There were two pre-eminent literary critics in the second decade of the nineteenth century, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Hazlitt. While the former developed his critical principles in his early philosophical studies and in a decade of splendid poetic creation, the latter had no such period of creativity to look back on when he began his career as journalist-critic in 1813, at the age of thirty-six. His early life was a series of failures. Neither his earnest attempts to become a portraitist nor equally earnest attempts to make a reputation as a political and philosophical writer had borne fruit. In 1812, he and his family lived in London almost without funds until a series of lectures helped set the family on its feet. He then served an important apprenticeship as a journalist in Parliament and, in 1813, found the work which exactly suited him: writing dramatic criticism and essays on many topics for various periodicals.
Within a decade Hazlitt ranked with Coleridge as literary critic as a result of both spoken and written essays. His lecture series was very popular. The series LECTURES ON THE ENGLISH POETS was given early in 1818; ENGLISH COMIC WRITERS was delivered late that year. The following year he delivered the series THE DRAMATIC LITERATURE OF THE AGE OF ELIZABETH. These lecture series were duly issued in book form. His most important written criticism includes VIEW OF THE ENGLISH STAGE, which covers the...
(The entire section is 1653 words.)
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