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Jun 29, 2011           

On Zeitlin on Hazlitt - 3 (notes)
 

Continuing and here also ending the series on Zeitlin on Hazlitt, the present file has the third and last part of my notes to the last part of Zeitlin's introduction to Hazlitt.

The third and last part of Zeitlin's text appeared earlier today on my site, and the present file of notes is the last item of a series of thrice two files, that start with the first of the above group of four. (The partition in 3*2 files was made for my convenience, and the text of it all eventually will end up in the Hazlitt-section on my site.)

Here then is my last series of notes to Zeitlin on Hazlitt - and clicking on the underlined "Back" at the end of a note leads to the beginning of passage I annotated (if you are on line, or have downloaded the file in the same directory as the present file).

There is a note at the end with a list of links to books by Hazlitt available in the Project Gutenberg and a fine appreciation of him by Thackeray.


Notes to Zeitlin on Hazlitt - 3

M1. If an understanding of Shakespeare in Hazlitt’s day may be taken as a measure of a critic’s depth of insight, his attitude toward Shakespeare’s fellow-dramatists will just as surely reveal his powers of discrimination.

I don't disagree, though Mr. Zeitlin's apparent tacit presumption that there is such a thing as "a measure of a critic’s depth of insight", that can be learned in a university, from a professor of English literature, seems a bit ... presumptuous.

But the fact is that Hazlitt has been given credit for being a great literary critic, by quite a few professors of English literature; the fact is also, it would seem to me, that one cannot teach this, except to the few who have both a considerable intelligence themselves, and some personal appreciation of fine prose; while finally it seems to me - a Dutchman, with no personal interest as a lit.crit., and who found a work of Hazlitt by chance in 1983 in a antiquarian bookshop in Amsterdam, and is a logical philosopher rather than anything else - that Hazlitt is not given his due in English literary criticism, I suspect from a combination of envy and disdain or fear to be mistaken for someone of his radical opinions.    Back.

M2. But in writing of Marlowe, of Dekker and of Webster, he spreads out all his sail to make a joyous run among the beauties in his course.

And it is so with the rest of his criticism—throughout the same susceptibility to all that is true, or lofty, or refined, vigilantly controlled by a firm common sense, the same stamp of originality unmistakably impressed on all.  

Indeed - this seems a fine appreciation, to which it must be added that Hazlitt not only had "a firm common sense", and a very fine intelligence, but also a fair and honest judgment of the qualities of other writers. The last certainly is quite rare, among literary writers.    Back.

M3. “I like old opinions with new reasons,” he once said to Northcote, “not new opinions without any.”

Extracted because I like it: Reasonable men want reasons, not faith or mere assertion, that tend to convince ordinary men.     Back.

M4. On Spenser or Pope, on Fielding or Richardson, he is equally happy and unimprovable. In the opinion of Mr. Saintsbury, Hazlitt’s general lecture on Elizabethan literature, his treatment of the dramatists of the Restoration, of Pope, of the English Novelists, and of Cobbett have never been excelled; and who is better qualified than Mr. Saintsbury by width of reading to express such an opinion?

This again smacks too much of lit.crit., notably as if there is A Golden Standard that is taught by professors of Eng. Lit. In fact, nearly all of them, whatever their academic excellencies, are derivative, and may be fairly suspected to teach because they can't do.    Back.

M5. Of Hazlitt’s treatment of his own contemporaries an additional word needs to be said. No charge has been repeated more often than that of the inconsistency, perversity, and utter unreliableness of his judgments on the writers of his day.

This indeed seems true - or at least, having read in quite a few English introductions to English literature, that for the most part, but not all, make their subject seem quite boring and trivial, and certainly if they are without quotations, I was quite amazed, once having discovered Hazlitt ca. 1983, how paltry the praise was that he got, if any.

One reason apart from envy or a dislike of radicals is probably Hazlitt's Liber Amoris, which tells quite openly about his failed love for a much younger woman. While not being pornographic in any sense, it much irritated and scandalized many puritanical Victorians.    Back.

M6. To distinguish between the claims of living poets, particularly in an age of new ideas and changing forms, is a task which might test the powers of the most discerning critics, and in which perfection is hardly to be attained. Yet one may ask whether in the entire extent of Hazlitt’s writing a great living genius has been turned into a mockery or a figurehead been set up for the admiration of posterity. Of his personal and political antipathies enough has been said, but against literary orthodoxy his only great sin is a harsh review of “Christabel.”

I suppose this is mostly fair and true, and grant I have never finished the poem myself - but then I do read English literature for pleasure or ideas, and not as a lit.crit. or professor in the subject.

In any case, Hazlitt thought it not worthy of Coleridge's great gifts of mind, and I am inclined to believe him, since he certainly was better able to judge them, having known and read him in his own time, than later professors of English literature, of whom I also can name none that I read who struck me as coming close to Hazlitt's abilities.    Back.

M7. If in general we look at the age through Hazlitt’s eyes, we shall see its literature dominated by the figures of Wordsworth and Scott, the one regarded as the restorer of life to poetry, the other as the creator or transcriber of a whole world of romance and humanity.

This I suppose is also fair and true, and I should add that personally I don't care for either Wordsworth or Scott and do not really understand why they have been admired so much. Here I may be lacking in taste, though I guess not, but I am not mistaken if I say that neither man had great intellectual abilities, as Hazlitt had, whatever their merits as writers.    Back.

M8. Coleridge stands out prominently as the widest intellect of his age. Byron’s poetry bulks very large, though it is not estimated as superlatively as in the criticism of our own day. It is a pity that Hazlitt never wrote formally of Keats, for his casual allusions indicate a deep enjoyment of the “rich beauties and the dim obscurities” of the “Eve of St. Agnes” and an appreciation of the perfection of the great odes.

I agree again with Mr. Zeitlin, and have to admit that I am not one for most poetry, especially not if it is romantic, pastoral, educational, religious or mere verse, while I also have no taste for poetry that doesn't rhyme at all, as was introduced by Coleridge and Wordsworth: I can see what they aimed at, but blank verse too easily is mere grandiloquence or posturing, with a mock poetical format and many white lines. I liked Keats's letters, though.    Back.

M9. If he failed to give Shelley his full dues, he did not overlook his exquisite lyrical inspiration. He spoke of Shelley as a man of genius, but “‘all air,’ disdaining the bars and ties of mortal mould;”

This seems to me fair enough of Shelley, who did have a fine mind, but who was very much of a radical, whose radicalism depended on inheritance. Personally, I think it's a pity Shelley wrote out many of his ideas as poetry, not as prose.    Back.

M10. He has been accused of writing a Spirit of the Age which omitted to give an account of Shelley and Keats, but in the title of the book consists his excuse.  

Yes, indeed - and Keats died at 24, and Shelley at 29, both mostly as outsiders to their own time, though Shelley - "the atheist" - indeed was rather an outcast because of his opinions and style of life.    Back.

M11. He is generous toward Campbell and Moore, who were both personally hostile to him; he is scrupulously honest toward Bentham, with whose system he had no sympathy.

Yes, indeed - and it may be mentioned in passing that Hazlitt had rented what had been a house in which Milton lived from Bentham, who had him evicted, and that Hazlitt did see very clearly that Bentham's ethics were mostly bogus, and also hardly humanitarian. (See: panopticon - the schema of a totalitarian prison.)    Back.

M12. ... he pricked the bubble of Edward Irving’s popularity while it was at its pitch of highest glory.

Irving was a popular and populist preacher, and Hazlitt wrote a fine satire on his pretensions.    Back.

M13. If he was often bitter toward men whom he at other times eulogized, it was in the heat and hurry of journalistic publication in a period when blows were freely dealt and freely taken.

Yes, and I think he also had the right to be angry with Wordsworth and Coleridge and Southey, and - speaking for myself - not because they had given up the emancipatory ideals of the French Revolution, but because of the dishonest ways in which they did it, indeed quite like the philosphical and journalistic pundits of my own quasi-leftist quasi-revolutionary generation, who nearly all turned careerist and conservative when that suited their personal interests best, but without any cogent moral or intellectual reasons, as indeed they had been quasi-leftist quasi-revolutionaries in The Sixties when that was fashionable.     Back.

M14.  If he sometimes censured even Wordsworth and Scott and grew impatient with Byron and Coleridge, it must be remembered that these men of genius had imperfections, and that the imperfections of men of genius are of far greater concern to their contemporaries than to posterity.

It's a nice homily, perhaps, but I have other standards for genius. I am willing to believe Coleridge had genius, because Hazlitt said so, and because Coleridge's early poetry is striking; and having read Hazlitt I am willing to believe he had genius - but Byron was very intelligent with a gift for words rather than a true genius, and Wordsworth and Scott were not.

Then again, I willingly grant my conception of genius is more oriented towards science, philosophy and mathematics than towards art - and I should add that those who seem to me to be geniuses in philosophy or mathematics often are remarkably good writers as well, and often great polymaths. (Galileo, Hobbes, Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Euler - that is a class of genius next to which most merely literary genius pales.)    Back.

M15. Hazlitt’s performance seems remarkable enough. No contemporary with the exception of Leigh Hunt displayed as wide a sympathy with the writers of that time, and Hazlitt so far surpasses Hunt in discrimination and strength, that he deserves to be called, strange as it may sound, the best contemporary judge of the literature of his age.

This seems true to me, but while I have read widely in English literature, I am no specialist in it, and never wanted to be one.    Back.

M16. It has already been suggested that much of Hazlitt’s appeal as a critic rests on the force of his popular eloquence, so that a brief consideration of his prose is not in this connection out of place. “We may all be fine fellows,” said Stevenson, “but none of us can write like Hazlitt.”

I read Stevenson before I read Hazlitt, and read Stevenson's appraisal not long after discovering Hazlitt, and always thought it fair, generous and just, and indeed I never have read any English essayist as prolific and consistently good in so many respects as Hazlitt - and I do suppose that I have read some of most English essayists who have been considered good or great.    Back.

M17. To write a style that is easy yet incisive, lively and at the same time substantial, buoyant without being frothy, glittering but with no tinsel frippery, a style combining the virtues of homeliness and picturesqueness, has been given to few mortals.

I select it because it is fair enough, if also purple prose.     Back.

M18. He cannot be counted among the masters of finished prose, he is as a matter of fact often very negligent, but he developed the best model of an undiluted, sturdy, popular style that is to be found in the English language.

Well... quite possibly so, but who are these "masters of finished prose"? And where is Hazlitt "very negligent"?

I don't think he is faultless, but I do not know of any English writer who comes close - Francis Bacon, although a fine essayist, sounds contrived and stilted, compared with Hazlitt, as does Dr. Johnson (whose style I hold in higher regard than Hazlitt did). In fact the only thing in English that does come close, that I have read, is Florio's 1608 translation of Montaigne (in Everyman's Library).    Back.

M19. His periods are of the simplest construction and they are not methodically combined in the artificial patterns beloved of the eighteenth century followers of the plain style. Not that he altogether neglects the devices of parallelism and antithesis when he wishes to give epigrammatic point to his remarks, but he more generally develops his ideas in a series of easily flowing sentences which are as near as writing can be to “the tone of lively and sensible conversation.”

That seems fair enough, and if one is interested in Hazlitt's style one should read his "On Familiar Style" in Table Talk, that explains what he thought he was doing, which was indeed providing a written version of "lively and sensible conversation".     Back.

M20. Those who have praised Hazlitt’s simplicity have often given the impression that his prose is a single-stringed instrument, and have failed to suggest the range comprised between the simple hammer-strokes of the essay on Cobbett and the magnificent diapason in which he unrolls the panorama of Coleridge’s mind.

I suppose so - but "Hazlitt’s simplicity" is a misnomer and misconception. In fact, he fits his style to his subject, and one thing I have not seen remarked is that it also is musical and rhythmical.     Back.

M21. "He is always of the militant, not of the triumphant party: so far he bears a gallant show of magnanimity; but his gallantry is hardly of the right stamp: it wants principle. For though he is not servile or mercenary, he is the victim of self-will. He must pull down and pull in pieces: it is not in his disposition to do otherwise. It is a pity; for with his great talents he might do great things, if he would go right forward to any useful object, make thorough-stitch work of any question, or join hand and heart with any principle."

This is Hazlitt on Cobbett, who I discovered thanks to Hazlitt, and who is, to my way of thinking, another writer of living English who does not get the credit he deserves.

But Hazlitt was right about Cobbett's "great talents", and I for my part believe that, with Cobbett's prodigious output and his journalism for the English ordinary people, he did "great things" that very few could have done - though I also agree that Hazlitt's assessment of his weaknesses seems just. (See: Political Register)    Back.

M22. "He changes his opinions as he does his friends, and much on the same account. He has no comfort in fixed principles: as soon as anything is settled in his own mind, he quarrels with it. He has no satisfaction but in the chase after truth, runs a question down, worries and kills it, then quits it like vermin, and starts some new game, to lead him a new dance, and give him a fresh breathing through bog and brake, with the rabble yelping at his heels and the leaders perpetually at fault.”

I think Cobbett would not have agreed, and neither do I, quite, but it is true Cobbett was not consistent in his opinions or values, except that he always was on the side of common men, especially farmers and farm-labourers, and that he seemed to have been easily swayed by his temperament.    Back.

M23. In the other passage the clauses and phrases follow in their natural order, but they are united by the simplest kind of connective device in an undistinguishable stream over which the reader is driven with a steady swell and fall, sometimes made breathlessly rapid by the succession of its uniformly measured word-groups, but delicately modulated here and there to provide restful pauses in the long onward career:

This I selected as a piece of literary criticism that itself says nothing clearly at all, and is totally inadequate as an introduction to part of one of Hazlitt most striking long sentences, that is quoted in the next note, in which Hazlitt is writing about Coleridge.    Back.

M24. "Next, he was engaged with Hartley’s tribes of mind, ‘etherial braid, thought-woven,’—and he busied himself for a year or two with vibrations and vibratiuncles and the great law of association that binds all things in its mystic chain, and the doctrine of Necessity (the mild teacher of Charity) and the Millennium, anticipative of a life to come—and he plunged deep into the controversy on Matter and Spirit, and, as an escape from Dr. Priestley’s Materialism, where he felt himself imprisoned by the logician’s spell, like Ariel in the cloven pine-tree, he became suddenly enamoured of Bishop Berkeley’s fairy-world, and used in all companies to build the universe, like a brave poetical fiction, of fine words—and he was deep-read in Malebranche, and in Cudworth’s Intellectual System (a huge pile of learning, unwieldly, enormous) and in Lord Brook’s hieroglyphic theories, and in Bishop Butler’s Sermons, and in the Duchess of Newcastle’s fantastic folios, and in Clarke and South and Tillotson, and all the fine thinkers and masculine reasoners of that age—and Leibnitz’s Pre-established Harmony reared its arch above his head, like the rainbow in the cloud, covenanting with the hopes of man—and then he fell plump, ten thousand fathoms down (but his wings saved him harmless) into the hortus siccus of Dissent” etc."

Although this is about Coleridge, it is likely Hazlitt had read much of the same - and as I have said before, I regret it that Hazlitt could not find the money or sponsorship to write about philosophy, as indeed he wanted himself.    Back.

M25. “He was the first poet I ever knew. His genius at that time had angelic wings, and fed on manna. He talked on for ever; and you wished him to talk on for ever. His thoughts did not seem to come with labour and effort; but as if borne on the gusts of genius, and as if the wings of his imagination lifted him from off his feet. His voice rolled on the ear like the pealing organ, and its sound alone was the music of thought. His mind was clothed with wings; and raised on them, he lifted philosophy to heaven. In his descriptions, you then saw the progress of human happiness and liberty in bright and never-ending succession, like the steps of Jacob’s ladder, with airy shapes ascending and descending, and with the voice of God at the top of the ladder. And shall I, who heard him then, listen to him now? Not I! That spell is broke; that time is gone for ever; that voice is heard no more: but still the recollection comes rushing by with thoughts of long-past years, and rings in my ears with never-dying sound.”

Hazlitt was 20 and Coleridge 26 when they first met. Hazlitt described the meeting himself, in "My First Acquaintance with Poets", very probably as he remembered it, but probably with some romantic colouring, due to his having been 20 at the time, and not having found his own voice as a writer and speaker yet.

Then again, he also impressed Coleridge, who invited him to visit him, which is how Hazlitt also came to know Wordsworth.    Back.

M26. “That we should wear out by slow stages, and dwindle at last into nothing, is not wonderful, when even in our prime our strongest impressions leave little trace but for the moment, and we are the creatures of petty circumstance.”

This is Hazlitt quoted, and I extracted it because Ilike it, and indeed "we are the creatures of petty circumstance” is quite true, as is our existence in the here and now of our own private experience.    Back.

M27. “Life is indeed a strange gift, and its privileges are most mysterious."

More Hazlitt quoted, and indeed this also seems true: There is very much more to know than any one man can comprehend - which no argument for religion, but for wonder: Human beings are very special animals.    Back.

M28.  "We know our existence only by ourselves, and confound our knowledge with the objects of it. We and nature are therefore one. Otherwise the illusion, the ‘feast of reason and the flow of soul,’ to which we are invited, is a mockery and a cruel insult."

And again more Hazlitt, and it may be seen, anachronistically, as Hazlitt's answer to the philosophical conundrum of being a brain in a vat (the vat being one's skull, perhaps) - the solution being that we must make assumptions anyway, and can test our theories by experiment. Placed in such circumstances, it is more sensible to assume we are part of a much greater natural reality than that we mere bundles of ongoing experiences, dubiously located.    Back.

M29. "We do not go from a play till the last act is ended, and the lights are about to be extinguished. But the fairy face of nature still shines on: shall we be called away before the curtain falls, or ere we have scarce had a glimpse of what is going on? Like children, our step-mother nature holds us up to see the raree-show of the universe, and then, as if we were a burden to her to support, lets us fall down again. Yet what brave sublunary things does not this pageant present, like a ball or fête of the universe!”

And yet more Hazlitt: Indeed - and it is true that the human place in the scheme of things is quite special, precisely because it can be consciously understood by the human animal itself, to some extent, in spite of being a mere nearly infinitesimal speck that exists for a very brief time.    Back.

M30. In Hazlitt’s vocabulary there is nothing striking unless it be the scrupulousness with which he avoids the danger of commonplaceness and of pedantry. It is easy to forget that the transparent obviousness of his style was attained only after many years of groping. We may well believe that “there is a research in the choice of a plain, as well as of an ornamental or learned style; and, in fact, a great deal more.”

Quite so, though to my mind Mr. Zeitlin does not really make clear how special Hazlitt's "plain, familiar style" is, nor that it is musical, and often depends on sentences that are far longer than modern editors would accept as fit for their reading public.    Back.

M31. Though he did not go in pursuit of the word to the extent of some later refiners of style, he had a clear realization that the appropriate word was what chiefly gave vitality to writing. For this reason he constantly denounced Johnsonese with its polysyllabic Latin words which reduced language to abstract generalization.  

Indeed, and I don't quite agree with Hazlitt on Johnson and his style, though Hazlitt did have a valid point: Johnson's written English often sounds contrived and Latinate. It doesn't bother me in the way it did Hazlitt, I suppose mostly because, contrived or not, there usually is sound thinking behind Dr. Johnson's prose.

Also, I would guess that Hazlitt judged Johnson in part as being a Tory and a conservative, and being in the class of Hazlitt's political opponents.    Back.

M32. His own vocabulary is concrete and vivid, and of a purity which makes one wonder how even the Quarterly Review could have ventured to apply to him the epithet “slang-whanger.”

Well, that is easy to answer: If you can't defeat a man, slander him. (Rhetorics 101)    Back.

M33. In spite of all that may be said in honor of the unadorned style of composition, writers have ever found that even in prose ideas are most forcibly conveyed by means of imagery.

True, and it seems to me to imply some things about how humans think: Fantastically, by images, metaphors and analogies, even when they do not have vivid mental imagery themselves (as I do have, and as Hazlitt, as a painter, undoubtedly had too). See William James's Principles of Psychology, for more on the subject of mental images (and very much else besides, also in excellent English).     Back.

M34. Hazlitt, it should be remembered, was an ardent admirer of the picturesque qualities in the prose of Burke, the most brilliant of the eighteenth century. In recalling his first reading of Burke, he tells how he despaired of emulating his felicities. But whether by dint of meditating over Burke or by the native vigor of his fancy, Hazlitt learned to write as boldly and as brilliantly as the great orator.

I agree, and this is both well seen and well expressed - and also a compliment Hazlitt would have relished.    Back.

M35. As a rule his rhetorical passages are not deliberately contrived, in the manner for example of his esteemed contemporary De Quincey.

Quite so: De Quincey did have a rather good style, but it clearly was a work of contrived art, that did not come naturally to him. Hazlitt's style, by contrast, seems quite natural to him, and sounds much like he might have talked in his best moments.    Back.

M36. Of his picturesque quality examples enough may be found in the present volume, yet one cannot forbear to add a few illustrations at this point. There is his irresistible comparison of Cobbett in his political inconsistency to “a young and lusty bridegroom, that divorces a favorite speculation every morning, and marries a new one every night. He is not wedded to his notions, not he. He has not one Mrs. Cobbett among all his opinions.”

Indeed, and this is a good example of what makes Hazlitt special: Comparisons like this.    Back.

M37. There is a good deal more than mere wit in the analogy between Godwin’s mechanical laboriousness and “an eight-day clock that must be wound up long before it can strike.”

Hazlitt was not impressed by Godwin's intellect, and seems not to have liked him. I do not know why, if so, but I agree there have been smarter men than Godwin, including Hazlitt.    Back.

M38. And there is real grandeur in his description of Fame: “Fame is the sound which the stream of high thoughts, carried down to future ages, makes as it flows—deep, distant, murmuring evermore like the waters of the mighty ocean. He who has ears truly touched to this music, is in a manner deaf to the voice of popularity.”

Perhaps. The problems for those who are not popular, and who may think they write "for posterity" are that posthumous fame is imaginary only, for the one whose fame it is (apart from souls on clouds in the sky) and that it is bound to be probably delusion, since those who made a name for themselves while alive have a far better chance to be read by posterity than those who didn't.    Back.

M39. “In turning over the pages of the best comedies, we are almost transported to another world, and escape from this dull age to one that was all life, and whim, and mirth, and humour. The curtain rises, and a gayer scene presents itself, as on the canvas of Watteau. We are admitted behind the scenes like spectators at court, on a levee or birthday; but it is the court, the gala-day of wit and pleasure, of gallantry and Charles II.!"

The first sentence - quoted from Hazlitt - also states what art is about and indeed as is much more that humans do, such as role playing: to get imaginatively "transported to another world", more ideal, and more as desired.

This is part of the art of life as long as it is conscious, and tends to delusion else, where one believes what one enacts while playing a role in a fantasy world is not play, but reality - as Bottom in "A Midnight's Dream".    Back.

M40. Sometimes, it is true, he allows his spirits to run away with his judgment, although in such instances the manner is so obviously exaggerated as to suggest deliberate mimicry. His account of the tawdry sentimentality of Moore’s poetry sounds like pure travesty:

Yes, it seems likely Hazlitt was writing in irony, or wrote a spoof.    Back.

M41. One feature of Hazlitt’s style concerning which much has been said both in praise and in blame is his inveterate use of quotations. His pages, particularly when he is in a contemplative mood, are sown with snatches from the great poets, and the effect generally is of the happiest.

I agree, and don't see the force of the objection: What can be against quoting the best writers, if a quotation makes sense in the course of one's argument or exposition?      Back.

M42. The fact is that quotations were a part of Hazlitt’s vocabulary, which he used with the same freedom as common locutions and with less scrupulous regard for the associations which were gathered about them.

Indeed - or if not "vocabulary" (an odd word here) then "style".    Back.

M43. If the tributes of Schlegel and Heine  to Hazlitt’s Shakespearian criticism were insufficient, we have the word of his own countrymen for it that numberless readers were initiated into a proper understanding of Shakespeare by means of his writings. [M43]

This is not precisely good writing ("his own countrymen": pleonasm; "numberless readers": false or needlessly vague and merely suggestive; "proper understanding": unclear), but it is true that I have seen more enthusiasm for Hazlitt among intelligent English readers who had not studied Eng. lit. than among those who did, and also true that certainly Heine's tribute should carry weight with those who doubt or belittle Hazlitt's stature.    Back.

M44. His opinions were quoted as having the weight of authority by those who were friendly to him, the writers in the London Magazine or in the Edinburgh Review; they were appropriated without acknowledgement by the hostile contributors to Blackwood’s.

This seems quite usual with extra-ordinary men. Then again, most of what I read in treatises on English literature by professors in it was either silent about Hazlitt, or paltry in its praise, though there also were exceptions.

And as I've noted before, his political radicalism, his satirical abilities, and his Liber Amoris did his standing no good, certainly not in Victorian England, where even an unconventional mind like Stevenson's decided not to write Hazlitt's life, in spite of greatly admiring his style and abilities, on the ground of his then having to deal with Liber Amoris.     Back.

M45. Personal dislike of Hazlitt, persisting after his death, for a long time prevented a proper respect being paid to his memory without much diminishing the weight of his influence.

Quite so, and for part of the reasons, see my last note. Then again, having a scientific rather than a literate bend of mind, I fail to see how one can quantify or indeed fairly measure "the weight of his influence".

This can be done, after a fashion, with the internet, but not in Mr. Zeitlin's time, and anyway word-counts are of little import with an author who is so decidedly for the small minority of intelligent persons who read essays, and who did not write for the public at large, certainly not of today or indeed of Mr. Zeitlin's time.     Back.

See also the next quote and note:

M46. .... his opinions have been diffused through the length and breadth of English and been incorporated into the common stock.

I am afraid Mr. Zeitlin must have judged here mainly by personal impressions, and not by accurate and sensible scientific measurements.

Speaking for myself, I don't have any better, but I have been somewhat amazed to find that - from what I did read, in and about English literature, the last 30 years - an essayist of Hazlitt's qualities seems to be so little appreciated and so little known in his own country, and if he is known at all, then usually because of the inclusion of his "Going to a fight" in some anthology, and not because of anything else.

My explanation for the present time and the last century, that were not as prude or sanctimonious as Victorian England, is mostly that he very probably is too demanding for most readers:

He requires readers who think for themselves, and know quite a lot besides literature, and such people are much more rare than most, including the academically educated, believe and like to think.    Back.

M47. If in our own day there are still persons who, looking upon criticism as a severe science, occasionally sneer at him as a “facile eulogist,” those who regard it rather as a gift have seen in him “the greatest critic that England has yet produced.”

I am definitely of the second school of thought, and indeed do not know of a better essayist in any of the languages I read, bar Montaigne and Schopenhauer. (Nietzsche might have qualified, if he had been more rational. And Schopenhauer, while a great writer with a fine mind, does not achieve Hazlitt's or Montaigne's liveliness, in my experience.)    Back.

M48. Wherever the golden mean between these two extremes of opinion may lie, there is no doubt that for introducing readers to an appreciation of the great things in English literature, Hazlitt still remains without an equal.

This is Zeitlin's last sentence in the text of his essay, and while I believe he probably is right in what he wrote, I more simply and more adequately see Hazlitt as the best English essayist I have read, bar none, and usually also by a large margin: Very few have his quality of mind, and very few have his excellent style, and no one combined both, except perhaps Bacon and Dr. Johnson, who both seem artificial and stilted and showing off when compared with Hazlitt.    Back.

M49. See also the paper in Table Talk on “Familiar Style.”

This from a footnote of Mr. Zeitlin's and indeed the essay to read if you want to know about Hazlitt's own opinions about his own style.    Back.

M50. “I grant this much, that it is in vain to seek for the word we want, or endeavour to get at it second-hand, or as a paraphrase on some other word—it must come of itself, or arise out of an immediate impression or lively intuition of the subject; that is, the proper word must be suggested immediately by the thoughts, but it need not be presented as soon as called for.... Proper expressions rise to the surface from the heat and fermentation of the mind, like bubbles on an agitated stream. It is this which produces a clear and sparkling style.” “On Application to Study,” in Plain Speaker.  

I agree, and no doubt it was thus for Hazlitt, but then not all write in the same way. Hazlitt seems to have been able to write fast and mostly spontaneously, and is said to have seldomly needed to make corrections in his copy, but then some write by rewriting the same many times, as did Balzac (with illustration and discussion of Balzac's way of (re-)writing).    Back.



And that was the end of my notes and of this series in Nederlog.

I fear I have not pleased many, but then I did like doing it myself, and also I have felt rather a bit better the last weeks, very probably due to B12, as I briefly explained yesterday. (More on this later in Nederlog: Click the last link to see relevant links.)

In case you feel it's a bit - mm - prolific and that 139 notes is a lot, I don't disagree, and observe that Mr. Zeitlin gave 122 notes to his own text, so presumably I am following "good habits of good critics".

I wrote it because I liked writing it, at present am able to do so, really like Hazlitt, and think Mr. Zeitlin wrote a rather good and useful introduction to Hazlitt, that is well worth reading and annotating, and also gave me a useful introduction to the Hazlitt-section on my site, that I hope to extend soon in several ways.

For Hazlitt is one of the finest writers I have read.

And for those who want to find out why I think so, here are the links to his works as edited in the Project Gutenberg

There is (or was) more available of him in Everyman's Library - and here are, in conclusion, a link to the Saintsbury that Zeitlin mentions in his text, also available in the Project Gutenberg

with a link to its section on Hazlitt with a really fine appreciation of him by Thackeray:

The author of the Spirit of the Age was one of the keenest and brightest critics that ever lived. With partialities and prejudices innumerable, he had a wit so keen, a sensibility so exquisite, an appreciation of humour, or pathos, or even of the greatest art, so lively, quick, and cultivated, that it was always good to know what were the impressions made by books or men or pictures on such a mind; and that, as there were not probably a dozen men in England with powers so varied, all the rest of the world might be rejoiced to listen to the opinions of this accomplished critic. He was of so different a caste to the people who gave authority in his day—the pompous big-wigs and schoolmen, who never could pardon him his familiarity of manner so unlike their own—his popular—too popular habits—and sympathies so much beneath their dignity; his loose, disorderly education gathered round those bookstalls or picture galleries where he laboured a penniless student, in lonely journeys over Europe tramped on foot (and not made, after the fashion of the regular critics of the day, by the side of a young nobleman in a postchaise), in every school of knowledge from St. Peter's at Rome to St. Giles's in London. In all his modes of life and thought, he was so different from the established authorities, with their degrees and white neck-cloths, that they hooted the man down with all the power of their lungs, and disdained to hear truth that came from such a ragged philosopher.



P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.

Later on June 29: I have meanwhile read Saintsbury on Hazlitt,
from which the above fine quote of Thackeray comes, but it is no good:
Saintsbury was a typical pedant, who also is not honest.




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


1.  Anthony Komaroff Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)
2.  Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT: 
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
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)
9.
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
10.
 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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