1878 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Hazlitt

Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke, in Recollections of Writers (1878) 60.



It was our good fortune also to see a magnificent copy that Hazlitt made of Titian's portrait of Ippolito die Medici, when we called upon him at his lodgings one evening. The painting — mere stretched canvas without frame — was standing on an old-fashion'd couch in one corner of the room leaning against the wall, and we remained opposite to it for some time, while Hazlitt stood by holding the candle high up so as to throw the light well on to the picture, descanting enthusiastically on the merits of the original. The beam from the candle falling on his own finely intellectual head, with its iron-grey hair, its square potential forehead, its massive mouth and chin, and eyes full of earnest fire, formed a glorious picture in itself, and remains a luminous vision for ever upon our memory. Hazlitt was naturally impetuous, and feeling that he could not attain the supreme height in art to which his imagination soared as the point at which he aimed, and which could alone suffice to realize the ideal of excellence therein, he took up the pen and became an author, with what perfect success everyone knows. His facility in composition was extreme. We have seen him continue writing (when we went to see him while he was pressed for time to finish an article) with wonderful ease and rapidity of pen, going on as if writing a mere ordinary letter. His usual manuscript was clear and unblotted, indicating great readiness and sureness in writing, as though requiring no erasures or interlining.