William Hazlitt

William Hazlitt, 1778–1830, English essayist. The son of a reform-mindeed Unitarian minister, he abandoned the idea of entering the clergy and took up painting, philosophy, and later journalism. He moved to London in 1799, studied painting, and joined the social circle of Charles and Mary Lamb. Beginning in 1812 Hazlitt acted as a parliamentary reporter and a theatrical, literary, and artistic critic for the Morning Chronicle. He later contributed a variety of articles to Leigh Hunt's Examiner, the Edinburgh Review, the London Magazine, the New Monthly, and other periodicals. By the 1820s he was widely considered London's most influential critic. A student of the art of prose, Hazlitt combined conversational and literary language into his own distinctively lucid and elegant prose style. His penetrating literary criticism (he has been called the father of modern literary criticism) is collected in Characters of Shakespeare's Plays (1817), Lectures on the English Poets (1818), Lectures on the English Comic Writers (1819), Table Talk (1821–22), and The Spirit of the Age (1825), portraits of his contemporaries. His essays on Shakespeare and his Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth (1820) renewed enthusiasm for Elizabethan drama.

Hazlitt was one of the great masters of the miscellaneous essay, displaying a keen intellect, fine sensibility, critical intelligence, and wide scope of interest and knowledge. His most notable single essays include "On Going a Journey," "My First Acquaintance with Poets," "On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth," and "Going to a Fight." His interest in and support of the French Revolution and his strong beliefs in the principles of liberty and the rights of man inspired him to write a life of Napoleon (4 vol., 1828–30).

See his complete works (ed. by P. P. Howe, 21 vol., 1930–34) and New Writings (previously uncollected works, ed. by D. Wu, 2 vol., 2007); selected writings (ed. by D. Wu, 9 vol., 1998); his letters (ed. by Herschel M. Sikes et al., 1978); biographies by C. M. MacLean (1944, repr. 2008), H. C. Baker (1962), P. P. Howe (1947, repr. 1972), S. Jones (1989), A. C. Grayling (2000), and D. Wu (2008); J. Cook, Hazlitt in Love (2008); studies by J. B. Priestley (1960), R. Park (1971), R. M. Wardle (1971), J. Kinnaird (1978), D. Bromwich (1985), H. Bloom, ed. (1986), M. Whelan (2003), and U. Natarajan, T. Paulin, and D. Wu, ed. (2005).



William Carew Hazlitt, 1834–1913, his grandson, was a bibliographer and wrote The Memoirs of William Hazlitt (1867). Among W. C. Hazlitt's works are a valuable Handbook to the Popular, Poetical, and Dramatic Literature of Great Britain (1867) and its supplements and Four Generations of a Literary Family: The Hazlitts (1897).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Hazlitt
Ralph M. Wardle.
University of Nebraska Press, 1971
Selected Writings
William Hazlitt; Jon Cook.
Oxford University Press, 1991
Hazlitt and the Reach of Sense: Criticism, Morals, and the Metaphysics of Power
Uttara Natarajan.
Oxford University, 1998
The Logic of Passion: The Literary Criticism of William Hazlitt
John L. Mahoney.
Fordham University Press, 1981
Hazlitt and the Real Language of Poetry
Natarajan, Uttara.
Philological Quarterly, Vol. 75, No. 2, Spring 1996
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
William Hazlitt, on Being Brilliant
Brock, Claire.
Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 44, No. 4, Winter 2005
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Imagination under Pressure, 1789-1832: Aesthetics, Politics, and Utility
John Whale.
Cambridge University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Hazlitt and the Limits of the Sympathetic Imagination"
Literary Magazines and British Romanticism
Mark Parker.
Cambridge University Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Two "A Conversation between Friends: Hazlitt and the London Magazine"
Hazlitt, Ruskin, and Ideal Form
Natarajan, Uttara.
Philological Quarterly, Vol. 81, No. 4, Fall 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Rousseau, Robespierre, and English Romanticism
Gregory Dart.
Cambridge University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "'Sour Jacobinism': William Hazlitt and the Resistance to Reform"
Literary Theory and Criticism Festschrift Presented to René Wellek in Honor of His Eightieth Birthday
Joseph P. Strelka.
Peter Lang, 1984
Librarian’s tip: "William Hazlitt as a Literary Critic in the Spirit of the Age" begins on p. 1333
Seeing in the Dark: Hazlitt's Immanent Idealism
Milnes, Tim.
Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 39, No. 1, Spring 2000
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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