William Hazlitt Criticism - Essay

Robert Ready (essay date 1975)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Logic of Passion: Hazlitt's Liber Amoris," in Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 14, No. 1, Winter, 1975, pp. 41-57.

[In the following essay, Ready evaluates Liber Amoris as a literary exploration into the nature of the sympathetic imagination.]

No matter what their attitudes toward his involvement with Sarah Walker, most readers of Hazlitt's Liber Amoris; or, The New Pygmalion (1823) have been more concerned with the book as biography than they have with the book as literature.1 Assuming that Hazlitt's only sustained narrative, and one of his longest works, can be viewed critically as well as biographically, I hope to demonstrate...

(The entire section is 7664 words.)

Marilyn Butler (essay date 1984)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "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, Basil Blackwell, 1984, pp. 209-25.

[In this essay, Butler examines the satirical elements that appear in some Romantic writings, as well as the extent to which Liber Amoris can be considered a satiric commentary on contemporary doctrines of the imagination.]

Satire is a mode with which we do not as a rule associate the Romantic period. Among the trees of the literary forest a few scrubs can still be picked out: minor satirical verse like Mathias's Pursuits of Literature,...

(The entire section is 8368 words.)

Harold Bloom (essay date 1986)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Introduction to William Hazlitt, edited by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House Publishers, 1986, pp. 1-13.

[In the following introduction to a collection of critical essays on Hazlitt, Bloom contends that Hazlitt 's "poetics of power" chronicles the difficult relationship between imagination and experience, oneself and others.]


David Bromwich, Hazlitt's best critic, shrewdly says of Hazlitt's key word gusto that it "accords nicely with the belief that taste adds to our nature instead of correcting it." I take it that Hazlitt's gusto is an aesthetic displacement of the Dissenting Protestant version of grace, which corrects our...

(The entire section is 5054 words.)

Nancy Enright (essay date 1989)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "William Hazlitt and His 'Familiar Style'," in Essays on the Essay: Redefining the Genre, edited by Alexander J. Butrym, University of Georgia Press, 1989, pp. 116-25.

[In the essay that follows, Enright discusses the careful balance between stiff overformality and amateurish lack of style that characterizes the ideal of Hazlitt's "Familiar Style."]

Coming forward and seating himself on the ground in his white dress and tightened turban, the chief of the Indian Jugglers begins with tossing up two brass balls, which is what any of us could do, and concludes with keeping up four at the same time, which is what none of us could do to save our...

(The entire section is 4253 words.)

James Mulvihill (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Anatomy of Idolatry: Hazlitt's Liber Amoris," in The Charles Lamb Bulletin, n.s. No. 70, April, 1990, pp. 195-203.

[In the following essay, Mulvihill attempts to reevaluate Liber Amoris, which he contends is not an unseemly self-exposure, but an analysis of the feeling of infatuation itself.]

It has been said that we know too much about the Romantics. Certainly, we know too much about the author of Liber Amoris; or, The New Pygmalion (1823), for, preoccupied with the autobiographical origins of this, William Hazlitt's only work of fiction, readers have largely misread the book itself. In this strange, obsessive little work Hazlitt...

(The entire section is 5228 words.)

James Mulvihill (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hazlitt and 'First Principles'," in Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer, 1990, pp. 241-55.

[In this essay, Mulvihill contends that Hazlitt's method of inferring character is not impressionistic, as has been claimed, but empiricist, using seemingly insignificant traits to discover the general principles of character.]

As Recently As 1981, Marilyn Butler termed William Hazlitt's writings "impressionistic and personal."' Thus to at least one eminent student of romanticism a response to Hazlitt premised on his apparently "idiosyncratic critical posture" (Butler 173) remains adequate even after decades of scholarship arguing the contrary. Such a view...

(The entire section is 6044 words.)

John L. Mahoney (essay date 1991)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "William Hazlitt: The Essay as Vehicle for the Romantic Critic," in The Charles Lamb Bulletin, n.s. No. 75, July, 1991, pp. 92-98.

[In the following essay, Mahoney contends that Hazlitt's essay represents a move away from the formal treatise—and toward a more familiar style of writing about aesthetics that would become popular in the nineteenth century.]

Genre is, of course, an old critical issue. As M. H. Abrams and others remind us, it is apparent in the ancient classical tendency to divide literature into epic-narrative, poetic-lyric, and dramatic, and it persists with varying degrees of emphasis throughout the history of literary theory.1 From...

(The entire section is 3553 words.)

Joseph Epstein (essay date 1991)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hazlitt's Passions," in The New Criterion, Vol. 10, No. 3, November, 1991, pp. 33-44.

[In the following essay, Epstein places Hazlitt's writings within the context of his business and personal life.]

In The Birth of the Modern, his panoramic history of world society between 1815 and 1830, Paul Johnson refers to William Hazlitt as "a truly great writer, perhaps the first truly modern writer in England." Johnson, working an extremely crowded canvas, never gets around to saying just why he thinks Hazlitt is perhaps the first truly modern writer in England. Yet his is an assertion that gains immediate assent; it feels, somehow, right. Among Hazlitt's...

(The entire section is 8254 words.)

Edward W. Bratton (essay date 1991)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "William Hazlitt's Curious Concept of Taste," in South Atlantic Review, Vol. 57, No. 2, May, 1992, pp. 1-9.

[In the essay that follows, originally published in 1991, Bratton explores some examples of Hazlitt's judgments of taste in an effort to determine the paradoxes of his overarching theory and its relevance to the twentieth century.]

John Keats praised William Hazlitt's "depth of taste" as one of "three things superior in the modern world" (Letters 1: 204-05)—even when that taste was negatively employed. "Hazlitt," Keats wrote, "is your only good damner, and if ever I am damn'd—(damn me if) I shoul'nt like him to damn me" (Letters 1: 252)....

(The entire section is 3504 words.)

Raymond Martin and John Barresi (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hazlitt on the Future of the Self," in Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 56, No. 3, July, 1995, pp. 463-81.

[In the following essay, Martin and Barresi examine Hazlitt's theories of personal identity, focusing particularly on how they relate to modern philosophies.]

There are moments in the life of a solitary thinker which are to him what the evening of some great victory is to the conqueror and hero … milder triumphs long remembered with truer and deeper delight. And though the shouts of multitudes do not hail his success … [yet] as time passes … [such moments] still awaken the consciousness of a spirit patient, indefatigable in...

(The entire section is 8618 words.)

Jonathan Gross (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hazlitt's Worshiping Practice in Liber Amoris" in Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 35, No. 4, Autumn, 1995, pp. 707-21.

[In the following essay, Gross argues that Liber Amoris "reveals the growth of [Hazlitt's] fetishistic imagination," which both fueled his creative sensibilities and helped refine his theory of religious practice.]

[A]nd I will make a Goddess of her, and build a temple to her in my heart, and worship her on indestructible altars, and raise statues to her: and my homage shall be unblemished as her unrivalled symmetry of form.

Liber Amoris (9:133)


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Laurie Kane Lew (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Collection and Recollection: William Hazlitt and the Poetics of Memory," in Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 36, No. 3, Fall, 1997, pp. 349-89.

[In the following essay, Lew discusses Hazlitt's essays as a series of portraits from which Lew determines his theory of memory and his understanding of artistic appreciation.]

"For my part," Hazlitt wrote in 1827, "I set out in life with the French Revolution, and that event had considerable influence on my early feelings, as on those of others."1 Mourning the loss, not just of his own, but of the universal possibilities for "Life" and "Liberty," which were entailed in the failure of the French Revolution,...

(The entire section is 18568 words.)