1866 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Hazlitt

Bryan Waller Procter, in Charles Lamb: a Memoir (1866) 120-21.



I meet, at present, with few persons who recollect much of Hazlitt. Some profess to have heard nothing of him except his prejudices and violence; but his prejudices were few, and his violence (if violence he had) was of very rare occurrence. He was extremely patient, indeed, although earnest when discussing points in politics, respecting which he held very strong and decided opinions. But he circulated his thoughts on many other subjects, whereon he ought not to have excited offence or opposition. He wrote (and he wrote well) upon many things lying far beyond the limits of politics. To use his own words, "I have at least glanced over a number of subjects — painting, poetry, prose, plays, politics, parliamentary speakers, metaphysical lore, books, men, and things." This list, extensive as it is, does not specify very precisely all the subjects on which he wrote. His thoughts range over the literature of Elizabeth and James's times, and of the time of Charles II.; over a huge portion of modern literature; over the distinguishing character of men, their peculiarities of mind and manners; over the wonders of poetry, the subtleties of metaphysics, and the luminous regions of art. In painting, his criticisms (it is prettily said by Leigh Hunt) cast a light upon the subject like the glory reflected "from a painted window." I myself have, in my library, eighteen volumes of Hazlitt's works, and I do not possess all that he published. Besides being an original thinker, Hazlitt excelled in conversation. He was, moreover, a very temperate liver: yet his enemies proclaimed to the world that he was wanting even sobriety.