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Jun 25, 2011           

On Zeitlin on Hazlitt - 1 (notes)

I said yesterday that my regular readers may know that I like William Hazlitt - 1778-1830 - very much.

Few do, and it seems few were interested in yesterday's Nederlog called Zeitlin on Hazlitt, in which I copied a first part of a good introduction to Hazlitt, that dates back to 1913.

Well... I admit this stuff is not like the daily news, nor like popular culture, but then my site is not concerned with what is in the news or popular. Instead, I write what I like or what is important to maintaining my human rights in Holland, and so today I follow Zeitlin's text given yesterday with my notes of today.

I quote the text I annotate, and indent my own comments. At the end of each note there is an underlined "Back" that links to the beginning of the annotated quoted part in Zeitlin's text.

So what follows are quotes from Zeitlin as given yesterday, in context, with my notes with indentation.

Notes to Zeitlin on Hazlitt - 1

M1. Hazlitt characterized the age he lived in as “critical, didactic, paradoxical, romantic.”

I do not know who introduced the term "romantic" for the age Hazlitt lived in, that is known as The Romantic Period, e.g. in both English and German literature, and in which context Lord Byron and Heinrich Heine tend to be mentioned often, as "romantic poets".

I also do not know how apt the term is, that gets variously defined as well, but what was socially the most important for the period is that it was the aftermath of the French Revolution, with Napoleon emperor of France and much of Europe from 1802-1814, and the British engaged in a long war with the French.   Back.

M2. It was the age of the Edinburgh Review, of the Utilitarians, of Godwin and Shelley, of Wordsworth and Byron—in a word of the French Revolution and all that it brought in its train.

Indeed, I have provided the links to provide some background, which I will not even attempt to give in my notes. Wholly apart from literature and the French Revolution and its aftermath, other important things were going on, such as the start of a rapid development of science, that continued throughout the whole 19th Century, and the start of the Industrial Revolution, to which the same applies.   Back.

M3. While the changing events were bringing about corresponding changes in the ideals of such early votaries to liberty as Coleridge and Wordsworth, Hazlitt continued to cling to his enthusiastic faith, but at the same time the spectacle of a world which turned away from its brightest dreams made of him a sharp critic of human nature, and his sense of personal disappointment turned into a bitterness hardly to be distinguished from cynicism.
Yes, and it is well to be a little more precise here, also since I saw the same sort of phenomenon in my own day: What Hazlitt blamed his generation of especially literary writers, such as Coleridge, Wordsworth and Southey for is that they seemed to him to have betrayed the ideals of the French Revolution that they upheld as young men, and soon after that failed, turned into goverment tools, conformists and careerists.

Something similar happened with my generation, that is known as "the baby boom generation", of children born the first 10 years after WW II, who also formed the generation of protesting students in The Sixties, and the generation of the hippies, counterculture, and alternative life styles, but my analysis is a little different from Hazlitt's, though he and I may be both right, and indeed talk of different groups or types:

It seems to me that most of my generation, the leftist and radical baby boomers that revolted in the streets in The Sixties in the US, France, Germany, Holland and other places, were not so much honest and committed as conformist and with it: They did the currently fashionable thing, less from conviction or real interest, than because it happened to be the dominant fashion, and it was an easy and pleasant choice to follow the majority into the pleasures of free sex, soft drugs, and alternative life styles, while it also promised careers in the near future to successful fellow travellers in the radical movements, especially in the universities, the media, and leftist politics.    Back.    

M4. In a passionate longing for a better order of things, in the merciless denunciation of the cant and bigotry which was enlisted in the cause of the existing order, he resembled Byron. The rare union in his nature of the analytic and the emotional gave to his writings the very qualities which he enumerated as characteristic of the age, and his consistent sincerity made his voice distinct above many others of his generation. 

Indeed, and this is well seen: Hazlitt combined "the analytic and the emotional" in a rare way, that very few others did or do, and also was much more sincere than most.

Hazlitt's sincerity indeed seems to me more important to understanding him than Zeitlin may have seen, for as I explained in my last note, this is quite rare, and Hazlitt saw many of the writers and intellectuals of his generation turn away from earlier radicalism, essentially - it seems - because radicalism had ceased to be popular, and ceased to offer hopes for careers.   Back.

M5. .... he was sent to the Hackney Theological College to begin his preparation for the ministry. His dissatisfaction there was not such as could be put into words—perhaps a hunger for keener sensations and an appetite for freer inquiry than was open to a theological student even of a dissenting church.
I believe myself Hazlitt - the son of a minister, destined by his father to become a minister - lost most or all of his faith at the Hackney Theological College. It's not easy to say whether Hazlitt had any faith in any divinity as an adult, but it is quite clear that if he was a theist, he certainly was not a Christian, and hardly ever wrote about theological subjects, while he wrote scathingly against priests, clergy and religious hypocrisy.        Back.

M6. Hazlitt impressed something of his personality on whatever he touched.

Actually, all really good writers do, if they write spontaneously, and do not seek to hide themselves, or to write a contrived style. And it may be as well to remark that there are very few really good writers, and that most who are considered such, especially while alive now or from this or the previous (20th) Century, tend to be not good writers, but good self-advertisers and media-personalities, as the term is.

Indeed, one of the striking differences between Hazlitt's time and my own is how many decent, good and excellent writers there were then, compared with the superfluity of trashy popular journalistic and quasi-intellectual stuff in my time. This is the more striking if you realize how numerically small the readership was that  they worked and wrote for, and is probably mostly due to the fact that, while their number was very much smaller than the readership of "quality papers" is now, or was in the 20th Century, it was much better educated on average.

M7. But Hazlitt continued firmly in the faith that it was his destiny to be a metaphysician.

Indeed, and I think he was right, and that it is a great pity he did not get the chance to write and lecture much more on philosophical subjects than he did - which he didn't, because he couldn't get paid for it, and could get no position in a university either.    Back.

M8a. At the conclusion of his last lecture, Hazlitt told the story of a Brahmin who, on being transformed into a monkey, “had no other delight than that of eating cocoanuts and studying metaphysics.” “I too,” he added, “should be very well contented to pass my life like this monkey, did I but know how to provide myself with a substitute for cocoanuts.”

Quite so - it's the same for me and, I suppose, for anyone with a dominant talent + interest: That is what you want to do, and everything else is secondary, including "making money" or "getting famous".     Back.

M8. He tried to work for the newspapers as theatrical and parliamentary reporter, but his temper and his habits were not adaptable to the requirements of daily journalism, and editors did not long remain complacent toward him.

This seems to me to be a bit of a misstatement: Hazlitt indeed did not get on with one of his early editors, who insisted on treating him as if he were an ordinary journalist, but he was not at all an ordinary journalist, but very much better than any of them, and indeed because this was obvious to quite a few editors, he could and did survive on what he earned by his writings in the last 15 years of his life, when he wrote most of what he published and got known for.   Back.

M9. In his essays the features of Hazlitt’s personality may be plainly recognized, and these reveal a triple ancestry. He claims descent from Montaigne by virtue of his original observation of humanity with its entire accumulation of custom and prejudice; he is akin to Rousseau in a high-strung susceptibility to emotions, sentiments, and ideas; and he is tinged with a cynicism to which there is no closer parallel than in the maxims of La Rochefoucauld.

Zeitlin is right on the kinship with or influence of Montaigne and Rousseau, but I would say there is a "closer parallel than in the maxims of La Rochefoucauld", namely Chamfort.   Back.

M10. The union of the philosopher, the enthusiast, and the man of the world is fairly unusual in literature, but in Hazlitt’s case the union was not productive of any sharp contradictions.

Indeed, and let me be a little more precise on these three characteristics.

First, much of what Hazlitt wrote is more nearly philosophy than anything else, even if it was published in the press of his day, as journalism or criticism, as can be seen by anyone who reads his Table Talk and The Plain Speaker: These consist of philosophical essays, and if they seem to be other, then it is because Hazlitt is a much better writer than most philosophers.

Second, he was an enthusiast especially in his remaining a life long believer in ideals that found expression in the French Revolution, unlike most of his generation, who sold out to the party of power when that became convenient for their careers, and he was also an enthusiast in being more sincere - forthright, honest, not hypocritical - than most in his personal relations and expressions, as his Liber Amoris shows.

Third, he was a man of the world especially in being a fond visitor of theaters, and his writing about actors and acting, and indeed also in his insights in men and women and their motives, and his general knowledge of his time, and of the persons prominent in England, most of whom he had met, and many of whom he portrayed in The Spirit of the Age.

M11. His common sense served as a ballast to his buoyant emotions; the natural strength of his feelings loosened the bonds which attached him to his favorite theories; his cynicism, by sharpening his perception of the frailty of human nature, prevented his philanthropic dreams from imposing themselves on him for reality.

Indeed, this is another good observation by Zeitlin, also because this tends to be very rare: Nearly all who are political or religious radicals have lost their common sense (and often not a little of their common humanity) in their enthusiasms for the causes of their parties or churches. Not Hazlitt.   Back.

M12. He excels in sharp etchings which bring the outline of a character into bold prominence. He is happy in defining isolated traits and in throwing a new light on much used words. “Cleverness,” he writes, “is a certain knack or aptitude at doing certain things, which depend more on a particular adroitness and off-hand readiness than on force or perseverance, such as making puns, making epigrams, making extempore verses, mimicking the company, mimicking a style, etc.... Accomplishments are certain external graces, which are to be learnt from others, and which are easily displayed to the admiration of the beholder, viz. dancing, riding, fencing, music, and so on.... Talent is the capacity of doing anything that depends on application and industry, such as writing a criticism, making a speech, studying the law.

Yes, Zeitlin is right here too, and his example also is a good one - and indeed I live in an age where cleverness and accomplishments are thoroughly confused with talent: Clever and accomplished hundredth-raters have taken most of the places that used to be held by some with at least a little talent, also in the universities, the media, politics and the churches, since they have been able to advertise themselves in the media, for a mass public of very little real education, or real talent, but of great buying power, and in solid "democratic majority".   Back.

M13. Hazlitt’s definitions often startle and give a vigorous buffet to our preconceptions. He is likely to open an essay on “Good-Nature” by declaring that a good-natured man is “one who does not like to be put out of his way.... Good-nature is humanity that costs nothing;”[10] and he may describe a respectable man as “a person whom there is no reason for respecting, or none that we choose to name.”

He clearly was right, and Zeitlin, who obviously was a far less extra-ordinary man than Hazlitt, isn't as aware as Hazlitt was how much of ordinary social existence in fact consists of conformism, playing a part, acting as if, being a hypocrite.

And I live in an age where the democratic masses of the talentless levellers, who all find so little respect in themselves or their peers, have made it mandatory anywhere their kind has the public majority, that anyone who partakes in their so called "communities" must engage in dishonest, phoney, insincere displays of public "respect" for any personal non-entity that has no personal merit to be respected for: He or she is one of us, the public of dumboes, therefore entitled to shows of public verbal respect, that all are as false and fake as their "Rolex" watches or their make-up and botox-jobs.   Back.

M14. Hazlitt was as honest and sincere as any of them.

No, that seems a misstatement: One important social and personal problem for Hazlitt was that he was more honest and sincere than nearly all he met or saw.

This is a fairly common fate of those with the highest gifts, who tend to forget that more common others act as if most of the time, and have opinions and values not because they have thought for themselves and made up their own minds, but as and in a social game, where posturing is the norm, and in fact is desired by most players - who indeed crave respect for the roles they play, and not for the individuals they are.    Back.

M15. The strange thing is not that he should have incurred the wrath of all parties, but that he should show surprise at the result.
This is a lot less strange on my previous note: Hazlitt was no pretender; most men are mostly pretenders - fronts, postures, role players - and so a man like Hazlitt easily is seen by nearly all as a spoil-sport, who insists on real truth and honesty, where all more common men know there is only posturing and conformism, in common men. (As the tale about the emperor's clothes well illustrates, in ordinary society almost only children and geniuses try to speak the truth, and this because the rest knows that speaking the truth and even desiring to do so are most unfit for making a career with or for being socially respected as other than a fool.)   Back.

M16. “Custom, passion, imagination,” he declares, “insinuate themselves into and influence almost every judgment we pass or sentiment we indulge, and are a necessary help (as well as hindrance) to the human understanding; to attempt to refer every question to abstract truth and precise definition, without allowing for the frailty of prejudice, which is the unavoidable consequence of the frailty and imperfection of reason, would be to unravel the whole web and texture of human understanding and society.”
I have selected this as a good illustration of my last note, and also as something most tend to forget most of the time: Nearly all human judgement, good or bad, is based on many kinds of prejudice - there is nothing one can rationally judge, without assuming a lot and taking a lot for granted.    Back.

M17. With such sensibilities, it is no wonder that his last words should have been “I have had a happy life.”

As the phrase is ordinarily understood, Hazlitt’s dying expression might seem unaccountable.

As Hazlitt himself explained at several places, once he found that he could live from his pen, he lived mostly as he pleased. Most adults do not: "They live lives of quiet desperation" (Thoreau), keeping up with the neighbours, playing parts they don't like all day, and giving the lie to nearly all they believe in, just to seem a regular guy or gal.

Hazlitt's independence of mind with a small sufficiency of the means for it, produced by his own great talents, did not make him a rich man nor did it provide him any important social status (outside a select and small circle of friends and admirers), but then he desired neither riches nor status, but desired to live his own life, and do, think and say as he pleased, and not as others thought he should.

M18. “Happy are they,” he exclaims, “who live in the dream of their own existence, and see all things in the light of their own minds; who walk by faith and hope; to whom the guiding star of their youth still shines from afar, and into whom the spirit of the world has not entered!... The world has no hold on them. They are in it, not of it; and a dream and a glory is ever around them!

It is similar for me, at least in the sense that I "see all things in the light of" my own mind, and see no reason to think like others do, and many reasons not to.    Back.

M19. The defence of the popular cause was with him not an academic exercise, but a religious principle. “Since a little child, I knelt and lifted up my hands in prayer for it.” The emotional warmth of his creed was heightened by the reading of Rousseau, and in Napoleon it found a living hero on whom it could expend itself. 

Indeed, and I am different here: I never liked Rousseau or Napoleon, believing the first to be dishonest and the last to be a dictator - but I understand this was for Hazlitt quite different, and indeed Napoleon lived for most of Hazlitt's life, and Rousseau died briefly before his birth, and both were admired by many living in Hazlitt's time.

Also, I am not a defender of "the popular cause", but again I realize this was quite different in Hazlitt's own time, when the common people had far fewer effective rights than the rich, and were mercilessly exploited for the most part.

See the next quotation and note.    Back.

M20. He sets forth his idea of representative government exactly in the manner of Rousseau when he proclaims that “in matters of feeling and common sense, of which each individual is the best judge, the majority are in the right.... It is an absurdity to suppose that there can be any better criterion of national grievances, or the proper remedies for them, than the aggregate amount of the actual, dear-bought experience, the honest feelings, and heart-felt wishes of a whole people, informed and directed by the greatest power of understanding in the community, unbiassed by any sinister motive.

I do not believe in this: The majority often are and often have been in the wrong, morally, factually and humanly, and have been wrong especially on matters of social importance like religion or politics - and apart from that, in the time I live in, the opinions of the majority are the product of artful daily massaging by the media, while the democratic majorities in most countries at present have read much more advertisement prose and media propaganda than they have read real books and thought for themselves.    Back.

M21. “I am attached to my conclusions,” he says, “in consequence of the pain, the anxiety, and the waste of time they have cost me."
That is the same for me, and one important difference between Hazlitt's conclusions and those of most others, is that the latter have not been based on independent personal effort, but on personal interests and posturing: What most people think is true and right typically is what serves their own interests, or the interests of the leaders of their groups, best.

Most human thinking is wishful thinking or groupthinking, not rational thinking.

M22. His doctrines contained nothing that was subversive of social order, and their ultimate triumph lends the color of heroism to a consistency which people have often interpreted as proof of a limited horizon. It is at least certain that he did not put his conscience out to market, and that his reward came in the form of the vilest calumny ever visited upon a man of letters.

Indeed, but the initial statement seems to me to be mistaken: Rather a lot of what Hazlitt wrote and thought was "subversive of social order", at least of the social order of his time and day, and indeed Hazlitt has been often placed in the camp of leftist thinkers, or precursors of leftist thinkers, because of his values and ideas.

I think that placement of Hazlitt is mostly correct, but it also is a bit problematic, for two reasons, mostly. First, "the left" and "the right" in politics had not come to mean in Hazlitt's time - when similar divisions were made in terms of "Whigs" and "Tories" - what they do now, and indeed the word "socialism" dates to 1824, that is, six years before Hazlitt's death. Second, Hazlitt was not in all respects "a man of the left", as this term is nowadays used, and neither was he what most typical leftists (and rightists) are: A party man.

And I do not know what Zeitlin meant by "their ultimate triumph": Hazlitt is rarely read, and indeed was rarely read when Zeitlin wrote, and while a little of his work is still in print, it seems to be in print mostly to serve a few university courses in Eng. lit. And while Hazlitt does have a certain status among academic students of English literature as "a literary critic", it still seems to be a matter of course to slight him, mostly, it seems, because he had radical opinions, which still are radical, and too radical for most to want to support.

The summary of "the vilest calumny ever visited upon a man of letters" that Zeitlin gives is a fair one, and probably still has influence with the only group who reads some Hazlitt as a matter of course: Professors of English literature.    Back.

M23. Everybody knows of the fate which Keats and Shelley suffered at their hands, chiefly because they were friends of Leigh Hunt, who was the editor of a Liberal newspaper which had displeased George IV. Even the unoffending Lamb did not escape their brutality, perhaps because he was guilty of admitting Hazlitt to his house.
With "Everybody knows" Zeitlin was also flattering his intended readership, but indeed Keats and Shelley were harshly criticized by the same groups that harshly criticized Hazlitt. (Then again, Keats died of TBC, and not of the attacks, as some - such as Byron - have suggested, while Shelley drowned accidentally.)

As to "
the unoffending Lamb": He had been good friends with Hazlitt for quite a while, as Hazlitt's critics knew very well, and also had spoken up in prose for Hazlitt.    Back.

M24. The sincere regret he expressed for the pain which his “jokes” had inflicted ought perhaps to be counted in extenuation of his errors. It may be true, as his generous biographer suggests, that “his politics and his feud with many of these men was an affair of ignorance and accidental associations in Edinburgh,” that under different circumstances “he might have been found inditing sonnets to Leigh Hunt, and supping with Lamb, Haydon, and Hazlitt.

This is about Hazlitt's critic Lockhart, and it seems to me Zeitlin was mistaken, and Lockhart was lying: Wilson and Lockhart had been really out to destroy Hazlitt with very dishonest and unfair means, by calumny and lies, and the reasons were mainly two: He was not a tool of government, but opposed to the government, while they were tools of the government, and proud of it; and Hazlitt was not of their kind, they felt, as they made abudantly clear: He was not a nobleman, nor had nobility in his family background, and indeed had not attended university. And this also makes it quite incredible that a man like Lockhart "might have been found inditing sonnets to Leigh Hunt", indeed unless the "circumstances" had made Leigh Hunt a government tool.      Back.

M25. The cry was soon taken up by the Blackwood’s people in a series on the Cockney School of Prose. Lockhart invented the expression “pimpled Hazlitt.”  It so happened that Hazlitt’s complexion was unusually clear, but the epithet clung to him with a cruel tenacity.

As I pointed out in my previous note, the background on a personal level was probably that Lockhart and Wilson believed Hazlitt to be an upstart, who not even had attended university. Thence also "the Cockney School of Prose".    Back.

M26. He is credited with remarking; “To pay these fellows in their own coin, the way would be to begin with Walter Scott, and have at his clump foot.” Very mean-spirited this sounds to us, who are acquainted with the nobility of Scott’s character and who know with what magnanimous wisdom he kept himself above the petty altercations of the day.

Again, Zeitlin seems to have been flattering his audience with "to us, who are acquainted with the nobility of Scott’s character". In any case, I know of no such thing, and rather doubt it. And I have read some of the attacks his son in law penned against Hazlitt, and these are vile, false and dishonest.    Back.

M27. In some instances Hazlitt was consciously the aggressor, but his attacks were never wanton. He denounced Wordsworth and Coleridge and Southey because they were renegades from the cause which lay nearest to his heart. Their apostasy was an unforgivable offence in his eyes, and his wrath was proportioned to the admiration which he otherwise entertained for them.

They were "renegades from the cause" Hazlitt felt strongly for, but my own reading of these conflicts is a bit different than Zeitlin's: What he blamed them for, rightly it seems to me, is that they behaved and wrote as willing careerists, and not as individual thinking men, that they had claimed to be in their radical adolescences.    Back.

M28. Perhaps Hazlitt was not as “respectable” as his poet-friends, but he had a better sense of fair play. At any rate, in a complete balancing of the accounts, Hazlitt’s frequent displays of ill-temper are offset by the insidious, often unscrupulous baitings which he suffered from his opponents.
This seems a fair estimate to me, and also Hazlitt, while being quite critical of especially Coleridge in print, was also quite appreciative of Wordsworth's and Coleridge's talents, indeed more so than I am, for I like the prose of neither, dislike Wordsworth's "poetry" (unlike Hazlitt), and only can see real merit and real talent in some of Coleridge's early poetry, such as The Ancient Mariner.    Back.

M29. Naturally his bitterness was extended to his reflections on mankind in general.

This I don't see the same way, nor do I consider it "Naturally": I do not think Hazlitt's opinions on "mankind in general" have much or anything to do with his opinions on Coleridge and Wordsworth; I often agree with him; and one of the ways in which Hazlitt was not like a leftist is the same as in my case: Unlike nearly all leftists I know of - the one exception, apart from Hazlitt, is the aristocratic Bertrand Russell - he did not profess much uncritical admiration of the mass of mankind.

Neither do I: It seems to me that Bayle was mostly right in holding that

“Man is wicked and unhappy; everywhere prisons, hospitals, gibbets and beggars; history, properly speaking, is nothing but a collection of the crimes and misfortunes of mankind.”

Also, the main excuse the mass of mankind may make, for being the willing executioners and dupes of the men they follow as their leaders, is that they are too stupid to see through the common religious and political lies and/or delusions.

But see Zeitlin's text, that quotes a very fine passage from On the Pleasure of Hating”, including the correct diagnosis - it seems to me - that

If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are prone to mischief, ‘to every good work reprobate.’     Back.

M30. It is no wonder that Hazlitt has never been a popular favorite. With a stronger attachment to principles than to persons, lavishing upon ideas or the fanciful creations of art a passionate affection which he grudgingly withheld from human beings, stubbornly tenacious of a set of political dogmas to which he was ready to sacrifice his dearest friends, morbidly sensitive to the faintest suggestion of a personal slight, and prompter than the serpent to vent against the aggressor the bitterness of his poison, he plays the role of Ishmael among the men of letters in his day.

I provided a link to Ishmael to allow you to make up your own mind on that comparison, and like to point out what seems to me to be the main reason that "Hazlitt has never been a popular favorite": While he writes very well, he writes for the few who are really gifted and desire to think while they read, and not for the many, who are not really gifted, and who only like to read essayists, if they do so at all, who are mostly like them, and fit material for Readers Digests or popular papers.    Back.

M31. ...the sublime pity with which Carlyle, from his spiritual altitudes, moralized upon his struggles. “How many a poor Hazlitt must wander on God’s verdant earth, like the Unblest on burning deserts; passionately dig wells, and draw up only the dry quicksand; believe that he is seeking Truth, yet only wrestle among endless Sophisms, doing desperate battle as with spectre-hosts; and die and make no sign!

Here we see, in Carlyle's opinions, again an appreciation of Hazlitt as if he were a Cockney: A lower class fellow who can't really write or think. Clearly, Carlyle simply could not see the large differences between his talents and those of Hazlitt, who was a much better writer and thinker, and very probably also much more learned, than was Carlyle.

See the next quotation and note.    Back.

M32. It is interesting that at the same time that Carlyle was composing Sartor Resartus, Hazlitt should have penned this bit of savage satire. “It has been often made a subject of dispute, What is the distinguishing characteristic of man? And the answer may, perhaps, be given that he is the only animal that dresses.... Swift has taken a good bird’s-eye view of man’s nature, by abstracting the habitual notions of size, and looking at it in great or in little: would that some one had the boldness and the art to do a similar service, by stripping off the coat from his back, the vizor from his thoughts, or by dressing up some other creature in similar mummery! It is not his body alone that he tampers with, and metamorphoses so successfully; he tricks out his mind and soul in borrowed finery, and in the admired costume of gravity and imposture. If he has a desire to commit a base or a cruel action without remorse and with the applause of the spectators, he has only to throw the cloak of religion over it, and invoke Heaven to set its seal on a massacre or a robbery. At one time dirt, at another indecency, at another rapine, at a fourth rancorous malignity, is decked out and accredited in the garb of sanctity. The instant there is a flaw, a ‘damned spot’ to be concealed, it is glossed over with a doubtful name. Again, we dress up our enemies in nicknames, and they march to the stake as assuredly as in san Benitos.... Strange, that a reptile should wish to be thought an angel; or that he should not be content to writhe and grovel in his native earth, without aspiring to the skies! It is from the love of dress and finery. He is the Chimney-sweeper on May-day all the year round: the soot peeps through the rags and tinsel, and all the flowers of sentiment!” Aphorisms on Man, LXIV. Works, XII, 227.

This is from a footnote ([13]), and I copied it because I like it, and because it also illustrates why most professors of English literature would like to avoid a writer who has opinions like this.

Also, it is not so much "
from the love of dress and finery" that human beings are as sketched, in majority, and usually, or only if that "love of dress and finery" is taken as pars pro toto of the real motive, which is to pretend that they are what they are not, and to be guided in all things by wishful thinking, hypocrisy and deception.

Most men play roles and indulge in groupthinking nearly all the time, and again the only rational excuses for living a life of lies and posturing are that most men do it and that most men are stupid.

M33. He tells of an experience in crossing the Alps which he intends should be symbolic of his whole life. From a great distance he thought he perceived Mont Blanc, but as the driver insisted that it was only a cloud, “I supposed that I had taken a sudden fancy for a reality. I began in secret to take myself to task, and to lecture myself for my proneness to build theories on the foundation of my conjectures and wishes. On turning round occasionally, however, I observed that this cloud remained in the same place, and I noticed the circumstance to our guide, as favoring my first suggestion; for clouds do not usually remain long in the same place. We disputed the point for half a day, and it was not till the afternoon when we had reached the other side of the lake of Neufchatel, that this same cloud rising like a canopy over the point where it had hovered, ‘in shape and station proudly eminent,’ he acknowledged it to be Mont Blanc.” Notes of a Journey Through France and Italy. Works, IX, 296.

I select this because it is a nice story and nice analogy.    Back.

M34. “I have been reading Frederick Schlegel.... He is like Hazlitt, in English, who talks pimples—a red and white corruption rising up (in little imitations of mountains upon maps), but containing nothing, and discharging nothing, except their own humours.” Byron’s Letters, Jan. 28, 1821 (ed. Prothero, V, 191).

Hardly fair of Byron, who was an intelligent man, but no match for Hazlitt, who indeed did not have a high opinion of Byron, and had publicly shown it, which probably explains Byron's stance, that also seems to involve a goodly amount of projection, in that precisely the same complaint may be made of Byron's poetry.

And I have provided a link to Schlegel because he indeed was a bit like Hazlitt, but in German (but not by far as good a writer), where he also is one of the main authors of the German Romanticists.    Back.

These were my notes to Zeitlin's Introduction to William Hazlitt of which I gave the first third yesterday.

I want to do the rest too, in the same way, but it is also true this seems to interest very few, so I suppose that tomorrow, if there is a Nederlog, there will be a different subject.

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1.  Anthony Komarof Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)
3.  Hillary Johnson The Why
4.  Consensus of M.D.s Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5.   Eleanor Stein Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)
6.  William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7.  Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8.  Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
 Maarten Maartensz Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Short descriptions of the above:                

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 journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:

7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.

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