"No Young Man Believes He Shall Ever Die"
Context: William Hazlitt's personality is revealed in his essays. He felt things keenly, and his writings have a warmth, vividness, and zest which are characteristic of the man. Hazlitt lived during a period of dissent and partisanship. He was a stanch supporter of the French Revolution, and believed even the dictatorship of Napoleon was preferable to royal despotism. It is said that he was so depressed by Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo that for days he wandered the streets of London, gaunt, unkempt, and drinking heavily. In his essay "On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth," Hazlitt confesses that he himself lost the feeling of youth when the French people lost their struggle for liberty. But he feels that young men in general have an "overweening presumption" that while those around them may die, they will live forever. He opens his essay with these words:
No young man believes he shall ever die. It was a saying of my brother's, and a fine one. There is a feeling of Eternity in youth which makes us amends for everything. To be young is to be as one of the Immortals. . . .