Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Because William Hazlitt was a writer, it was not enough that he found himself passionately attracted to his landlord’s daughter; he had to write about it. Liber Amoris: Or, The New Pygmalion appeared in 1823, slightly disguised by initials in place of names, as the anonymous account of a writer’s foolish passion, but it was not long before the secret was out. A reviewer for the magazine John Bull, claiming that the review in The Times of London, which was favorable, had been written by Hazlitt himself, attempted to picture the young woman in the book as a young, innocent child and Hazlitt as an “impotent sensualist.”
Hazlitt quite properly gave his work a subtitle, for his passion led him into flights of creative imagination whereby he sought to give his beloved traits of character and depth of feeling to match her physical charms. His conversations with the landlord’s daughter, delightfully transcribed at the beginning of the work, show Hazlitt to have been as much dazzled by his own literary facility in describing her charms as he was with the charmer herself when she was seated on his lap returning his kisses. By the time the affair ended—after he had discovered that she was no more than a flirt, and not an innocent one at that—what impressed him most was that she was not what she had seemed. What she had seemed to be is what, in his writer’s imagination, he had made her; what he discovered, when he realized...
(The entire section is 1447 words.)
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