's mind. The reader of Hazlitt's 
five-and-twenty volumes will discern most, if not all, 
the significant thoughts and points of view with which 
his reading has made him familiar, shining with an 
undimmed light, and stated with unabated vigour in 
The Spirit of the Age. I do not know whether the 
Hazlitt beginner should begin or end with The Spirit 
of the Age; there is much to be said on both sides; 
but whether he begins or ends with it, he is a " barren 
rascal " indeed if he does not enjoy it. 

Two quotations, and they shall be good long ones, 
will serve to illustrate the style and manner of these 
incomparable sketches. I could equally well choose 
two others. The Home Tooke, for example, is a 
superb portrait of the old Erastian, a type of man 
well-nigh extinct; and it is really sad to think our 
children will never see a true Erastian in the flesh, or 
chuckle over his ingrained toughness of moral fibre. 
The Cobbett is justly admired, and is as fine as a 
portrait by Hogarth, but my two must be the Cole- 
ridge and the Scott. 



198 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

This is the Coleridge : — 

(( < Let us draw the curtain, and unlock the shrine.* 
" Learning rocked him in his cradle, and while yet a child 
' He lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.' 

At sixteen he wrote his Ode on Chatterton^ and he still reverts 
to that period with delight, not so much as it relates to 
himself (for that string of his own early promise of fame 
rather jars than otherwise), but as exemplifying the youth of 
a poet. Mr. Coleridge talks of himself without being an 
egotist, for in him the individual is always merged in the 
abstract and general. He distinguished himself at school and 
at the university by his knowledge of the classics, and gained 
several prizes for Greek epigrams. How many men are there 
(great scholars, celebrated names in literature) who, having 
done the same thing in their youth, have no other idea all the 
rest of their lives but of this achievement, of a fellowship and 
dinner, and who, installed in academic honours, would look 
down on the author as a mere strolling bard ! At Christ's 
Hospital, where he was brought up, he was the idol of those 
among his schoolfellows who mingled with their bookish 
studies the music of thought and of humanity; and he was 
usually attended round the cloisters by a group of these (in- 
spiring and inspired) whose hearts, even then, burnt witliin 
them as he talked, and where the sounds yet Hnger to mock 
EuA on his way, still turning pensive to the past ! One of 
the finest and rarest parts of Mr. Coleridge's conversation is 
when he expatiates on the Greek tragedians (not that he is 
not weU acquainted, when he pleased, with the epic poets, or 
the philosophers, or orators, or historians of antiquity) ; on the 
subtle reasonings and melting pathos of Euripides ; on the 
harmonious gracefulness of Sophocles, turning his love- 
laboured song, like sweetest warblings from a sacred grove ; 
on the high-wrought trumpet-tongued eloquence of iEschylus, 
whose Prometheus, above all, is Uke an Ode to Fate and a 
pleading with Providence, his thoughts being let loose as his 



IX.] THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE 199 

body is chained on his solitary rock, and his afflicted will (the 
emblem of mortality) 

*• Struggling in vain with ruthless destiny.* 

As the impassioned critic speaks and rises in his theme, you 
would think you heard the voice of the Man hated by the 
gods contending with the wild winds as they roar, and his 
eye glitters with the spirit of antiquity ! 

"Next, he was engaged with Hartley's tribes of mind, 
* ethereal braid, thought-woven,' and he busied himself for a 
year or two with vibrations and vibratiuncles, and the great 
law of association that binds all things in its mystic chain, and 
the doctrine of Necessity (the mild teacher of Charity) and 
the Millennium, anticipative of a life to come, and he plunged 
deep into the controversy on matter and spirit ; and, as an 
escape from Dr. Priestley's materialism, where he felt himself 
imprisoned by the logician's spell, like Ariel in the cloven 
pine-tree, he became suddenly enamoured of Bishop Berkeley's 
fairy-world,^ and used in all companies to build the universe, 
like a brave poetical fiction, of fine words ; and he was deep 
read in Malebranche, and in Cudworth's Intellecttial System 
(a huge pile of learning, unwieldly, enormous), and in Lord 
Brooke's hieroglyphic theories, and in Bishop Butler's Sermons, 
and in the Duchess of Newcastle's fantastic folios, and in 
Clarke and South and Tillotson, and all the fine thinkers and 
masculine reasoners of that age ; and Leibnitz's Pre-established 
Harmcmy reared its arch above his head, like the rainbow in 
the cloud, covenanting with the hopes of man ; and then he 
fell plump, ten thousand fathoms down (but his wings saved 
him harmless), into the horius siccus of Dissent, where he pared 
religion down to the standard of reason, and stripped faith of 

1 Mr. Coleridge named his eldest son (the writer of some beautiful 
sonnets) after Hartley, and the second after Berkeley. The third 
was called Derwent, after the river of that name. Nothing can be 
more characteristic of his mind than this circumstance. All his 
ideas indeed are like a riyer, flowing on for ever, and still murmur- 
ing as it flows, discharging its waters, and still replenished. [Haz- 
litt's own note.] 



200 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

mystery, and preached Christ crucified and the Unity of the 
Godhead, and so dwelt for a while in the spirit with John 
Huss and Jerome of Prague and Socinus, and old John Zisca, 
and ran through NeaVs History of the Puritans^ and Calamy's 
NoTuxmformiats^ Memorial^ having like thoughts and passions 
with them. But then Spinoza became his God, and he took 
up the vast chain of being in his hand, and the round world 
became the centre and the soul of all things in some shadowy 
sense, forlorn of meaning, and around him he beheld the 
living traces and the sky-pointing proportions of the mighty 
Pan ; but poetry redeemed him from his spectral philosophy, 
and he bathed his heart in beauty, and gazed at the golden 
light of heaven, and drank of the spirit of the universe, and 
wandered at eve by fairy stream or fountain, 

^ . . When he saw nought but beauty, 
When he heard the voice of that Almighty One 
In every breeze that blew, or wave that murmured,^ 

and wedded with truth in Plato's shade, and in the writings 
of Proclus and Plotinus saw the ideas of things in the eternal 
mind, and unfolded all mysteries with the Schoolmen, and 
fathomed the depths of Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas, 
and entered the third heaven with Jacob £ehmen, and walked 
hand in hand with Swedenborg through the pavilions of the 
New Jerusalem, and sung his faith in the promise and in the 
word in his Rdigious Mv^ings ; and lowering himself from 
that dizzy height, poised himself on Milton's wings, and 
spread out his thoughts in charity with the glad prose of 
Jeremy Taylor, and wept over Bowles's Sonnets, and studied 
Oowper's blank verse, and betook himself to Thomson's Castle 
of Indolence, and sported with the wits of Charles the 
Second's days and of Queen Anne, and relished Swift's style 
and that of John Bull (Arbuthnot's we mean, not Mr. 
Croker's), and dallied with the British essayists and novelists, 
and knew all qualities of more modern writers with a learned 
spirit — Johnson, and Goldsmith, and Junius, and Burke, 
and Godwin, and the Sorrows of Werter, and Jean Jacques 
Rousseau, and Voltaire, and Marivaux, and Cr^illon, and 



IX.] THE SPIBIT OF THE AGE 201 

thousands more — now * laughed with Rabelais in his easy 
chair/ or pointed to Hogarth, or afterwards dwelt on Claude's 
classic scenes, or spoke with rapture of Raphael, and com- 
pared the women at Rome to figures that had walked out of 
his pictures, or visited the Oratory of Pisa, and described the 
works of Giotto and Ghirlandajo and Massaccio, and gave 
the moral of the picture of the * Triumph of Death,' where the 
beggars and the wretched invoke his dreadful dart, but the 
rich and mighty of the earth quail and shrink before it ; and 
in that land of siren sights and sounds saw a dance of peasant 
girls, and was charmed with lutes and gondolas, or wandered 
into Germany and lost himself in the labyrinths of the Hartz 
Forest and of the Kantean philosophy, and among the cabal- 
istic names of Fichte and Schelling and Lessing, and God 
knows who. This was long after, but all the former while 
he had nerved his heart and filled his eyes with tears, as he 
hailed the rising orb of liberty, since quenched in darkness 
and in blood, and had kindled his affections at the blaze of 
the French Revolution, and sang for joy when the towers of 
the Bastille and the proud places of the insolent and the 
oppressor fell, and would have floated his bark, freighted 
with fondest fancies, across the Atlantic wave with Southey 
and others to seek for peace and freedom — 

* In Philharmonia's undivided dale I * 

Alas ! * Frailty, thy name is Genius / * What is become of 
all this mighty heap of hope, of thought, of learning, and 
humanity? It has ended in swallowing doses of oblivion 
and in writing paragraphs in the Courier, Such and so little 
is the mind of man ! " — The Spirit of the Age, " Coleridge." 

Hazlitt's feeling for Scott is a crucial example of his 
sanity as a critic. Scott's politics were as abhorrent to 
him as his to Scott. He not unnaturally, however 
mistakenly, thought Scott held shares in the " Black- 
wood Manufactory of Mischief." Scott's " Charley 
over the Waterisra," and those subtle influences of his, 
which are supposed by some thinkers to have had 



202 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

their result in The Christian Tear^ The Heir of Bedd^e^ 
and the revival of the old nonjoring view of the 
authority of the Episcopal Church, were, so far as 
Hazlitt could dimlj apprehend them, as anger-pro- 
voking as the Stuart monument in St Peter's. But 
Scott's genius and humanity rode roughshod over all 
Hazlitt's prejudices and passions. £ven in the year 
of Waterloo, which practically is also the year of 
Waverleyy Hazlitt became one of Sir Walter's men, and 
to this day he remains by far his most interesting 
critic Others, lAi, Kuskin, for example, may have 
uttered an occasional criticism going deeper into the 
heart of things than Hazlitt's exhilarating approbation 
may appear to do ; but I doubt whether Scott ever had 
a reader with a finer eye for his best points or a truer 
apprehension of his superb excellence, whilst I am 
certain he has never had one so well able to impart 
the warmth and glow of pleasure and delight. 

It would be a blunder to regard the passage I am 
about to quote as a mere roll-call of names, a pedigree 
in which they all go on begetting one another to the 
end of the chapter — it is a passage full of intimate 
knowledge and intense joy, and every adjective is 
selected with the finest taste. 



*' There is (first and foremost, because the earliest of our 
acquaintance) the Baron of Bradwardine, stately, kind-hearted, 
whimsical, pedantic ; and Flora Maclvor (whom even we 
forgive for her Jacobitism), the fierce Vich Ian Vohr, and 
Evan Dhu, constant in death, and Davie Gallatly roasting his 
eggs or turning his rhymes with restless volubihty, and the 
two staghounds that met Waverley, as fine as ever Titian 
painted, or Paul Veronese ; — then there is Old Balfour of 
Burley, brandishing his sword and his Bible with fire-eyed 



IX.] THE 8PIBIT OF THE AGE 203 

fury, trjdng a fall with the insolent, gigantic Bothwell at the 
Change House, and vanquishing him at the noble battle of 
Loudon Hill ; there is Bothwell himself, drawn to the life, 
proud, cruel, selfish, profligate, but with the love letters of the 
gentle Alice (written thirty years before), and his verses to 
her memory, found in his pocket after his death ; in the same 
volume of Old Mortality is that lone figure, like a figure in 
Scripture, of the woman sitting on the stone at the turning to 
the mountain, to warn Burley that there is a lion in his path ; 
and the fawning Claverhouse, beautiful as a panther, smooth- 
looking, blood-spotted; and the fanatics, Macbriar and 
Mucklewrath, crazed with zeal and suflferiDgs ; and the in- 
flexible Morton, and the faithfiil Edith, who refused to * give 
her hand to another while her heart was with her lover in the 
deep and dead sea.' And in The Heart of Midlothian we 
have Efl&e Deans (that sweet, faded flower) and Jeanie, her 
more than sister, and old Davie Deans, the patriarch of St. 
Leonard's Crags, and Butler, and Dumbiedikes, eloquent in 
his silence, and Mr. Bartoline Saddletree and his prudent 
helpmate, and Porteous swinging m the wind, and Madge 
Wildfire, full of finery and madness, and her ghastly mother. 
Again, there is Meg Merrilies, standing on her rock, stretched 
on her bier with * her head to the east,' and Dirk Hatteraick 
(equal to Shakespeare's Master Bamardine), and Glossin, the 
soul of an attorney, and Dandie Dinmont, with his terrier 
pack and his pony Dumple, and the fiery Colonel Mannering, 
and the modish old counsellor Pleydell, and Dominie Samp- 
son,^ and Kob Koy (like the eagle in his eyry), and Bailie 
Nicol Jarvie, and the inimitable Major Galbraith, and Rash- 
leigh Osbaldistone, and Die Vernon, the best of secret keepers ; 
and in the Antiqvary, the ingenious and abstruse Mr. Jon- 
athan Oldbuck, and the old beadsman Edie Ochiltree, and that 
preternatural figure of old Edith Elspeth, a living shadow, in 
whom the lamp of life had been long extinguished, had it not 
been fed by remorse and * thick-coming ' recollections ; and 
that striking picture of the effects of feudal tyranny and 

1 Perhaps the finest scene in all these novels is that where the 
Dominie meets his pupil, Miss Lucy, the morning after her brother's 
arrival. [Hazlitt's own note, and a very fine one.] 



204 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

fiendish pride, the unhappy Earl of Glenallan ; and the Black 
Dwarf, and his firiend Habbie of the Heughfoot (the cheerful 
hunter), and his cousin Grace Armstrong, fresh and laughing 
like the morning ; and the Children of the Mist, and the 
baying of the bloodhound that tracks their steps at a dis- 
tance (the hollow echoes are in our ears now), and Amy and 
her hapless love, and the villain Yamey, and the deep voice 
of George of Douglas, and the immovable Balafre, and Mas- 
ter Oliver the Barber in Qtientin Durward, and the quaint 
humour of the Fortunes of Nigel^ and the comic spirit of 
Peveril of the Feaky and the fine old English romance of 
Ivanhoe. What a list of names ! What a host of associa- 
tions ! What a thing is human life ! What a power is that 
of genius ! What a world of thought and feeling is thus 
rescued from oblivion 1 How many hours of heartfelt satis- 
faction has our author given to the gay and thoughtless ! 
How many sad hearts has he soothed in pain and solitude ! 
It is no wonder that the public repay with lengthened applause 
and gratitude the pleasure they receive. He writes as fast as 
they can read, and he does not write himself down. He is 
always in the public eye, and we do not tire of him. His 
worst is better than any other person's best. His bdck- 
grounds (and his later works are little else but backgrounds 
capitally made out) are more attractive than the principal 
figures and most complicated actions of other writers. His 
works (taken together) are almost like a new edition of human 
nature. This is indeed to be an author ! " — Spirit of the 
Age, " Sir Walter Scott." 

This is an enthusiastic passage, and requires a caveat 
to be entered. Another quotation from a powerful 
essay on " Scott, Eacine, and Shakespeare," to be found 
in the Plain Speaker, will serve this turn : — 

" No one admires or delights in the Scotch Novels more 
than I do ; but, at the same time, when I hear it asserted 
that his mind is of the same class with Shakespeare's, or 
that he imitates nature in the same way, I confess I cannot 
assent to it. No two things appear to me more different. 



IX.] THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE -206 

Sir Walter is an imitator of nature, and nothing more ; but 
I think Shakespeare is infinitely more than this. The crea- 
tive principle is everywhere restless and redundant in Shake- •■ 
speare, both as it relates to the invention of feeling and 
imagery ; in the author of Waverley it lies for the most part 
dormant, sluggish, and unused. Sir Walter's mind is full of 
information, but the * o^er informing power ' is not there. 
Shakespeare's spirit, like fire, shines through him ; Sir Wal- 
ter's, like a stream, reflects surrounding objects. It is true, 
he has shifted the scene from Scotland into England and 
France, and the manners and characters are strikingly 
English and French ; but this does not prove that they are 
not local, and that they are not borrowed, as well as the 
scenery and costume, from comparatively obvious and me- 
chanical sources. Nobody from reading Shakespeare would 
know (except from the JDra/matis Personce) that Lear was 
an English king. He is merely a king and a father. The 
ground is common ; but what a well of tears has he dug out 
of it ! The tradition is nothing, or a foolish one. There are 
no data in history to go upon ; no advantage is taken of 
costume, no acquaintance with geography, or architecture, or 
dialect is necessary ; but there is an old tradition, human 
nature — an old temple, the human mind — and Shakespeare 
walks into it and looks about him with a lordly eye, and 
seizes on the sacred spoils as his own. The story is a thou- i 
sand or two years old, and yet the tragedy has no smack of ' 
antiquarianism in it. I should like very well to see Sir 
Walter giving us a tragedy of this kind, a huge * globose' of 
sorrow, swinging round in mid-air, independent of time, place, 
and circumstance, sustained by its own weight and motion, 
and not propped up by the levers of custom, or patched up 
with quaint, old-fashioned dresses, or set off by grotesque 
backgrounds or rusty armour, but in which the mere para- 
phernalia and accessories were left out of the question, and 
nothing but the soul of passion and the pith of imagination 
was to be found. * A dukedom to a beggarly denier,^ he 
would make nothing of it. Does this prove he has done 
nothing, or that he has not done the greatest things ? No, 
but that he is not like Shakespeare." 



CHAPTER X 

THE END OF STRIFE 

The first time the Life of Napoleon is heard of is from 
Captain Medwin, often called the friend of Byron, and 
a man given to printing in the magazines conversations 
he reported himself to have had with well-known 
persons he encountered by the way. Hazlitt had 
lingered some time at Vevey, where, sitting though 
he was in the open air, Clarens on his left, behind 
him 

^^ The cone of Jaman pale and grey/* 

the rocks of Meillerie opposite, white and purple 
flowers at his feet, he wrote a downright, honest, 
John Bullish essay called " Merry England," in which 
he extols fox-hunting, and declares that the coloured 
prints and pictures depicting the chase in all its hu- 
mours and incidents, to be seen hanging up in old halls 
and ale-houses, '^have more life and health and spirit 
in them, and mark the pith and nerve of the national 
character more creditably than the mawkish, senti- 
mental, affected designs of Theseus and Pirithous, and 
^neas and Dido, pasted on foreign salons d manger and 
the interior of country houses " ; and at Vevey it was 
he met Captain Medwin. 
What Hazlitt said to Medwin was this: "I will 

206 



CHAP. X.] THE END OF STRIFE 207 

write a Life of Napoleon, though it is yet too early ; 
some have a film before their eyes, some want magni- 
fying-glasses, none see him as he is in true propor- 
tions." Hazlitt kept his word and wrote a Life of 
Napoleon in four stout volumes. 

The public is certainly ungrateful, even if it does 
not deserve all the other epithets Hazlitt heaped upon 
it. It clamours for big books from those who write 
small ones, and seldom fails to point out to the author 
of a big book how much wiser he would have been had 
he written a small one. Even Mr. Leslie Stephen con- 
cludes an essay on Hazlitt (in whom he delights) by 
expressing a regret that so vigorous a writer has not 
left some more enduring monument of his remarkable 
powers. Hazlitt worked his hardest to build a monu- 
ment, and it is not his fault that his Life of Napoleon 
has not endured. How could he, out of the materials 
to his hand, write a Life of Napoleon in four volumes 
it would be worth anybody's while to read to-day? 
The thing was not to be done in 1826 either by Scott 
or Hazlitt. Big books seldom live long, and the im- 
portance attached to them is misleading. Histories 
and philosophies stand a poor chance with Barbara S,, 
the Confessions of an Opium Eater, and a description 
of John Cavanagh playing fives. Had Charles Lamb 
written a History of the Elizabethan Drama instead of 
the Essays ofElia, De Quincey the Principles of Politi- 
cal Economy, and no Autobiographical Sketches, and 
Hazlitt nothing but the Life of Napoleon, how many 
people to-day would know more than the sound of their 
names — if indeed so much as that? In literature 
nothing counts but genius; and between a work of 
genius however small and a task of utility however 



208 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

long, there is a greater guK fixed than there is between 
Dream Children and the Faerie Queen, 

Hazlitt on his return to England divided his time 
between Winterslow and his lodging in London, which 
was now in that West End for which he expressed such 
admiration — first in Down Street, and afterwards at 
40 Half Moon Street. He had to work hard for his 
living, contributing to the Edinburgh Review and the 
New Monthly, the Atlas^ the Examiner, the Morning 
Chronicle, and the London Weekly Review, His average 
income, his son says, was somewhere about £600 a 
year ; but it all had to be made from day to day. 

The Plain Speaker, two more volumes of miscel- 
laneous essays, contributed to the London Magazine 
and other papers, appeared in 1826. What was said 
of the Tahle-Talk volumes may with equal truth be 
said of these. If they are not the very perfection of 
miscellaneous writing, they come very near it. * 

I have already quoted a passage on the Orator, 
taken from the essay on "Writing and Speaking" 
which appeared in the Plain Speaker^ and I will now 
take from the same essay the companion-picture of the 
Writer : — 

" The writer must be original, or he is nothing. He is 
not to take up with ready-made goods; for he has time 
allowed him to create his own materials, to make novel com- 

1 In the Plain Speaker are to be found the essay on the ' Spirit 
of Obligations ' (which Mr. R. L. Stevenson, for some unexplained 
reason, found epoch-making) ; the essay on 'Egotism,' full of the 
finest criticism ; the essay entitled ' The New School of Reform,' 
an eloquent defence of Sentimentalism, and other of Hazlitt's most 
famous performances. ' It is of this finer essence of wisdom and 
humanity, "ethereal mould, sky-tinctured,'' that books of the 
better sort are made.' —Essay on the Conver9ation of Authors, 



X.] THE END OF STRIFE 209 

binations of thought and fancy, to contend with unforeseen 
difficulties of style and execution, while we look on and ad- 
mire the growing work in secret and at leisure. There is a 
degree of finishing as well as of solid strength in writing, 
which is not to be got at every day, and we can wait for per- 
fection. The author owes a debt to truth and nature which 
he cannot satisfy at sight, but he has pawned his head on 
redeeming it. It is not a string of clap-traps to answer a 
temporary or party purpose — violent, vulgar, and illiberal — 
but general and lasting truth that we require at his hands. 
We go to him as pupils, not as partisans. We have a right 
to expect from him profounder views of things ; finer obser- 
vations; more ingenious illustrations; happier and bolder 
expressions. He is to give the choice and picked results of 
a whole life of study, what he has struck out in his most 
felicitous moods, has treasured up with most pride, has laboured 
to bring to light with most anxiety and confidence of success. 
He may turn a period in his head fifty different ways, so 
that it comes out smooth and round at last. He may have 
caught a glance of a simile, and it may have vanished again ; 
let him be on the watch for it, as the idle boy watches for 
the lurking-place of the adder. We can wait. He is not 
satisfied with a reason he has offered for something ; let him 
wait till he finds a better reason. There is some word, some 
phrase, some idiom that expresses a particular idea better 
than any other, but he cannot for the life of him recollect it : 
let him wait till he does. Is it strange that among twenty 
thousand words in the English language, the one of all 
others that he most needs should have escaped him ? There 
are more things in nature than there are words in the Eng- 
lish language, and he must not expect to lay rash hands on 
them all at once. 

* Learn to write slow ; all other graces 
Will follow in their proper places.^ 

" You allow a writer a year to think of a subject ; he 
should not put you off with a truism at last. You allow 
him a year more to find out words for his thoughts ; he 
should not give us an echo of all the fine things that have 
been said a hundred times.'' 



210 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

What are called HaalUt^s Select Poets is a compilation 
made whilst Hazlitt was abroad^ it is commonly sup- 
posed by Procter, aided by Lamb, and it may be one 
or two others, who worked upon a copy of Chalmers's 
Poets belonging to, or at all events borrowed from, 
Leigh Hunt, who had good reason to complain of the 
state the volumes were in when the anthologists had 
completed their task of selection. I too have seen 
anthologists at work. Wordsworth's lines on " Nut- 
ting " feebly convey their method. The original plan 
of the selection included Living Poets, and one copy at 
least so complete got into circulation, but the liv- 
ing poets or their publishers foolishly objected, and the 
edition was rigorously suppressed, and the volume 
now to be seen on the bookstalls contains only poets 
who were " in their misery dead " in 1825. 

The notes are marvels of terseness, and, I should 
judge, Hazlitt's own. An example or two may be 
given : — 

" Marvell is a writer almost forgotten, but undeservedly 
so. His poetical reputation seems to have sunk with his 
political party. His satires were coarse, quaint, and virulent ; 
but his other productions are fiiU of a lively, tender, and 
elegant fancy. His verses leave an echo on the ear and 
find one in the heart. See those entitled ' Bermudas,' ' To his 
Coy Mistress,' * On the Death of a Fawn,' " etc. 

" Dbyden stands nearly at the head of the second class 
of English poets, viz. the artificial^ or those who describe 
the mixed modes of artificial life and convey general precepts 
and abstract ideas. He had invention in the plan of his 
Satires, very little fancy, not much wit, no humour, immense 
strength of character, elegance, masterly ease, indignant con- 
tempt approaching to the sublime, not a particle of tender- 



X.] THE END OF STRIFE 211 

ness, but eloquent declamation, the perfection of uncomipted 
English style, and of sounding, vehement, varied versification. 
The Alexander's Feast^ his Fables^ and Satires are his 
standard and lasting works." 

" Collins, of all our minor poets, that is, those who have 
attempted only short pieces, is probably the one who has 
shown the most of the highest qualities of poetry, and who 
excites the most intense interest in the bosom of the reader. 
He soars into the regions of imagination, and occupies the 
highest peaks of Parnassus. His fancy is glowing, vivid, 
but at the same time hasty and obscure. Gray's sublimity 
was borrowed and mechanical compared to Collins's, who has 
the true inspiration, the vivida vis of the poet. He heats 
and melts objects in the fervour of his genius as in a furnace. 
See his Odes *To Fear,' *0n the Poetical Character,' and 
* To Evening.' The * Ode on the Passions ' is the most 
popular, but the most artificial of his principal ones. His 
qualities were fancy, sublimity of conception, and no mean 
degree of pathos, as in the Fclogues and The Dirge in Gym- 
beline.** 

" YotTKO is a poet who has been much overrated fix)m the 
popularity of his subject and the glitter and lofty pretensions 
of his style. I wished to have made more extracts from 
the JVight Thoughts, but was constantly repelled by the 
tinsel of expression, the false ornaments, and laboured con- 
ceits. Of all writers who have gained a great name, he is 
the most meretricious and objectionable. His is false wit, 
false fancy, false sublimity, and mock tenderness. At least, 
it appears so to me.'' ^ 

During 1826 and 1827, whilst the Napoleon was in 
preparation, and getting itself written chiefly at 
Winterslow, Hazlitt committed his last indiscretion. 
He began publishing in the New Monthly what pur- 

1 "Hazlitt^s Poets is the best selection I have ever seen."— 
Edward FitzOercdd (1832). 



212 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

ported to be, and partly was, the record of conversa- j 

tions between old James Northcote, then about eighty I 

years old, and himself. The articles were signed 
"Boswell Redivivns"; and contained, as they natu- 
rally did, whether proceeding from Northcote's lips or 
Hazlitt's pen, many free-spoken remarks about other 
people. They excited attention ; and the old painter, 
who was really much pleased with the interest he occa- 
sioned, pretended to be furious, and the editor — the 
poet Campbell, his old wound still smarting — declared 
himself disgusted. Northcote had his remedy — to 
shut his door in Hazlitt's face and let the world know 
he had done so — but he had no mind to do this, and 
Hazlitt continued to publish the conversations, which 
were afterwards printed in the book known as The 
Conversations of James Northcote^ Esq., B.A., 1830. 
Somebody has said that all the ill-nature in this book 
is Northcote's, and all, or almost all, the talent Hazlitt's. 
It is impossible to partition it on any such principle. 
Both Northcote and Hazlitt were well supplied with 
both the qualities in question. It is, however, obvious 
to the reader who knows Hazlitt, that he has not hesi- 
tated to make the painter say what either Hazlitt did 
actually say in the course of conversation, or what he 
wrote afterwards out of his own head. He had no 
scruples in such matters. For Northcote, however, he 
had a genuine respect and a strange kind of admira- 
tion. He envied him the head upon his shoulders and 
his " agreeable old age.'' In his letter to his son " On 
the Conduct of Life," a great performance, full of 
wisdom and feeling, Hazlitt writes : — 

" Yet if I were to name one pursuit rather than another, 
I should wish you to be a good painter, if such a thing could 



X.] THE END OF STRIFE 213 

be hoped. I have failed in this myself, and should wish you 
to be able to do what I have not — to paint like Claude, 
or Rembrandt, or Guide, or Vandyke, if it were possible. 
Artists, I think, who have succeeded in their chief object live 
to be old, and are. agreeable old men. Theu* minds keep alive 
to the last. Oosway^s spinte-Berer flagged till after ninety ; 
and NoUekens, though nearly blind, passed all his mornings 
in giving directions about some group or bust in his workshop. 
You have seen Mr. Northcote, that delightful specimen of the 
last age. With what avidity he takes up his pencil, or lays 
it down again to talk of numberless things ! His eye has not 
lost its lustre, nor ' paled its ineffectual fire.' His body is a 
shadow ; he himself is a pure spirit. There is a kind of 
immortality about this sort of ideal and visionary existence 
that dallies with Fate and baffles the grim monster — Death. 
If I thought you could make as clever an artist and arrive 
at such an agreeable old age as Mr. Northcote, I should 
declare at once for your devoting yourself to this enchanting 
profession ; and in that reliance, should feel less regret at 
some of my own disappointments, and little anxiety on^your 
account ! " 

An edition of the Conversations, with critical remarks 
upon Hazlitt as a judge of art by Mr. Gosse, has 
lately appeared, and should be referred to. AJthough 
Hazlitt shows no diminution of what may be called 
his literary high spirits, he was now in bad health, 
and becoming familiar with the environment of the 
sick-chamber. 

By the end of 1827 two volumes of the Napoleon 
were ready for the printers. Messrs. Hunt and Cow- 
den Clarke were to be the publishers ; and as the time 
approached for publication, Hazlitt, unaccustomed as 
he was to so big a book, grew fidgety and nervous. 
The passion of a lifetime was involved. It cost him 
nothing to discourse about poetry and the drama, or 
to rhapsodise about Eousseau, Mrs. Siddons, or Titian 



214 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

— such writing flowed from his brain — it was, he says^ 
like a girl copying a sampler, but Bonaparte was 
another matter. He well knew the prejudice he had 
to encounter, and he must have known how ill equipped 
he was to encounter it. Scott's Life had already taken 
the field with all the ^dat of a great name and the 
weight of the national position behind it. The false 
Duessa sat enthroned — how could he hope to unmask 
her horrors to the world ? His spirits failed him, his 
heart sank. He wrote a preface, and he piqued him- 
self upon his prefaces, which in fact were essays, and 
lent themselves to the style he had mastered. In this 
preface he tells us why he wrote the book. His first 
object was to make it plain that Bonaparte stood 
alone between the legitimate kings and their ancient 
prey — mankind. As for Napoleon's faults — great as 
they were — they had this novelty about them, that 
they did not (so Hazlitt asserts) proceed upon the 
principle that " the millions were made for one " 5 and 
so long as this was the case, why, then, he cries 
triumphantly, "liberty was saved and the Revolution 
imtouched." Hofer would hardly have assented to 
this " abstract principle," but there is now no need to 
argue the point ; and, indeed, just now Hofers are out 
of fashion in an age which demands bigness at all costs. 

"There were," Hazlitt proceeds to say in his preface, 
"two other feelings that influenced me on the subject — a 
love of glory, when it did not interfere with other things, 
and the wish to see personal merit prevail over external 
rank and circumstance. I felt pride (not envy) to think 
that there was one reputation in modem times equal to the 
ancients, and at seeing one man greater than the throne he 
sat upon." 



X.] THE END OP STRIFE 216 

This is not Whig doctrine, and indeed is quite con- 
trary to the principles of 1688. 

Tor some reasons the publishers were afraid of the 
preface, and it was for a while kept back. One of 
Hazlitt's rare letters to a publisher relates to the 
subject: — 

" Deab Sib, — I thought aU the world agreed with me 
at present that Bonapai-te was better than the Bourbons, 
or that a tyxa&t was better than tyranny. In my opinion, 
no one of an understanding above the rank of a lady's 
waiting-maid could ever have doubted this, though I alone 
said it ten years ago. It might be impoUcy then and now 
for what I know, for the world sticks to an opinion in 
appearance long after they have given it up in reahty. I 
should like to know whether the preface is thought impohtic 
by some one who agrees with me in the main point, or by 
some one who differs with me and makes this excuse not to 
have his opinion contradicted? In Paris {jiibes regina 
renovare dolorem) the preface was thought a masterpiece, 
the best and only possible defence of Bonaparte, and quite 
new tJiere/ It would be an impertinence in me to write a 
Life of Bonaparte after Sir W.^ without some such object 
as that expressed in the preface. After all, I do not care a 
damn about the preface. It will get me on four pages some- 
where else. Shall I retract my opinion altogether and fore- 
swear my own book? The remainder of voL ii. will be ready 
to go on with, but not the beginning to the third. The 
appendixes had better be at the end of second voL Pray 
get them if you can : you have my Sieyes, have you not ? 
One of them is there. I have been nearly in the other 
world. My regret was to *die and leave the world "rough " 
copy.' Otherwise I had thought of an epitaph and a good 
end : ' Hie jacent reUquisB mortales GuUelmi HazUtt, auctoris 
non intelligibihs : natus MaidstonisB in comi(ta)tu OantisB, 
Apr. 10, 1778. Obiit Wmterslowe, Dec. 1827.' I thmk 

1 Sir Walter Scott. 



216 WILLIAM HAZUTT [chai». 

of writing an epistle to C. Lamb, Esq., to say that I have 
passed near the shadowy world, and have had new imprea- 
flions of the vanity of this, with hopes of a better. Don't 
yon think this would be good policy! Don't mention it to 
the. severe author of the Press, a poem,^ but methinks the 
idea arridd Hone, He would give sixpence to see me float- 
ing upon a pair of borrowed wings half-way between heaven 
and earth, and edifying the good people at my departure, 
whom I shall only scandalise by remaining. At present my 
study and contemplation is the 1^ of a stewed fowL I have 
behaved like a saint, and been obedient to orders. 

" Non fit pugU^ etc. I got a violent spasm by walking 
fifteen miles in the mud, and getting into a coach with an 
old lady who would have the window open. Delicacy, 
moderation, complaisance, the snaviter in modo, whisper 
it about, my dear Clarke, these are my fstults^ and have 
been my ruin. — Yours ever, W. H. 

"December 7, 1827. 

" I can't go to work before Sunday or Monday. By then 
the doctor says he shaU have made a new man of ma 
"Pray how's your sister! 
" 0. CowDBN Clarke, Esq." 

The first two volumes appeared in 1828, and at- 
tracted hardly any notice. Mr. Fonblanque, a com- 
petent and independent critic, praised the book very 
warmly in the friendly columns of the Examiner; but 
his praise could not compensate either for the general 
indifference of the public or the pecuniary embarrass- 
ment of the publishers, who were not in a position to 
pay even the miserable sum Hazlitt had agreed to take 
as the price of his labour. 

Stricken in health, and now feeling for the first 
time the actual pinch of poverty, Hazlitt grimly con- 

1 Mr. M'Cleery the printer. 



X.] THE END OP STRIFE 217 

tinued working at the Life, and keeping the wolf 
from the door by writing for the periodicals. His 
London lodgings were by this time in Bouverie Street, 
and here he wrote for the Edinburgh Review two 
articles — one on Flaxman's lectures on Sculpture, the 
other on Wilson's Life of De Foe, Lamb, writing to 
Wilson in November 1829, refers to Hazlitt's inten- 
tion, mournfully adding, "I wish I had health and 
spirits to do it." Hazlitt was not well supplied with 
either commodity, but he was a dauntless fellow. 

The two concluding volumes of the Napoleon were 
published by Effingham Wilson in 1830, so there was 
an end of that job. The Life excited the genuine 
admiration of so good a judge of a book as Talfourd, 
who calls it a splendid work, its style glowing with 
the fervour of battle and stiffening with the spoils of 
victory. But there was nothing lasting about it ; and 
the passion for Bonaparte, not unpleasing in the 
essayist and sentimentalist, becomes rancid in the 
historian. We prefer history to be written by those 
who know — if they feel too, so much the better; but 
the more knowledge they have, the better chance they 
have of being read. 

Hazlitt's failure was no greater than Scott's ; and of 
the two Lives, Hazlitt's is by far the more spirited j 
whilst in Fonblanque's language " it exhibits a deeper 
insight into the sources of principles, of morals and 
politics, than nine out of ten of the formal treatises 
which are regarded as profound authority." The 
tameness of Scott's Life is unbearable. 

One quotation from Hazlitt's Napoleon will show 
that he possessed undeniable qualifications to write 
about the Eevolution: — 



218 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

** It has been sometimeB pretended as if the French 
Revolution burst out like a volcano, without any previous 
warning, only to alarm and destroy, or was one of thoae 
comet-like appearances, the approach of which no one can 
tell till the shock and conflagration are felt. What is the 
realstate of the case ? There was not one of those abuses 
and grievances which the rough grasp of the Bevolution 
shook to air that had not been the butt of ridicule, the 
theme of indignant invective, the subject of serious repro- 
bation for near a century. They had been held up without 
ceasing and without answer to the derision of the gay, the 
scorn of the wise, the sorrow of the good. The most witty, 
the most eloquent, the most profound writers were unani- 
mous in their wish to remove or reform these abuses^ and 
the most dispassionate and weU-informed part of the com- 
munity joined in the sentiment; it was only the self- 
interested or the grossly ignorant who obstinately clung 
to them. Every public and private complaint had been 
subjected to the touchstone of inquiry and argument ; the 
page of history, of fiction, of the drama, of philosophy had 
been laid open, and their contents poured into the pubUc 
ear, which turned away disgusted from the arts of sophistry 
or the menace of authority. It was this operation of 
opinion, enlarging its circle, and uniting nearly all the 
talents, the patriotism, and the independence of the country 
in its service, that brought about the events which fol- 
lowed. Nothing else did or could. It was not a dearth 
of provisions, the loss of the queen's jewels, that could over- 
turn all the institutions and usages of a great kingdom ; it 
was not the Revolution that produced the change in the face 
of society, but the change in the texture of society that pro- 
duced the Revolution, and brought its outward appearance 
into a nearer correspondence with its inward sentiments. 
There is no other way of accounting for so great and sudden 
a transition.'' 

The completed work had no sale; and owing to 
Hunt and Clarke's failure to meet their obligations, 
brought its author nothing. He was to have had 



X.] THE END OF STRIFE 219 

£500; he got a bill for £140^ and the bill was waste- 
paper. He called an accountant to his assistance, and 
the accountant turned out to be a rogue^ and added 
to his embarrassments and misery. Hazlitt moved 
into his last lodging, No. 6 Frith Street, Soho, at the 
beginning of 1830, and here he was attacked with a 
gastric inflammation. 

Mr. Reynell (whose daughter became the wife of 
Hazlitt's son, now nineteen years of age) came to see 
his old friend after the Revolution in France of July 
1830, but not even the downfall of the Bourbons could 
raise Hazlitt's spirits. " I'm afraid, Charles," said he, 
" things will go back again.'' There is no peace for 
the politician save in the grave, and thitherward Haz- 
litt was now fast tending. 

On his hearing that his son was likely to marry 
Miss Eeynell, he was much pleased, and in June 1830 
we find Charles Lamb being consulted by the boy's 
mother (who was at Buxton for her rheumatism) as to 
whether Hazlitt would consent to his son's studying 
music, as he had a fine voice. Lamb saw Hazlitt on 
this subject, and reports that he expressed ''such 
horror and aversion" to his son's singing in public 
that Lamb felt he could not meddle further in the 
matter. 

Hazlitt continued writing to the last, and did 
muster up spirit to compose a paper on the depo- 
sition of Charles the Tenth. His two lasts essays 
are called "The Free Admission" and "The Sick 
Chamber." 

Through the months of August and September he 
continued the struggle with Death. He longed to see 
his mother, and begged that she might be sent for ; but 



220 WILLIAM HAZLTTT [chap. 

she was eighty-four years old^ down in Devonshire, 
and could not come. Procter describes him in dire 
straits. His mind was clear and strong. He died on 
the 18th of September 1830. His last words were 
unexpected, but we may be sure sincere : " Well, I Ve 
had a happy life.'' 

Charles Lamb, Mr. White, Mr. Hessey, and the 
younger Hazlitt were in the room when he died. Mr. 
B. H. Home, Mr. Patmore, Mr. Basil Montagu, and 
Mr. Wells, the author of Joseph and his Brethreriy all 
seem to have been attentive to the wants of the dying 
man. 

Of money there certainly was no superfluity. 
Jeffrey, hearing of his old contributor's plight, sent 
£50, which did not reach the house till Hazlitt was 
dead; but though his circumstances were bad, he 
was not in want. No friend of Charles Lamb's ever 
was. 

"All his wants," so wrote his son, "were care- 
fully studied, and at the time of his death he was 
amply provided with everything which could be re- 
quired." 

It is impossible not to notice that this is a guarded 
mode of expression. 

Dr. Darling, a physician well known in connection 
with the class of complaint, a kind of cholera, from 
which Hazlitt suffered, attended him with the utmost 
assiduity; and if there were those among the laity 
who conceived him to misunderstand the case, the 
circumstance would not be unusual. 

Hazlitt was buried in the Churchyard of St. Anne's, 
Soho, and here admirers, not a few, have sought out 
his grave, and spelt through the terribly long, but not 



X.] THE END OF STRIFE 221 

wholly uncharacteristic, epitaph which Mr. R. H. 
Home was allowed to inscribe on the tombstone. 
This epitaph, which may still be read in the Literary 
MemainSy is no longer on the stone, which is now 
removed from its former site, and bears upon its face 
the following words : — 

" On the northern side of this ground lie the remains of 
William Hazlitt, Painter, Critic, Essayist. 

Bom at Maidstone, April 10, 1778. 
Died in Soho, September 18, 1830. 
Restored by his grandson. 
Feb. 1901." 

It was Hazlitt's good fortune to enjoy the friend- 
ship of one of the kindliest of his contemporaries, 
Mr. Serjeant, afterwards Mr. Justice,. Talfourd. There 
are those still living, and among them Lord James of 
Hereford and Sir Henry Poland, who well remember 
the pleasant and miscellaneous parties that used to 
meet, and the kindness that was disseminated under 
the roof of this hospitable, delightful, and accom- 
plished man. TaJfourd's "Thoughts upon the late 
William Hazlitt,^' to be found in the Literary Remains, 
are, and will probably always remain, the best account 
of the difficult personality with whom they were con- 
cerned. They should be read in their proper place 
and in their entirety; but Talfourd's description of 
Hazlitt's personal appearance must be given : — 

" In person, Mr. Hazlitt was of the middle size, with a 
handsome and eager countenance, worn by sickness and 
thought, and dark hair, which had curled stiffly over the 
temples, and was only of late years sprinkled with grey. His 
gait was slouching and awkward, and his dress neglected ; but 



WILLIAM HAZLTTT [chap. 

when he began to talk, he could not be nustaken for a com- 
mon man. In the company of persons with whom he was 
not ^miliar his bashfiilness was painful ; bat when he became 
entirely at ease, and entered on a CakYoorite topic, no one's 
conversation was ever more deligfatfol. He did not talk for 
effect, to dasde, or surprise, or annoy, but with the most simple 
and honest desire to make his view of the subject entirely 
apprehended by his hearer. There was sometimes an obvious 
stnigg^ to do this to his own satisflEtction ; he seemed labouring 
to bring his thought to light from its deep lurking-place ; and, 
with modest distrust of that power of expression which he 
had found so late in life, he often betrayed a fear that he 
had failed to make himself understood, and recurred to the 
subject again and again, that he might be assured he had 
succeeded. In argument he was candid and liberal ; there 
was nothing about him pragmatical or exclusive ; he never 
drove a principle to its utmost possible consequences, but, 
like Locksley, * allowed for the wind.' For some years pre- 
vious to his death he observed an entire abstinence from fer- 
mented liquors, which he had once quaffed with the proper 
relish he had for all the good things of this life, but which 
he courageously resigned when he found the indulgence peril- 
ous to his health and faculties. The cheerfulness with which 
he made this sacrifice always appeared to us one of the most 
amiable traits in his character. He had no censure for others 
who, with the same motive, were less wise or less resolute ; 
nor did he think he had earned, by his own constancy, any 
right to intrude advice which he knew, if wanted, must be 
unavailing. Nor did he profess to be a convert to the gen- 
eral system of abstinence which was advocated by one of his 
kindest and staunchest Mends ; he avowed that he yielded 
to necessity ; and instead of avoiding the sight of that which 
he could no longer taste, he was seldom so happy as when 
he sat with Mends at their wine, participating the sociality 
of the time, and renewing his own past enjoyment in that of 
his companions, without regret and without envy. Like Dr. 
Johnson, he made himself a poor amends for the loss of 
wine by drinking tea, not so largely, indeed, as the hero 
of Boswell, but at least of equal potency, for he might have 



X.] THE END OF STRIFE 223 

challenged Mrs. Thrale and all her sex to make stronger tea 
than his own. In society, as in politics, he was no flincher. 
He loved * to hear the chimes at midnight ' without consider- 
ing them as a summons to rise. At these seasons, when in 
his happiest mood, he used to dwell on the conversational 
powers of his Mends, and live over again the delightful hours 
he had passed with them ; repeat the pregnant puns that one 
had made ; tell over again a story with which another had 
convulsed the room, or expand in the eloquence of a third ; 
always best pleased when he could detect some talent which 
was unregarded by the world, and giving alike, to the cele- 
brated and the unknown, due honour." 

Mr. Procter speaks of Hazlitt's quick, restless, grey 
eyes, his solitary habits, black hair, sprinkled with 
grey, slovenly dress at home, but neat when he went 
abroad, his mode of v^alking loose and unsteady, 
although his arms displayed strength when playing 
rackets with Martin Bumey and others. 

Mr. Patmore, who plays a dubious part in Hazlitt's 
life, is more lurid than the amiable Procter, and speaks 
of " fearful indications of internal passion" and " truly 
awful " expressions of face when offended, but he pro- 
ceeds : — 

" When in good health, and in a tolerable humour with 
himself and the world, his face was more truly and entirely 
answerable to the intellect that spoke through it than any 
other I ever saw, either in life or on canvas ; and its crowning 
portion, the brow and forehead, was, to my thinking, quite 
unequalled for mingled capacity and beauty. . . . The mouth, 
from its ever-changing form and character, could scarcely be 
described, except as to its astonishingly varied power of 
expression, which was equal to, and greatly resembled, that 
of Edmund Eean. ... He always lived (during the period 
of my intimacy with him) in furnished lodgings. ... He 
usuaUy rose at from one to two o'clock in the day, scarcely 



224 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

ever before twelve ; and if he had no work in hand, he would 
sit over his breakfast (of excessively strong black tea and 
a toasted French roll) till four or five in the afternoon — sUent, 
motionless, and self-absorbed, as a Turk over his opium pouch, 
for tea served him precisely in this capacity. It was the only 
stimulant he ever took, and at the same time the only luxury ; 
the delicate state of his digestive organs prevented him from 
tasting any fermented liquors, or touching any food but beef 
or mutton, or poultry, or game. ... A cup of his tea (if you 
happened to come in for the first brewage of it) was a peculiar 
thing; I have never tasted any thing like it. He always made 
it himself, using with it a great quantity of sugar and cream. 
To judge from its occasional effects upon myself, I should say 
that the quantity he drank of this tea produced ultimately 
a most injurious effect upon him. . . . His breakfast and tea 
were frequently the only meals that he took till late at night, 
when he usually ate a hearty supper of hot meat. This he 
invariably took at a tavern." — Patmore's Friends and 
Acqtiaintances, vol. ii. pp. 302-8. 

Hazlitt was accustomed, says his grandson, writing 
from family tradition, " to speak low like Coleridge, 
with his chin bent and his eyes widely expanded, and 
his voice and manner as a rule were apt to communi- 
cate an impression of querulousness, and the tone was 
of a person who related a succession of grievances." 
Like Dr. Johnson, he addressed everybody, even 
children, as "Sir." 

I do not know that there are any other personal 
traits to be recorded. 

Hazlitt's mother, Grace Hazlitt, died in June 1837, 
in her ninety -first year. Her mother, who lived till 
1801, remembered the death of the late Protector, 
Richard Cromwell, and was eleven years old when 
George the First came over from Hanover to be our 
King. Peggy the diarist died in Liverpool in 1844, 



X.] THE END OF STRIFE 225 

and the painter John, whose fortunes were not equal 
to his merits, died in May 1837. But one remark of 
his has come down to us, though his miniatures may 
still be seen — "Ko young man thinks he shall ever 
die." 



CHAPTER XI 

CHARACTER AND GENIUS 

Books of this kind usually end with a chapter entitled 
as above, but I have inscribed the word Character with 
trepidation. About Hazlitt's genius it were useless 
now to write ; it speaks for itself in many a glowing 
page which proclaim him a great miscellaneous writer 
and a masterly and masterful critic. Of this critical 
aspect of Hazlitt, differences of opinion have existed, 
and will continue to exist. Landor, for example, 
writes : " Hazlitt's books are delightful to read, pleasant 
always, often elegant and affecting in the extreme. 
But I don't get much valuable criticism out of him." 
Heine, on the other hand, pronounces Hazlitt's mind to 
be not only brilliant, but deep, " a mixture of Diderot 
and Borne." On this matter the reader can and will 
judge for himself; he is hardly likely to be better 
qualified to form an opinion than Landor, or to express 
it than Heine. 

But his character ? 

Ben Jonson says in his grave way that the main 
argument of character is a good life. This plenary 
argument cannot be used with much confidence on 
Hazlitt's behalf. 

In his sketch of Home Tooke, Hazlitt, who with a 
pen in his hand could be austere enough, observes: 
" Tooke's mind (so to speak) had no religion in it, and 

226 



CHAP. XI.] CHARACTER AND GENIUS 227 

very little of the ^ moral qualities of genius.' " The 
same remark cannot be made of Hazlitt, who hated the 
materialism of the Whiggish and Erastian mind, and 
always thought nobly of man in the abstract, however 
heartily he hated Mr. Pitt, Lord Castlereagh, Lord 
Liverpool, and William Gifford, and a whole host of 
other people. Swift has told us that he hated Man, 
but loved John, Tom, and Dick ; Hazlitt was disposed 
to reverse this process. But, unlike Tooke, he had (I 
think) religion in his mind, though it early disappeared 
from his life. 

At some time or another Hazlitt got athwart the 
main current of existence, or as De Quincey, whose 
paper on Hazlitt is full of shrewdness, puts it, " he 
wilfully placed himself in collision with all the interests 
that were in the sunshine of this world, and with all 
the persons that were then powerful in England.'' 
Things eai-ly began to go wrong with him, and people, 
he knew not why, to eye him with the squint of sus- 
picion. What had he done to be so hated ? He had 
never a thought of personal aggrandisement ; all his 
thoughts were of public affairs. A life freer from 
greed of gain, or taint of literary vanity,^ is not to be 
found in the records of English literature. But he 
was always desperately in earnest ; and found it not 
only hard, but plainly impossible, to put his political 
and philosophical convictions good-humouredly aside 
on occasions and be, for a season, all things to all men. 
He could not do it, and his inability to do it made 
him impatient of those who could and did. Lamb's 

1 See his letter to Mr. Napier, dated August 1818, declining an 
invitation to write on the Drama in the Encyclopsedia Britannica, 
^Selection from the Correspondence of Macvey Napier , p. 21. 



WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

attitude of mind puzzled Hazlitt. He knew Lamb to 
be, aa indeed some of his less known writings show 
him to have been, a sound and sane politician, with a 
real grip of situations ; and yet he was content not only 
to live aloof from politics, but at peace with men who, 
despite the noisy protestations of their early manhood, 
had enrolled themselves in the great Army of Reaction. 
This puzzled Hazlitt, and when he was puzzled he grew 
angered, for his was a brooding, pondering nature. At 
the bottom of his mind lay a deep, gloomy pool of 
metaphysics, and into this pool he plunged from time 
to time, always emerging more than ever in love with 
abstract propositions and the hard core of thought. 
He led a lonely life, thinking, thinking, thinking, and 
the more he thought the darker grew the welkin. 

Like the former tenant of 19 York Street, Hazlitt 
became more and more a detached figure, out of keep- 
ing with his times — a republican without a populace — 
for were not the populace on the other side ? Often, 
I doubt not, did Hazlitt mournfully repeat to himself 
the lines dictated by Milton, old and blind, with 
Charles Stuart at Whitehall — 

*< And what the people but a herd confuaed, 
A miscellaneous rabble who extol 

Things vulgar, and well weighed, scarce worth the praise ? 
They praise, and they admire they know not what, 
And know not whom, but as one leads the other.*' 

It cannot but be unfortunate when a man is doomed 
to select for his hero the arch-enemy of his country. 
It is wisest to hate your country's enemies. The 
Church allows it, the NatioAal Anthem demands it, 
and the experience of mankind approves it. Had 



XI.] CHARACTER AND GENIUS 229 

Hazlitt known all there was to be known about Bona- 
parte, he probably would have outlived a tragic devo- 
tion about which there was nothing undignified. It 
was no vulgar thing he extolled ; for to Hazlitt, as to 
Heine, Bonaparte represented the lordship of brain 
and the divinity of brow as against hereditary 
stupidity, insolence, and ugliness. It was a terribly 
costly delusion^ but it was not otherwise than a 
noble one. 

Distracted by this anti-national passion, Hazlitt 
became only too good a hater, and hate is a trouble- 
some thing. 

<^ It rumples sleep; 
It settles on the dishes of the feast ; 
It bites the fruit, it dips into the wine ; 
Vd rather let my enemy hate me 
Than I hate him.** 

Hazlitt became as irritable as Rousseau ; but as De 
Quincey points out, in the paper before quoted, Hazlitt 
viewed the personal affronts and casual slights he 
fancied himself called upon to endure, not as being 
aimed personally at him, but at his opinions. ^^ It was 
not Hazlitt whom these wretches struck at ; no, no ; 
it was democracy, or it was freedom, or it was Napoleon 
whose shadow they saw behind Hazlitt, and Napoleon, 
not for anything in him that might be really bad, but 
in revenge of that consuming wrath against the thrones 
of Christendom, for which (said Hazlitt) let us glorify 
his name eternally." 

In the letters of Wordsworth and Southey the 
amazed reader encounters passions and prejudices at 
least as furious on paper as those which devastated 



/ 



330 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

Hazlitt. Southej's violence is boundless. In one of 
his letters he declares it to be humiliating that Spain 
should have produced two centuries ago half-a-dozen 
men resolute in a mistaken cause to slay the Prince of 
Orange at the sacrifice of their own lives^ ^^and that 
now she has not found one to aim a dagger at the heart 
of Bonaparte.'^ Wordsworth, too, had his disappoint- 
ments. The Reform Bill preyed upon his health. The 
pious Julius Hare, writing to Landor, after mentioning 
this fact, proceeds to say : '^ Everybody said he seemed 
to have grown ten years older in the last three months. 
If the Bill does all the good which its most infatuated 
advocates anticipate, it will hardly make amends for 
this evil." Ten years off a poet's life would be per- 
haps a high price to pay even for a bloodless revolution, 
but happily the country was not called upon to pay it. 
Wordsworth had the good sense to get quite well again, 
and lived far beyond the Psalmist's span. Southey, I 
am sure, never really intended to advocate assassina- 
tion, and was soon quite respectably employed in 
compiling his Booh of the Church. The fever in Hazlitt's 
blood was not so easily allayed ; and hence it is that 
whilst the world has willingly forgotten Wordsworth's 
prejudices, and has invested the poet's figure with 
somewhat of the same dignity, calm, and repose as 
cling to the famous statue of the seated Menander in 
the Boman gallery, Hazlitt still figures in our minds 
as a man struggling in the grasp of contending passions 
and lifelong prejudices. 

There are incidents in Hazlitt's life which are un- 
pleasing in the extreme. We are told by Mr. R. L. 
Stevenson's biographer that the lAberAmoria is believed 
to have deprived the world of a Life of Hazlitt 



XI.] CHARACTER AND GENIUS 231 

from the feeling pen of " Tusitala." The loss is a 
heavy one. 

It is perhaps no excuse to say, yet it is worth 
remembering, that Hazlitt is his own accuser. Had he 
not turned traitor to himself, it is little or nothing we 
should have been able to urge against him save the 
holding until death of unpopular opinions. It does 
not follow as the night the day that lives were wholly 
free from shameful incidents because, as recorded by 
biographers, those who led them are made to appear as 

** Men that every virtue decks, 
And women models of their sex, 
Society's true ornament'* 

If it be replied that Hazlitt's lack of self-respect adds 
to his offences, a question is raised, I do not intend to 
pursue, how far and on what grounds sinful man is 
entitled to respect himself. In the eyes of the saints 
at all events, the most repulsive of all figures is that of 
a well-groomed sinner, polite, reticent, self-controlled 
self-contained, and brimful of " self-respect," a perfect 
piece of " polished ungodliness." Hazlitt at least was 
not that. His own hands tore down the veil which if 
left alone would have been the decent shroud of those 
failings, the frank revelation of which deprived him 
of an accomplished biographer. 

As against this, it is only too true to say that Hazlitt's 
confessions, though entirely free from fanfar(mnadey 
were not made in a penitential spirit, and display, even 
in their original published form, a mixture of coarse- 
ness and sentiment not a little disagreeable. 

So far as the book Liber Amoris is concerned, it was 
a purely literary effort ; an attempt to describe a man's 



232 WILLIAM HAZLITT [chap. 

passion for a stony-hearted damsel. It was perhaps 
worth the £100 John Hunt paid for it. It is the 
facts that lie behind the book that are disagreeable, 
how disagreeable we have unfortunately quite recently 
been allowed to discover. 

" The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and 
ill together ; our virtues would be proud if our faults 
whipped them not; and our crimes would despair if 
they were not cherished by our virtues." So said 
Shakespeare, in a passage which, though it does not 
pretend to be poetry, is sound criticism of life. It was 
a very favourite quotation of Hazlitt's, who had no 
more reason to be proud of his virtues than we have 
the right to despair of his crimes. 

How little is it we can know about the character of 
a dead man we never saw! His books, if he wrote 
books, will tell us something ; his letters, if he wrote 
any, and they are preserved, may perchance fling a 
shadow on the sheet for a moment or two ; a portrait 
if painted in a lucky hour may lend the show of sub- 
stance to our dim surmisings ; the things he did must 
carefully be taken into account ; but, as a man is much 
more than the mere sum of his actions, even these 
cannot be relied upon with great confidence. 

For the purpose of getting at any one's character, the 
testimony of those who knew the living man in the 
circumstances best calculated to reveal him as he truly 
was, is of all the material likely to be within our reach 
the most useful ; provided always it is supplied by per- 
sons with sufficient insight into character to be able 
to tell the truth, and provided also that they are both 
permitted to tell it, and willing to do so. These pro- 
visos, or some or one of them, destroy the value of 



XI.] CHARACTER AND GENIUS 233 

the greater part of the testimony of friends, whilst 
that of enemies requires so much sifting as to be 
practically useless.^ 

In Hazlitt's case we can fortunately call a witness 
of the deepest insight into the finest shades of char- 
•acter, and of unimpeachable veracity; one who was 
free to speak or to be silent as he chose, and who 
knew all, or very nearly all, that we know about 
Hazlitt, and a vast deal that we shall never know. 
With Charles Lamb's characterisation of Hazlitt, 
friendly but searching, I bring my task to its close : — 

" From the other gentleman [Hazlitt] I neither expect nor 
desire (as he is well assured) any such concessions. What 
hath soured him, and made him suspect his Mends of infi- 
delity towards him, when there was no such matter, I know 
not. I stood well with him for fifteen years (the proudest of 
my life), and have ever spoken my fiill mind of him to some to 
whom Ms panegyric must naturally be least tasteful. I never 
in thought swerved from him ; I never betrayed him ; I never 
slackened in my admiration of him ; I was the same to him 
(neither better nor worse), though he could not see it, as in the 
days when he thought fit to trust me. At this instant he may 
be preparing for me some compliment above my deserts, as he 
has sprinkled many such among his admirable books, for 
which I rest his debtor ; or for anything I know or can guess 
to the contrary, he may be about to read a lecture on my 
weaknesses. He is welcome to them (as he was to my humble 
hearth) if they can divert a spleen or ventilate a fit of suUen- 
ness. I wish he would not quarrel with the world at the 
rate he does; but the reconciliation must be affected by 
himself, and I despair of living to see that day. But pro- 

1 ** Characters should never be given by an historian unless he 
knew the people whom he describes or copies from those who knew 
them." — Dr. Johnwriy see Boswell under year 1779. —A hard saying 
for picturesque writers of history. 



2U WILLIAM HAZLRT [cmap. xi. 



testing against mneh that he has written and aome thingiB 
which he chooses to do ; jndging him hj his eunrenatioiis^ 
which I enjoyed so long and relished so deqily, w^ hj his 
hookSp in those places where no doading passion intezreneB, 
I should belie my own conscience if I said less than that I 
think W. H. to be in lus natond and healthy state one of 
the wisest and finest spirits breathing. So hi finom being 
ashamed of that intimacy idiich was betwixt na^ it is my 
boast that I was able for so many years to have preserved 
it entire ; and I think I shall go to my graye withoat finding; 
or expecting to find, such another companion." ^ 

1 Letter of EUa to Soathey. First printed in the lAmdon Maga^ 
zine lor October 1823. 



INDEX 



A 

Abingdon, Mrs., 134. 
Abstract Ideas, Essay, 73. 
Actors and Acting (6. H. Lewes) , 

105. 
Akenside, 129, 132. 
Alexander and Campaspe (John 

Lyly),133. 
All-Foxden, 48, 61. 
Alsager, Mr., 125. 
America, The Peace with, 7-10. 
American Rebels, 7. 
Ancient Mariner (Coleridge) , 53. 
Angerstein Grallery, 178. 
Antrim, 1, 2. 
Arbuthnot, 137, 184. 
Arcadia (Sidney's), 131. 
Atlas, The, 208. 

B 

Bagehot, Walter, 67, 80, 129. 

Ball, Sir Alexander, 61. 

Bandon, Cork, 7. 

Belsham, 31, 33. 

Bentham, Jeremy, 97, 115, 124, 

157, 196. 
Berkeley, 45, 92, 99, 100, 101, 199. 
•• Betty Foy," 49. 
Beyle, M., 191. 
Bible, The, 137. 
Biographia Literaria, 124. 
Blackwood, Messrs. William and 

Sons, 168. 
Blackwood*s Magazine, 21, 158, 

164, 165-168, 177, 201. 
Blair, 131, 138, 168. 
Blenheim, 92. 
Boccaccio, 88, 89. 



Bodleian Library, 92. 

Borne, 226J 

Boston, 11, 14, 16. 

Boswell, 120. 

Bonrbons, The, 96, 186, 219. 

Bridgewater, 48, 55. 

Bristol, 60, 55. 

Brougham, Mr., 160, 165, 171 note, 

197. 
Browne, Sir Thomas, 122, 131. 
Bulwer, Edward Lytton, 73, 196. 
Burke, Edmund, 33, 43, 54, 67, 80, 

132, 144, 147, 151, 179. 
Burleigh House, 35, 62, 68. 
Burlington, U.S.A., 9. 
Bumey, Martin, 120, 223. 
Bnmeys, The, 68. 
Bums, Robert, 129, 172. 
Butler, Bishop, 36, 45-46, 54, 92, 

99, 199; Butler's Sermons, 46, 

99,199. 
Byron, 139, 140, 196. 

C 

Caleb Williams, 64. 

Camilla, 48. 

Campbell, Thomas, 138, 144, 168, 

196, 212. 
Canning, Mr., 149, 160, 165. 
Cape Cod, 14. 
Carlisle, U.S.A., 10. 
Carlyle, Thomas, 81, 115, 152, 185. 
Caryl's Commentaries on Job, 22, 
Castle Spectre (Monk Lewis) , 50. 
Castlereagh, Lord, 101, 127, 149, 

161, 165, 227. 
Causes of Methodism, Essay, 112. 
Cavanagh, John, 169-162, 207. 



236 



236 



WILLIAM HAZLITT 



Chalmers, Dr. Thomas, 172. 

Chalmert*s Poets, 210. 

Chambers's Encyclopmdia of 
English Literature^ 133. 

Champion^ The, 110. 

Chandler, Dr., 3. 

Character of Pitt, 17-79, 95, 113, 
151. 

Characteristics (Hazlitt), 182- 
183. 

(Shaftesbury), 70. 

Characters of Shakevpear^s 
Plays, 110, 111, 113, 146. 

Chatham, Earl of, 80, 151. 

Chatterton, 128. 

Chaucer, 129. 

Chester, John, 52, 54, 55. 

Child Angel (Charles Lamb), 92. 

Christie, Mr. J. H., 166-168. 

Church of England, 27, 202. 

Clarke, C. Cowden, 213, 216. 

Claude, 74, 130. 

Clow, Professor, 3. 

Cobbett, WiUiam, 90, 160, 197. 

Colbum, Henry, 163. 

Colbum's Magazine, 196. 

Coleraine, 1. 

Coleridge, Hartley, 66. 

Samuel Taylor, 37, 38-^, 66- 

58, 61, 66, 77, 83, 95, 96, 98, 
99, 113, 122, 123, 126, 131, 141, 
142, 160, 160, 169 note, 196, 
198-201. 

Collins, 128, 129, 132, 211. 

"Complaint of a Poor Indian 
Woman," 49. 

Comus, Milton, 36. 

Condones ad Populum (Cole- 
ridge), 141. 

Confederacy, The, 134. 

Confessions (Rousseau) , 35. 

Congreve, 61, 133-134, 184. 

Conversations of James North- 
cote, 180, 212-213. 

Copley, 13. 

Corehouse, Lord (Mr. Cranston) , 
172 note. 



Coriolanus, 105, 110, 113. 

Corporation Acts, 21, 29. 

Coulson, Mr., 157. 

Country Wife, 134. 

Covent Garden Theatre, 108. 

Cowper, 53, 73, 127, 129, 130. 

Orediton, 152. 

Criticisms on Art, 61-64, 67-69, 

70-72. 
Croker, Mr., 149, 161. 
Cumberland, 66, 71. 
"Cupid and my Campaspe 

played," 133. 



Dante, 137, 191. 

Darling, Dr., 220. 

Darwin, Dr., 129. 

De Foe, 4, 217 ; Wilson's life of, 

217. 
De Quincey, 83, 196, 207, 227, 229. 
Diderot, 226. 

Dignum (The Singer), 26. 
"Don Quixote," 36, 117, 176. 
Donne, 122, 132. 
Dorchester, U.S.A., 14r-15. 
Drummond of Hawthomden, 133. 
Drury Lane Theatre, 55, 108, 

109. 
Dryden, 132, 143 note, 210-211. 
Dyer, George, 118. 

E 

Edinburgh, 171, 172, 173. 

Edinburgh Review, 124, 144, 145, 
157, 160, 169 note, 171 note, 193, 
208, 217. 

Edwards, Jonathan, 99, 100, 181. 

Egotism, Essay, 208 note. 

Elegy (Gray's), 132. 

Elgin marbles, 64. 

Elliston, Mr., 55. 

Eloquence of the British Senate, 
80, 95, 151. 

Encyclopasdia Britannica, 80. 

English Students at Boms, Es- 
say, 72. 



{ 



INDEX 



237 



Entrance of Christ into Jerusa- 
lem (Haydon), 50. 

Essays of Elia^ 118, 165. 

Essays on the Fine Arts (Rich- 
ardson), 62, 178, 179. 

Examiner t The, 56 note, 104, 110, 
111, 113, 120, 169 note, 208, 216: 

Excursion (Wordsworth) , 120. 



Farquhar, 34, 133, 134. 

Fashion f Essay on, 117 note. 

Fawcett, Joseph, 36-37, 77. 

Fielding, 36, 54, 61,121. 

Fight, They 112-113, 119, 162-163, 
178. 

FitzGerald, Edward, 211 note. 

Flaxman, 179, 217. 

Florence, 193-196. 

Fonblanque, Mr., 21&-217. 

Foresight (Congreve), 133-134. 

Forster, John, 107, 195. 

Fortnightly Revieto, 176-177. 

Fox, Charles, 64, 66, 80, 161. 

France, 184, 185-188. 

Franklin, Benjamin, 6. 

Free Thoughts on Public Affairs, 
76, 77, 113. 

French Revolution, 6, 32, 59, 88, 
96, 136, 139, 217-218. 

Friendj The, 61, 141. 

Friends and Acquaintances (Pat- 
more) , 126, 223-224. 

Froude, J. A., 192. 

G 

Garrick, 134. 

Gateacre, 69. 

Gay, 127, 132. 

Oebir (Landor), 194. 

Gifford, William, 74, 77, 113, 114, 

116, 143, 146-149, 161, 164, 168, 

196, 197, 227. 
Gil Bias, 36, 67, 117, 122. 
GilfiUan, George, 197. 
Glasgow, 171 ; University of , 3,41. 
Godwin, 43, 44, 58, 59, 92, 157. 



Godwins, The, 4, 35, 39, 58. 

Goethe, 137. 

Goldsmith, 129. 

Gosse, Edmund, 179, 180, 213. 

Gray, 54, 128, 129, 132, 211. 



H 

Hackney Theological CJollege, 31, 
32, 77, 101. 

Hagley, Miss, 26. 

Hamlet, 109, 110. 

Hare, Julius, 195, 230. 

Harmer Hill, 46. 

Hartleap Well, 140. 

Hartley, 31, 199. 

Harvard, U.S. A., 11. 

Haydon, 40 note, 50, 116, 159 note, 
176, 179. 

Hayley, 129. 

Hazlitt, William, his name, 1; 
his ancestry, 1, 2; his father, 
3; birth at Maidstone, 6; ac- 
companies the family to Amer- 
ica, 7; his life in America, 
7-16 ; return to England, 7-15 ; 
lives with the family in Lon- 
don, 17-19; removes to Wem in 
Shropshire, 19; his education, 
19, 20, 21 ; interest in theology 
and politics, 21, 22, 23, 24 ; visit 
to Liverpool, 24-28; studies 
French, 25; first visit to the 
theatre, 26 ; he enters Hackney 
Theological College, 30; his 
studies there, 30, 31, 32; goes 
back to Wem, 32 ; his reading, 
33-35; meets Coleridge, 40; 
visit to Nether Stowey, 48-66 ; 
resolves to become a painter,62 ; 
goes to Paris to study art, 62, 
63 ; becomes itinerant portrait 
painter, 66; abandons paint- 
ing as a profession, 71 ; his first 
book. Essay in Defence of the 
Natural Disinterestedness of 
the Human Mind, 73; Free 



238 



WILLIAM HAZLITT 



Thimghts on Public Affairs^ 
76; abridgment of Tacker's 
Light of Nature, 79; The Elo- 
quence of the British Senate, 
80; Reply to the Essay on 
Population by the Rev, T. R. 
Malthus, 81 ; his marriage, 86, 
116-117; goes to Winterslow, 
90; writes "A New and Im- 
proved " English Grammar, 
90; Memoirs of Holcrofty 92; 
birth of a son, 92; returns to 
London, 94; his friends and 
acquaintances, 95, 117-121 ; lec- 
tures on Modem Philosophy, 
96; becomes a reporter in the 
Gallery of the House of Com- 
mons, 101; alcoholic excess 
and total abstinence, 101, 222 ; 
becomes a dramatic critic, 
104 ; Characters of Shake- 
spear*8 Plays, 110; View of 
the English Stage, 125 ; Round 
Table, 111, 112 ; lectures at the 
Surrey Institution, 125-142; 
Letter to William Oifford, 146- 
149; Table-Talk, 163; contrib- 
utes to the London Magazine, 
165 ; divorce, 169-174 ; lectures 
in Glasgow, 171; the Miss 
Walker episode, 173-178; Liber 
Amoris, 176, 177, 178 ; Charac- 
teristics, 181-183; second mar- 
riage,183 ; visit to the Continent, 
184 ; Notes of a Journey through 
France and Italy, 184 ; return 
to England, 195; Spirit of the 
Age, 196; Life of Napoleon, 
207; The Plain Speaker, 208; 
HazlitVs Select Poets, 210; 
Conversations of James North- 
cote, 212 ; his death, 220 ; 
personal traits, 221^224; his 
fondness of rackets and fives, 
159-162; his income, 124, 125, 
208, 216, 220; hift. character 
and genius, 226-234 j his inrer- 



sions, 227-230; his frankness, 
23rn rtB politi t jtl upiniuus, 29 - 
38, 95, 140, 193-19i, 227, 228; 
philosophical specul ation , 30, 
32, 66, 61, 73-7B, 92, 98^1017227, 
228; his qualifications as a 
dramatic critic, 105-111 ; as an 
essayist. 111, 112 ; as a critic of 
poetry, 130-142; as an art critic 
178, 179, 180; permanence of 
his Influence, 145, 146. 

Hazlitt, William (Hazlitt's fa- 
ther), 2-16, 17, 19-24, 25-27, 31, 
33, 41, 42, 43, 56, 65, 69, 70 , 71, 
73, 83, 95, 151-154. 

Mrs. Grace (his mother) , 5, 

7, 15, 35, 151-154, 173, 174, 219, 
220, 224. 

John (his grandfather) ,1,2. 

Mrs. Margaret (his grand- 
mother), 1-3, 41. 

Colonel John (his uncle), 2, 10. 

James (his uncle) , 2, 3. 

John (his brother), 6, 7, 10, 



12-15, 18-21, 32, 35, 57, 71, 83, 
87, 95, 225. 

— Loftus (his brother), 6. 

— Margaret (his sister) , 6-9, 10, 
11, 12, 13, 15, 18-21, 151-154, 
173, 224. 

— Harriet (his sister) , 7. 

— Esther (his sister), 8. 

— Mrs. {n^e Sarah Stoddart, 



his first wife) , 58, 61, 86-90, 91- 
93, 115-117, 124, 151, 169, 170- 
174, 183, 186, 219. 

— Mrs. {n4e Mrs. Bridgewater, 
his second wife), 183, 184, 186, 
195. 

— William (his son) , 1, 92-93, 
116, 117, 150, 151, 169, 173, 178, 
186, 195, 212, 219, 220. 

— , John (his younger son), 
117. 

W. Carew (his grandson) , 1, 



3, 66, 69 note, 84, 117, 178, 195, 
221, 224. 



INDEX 



289 



f 



1 
1 



HazHtt'8 Select Poets y 210-211. 

Head of the Old Woman (paint- 
ing), 67-69. 

Heine, 226, 229. 

Herrick, 133. 

Hessey, Mr., 220. 

Hingham, U.S.A., 1^15. 

Hinton, Mr., 153. 

History of the Court of Chancery 
(Joseph Parkes) , 119. 

Hobbes, 29, 76, 92, 99. 

Holcroft, Thomas, 36, 68, 92, 123. 

Mrs., 92. 

Holcrofts, The, 68. 

Holy Alliance, 88, 96. 

Homer, 136, 137. 

Hood, 196. 

Hook, 196. 

Hoppner, Mr., 149. 

Home, Mr. B. H., 220,221. 

Hours in a Library (Leslie 
Stephen), 74, 207. 

House of Commons, 101-104. 

Hume, David, 46, 179. 

Hume, Joseph, 84. 

Humphry Clinker ^ 36. 

Hunt, John, 160, 168, 177, 232. 

Henry Leigh, 167. 

Leigh, 96, 111, 112, 124, 125, 

148, 151, 156-168, 166, 210. 

Hunt and Ck>wden Clarke, 184, 
213, 218. 



Imaginary Conversations (Lan- 

dor),193,196. 
Indian Jugglers^ Essay, 169-163. 
Ireland, Mr. Alexander, 73. 
Italy, 188-196. 



*• Jacob'sLadder" (painting), 91. 
Jeffrey, 124, 157, 177, 220. 
John Buncle, 112, 121, 178. 
Johnson, Dr. Samuel, 33 note, 45, 

64, 58, 100, 101, 121, 126, 127- 

130, 222, 224, 233 note. 



Johnson, Mr. (publisher), 73, 80. 
Jonson, Ben, 133, 226. 
Jordan, Mrs., 74, 134. 
Julia de Roubign4 (Mackenzie), 

71. 
Junius, 64, 122, 160. 



Kean, Edmund, 107-110, 223. 

Keats, 128, 131. 

Kemble, 26, 105, 109, 110, 149. 

Keswick, 67. 

Kippis, Dr., 6. 

Knowledge of Character , Essays, 

175. 
Knowles, Sheridan, 174, 176, 177. 



La Rochefoucauld, 182. 

Lalla Rookh, 139. 

Lamb, Mary, 86, 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 

117, 120. 
Lamb,Charles, 27, 67, 68, 71, 83-86, 

88, 90-92, 93, 91, 107, 117, 

120-123, 124, 131, 133, 167, 168, 

169, 166, 198, 207, 210, 216, 217, 

219, 220, 228, 233, 234. 
Lamb and Hazlitt (W. Carew 

Hazlitt),84, 91. 
L*Am^ur (M. Beyle), 191. 
Lana, 66. 
Landor, 33, 96, 97, 107, 133, 140, 

193-195, 226, 230 ; Forster^s Life 

of Landor, 195. 
Lay of the Laureate (Southey), 

104. 
Lectures on the English Poets, 

126, 143, 146. 
071 the English Comic Writ- 
ers, 126. 
on the Dramatic Literature 

of the Age of Elizabeth, 12IS, 

133. 
on the Rise and Progress of 

Modem Philosophy^ 98. 

on the Law of Nature and 



\ 



Nations (Mackintosh), 69-60. 



240 



WILLIAM HAZLITT 



^ 



^ 



Letter to a Noble Lord (Burke), 

33,34. 
Letter to William Oifford, Esq., 

114, 14(>-150. 
Lewes, G. H. 106, 109. 
Lewis, Mr. David, 17. 

Monk, 50. 

Liber AmoHs, 169, 171, 173-178, 

230, 23L 
Liberal, The, 55 note, 172. 
Liberty and Necessity, Lecture, 

99,100. 
Light of Nature pursued 

(Tucker), 79, 181. 
listen, 106. 
Literary Remains (Hazlitt's) , 

30, 55 note, 98, 126-128, 

221. 

Studies (Bagehot), 129. 

Liverpool, 24-27. 

Lord, 227. 

Llangollen Vale, 47. 
Locke, 92, 99, 184, 194. 
Lockhart, 166-168 ; Lang's Life of 

Lockhart, 167 note, 168. 
Loftus, Mrs. (Hazlitt's grand- 
mother), 5, 18, 224. 
London, 15, 17-19, 31, 32, 57, 58, 86, 

94, 95, 98, 115-117, 187, 188, 189, 

196, 208, 217, 219. 
Magazine, 120, 164, 165, 178, 

208, 233, 234. 

Weekly Review, 208. 

Longmans, Messrs., 83. 

Lorraine, Claude, 91. 

Louvre, The, 56-72, 185, 186, 189, 

192. 
Love for Love, 134. 

in Many Masks, 26. 

Lowe, Sir Hudson, 116. 

Lyly, John, 133. 

Lyrical Ballads, 48, 53, 57. 



M 

Macaulay, 4, 19, 124, 191. 
Macbeth, 109, 110. 



Mackenzie, 71. 

Mackintosh, Sir James, 43, 58-60, 

73, 74, 80, 165. 
Mad Mother, 49. 
Madonna Pia, story of, 191, 192. 
Maidstone, 6. 
Malta, 60. 
Malthus, Bey. T. B., 81-83, 90, 

184, 196. 
Man qf Feeling (Mackenzie), 

71. 
Manchester, 67. 
Manning, 87. 
Marriage laws of England and 

Scotland, 170, 171. 
Marshfield, Gloucestershire, 5. 
Martineau, Dr., 24. 
Marvell, 132, 210. 
Medwin, Captain, 206. 
Memoirs of William Hazlitt, 

6, 117, 164, 156-158, 169 

note. 
Merry England, Essay, 206. 
Midsummer Night's Dream, 110. 
" MlUamant," 134. 
Miller, Mr. John, 73. 
Milton, 36, 64, 74, 90, 97, 98, 

115, 122, 126, 1^, 130, 132, 

171, 228; Milton's Sonnets, 

97. 

Mr, H (Lamb) , 84, 86. 

Monody to Chatterton (Cole- 
ridge), 38, 198. 
Montagu, Basil, 158, 220. 
Montaigne, 112. 
Moor, Dr., 3. 
Moore, Tom, 138. 
Moral and Political Philosophy 

(Paley), 47. 
More, Hannah, 127, 129. 
Morning Chronicle, 103, 104, 109, 

110, 126, 184, 208. 
Morning Post, 77. 
Mounsey, Greorge, 118, 119. 
Munden, 134. 
Murray, Lindley, 90. 
Murray, John, 149, 164. 



INDEX 



241 



N 
Napier : Selection from the Corre- 

gpondence of Macvey Napier, 

227 note. 
Napoleon Bonaparte, 65, 96, 106, 

111, 116, 126, 131, 139, 182, 186, 

186, 194, 229, 230 ; Hazlitt's Life 

of Napoleon, 169, 196, 206, 207, 

211, 213-219. 
Natttral Disinterestedness of the 

Human Mind, 46, 66, 68, 73, 74- 

76. 
Nether Stowey, 48-55. 
New and Improved Grammar of 

the English Tongue, 90. 
New Elolse (Bousseau), 35. 
New Monthly Magazine, 162, 208, 

211. 
New School of Reform, Essay, 26 

note, 208 note. 
New Timjes, 166. 
New York, 8-9. 

Newman, John Henry, 81, 136. 
No Song, no Supper (play), 26. 
Northcote, James, 62, 116, 121, 

179, 212, 213. 
Notes of a Journey through 

France and Italy, 181, 184-193. 

O 

Ode to the Departing Tear (Cole- 
rid^), 38. 

On a Landscape by Poussin, 163. 

On Actors and Acting, 107, 108. 

On Consistency of Opinion, 31, 32. 

On Court Influence, 22, 23, 24. 

On going a Journey, 163. 

On Patronage and Pi^nflr ,96,163. 

On reading Old Books, 71. 

On the Conduct of Life, 212. 

On the Conversation of Authors, 
121-124, 208 note. 

On the Difference between Writing 
and Speaking, 102, 103, 208, 209. 

OntheFear of Death, 164, 163, 177. 

On the Feeling of Immortality in 
Youth, 28, 29. 

R 



On the Ignorance of the Learned, 

162. 
On tfie Pleasures of Painting, 61, 

62, 63, 64, 67, 71. 
On the Political State of Man, 30, 

31. 
Oil the Principles of Human 

Action. See Natural Disinter^ 

estedness of the Human Mind, 
On the Tendency of Sects, 24, 112. 
Orleans Gallery, 61, 62. 
Ossian, 137, 139. 
OtheUo, 109, 110. 
Oxford, 91, 188. 
in the Vacation (Lamb), 98. 



Paine, Thomas, 45. 

Paley, 46, 118. 

Palmer, Jack, 106. 

Paradise Lost, 36, 97, 122. 

Paradise Regained, 122. 

Paradox and Commonplace, Es- 
say, 154, 155, 156. 

Paris, 61-65, 186-188, 191. 

Parkes, Joseph, 119. 

Pastoral Ballad (Shenstone), 36. 

Patmore, P. G., 125, 126, 164, 167, 
168, 174, 177, 178, 220, 223, 224. 

Paul and Virginia, 48. 

People with one Idea, Essay, 
130. 

Peregrine Pickle, 34, 185. 

Perry,Mr., 103, 104, 126. 

Sir Erskine, 103. 

Perry, Miss, 103. 

Persons one would wish to have 
seen. Essay, 120. 

Peter Bell (WordsworthV 

" Peter Martyr " (Titijrf) ; 179. 

Peterborough, 5. ^ 

Philadelphia, ^ib. 

Piggott, Robert, 119. 

Pitt, Willyain, 6, 64, 68, 77-79, 151, 
182,227^ 

Pleasures qf Memory (Rogers), 
13a« 



242 



WILLIAM HAZLITT 



\ 



Plain Speaker^ The, 26 note, 102, 
103, 121-124, 165, 208, 209. 

Plunkett, 103, 165. 

Poem8 on the Naming of Places 
(Wordsworth), 48. 

Political JEssays, 22, 23, 24, 80, 
104, 130, 140, 150, 196. 

Ponsonby, 165. 

Pope, 54, 128. 132, 137. 

Person, 118, 119. 

Posthumous Fame, Essay, 112. 

Poussin, 64, 66. 

Presbyterianism, English, 4. 

Price, Dr., 3, 7, 31. 

Priestley, Dr., 6, 11, 25, 29, 33, 100, 
199. 

Prior, Dr., 3. 

Matthew, 132. 

Procter, 176, 176, 210, 220, 223; 
Charles Lamb, 101 note; Auto- 
biographical Fragments, 176. 

Provoked Husband, 62. 

Provoked Wife, 134. 

Q 
Quarterly Review, 71, 104, 113, 120. 
143, 147, 151, 160, 164, 169. 



Railton, Miss, 71. 

Raphael, 62, 66, 70, 189. 

Recruiting Officer (Farquhar) 34. 

Rees, Dr., 31. 

Relapse, The, 134. 

Religious Musings (Coleridge), 
200. 

Rembrandt, 21, 35, 62, 66, 68, 70, 

-^78. 

iJewio^ (Coleridge), 55. 

Reply to\f^ Essay on Popula- 
tion, 81, SSJ -85. 

Repository, 2%e,^53, 154. 

Reynell, Mr., 219. ^ 

Miss, 219. N 

Reynolds, Mr., 157. ^^. 

Sir Joshua, 18, 58, «?8, 179. 

Richard the Third, 109, 110- 



Richardson, 34, 35, 54. 

Rickmanns, The, 58. 

Rise and Progress of Modem 

Philosophy Lectures, 98-101. 
Road to Ruin (Holcroft), 92. 
Robinson, Crabb, 57, 92. 
Rogers, Samuel, 138. 
Rome, 188-192. 
Rom^o, 110. 

Romilly, Sir Samuel, 165. 
Round Table, 24, 77-79, 104, 112, 

113, 120, 129, 146, 148, 149. 
Rousseau, 8, 25, 35, 184, 213, 229. 
Rowe, Mr. (Unitarian minister), 

38. 
Rubens, 64, 178. 
Ruskin, 202. 

8 
St. Andrew^s Church, Holbom, 

86. 
St. Anne's, Soho, 220, 221. 
St. James's Chronicle, 33. 
St. Peter's, Rome, 190, 191. 
Salisbury, 58, 90. 
Salisbury Plain, 90, 130. 
School for Scandal, 106. 
Scott, John, 166-168. 
Sir Walter, 52, 74, 140, 143, 

196, 201-205, 207, 214, 215, 217. 
Scott, Racine, and Shakespeare, 

Essay, 204, 205. 
Seasons (Thomson's), 53. 
Select Discourses (William Has- 

litt the elder), 28, 73. 
Shaftesbury, 70. 
Shakespeare, 54, 65, 98, 106, 107, 

110, 111, 126, 128, 133, 136, 171, 

232; Sonnets, 65. 
Shelburne, Lord, 7. 
Shelley, 154, 165, 156, 158. 
Shenstone, 36. 

Shepherd, Dr., 69; Sally Shep- 
herd, 69. 
Sheridan, 135. 

Short Studies (Froude), 192, 
Shrewsbury, 33, 34, 38, 39, 44-46. 



INDEX 



243 



Shronell, 2. 

" Shylock," 109. 

Siddons, Mrs., 8, 74, 106, 130, 213. 

Sidney, Sir Philip, 46, 122, 131. 

Sienna, 192. 

" Sir John Brute,** 134. 

Skeffin^n, Sir George, 70. 

Sketches and Essays, 105 note, 

117 note 
Smith, Adam, 3. 

Mr. Horatio, 167. 

Mr. D. Nicol, 168. 

Smollett, 121, 122. 

Soho, 219, 220. 

Some Remarks on the Systems of 

Hartley and Helvetius, 58, 73. 
South, 45. 
Southampton Buildings, Hol- 

bom, 174, 175. 
Southampton Coffee House, 118. 
Southey, 60, 66, 74, 96, 104, 120, 

129, 131, 143, 149, 150, 151, 159, 

194, 195, 196, 229, 230. 
Spenser, 129, 191. 
Spirit of Obligations, Essay, 208 

note. 
Spirit of the Age, 69, 60, 114, 115, 

129, 147, 148, 196, 204. 
Stamford, 171, 174. 
Stephen, Mr. Leslie, 74, 207. 
Sterne, 36, 117. 

Stevenson, R. L., 208 note, 230. 
Stoddart, Dr. John, 58, 60, 61, 87, 

90, 166, 167, 187. 
Stonehenge, 90, 183. 
Stuarts, The, 191, 202. 
Suckling, 133. 
Suett, the actor, 26. 
Surrey Institution, 125. 
Swift, 128, 131, 132, 227. 
Sybilline Leaves, 49. 



Table-Talk, 154-156, 159-162, 163, 

164, 175, 177, 208. 
Talfonrd, Mr. Justice, 96, 107, 

126-128, 134, 217, 221-223. 



Taylor and Hessey, 186. 
Taylor, Jeremy, 64, 74, 131. 
T4l4maque, 25. 
Tennyson, 163. 
Test Act, 21, 25, 29. 
Thackeray, 103. 

The Free Admission, Essay, 219. 
♦• The Fudge Family," 138. 
The Sick Chamber, Essay, 219. 
The Sublifne and Beautiful 

(Burke) , 179. 
Thomson, James, 53, 172. 
Thorn, 49. 
Tiemey, 166. 
Times, The, 125. 
Tintoret, 66. 
Tipperary, 1, 2. 
Titian, 8, 13, 62, 63, 64, 65, 91, 

130, 179, 213. 
Tom Jones, 34, 47. 
Tooke, Home, 90, 197, 226, 227. 
Toulmin, Dr., 55. 
Tracys, The, of Liverpool, 24, 26, 

27, 28, 73. 
Traill, Mr., 167. 

Tucker, Abraham, 79, 80, 95, 181. 
Tuileries, 188. 

U 
Unitarianism, 3, 4, 10, 11, 24, 30, 

31,33. 
United States of America, 7-16. 



Vanbnigh, 133-135, 184. 

Vandyke, 74, 178. 

Vevey, 206. 

View of the English Stage, 104, 

107-111, 125. 
Viny, Mr., of Tenterden, 6. 
Virgil, 53. 

W 

Walker, Miss, 169, 170, 174^^177. 
Walter, Mr., of the Tim^, 126. 
Walthamstow, 36. 
Walworth, 17-18. 
Warton's Sonnets, 65, 131. 



244 



WILLIAM HAZLITT 



Washington, General, 10. 

Watchman, The, 38, 141. 

Waterloo, 96. 

Waverley Novels, 74, 140, 184, 
20^206. 

Way of t?ie World (Ck>ngreye), 
134. 

Wedgwood, Thomas, 43, 44. 

Wells, Mr., 220. 

Wem, 8, 17-37, 39, 46, 66, 57, 83, 
95, 151, 152. 

Werther, 139. 

Wesley, John, 90. 

Weymouth, U.S.A., 11-14. 

Whitbread, 165. 

White, Mr., 220. 

Why Distant Objects Please, Es- 
say, 17, 18. 

Wiche, Mr., 6. 

Wilberforce, 165. 

Williams, Mrs., the actress, 26. 

Wilson, Professor, 21, 164. 

Effingham, 217. 



Walter, 217. 



Winterslow, 19,58, 87, 90-03, 152, 
183,196,208,211; Winterslow, 
Essays, 28, 29, 31, 32, 55 note, 
152. 

Wisbeach, 5, 35. 

Wither, 133. 

WoUstonecrafts, The, 58; Mrs. 
Wollstonecraft, 35. 

Wordsworth, Dorothy, 66. 

William, 37, 43, 48-51, 53, 

66, 57, 61, 66, 96, 97, 120, 132, 
140, 154, 160, 172, 179, 194, 196, 
210, 229, 230. 

Wycherley, 133>135. 



Tates, Mr., 25, 28. 

Telhto Dwarf (Leigh Hunt), 124, 

151. 
York Street, Westminster, 97, 

115. 116, 126, 170. 
Young, 128, 129, 132, 211. 



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