1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Hazlitt

Anonymous, "William Hazlitt" The Age (18 November 1827) 187.



When Dr. Johnson found that the person who was compiling an index to the Rambler, had written "Mr." John Milton, he flew into a violent passion, and exclaimed, "The Goth ought to have known that the glorious Milton disdains the common of the times. He wrote for all ages, and should not be designated by the conventional title of any — write him down MILTON." So we write down Hazlitt, plain Hazlitt; for we think "Mister" Hazlitt would not do. Pray, will you make an opaque horizontal with your hand over your eyes, and just look on the mysteriousness of that face. At one moment you think he is meditating a murder — then shift a little to the right, and you imagine he is all smiles and simplicity — then change your position, and probably you will find him hatching a conspiracy, or meditating a theatrical criticism for the Examiner. In any light you take it, that face of Hazlitt varies, and then it always follows you with its eyes, like the figure in the Painted Hall at Greenwich, go to what part of the room you please; but unfortunately, Hazlitt could not see you with his eyes if he was to peer with them into your very breast. Yet no man makes greater struggles to induce the world to think that he sees, and sees keenly too; but the man is as blind as a pup. He could not see a thing dancing about him: he is like Saturn in his circle, with the world eternally moving round him, but never touching him. Hazlitt's glory is in an obscure paragraph. Can you read the curl of his lip?, — no, nor the meaning of his Table Talk, nor any thing that is his. Do you observe the difference in the colour of his eyes? Well, Sir, that is occasioned by the nature of his studies: his dexter eye with the amber fringe, is his New Monthly eye, and helps him to see his way into that publication; and his sinister eye, with the twopenny-post mark on the pupil, and a Q in the corner, is his Examiner eye, that he cocks at Mrs. Davison, when he is taking her measure for a critique. Don't imagine you have done with the portrait of Hazlitt: watch that natural mull that appends, like a grizzly membrane, from the broken arch between his peepers: it is as full of inspiration as it is of snuff, and clearly establishes the fact, that Hazlitt is a genuine "dust." Hazlitt scents characters with his nose, somewhat as the pigs scent out their invisible viands in the mud. In his hand you perceive a volume, inscribed "Spirits of the Age." Now, we know not what tempted the man to publish a book under that title, since we assure the public that he never had hand, act, or part in the AGE, and therefore is totally ignorant of the spirits that impart to it that life and vivacity that distinguish it above all its contemporaries. Hazlitt write the "Spirits of the AGE!" bah! let the man write the "Spirits of the Examiner," if he will, or "Galway's Spirits," or the "History of Blue Ruin," but let him never talk of the AGE until his intellects are of age, which, we predict, is an event will never take place. This has put us into such a passion, that we draw the curtain over Hazlitt for the present, and invite our readers to take another peep next week at our Gallery.