British Romanticism and Italian Literature: Translating, Reviewing, Rewriting

By Laura Bandiera; Diego Saglia | Go to book overview

Maria Cristina Cignatta (Università di Parma)


William Hazlitt and Dante as the Embodiment of
‘Power, Passion, Self-Will’

Hazlitt’s criticism of Dante is to be assessed almost exclusively on the strength of his article published in the
Edinburgh Review in June 1815 as a critical appraisal of J. C. L. Simonde de Sismondi’s De la littérature du Midi
de l’Europe
(1813). Overtly polemical in tone, Hazlitt’s article vehemently rejects the Swiss historian’s objections
and reservations about Dante’s poetry as archaic, anachronistic, and totally unfounded. In the eyes of the English
critic, Dante’s poetry is the perfect embodiment of the definition of poetry as a unique synthesis of imagination,
emotional intensity, expression, and passion. Dante himself, a wondrous personification of ‘power, passion, self-
will’, represents the triumph of original genius and human will. Thus, Hazlitt’s Dante is substantially a Romantic
ante litteram, to be evaluated in the light of contemporary aesthetics. Despite its incongruities and limitations,
Hazlitt’s article is one of the most penetrating assessments of Dante written by any early nineteenth-century British
critic. Together with Coleridge, Hazlitt stands out as one of the earliest critical voices in the century to see Dante
as the chief exponent – indeed, the very embodiment – of the Italian Middle Ages and to evaluate his importance
within the parameters of his own historical and cultural period.

The writings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Hazlitt constitute a serious attempt in English literary criticism at a more impartial approach to Italian Medieval literature. Nineteenth-century critics were beginning to analyze literary works as part of a historical process and to evaluate writers within the social, philosophical, and political currents of the period that engendered their works. In nineteenth-century Dante criticism, Coleridge and Hazlitt represent the first examples of this trend, their method being subsequently adopted by other critics, such as Percy Bysshe Shelley, Thomas Babington Macaulay, John Ruskin, and Thomas Carlyle. In his Defence of Poetry, Shelley saw Dante as a key figure. He was

[…] the second poet, [after Homer] the series of whose creations bore a defined and intelligible relation to the
knowledge and sentiment and religion of the age in which he lived, and of the ages which followed it: […]
Dante was the first religious reformer, […] Dante was the first awakener of entranced Europe; he created a
language, in itself music and persuasion, out of a chaos of inharmonious barbarisms.1

Hazlitt dedicated two articles in particular to Dante and the Divina Commedia. The more important of the two appeared in the Edinburgh Review in June 1815 as a critical appraisal of the Genevan historian J. C. L. Simonde de Sismondi’s De la littérature du midi

1 Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defence of Poetry and a Letter to Lord Ellenborough (London: The Porcupine Press, 1948), pp. 39–40.

-69-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
British Romanticism and Italian Literature: Translating, Reviewing, Rewriting
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 281

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.