Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*London. Great Britain’s capital and greatest city. The London boardinghouse owned by Sarah Walker’s father is the only city site identified in Hazlitt’s tormented account of his romantic obsession. Hazlitt falls in love with Sarah the instant she walks into his room to serve him breakfast. The rest of the world seems to vanish as he concentrates on her graceful movements. Before long, she allows him to fondle her, and they exchange many kisses. This familiarity always takes place in Hazlitt’s room, and he has almost no knowledge of Sarah outside the confines of their morning meetings. They create, in other words, their own little world. Gradually Hazlitt conceives the idea of divorcing his wife and marrying Sarah. Almost at the same time he catches a glimpse of her outside his room with another lodger. Hazlitt suspects that Sarah has also given this other man her attentions. Distraught, he nevertheless maintains plans to divorce his wife, and he departs for Scotland, where he can obtain a divorce quickly and without the legal complications he would encounter in England.

Hazlitt plans to return from Scotland and attempt to renew Sarah’s affections. Indeed he seems drawn by an irresistible force as he describes the River Thames heaving her “name pantingly forth.” However, Sarah has rejected him, and the intense obsession that Hazlitt experienced earlier in the boardinghouse returns as he takes up residence there once more, keenly observing her every move and...

(The entire section is 620 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Beaty, Frederick L. Light from Heaven: Love in British Romantic Literature. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1971. Describes Liber Amoris as the author’s attempt to punish and purge himself. He develops the romantic notion of love as a hallucination.

Butler, Marilyn. “Satire and the Images of Self in the Romantic Period: The Long Tradition of Hazlitt’s Liber Amoris.” In English Satire and the Satiric Tradition, edited by Claude Rawson and Jenny Mezciems. Oxford, England: Blackwell, 1984. Also in Spirits of Fire: English Romantic Writers and Contemporary Historical Methods, edited by G. A. Rosso and Daniel P. Watkins. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1990. Discusses the fact that Liber Amoris, the agonized record of a man in the grip of a sexual obsession, has been regarded as an artless Romantic autobiography, but argues that its satirical elements reveal themselves if it is read alongside Thomas De Quincey’s The Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821).

Friedman, Martin B. “Hazlitt, Jerrold, and Horne: Liber Amoris Twenty Years After.” Review of English Studies 22, no. 88 (November, 1971): 455-462. An account of Douglas William Jerrold’s short story, which parodied Liber Amoris and the scandalous publicity the book elicited. Friedman discusses Richard Henry Horne’s accusation that Jerrold was impolite.

Priestley, J. B. William Hazlitt. London: Longmans, 1960. Interprets Liber Amoris from a Jungian perspective, noting how the book exemplifies Hazlitt’s characteristically personal obsession in his writing.

Wardle, Ralph M. Hazlitt. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1971. Uses Hazlitt’s letters to his friend Patmore during the Liber Amoris affair to show his development as a writer.