Critically examine Hazlitt's qualities as a critic.Please give a detailed answer not short.

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Speaking of his literary criticism, William Hazlitt said:

"I say what I think: I think what I feel. I cannot help receiving certain impressions from things; and I have sufficient courage to declare (somewhat abruptly) what they are."

He said:

Criticism is an art that undergoes a great variety of changes, and aims at different objects at different times.

And of a critic, he said:

A critic does nothing nowadays who does not try to torture the most obvious expression into a thousand meanings, and enter into a circuitous explanation of all that can be urged for or against its being in the best or worst style possible. His object indeed is not to do justice to his author, whom he treats with very little ceremony, but to do himself homage, and to show his acquaintance with all the topics and resources of criticism.

Here are some more points to his criticism:

  • Political liberal
  • Championed "gusto," a term he used to refer to qualities of passion and energy that he considered necessary to great art.  He says: 
    "Gusto in art is power or passion defining any object."
  • Romantic: once idealized Coleridge and Napolean, champion of the common man
  • Humanistic, impressionistic approach to literature
  • Well-versed in art as well as poetry and drama
  • Felt that Shakespeare's sonnets lacked gusto
  • The Spirit of the Age (1825): Hazlitt's "best book."
  • Attacked those he saw as "apostates" with the most rigor, seeing their move towards conservatism as a personal betrayal
  • He attacked the later work of the Lake Poets mainly because they had turned politically conservative.
  • He advocated a plain, colloquial writing style, illuminated by the insights of common sense.
  • He cannot be classed with any particular “school” of criticism

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