me + ME:
Hazlitt - polemics, illness, memorial
The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is
the love of ourselves.
-- William Hazlitt
Man is a toad-eating animal. The admiration of power in others
is as common to man as the love of it in himself: the one makes
him a tyrant, the other a slave.
-- William Hazlitt
| In "On the
Connection between Toad-Eaters and Tyrants", one of the most
powerful polemics in Political Essays , Hazlitt asserts: "Man is
a toad-eating animal," and then shows how the admiration of
power turns many writers into intellectual pimps, hirelings of
the press, defenders of the restored Bourbon Louis XVIII,
worshippers of idols, lovers of kings.
Again and again, he hits out like a pugilist
at "grovelling servility" and "petulant egotism". One of his
persistent themes is that reason is a "slow, inert, speculative,
imperfect faculty", and his aim is always to wrest imagination
from the reactionaries such as Edmund Burke - whose prose style
he admired hugely - in order to create a political discourse
which is not abstract, academic, uninflected, foggy. Abstract
reason, unassisted by passion, "is no match for power and
prejudice, armed with force and cunning".
Tom Paulin (Guardian, Apr 5, 2003)
1. Hazlitt: The supreme genius of Romantic prose
I am still not well and also sad , and not inclined to write about
various topics, but I have been reading more in Paulin's "The Day-Star
of Liberty - William Hazlitt's Radical Style", from which I have
gathered some quotes on the subjects in the title, of which the first two
also touch, indirectly, on problems around ME.
This last fact - evidentially so for those who read
Nederlog since May -
is illustrated by the last quotation with which I opened, that is quite
perceptive about Hazlitt and his main motives and inspirations.
However, I will not write about these problems around ME, except to say
that they are related to yesterday's theme of Political Correctness and
the flawed nature of man (and woman too), and to the theme of human
stupidity related to that - since alas the human world can on average be
no better than the average qualities of humans allow for, which is not
much, at least compared to the individual human qualities of the few who
laid the foundations of the sciences and the arts. 
1. Hazlitt: The supreme genius of Romantic prose
I discovered Hazlitt by accident in an Amsterdam antiquarian bookshop
almost half a lifetime ago, and immediately upon reading him thought I
had discovered an unknown genius of English prose. Ever since, I have
been amazed to find how few have seen and realized the same, and how
small and begrudging..
"His clear and vivacious style rose at times to a rare beauty; and when
the temper of his work was not marred by his touchiness and egotism he
wrote with great charm and a delicate fancy."
..he has been praised, although indeed my opening quotation goes quite
far in explaining why:
Hazlitt saw too deep into the average human heart
and wrote too truly about it to be palatable to timeservers, liars, "intellectual
pimps, hirelings of the press," academic pedants, minor writing
talents, and many others who form the vast majority of the so called
intellectuals of his and my day, and the days in between, and is for rare,
discerning and sensitive minds only.
Paulin says in the link I also quoted above:
Most of Hazlitt's work is out of print, or unavailable in
paperback. He is not studied in most university English courses and
those who want to read him at any length need to scour secondhand
shops for old Everyman editions of his essays (gloomily each year I
contemplate the tiny number of readers who buy the selection of his
essays I did for Penguin a few years ago).
I often recall reading through his collected works which stand on
the open shelves of the Upper Reading Room of the Bodleian library,
only to find that Hazlitt's three-volume Life of Napoleon had
remained there for more than 60 years with its pages uncut.
During the years I spent beside those volumes I think two
students came to consult them, while there were queues to read
Coleridge's lavishly edited, often unreadable prose - prose that has
begotten untold acres of equally unreadable academic writing. It was
like being trapped inside Gissing's New Grub Street - I felt that
Hazlitt's reputation was now so dimmed, so beleaguered on the
margins of the cultural memory, that it would never again be
So... and as Pauling asks
(..) how and where do we place this
little-studied, scantly celebrated critic and journalist?
Hazlitt was a professional journalist, lecturer and essayist who wrote in
many tones or styles about many subjects, almost always in the form of
essays for radical journals of his day or in the form of texts of public
lectures on large subjects, that were in part gathered by him in books
during his life, that now - and since the beginning of the 20th Century -
are mostly in Everyman's Library.
Apart from that, very little of him is in print, and indeed one's best
bet for access to Hazlitt in an excellent early edition in Everyman's
Library is by way of antiquarian bookshops. There is a new edition of his
collected works in 9 volumes, but that collection is priced at over
thousand dollars, and hence only for fairly to very rich men and for still
well-endowed university libraries.
In any case, here is an answer to the question Pauling raised that
provided the title to this section and goes a good way in the direction
of a good answer in a small compass, so
I quote it:
William Hazlitt (1778-1830) is one of the great masters of English prose
style. He is a major literary critic and radical polemicist whose
intellect is both analytical and sensuously particular. Keats worshipped
him, and his poems and letters are shaped by Hazlitt's influence - his
sentences are like a 'whale's back in the sea of prose,' Keats commented.
He was born in Maidstone, Kent, the son of an Irish Unitarian minister.
His mother, Grace Loftus, was from an English dissenting family who were
friendly with Godwin's family, so Hazlitt's writings draw strongly on the
culture of radical dissent in Britain and Ireland. His family were
devoted supporters of the Volunteer Movement in Ireland, where they lived
for some years. They also supported the American Revolution and spent
some years in the new republic before returning to England. Hazlitt never
wavered in his commitment to the values of the French Revolution and
remained always an impoverished member of the radical intelligentsia.
Hazlitt moved in advanced circles in London - he met Mary Wollstonecraft,
was friendly with Godwin, revered Wordsworth and Coleridge, whose work he
continued to praise even after they broke with him over his unwavering
support for Napoleon. He attacked Southey vehemently, as he attacked
Wordsworth and Coleridge for their reactionary politics, but he remained
always disinterested in his critical outlook - he was capable of praising
writers with whose views he disagreed and had a lifelong attachment to
Burke's prose (he regarded Reflections on the Revolution in France
as a masterpiece of polemic). His own prose communicates the deep joy of
the critical act as a form of inspired creativity. He hates monarchy,
despises aristocracy, and makes his prose sing of liberty, but he is
never narrowly partisan. His prose rings with courageous expressions of
principle and glistens with brilliant passages of critical commentary and
analysis. A supremely gifted drama critic who made the reputation of
Edmund Kean, an extraordinarily intelligent journalist who invented the
newspaper profile, Hazlitt turned criticism into art form. Many of his
essays are like conversation poems - witty, profound and eagerly alive to
the surfaces of the work of art he is appreciating. No study of the
Romantic movement can be complete without a reading of his essays. For
too long he has been regarded as a marginal figure, instead of being seen
as the supreme genius of Romantic prose. A radical republican, like
Milton, he possessed an epic imagination which he chose to embody in an
eloquent stream of reviews and critical essays.
Penguin Web Site. Accessed May 4th 1998.
A.C. Grayling called Hazlitt "The Prince of Polemicists", and there is much
to say for it, though it is also misleading, in that it only refers to
one of his excellencies as a writer. But there is this
For Hazlitt, the ability to hate the enemy is the central energy in
oratory and prose, and he often quotes Milton's phrase "sacred vehemence"
to illustrate an energy which for him is vital to all writing and
speaking - Yeats called it "passionate intensity".
and the hypocritical and dumb haters of hate tend to forget that hate is
love with opposite
sign and that human beings are moved by passion, not by reason: At best
that allows them to see what is true or probable, and what is fair or
just, but not act upon it, nor to make something one's interest, concern
Here is Hazlitt on one of his hated enemies, the eager government tool
John Wilson Croker, quoted from Paulin's "The Day-Star
of Liberty - William Hazlitt's Radical Style" (in the proof-copy I
found of it in an antiquarian bookshop) - and I have some brief remarks,
i.a. on respectful prose, after quoting it:
Who is it that you meet sauntering along Pall Mall with fleering eyes,
and nose turned up, as if the mud and the people offended him, - that the
look of an informer, or the keeper of the baginio, or a dealer in marine
stores, or an attorney struck off the list - a walking nuisance, with the
sense of smell added to it, a moving nausea, with whose whole
stomach nothing agrees, and that seeks some object to vent its spleen and
ill-humour upon, that turns another way, afraid to express it -
'A dog, in forehead, and in heart, a deer;'
that stops to look at a printshop with a supercilious air of
indifference, as if he would be thought to understand, but scorned to
approve any thing - that finds fault with Hogarth, and can see no grace
in Raphael, with his round shoulders, hulking stoop, slouching
great-coat, and unwashed face, like the smut of his last night's
conversation - that's let in and out of [Carlton] House, like a
night-cart, full of filth, and crawling with lies - the Thersites of
modern politics, the ringleader of the Yahoos of the Press, the goul
of the Boroughmongers; that preys on the carcase of patriot
reputation; the Probert  of the Allies, that 'bags the game' of
liberty in the Quarterly that Duke Humphrey slew in the field - a
Jack-pudding in wit, a pretender to sense, a tool of power, who thinks
that a nick-name implies disgrace, as a title confers honour, that to
calumniate is to convince, and whose genius is on an exact par with the
taste and understanding of his employers - whose highest ambition is to
be a cat's paw, whose leading principle is to advocate his own
interest by betraying his country and his species; to whom the very names
of LIBERTY, HUMANITY, VIRTUE, PATRIOTISM, are a bye-word from the want of
a single generous or manly feeling in his breast; whose only pleasure is
in malignity, and whose only pride is in degrading others to his own
level; who affects literature, and fancies he writes like Tacitus, by
leaving out the conjunction and; who helps himself to English out
of Lindley Murray's Grammar, and maintains, with a pragmatical air, that
no one writes it but himself; who conceals his own writings and publishes
those of other people, which he procures from his relations at a
lodging-house; who frightens elderly gentlewomen who ask him to dinner,
by pleasantly offering to carve a 'Holy-Ghost Pye,' that is, a
Pigeon-Pye, and gallantly calling for a bit of the 'Leg of the Saviour,'
that is, a leg of Lamb; who afterwards props the Bible and the Crown with
ribaldry and slander, but who has no objection to the Pope, the Turk or
the Devil, provided they are on the side of his LEGITIMATE Patrons, and
who keeps a fellow even more impudent than himself, who, whenever the
cause of humanity is mentioned, sticks his hands in his sides, and cries
HUMBUG, and while nations are massacring, and the hopes of the earth
withered, plays a tune on the salt-box for the amusement of Ladies and
Gentlemen of Great Britain, and in honour of the Great Fûm? (op.cit.
This is from 1824, and it's one long sentence, as happens quite often in
Hazlitt. I will make a few disjointed remarks, as promised.
First, I don't know how much other readers get out of the above
quotation, in terms of understanding, history, or appreciation for the
English. Speaking for myself, who is Dutch, I can hear, read, understand
and explain (given sufficient space, time, health and leisure) why the
prose is great, but then I know English very well and I know a lot of
Hazlitt and of Hazlitt's time, mostly - at first - through my interest in
him. And since I do not know what e.g. intelligent well-educated
Englishmen these days know about Hazlitt's time or about English great or
reputable authors from his time (quite a few, comprising Burke, Godwin,
Wollstonecraft, Shelley, Coleridge, Byron, Wordsworth, Lamb, Keats, De Quincey
and Cobbett, individually and collectively much more powerful
writers than the literary writers and journalistic writers of my own time), I will not attempt to explain or summarize that either:
Make of it what you will and can, and use the internet for background if
Second, about that one long sentence the paragraph is composed of. I
could, in fact, write a lot about this apparently simple and trite subject, but
here make just two brief remarks, apart from noting that I myself quite
often write in long sentences, the explanation of which constitutes my
first brief remark:
The sentence is the natural unit of thought, for the civilised
human mind, since that is linguistic, if not solely nor merely
linguistic, and a sentence first and foremost is the
expression of a thought, an idea, in sounds of speech or scribbled marks
- and thus, for intelligent people, it is quite natural to
develop and express one subject or topic in one long winding and
meandering sentence full of asides, qualifications, amplifications,
reservations and embellishments. Indeed, this was considered something
of an art among gentlemen writers of the 17th and 18th Century: To be
able to write a clear, comprehensible, balanced, and indeed melodious
long sentence that properly expresses a single line of thought well. Hazlitt
excelled in this, and one key to getting his meaning is to listen
(mentally or by reading loud) to the
rhythms and melodies in his prose, that he always meant to be naturally
readable, and that indeed always is.
And those who object to this, e.g. on the basis of absurd style councels
like "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White (if I recall
the names well) or on
the basis of modern prose habits, either have no wit themselves or else do
not know how English was written before it got thoroughly corrupted by advertisement
prose, political propaganda prose, and journalistic prose, none of which
seek approval and appreciation of the best minds, but generally of the
opposite: The uneducated masses, in these modern times well provided with
incomes, in the Western World, and also collectively democratically
possessed of the silentt majority vote, but without any real
civilization, interest in acquiring it, or indeed capacity to do so.
Third: Why was Hazlitt so disrespectful to that in his time
very respectable well paid friend and defender of the government, John
Wilson Croker? Because - as
ordinary men, who are almost all conformists,
refuse to see about their kind and their groups - there are bad
intelligent men; there are fewer good intelligent men than bad
intelligent men; and the mass of ordinary men function in their real
lives as the proud dupes of their more clever, less honest, usually most
respectable contemporaries, who generally flatter them, play up to their
fears, uncertainties, and their needs for respect; and who do this
usually only to support themselves in their personal capacities as
willing tools for a party, a
corporation or a
government - for indeed:
Man is a toad-eating animal. The admiration of
power in others is as
common to man as the love of it in himself: the one makes him a tyrant,
a slave. 
Hazlitt did not grow very old - hardly a few years older than
comparatively speaking and died poor, from stomach cancer, in London in
1830, age 52. Here is his description from his last illness, written briefly
before his death - and I first quote and then briefly comment. And note
this is again mostly one single long finely descriptive and analytical sentence, from
an essay called 'The Sick Chamber':
It is amazing how little effect physical suffering of local circumstances
have upon the mind, except while we are subject to their immediate
influence. While the impression lasts, they are evertyhing; when its gone
they are nothing. We toss and tumble about in a sick bed; we lie on our
right side, we then change upon the left; we stretch ourselves on our
backs, we turn on our faces; we wrap ourselves up under the clothes to
exclude the cold, we throw them off to escape the heat and suffocation;
we grasp the pillow in agony, we fling ourselves out of bed, we walk up
and down the room with hasty or feeble steps; we return into bed; we are
worn of fatigue and pain, yet can get no repose for the one, or
intermission for the other; we summon all our patience, or give vent to
passion, and petty rage; nothing avails; we seem wedded to our disease,
'like life and death in disproportion met', we make new efforts, try new
expedients, but nothing appears to shake it off, or promise relief from
our grim foe: it infixes its sharp sting into us, or overpowers us by its
sickly and stunning weight; every moment is as much as we can bear, and
yet there seems to no end of our lengthening tortures; we are ready to
faint with exhaustion, or work ourselves up to frenzy: we 'trouble deaf
Heaven with our bootless prayers': we think our last hour is come, or
peevishly wish it were, to put an end to the scene; we ask questions as
to the origin of evil and the necessity of pain; we 'moralize our
complaints into a thousand similes'; we deny the use of medicine in
toto, we have a full persuasion that all doctors are mad or knaves,
that our subject is to gain relief, and theirs (out of perversity of
nature, or to seem wiser than we) to prevent us; we cathechize the
apothecary, rail at the nurse, and cannot so much conceive the
possibility that this state of things should not last for ever; we are
even angry at those that would give us encouragement, as if they would
make dupes or children of us; we might seek a release by poison, a
halter, or the sword, but we have not strength of mind enough - our
nerves are to shaken - to attempt even this poor revenge - when lo! a
change comes, the spells fall off, and the next moment we forget all that
has happened to us. (Op. cit. p. 299-300)
This is an excellent description of many of the musings of the seriously
ill, as I know myself, and as Hazlitt new himself from his last months
with cancer. Also, one of its themes, namely the transience of physical
suffering, provided one survives and gets (mostly) well, is rather
astounding.  It is great prose, but it does not touch upon the sort of
suffering of those who have been ill or invalidated for many years or
several decades, and who have seen their hopes, possibilities, talents,
and earlier hard work to develop or train these, diffuse, disappear and
end in nearly continuous exhaustion and pain. It is true that this kind
of pain is less physical than personal, if that is an appropriate
opposition, or rather: is entirely human and bound up with being human,
but this does not make it less real, less disheartening, less felt, and
less real, nor does it take away its bitter taste and sense of personal injustice.
But more on that subject some other time, perhaps - here I merely wanted
to quote Hazlitt on being ill.
Hazlitt's dying words were "Well, I've had a happy life." A friend
- probably his first wife Sarah Stoddart - raised the memorial stone
over his grave in the nearby churchyard. The monument was removed in
1870 but thanks to hundreds of Guardian readers and other Hazlitt
enthusiasts, it has now been restored.
Born April 10, 1778, Died 18 September, 1830
He lived to see his deepest wishes gratified
as he has expressed them in his Essay,
'on the Fear of Death'.
'To see the downfall of the Bourbons.
And some prospect of good to mankind':
was driven from France 29th July, 1830).
'To leave some sterling work to the world':
(He lived to complete his 'Life of Napoleon').
That some friendly hand should consign
Him to the grave was accomplished to a
Limited but profound extent; on
These conditions he was ready to depart,
And to have inscribed on his tomb,
'Grateful and Contented'.
The first (unanswered) Metaphysician of the age.
A despiser of the merely Rich And Great:
A lover of the People, poor or oppressed:
A hater of the Pride and Power of the Few,
As opposed to the happiness of the Many;
A man of true moral courage,
Who sacrificed Profit and present Fame
And a yearning for the good of Human Nature.
Who was a burning wound to an Aristocracy,
That could not answer him before men,
And who may confront him before their maker.
He lived and died
The unconquered champion
Truth, Liberty, and Humanity,
'Dubitantes opera legite'.
Is raised by one whose heart is
With him, in his grave.
· Text on William Hazlitt's restored monument in St Anne's
churchyard, Wardour Street, Soho, London, unveiled by Michael Foot at
1pm on Thursday, April 10 2003- the 225th anniversary of Hazlitt's
Incidentally, I much like the idea that Hazlitt's
first wife, who truly must have loved him, raised the monument, and I
also suppose it is true, for the words cited are fair and just - and
indeed 'Dubitantes opera legite'.
P.S. If there is no Nederlog tomorrow, it is because I am simply
not well enough to write.
Here are meanwhile some Hazlitt links:
There is also a Canadian site about Hazlitt called Blupete,
maintained by a Canadian lawyer. It is somewhat useful, but misleading
in the sense that his editions tend to cut up ("correct", I suppose,
"for modern tastes", for example) Hazlitt's prose, that I think should
not be done, or if
it is done should be indicated. I do not know why this happens, for
when I drew its maker's attention to that fact he did not reply nor
In any case: The
Gutenberg is best, if you like to read more of Hazlitt.
As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):
1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor
of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about
maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter
of one's beliefs:
is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!"
- (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound")
"It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the
Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
ME -Documentation and
ME - Resources
ME - Resources
needs is a Work In Progress that hasn't progressed today.
 Not depressed, and as noted
 One of the very frightful signs of the
time that I live in is that over the past forty years, throughout
the whole Western world, and on all levels of education and society,
largely because the cancers of moral and intellectual relativity and
postmodernism have been spread through the media through all, that
writing things like
the human world can on average be no better than the average
qualities of humans allow for, which is not much, at least
compared to the individual human qualities of the few who laid the
foundations of the sciences and the arts.
is deemed - indeed descried fanatically and abusively -
'elitarian' and (therefore, no less) 'fascistic', while admiring the
persons of sports celebrities as heroes all day in the mass-media,
while paying them like they were the very best and most desirable
types a human civilization can and should produce.
Unfortunately, and as all philosophers and saints have taught,
the appropriate measures are proportionally divided approximately
as I outlined it in 2007:
Society and the
good, the bad and
One way of
society - any
sufficient size, say
10 or a 100 or more
selected persons -
is that the
good : the
bad : the
stupid = 1 : 9 :
expressed but to the
same effect: the
unintelligent = 1 :
9 and the unegoistic
: egoistic = 1 : 9,
and intelligence and
Putting it all
in a table with
moral courage are
probably for the
determined by innate
And no reader: It is not intentional, mostly: Noone is stupid or
unintelligent on purpose, just as noone is ugly on purpose; and also
noone is responsible for what he or she was (not) born with, but
only for what he or she uses what one was born with. But all are
responsible for their actions, if not insane, and the preponderance
of the not good over the good is because of the preponderance of
egoism, indifference, conformity and the preferential following of
the easier or better paying than the more difficult and better. And
the only thing innate about that, if anything, is lack of character
and courage, whatever one's intelligence.
 A notorious thief, horse stealer and
 And one of the truly sickening things
about the modern toad eaters of my generation, that is of the
nominally revolutionary babyboom generation, that still form the
large majority of prominent and other modern intellectuals,
academics and journalists, is that they almost to a man and woman
lied, manipulated, deceived, postured and were utter hypocrites for
their own private interests and gain, in the name of the highest
moral principles, and with the pretense of being excellen moral
heroes, "Freedom Fighters", true "Revolututionairies" or
"Feminists" or what not - whereas they were nearly all careerists,
sycophants, hypocrites, liars, deceivers and willing servants and
executioners of whoever was in power, just to get closer through the
corrupt throughs prepared for the subservient intellectuals by the
political or bureaucratic masters of state and government, and who
did not follow the thinkers they claimed to follow, but followed
media-fashions and got their ideas mostly from journalism, an their
postures from TV.
 The main reason why the transience of
physical suffering, provided one survives and gets (mostly) well, is
rather astounding is that - in me, and it seems in most people - the
memory of considerable or great pain is less intense than the memory
of its surrounding events and wider context: I can far better recall
the how the bumblebee looked that I woke up that stung me when I was
5 than the pain itself, for one of many possible examples. It
is also noteworthy that it is different with personal suffering,
e.g. due to one's values or rights being ruined or offended, or due
to the loss of some loved person or property: That sort of
pain, that is
much more complex than a simple
and depends on what one is and made of oneself by thinking, judging
and deciding is much better remembered.
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