Welcome to my Hazlitt pages!
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." 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.
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William Hazlitt was English
(from Irish decent) and lived from 1778-1830. He is best known as an
essayist. He was a highly original and individual man, with original
ideas on philosophy and a beautiful style.
He is not by far as well-known
as he deserves to be, probably because he failed to please and felt
pleased to hate too many and too much (according to those with lesser
talents and less courage). This was mostly due to his honesty, courage,
and brightness of intellect, and the obvious all-too-human failings of
The Wikipedia article, in the
following link, last seen on March 9, 2011 by me, is good and useful:
At present, there are the
eleven of his essays on my site in the left pane, and the beginning of
Essays", in my html-edition. These are not annotated at all or
not annotated fully by me, but I plan to add many more, with my
annotations, simply because Hazlitt had a very fine mind and a very
beautiful style. (Proviso: I do have ME,
which makes things much more difficult for me than it would be
There are some good editions
of Hazlitt, but I do not know whether these are in print
- Selected Essays of
Edited by Geoffry Keynes
First ed. 1930 - London The Nonesuch Press
- Table Talk
The Plain Speaker
Lectures on the English Poets and Spirit of the Age
Characters of Shakespeare's Plays
All in Everyman's Library
- William Hazlitt -
Edited by Ronald Blythe
Each and all of these give a
fine selection of Hazlitt's essays. The first is the longest and the
best introduction to Hazlitt, but probably only available in
There also are two
internet-places with useful editions of Hazlitt
The first of these has most of
what is also in Everyman's Library, apparently based on that as well,
which is good, because the editions in Everyman's Library I have are
very well done.
The second has quite a lot more, but you must jump through some hoops
mostly surrected by Google, and the editions are far from perfect: The
Google scan into pdf of Hazlitt's "Political Essays", for example,
misses at least the first page, and possibly one more, of the the list
of contents; it has a sanctimonous and hypocritical intro by Google on
Google's excellencies, which - as far as I can see - are less about
helping people as about helping Google, namely to a claim on all books
they scanned "for the public"; and the txt-version that's also supplied
cannot be independently used because it chockful of mistakes.
There are several biographies
by him of which P.P. Howe's, who also edited his collected works, is
probably still the best. This also was published by Penguin and also
probably is only available in antiquarian bookshops.
There also is a Hazlitt society
but what I saw of the site is
that it is not extensive, not well done, and probably of use only to
those who are cognoscenti of Hazlitt anyway - which is not to say that
the Hazlitt Society doesn't do good work, but only that I, who am Dutch
rather than English, know little about them, and believe so excellent
an author deserves a much more extensive and better designed site.
As to my illustrations:
Hazlitt's likeness is originally drawn by Bewick, in 1824, and the left
picture is the mirror-image of the right, which is one I tweaked in
2011 from a discoloured one on the internet, with the help of some
imaging software. It shows Hazlitt at around 46 years of age. There is
one very much like it, probably also produced with some trickery, in
Blythe's edition mentioned above. (The trickery I used: Convert to blue
and then save in black/grey tones.)
More about Hazlitt in books:
It seems that, if you are persistent enough, you can presently get most
of the texts that were in P.P. Howe's edition of the Collected Works of
Hazlitt. There also are some of his works, or selections from them, in
print, but it would be very helpful if the full text of Hazlitt's
writings were put on line in good html editions, because (1) he is one
of the greatest writers in English, bar none and (2) such editions as
exist, namely the Howe edition and a more recent one by Duncan Wu, are
both forbiddingly expensive, and probably only bought by
Hazlitt-specialist with secured academic tenure, or by such university
libraries that still have money to spend on books or on science rather
than on managers.
I have read all of and about
Hazlitt I could lay my hands on, since I discovered him in 1983,
while browsing in an antiquarian bookshop, and should say one's chances
getting something worthwile by or about Hazlitt have improved a lot
with the internet, though he is most unlikely to become a popular
author, at least until the average human intelligence has been raised
And while I have read rather
widely in and around Hazlitt, I have not read widely in the more recent
literary criticism of him, firstly because it is all quite expensive,
and secondly because I generally don't like literary criticism, except
by a choice few, such as Dr. Johnson, Hazlitt, Orwell and I.A. Richards.
Anyway... here are four books
about Hazlitt that I did find interesting and worthwile. I start with
- P.P. Howe: The Life of
William Hazlitt - Penguin Books 1949 (original 1922)
- Stanley Jones: Hazlitt,
A Life: From Winterslow to Frith Street - Oxford UP, 1989
These are both good, and Mr.
Jones managed to find out many things about Hazlitt that others didn't.
I do not know whether either is currently in print or available. Also,
the former is better written and less detailed than the latter.
- Paulin, Tom. The
Day-Star of Liberty: William Hazlitt's Radical Style - Faber and
Mr. Paulin, indeed like Mr.
Jones, is a literary scientist, and while I did not like all that Mr.
Paulin wrote - that I incidentally read in a pre-publication form I
found in an antiquarian bookshop in Amsterdam, which I mention because
I may not have read the polished version that was eventually published
by Faber and Faber - he did write an interesting and worthwile book.
- James Engell, The
Creative Imagination - Englihtenment to Romanticism, Harvard UP, 1981
This is a book about the
subject of its title, in which Hazlitt has a good chapter. The book is
also generally quite interesting. The version I mentioned is the
original hardcover one; a paperback version was published in 1999.
Update November 2, 2013:
The backgrounds for the Essays - in the left pane - fixed to blue.