Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 454
The protagonist of William Hazlitt’s Liber Amoris is referred to simply as “H.” throughout the book. Hazlitt’s work has been called an autobiographical novel and a quasi-novel, and it is generally accepted that “H.” stands for “Hazlitt.” H. is in Scotland, involved in obtaining a divorce from his wife, called only “Mrs. ––.” H. is a man whose age is not stated, but he is older than Sarah. H. is obsessed with the young woman, and his belief that he cannot live without her threatens his sanity and perhaps his will to live:
“I am thy creature, thy slave—I only wish to live for your sake—I would gladly die for you—"
H. alternates between praising Sarah and accusing her of tempting him with her flirtations, as well as bemoaning her supposed affection for other men.
Another major character is Sarah L., a young woman usually referred to as “S.” H. says she is “heavenly fair,” comparing her to an Italian painting possibly by Raphael. Sarah works for her parents in the house where H. is a guest during much of the book. She is single and steadfastly maintains that she cannot love. She was formerly involved with a man of higher social status, but their relationship ended two years earlier because of that discrepancy. She also has hopes that another man, not H., may develop feelings for her. She has “high ideas of the married state” and would not marry for love. She apparently becomes involved with another man, but refuses to tell H. about it, which causes him to despair.
Mr. C., another lodger, is one of the men with whom Sarah converses and possibly flirts, to which H. reacts with jealousy.
Mr. L. is Sarah’s father, with whom H. has an extensive conversation revealing their flirtations. Other members of Sarah’s family are mentioned but do not appear. Betsey is Sarah’s younger sister. They also have an older sister, Mrs. M., and a brother who is not named.
C. P. is H.’s friend, with whom he corresponds and persuades to meet with “M.,” Sarah’s brother-in-law, about the possibility of marriage to Sarah. In H.’s numerous long letters, most of the content is about Sarah, and he tells C. P. that he is putting together a book about their conversations.
William is H.’s young son.
J. S. K.
H. addresses the final two letters of Liber Amoris to J. S. K., whom scholars identify as a stand-in for William Hazlitt’s close friend James Sheridan Knowles. Knowles was a playwright and actor. In his correspondence, H. recalls a visit with J. S. K. in Scotland.