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the assault delivered upon France for an assault against Freedom. But Coleridge and Wordsworth changed their minds, and readjusted their points of view; and he did not. They loved not Bonaparte ; and he did. And the end of it was that, so far as I know, he never wrote with so ripe and sensual a gust : not even, to my mind, when he was merely annihilating Gifford : as when, long years after NetherStowey, he broke in upon the strong, solid hold of Wordsworth's egotism, and tore to tatters—tatters which he flung upon the windthe old, greasy prophet's mantle, which Coleridge had sported to so little purpose for so many years. To Hazlitt, the dissenter born, the deeply brooding, the inflexible—to Hazlitt, I say, these TwinStars of the Romantic Movement were common turn-coats ; and he dealt with them on occasion as he thought fit. But he never lost his interest in them; and when it comes to a comparison between Wordsworth, the renegade, and Byron, the leader of storming-parties, the captain of forlorn-hopes, then is his idiosyncrasy revealed. He hacks and stabs, he jibes and sneers and denies, till there is no Byron left, and the sole poet of the century is the gentlemanly creature-reads nothing but his own poetry, I believe,'—whose best passages, in a moment of supreme geniality, he once likened, not to their advantage, to those of the classic Akenside.'
It was from Nether-Stowey that Hazlitt dated his regard for poetry. But if literature came late to him, as (his father's office and his own metaphysical inklings aiding) it did, he ever cherished a pure and ardent passion for it, once it had come. Yet he was by no means widely read, and in his last years seldom finished a new book. First and last, indeed, he was a man of few books and fewer authors. Shakespeare, Burke, Cervantes, Rabelais, Milton, the Decameron, the Nouvelle Héloïse and the Confessions, Richardson's epics of the parlour and Fielding's epics of the road—these things and their kind he read intensely; and, when it pleased him to speak of them, it was ever in the terms of understanding and regard. Yet it was long ere he had any thought of writing ; and it was necessity alone that made him a 1 Or rather bedgown : unction-soiled and laudanum-stained.
man of letters. In the beginning, the Pulpit proving impossible, he turned to painting for a career, and, after certain studies, presumably under his elder brother John, and possibly under Northcote, he went to the Paris of the First Consul, and painted there for some four months in a Louvre which the thrift of Bonaparte had stored with the choicest plunder in Italian Art. I know not whether or no he could ever have been a painter. Haydon, who neither loved nor understood him, and was, besides, a man who could greatly dare and toil terribly'-Haydon says that he was at once too lazy and too timid ever to succeed in painting: an art in which, as Haydon showed, and as Millet was presently to say, “You must filay yourself alive, and give your skin.'? I do not think that Hazlitt was daunted by what may be called the painfulness of painting; for in letters he was soon enough to prove that he had in him to face a world in arms, and to tincture his writings, if need were, with the best blood of his heart. In any case, after divers essays at copying in the Louvre, and certain attempts at portraiture on his return to England, he found that he could not excel; that, in fact, he was neither Titian nor Rembrandt, nor could he even be Sir Joshua. So he painted no more, but went on reading certain painters : very much, I assume, as he went on taking certain authors; because he loved them for themselves, and found emotions—and not only emotions, but sensations 5_ in them.
* John Hazlitt had been a pupil of Reynolds, and his miniatures were welcome at the Academy.
2 Dans l'art il faut donner sa peau.
3 He had a painter in him, whether imperfectly developed or not; for he would condescend upon none but Guido, Raphael, Titian.
• One was a likeness of his father, of which he has written in eloquent and engaging terms ; another, a Wordsworth, which he destroyed ; a third, the picture of Elia, “as a Venetian senator,' now in the National Portrait Gallery ; yet another, the presentment of an Old Woman, which is likened to a Rembrandt. Having seen none of these things, all I can say about them is that Hazlitt seems to have been passionately interested in colour ; that he loved a picture because it was a piece of painting ; and, if he knew not always bad (or rather third and fourth rate) work when he saw it, was as contemptuous of it, when he realised its status, as Fuseli himself.
• There is an immense, even an insuperable difference between the two sorts of sensualists. To take an immediate instance : Lamb loved Hogarth, and found
Lamb; and, like the only Mrs. Pecksniff, she had a small property.' It was situate at Winterslow, certain miles from Salisbury, and Hazlitt, who loved the neighbourhood, and clung to it till the end, has so far illustrated the name that, if there could ever be a Hazlitt Cult, the place would instantly become a shrine. It was a cottage, within easy walking distance of Wilton and Stonehenge; and in 1812 the Hazlitts, who were made one in 1808, departed it—it and the well-beloved woods of Norman Court—for 19 York Street, Westminster. Hence it was that he issued to deliver his first course of lectures; ? and here it was that he entertained those friends he had, made himself a reputation by writing in papers and inagazines, drank hard, and cured himself of drinking, and long ere the end came found his wife insufferable. In the beginning he worked in the Reporters' Gallery, where he made notes (in long hand) for The Morning Chronicle, and learned to take more liquor than was good for him. In this same journal he printed some of his best political work, and broke ground as critic of acting; and he left it only because he could not help quarrelling with its proprietors.
Another stand-by of his was The Champion, to his work in which he owed a not unprofitable connexion with The Edinburgh; yet another, The Examiner, to which, with much dramatic criticism, he contributed, at Leigh Hunt's suggestion, the set of essays reprinted as The Round Table, and in which he may therefore be said to have discovered his avocation, and given the measure of his best quality:
1 The house had been the abode of Milton ; for certain months it had harboured the eminent James Mill; it belonged to the celebrated Jeremy Bentham : so that in the matter of associations Hazlitt, a thorough-paced dissenter, was as well off as he could hope to be.
2 Ten in number : on ‘The Rise and Progress of Modern Philosophy,' as illustrated in the works of Hobbes, Locke and his followers, Hartley, Helvétius, and others. The lectures, Mr. Stephen says, were in part a reproduction of the Principles of Human Action,
3 Haydon says that Waterloo made him drunk for weeks. Then he pulled himself together, and for the rest of his life drank nothing but strong tea. He had, however, no sort of sympathy with those who held the social glass' to be Man's safest introduction to the Pit. He only said that liquor did not agree with him, and looked on cheerfully while his friends—Lamb was as close as any-drank as they pleased.
Then, in 1817, he published his Characters of Shakespeare, which he dedicated to Charles Lamb; in 1818 he reprinted a series of lectures (at the Surrey Institute) on the English poets; 1 in 1819-20 he delivered from the same platform two courses more—on the Comic Writers and the Age of Elizabeth. He wrote for The Liberal, The Yellow Dwarf, The London Magazine-(to which he may very well have introduced the unknown Elia)-Colburn's New Monthly; he returned to the Chronicle in 1824; in 1825 he published The Spirit of the Age, in 1826 The Plain Speaker, the Boswell Redivivus in 1827; and in this last year he set to work, at Winterslow, on a life of Napoleon. That was the beginning of the end. He had no turn for history, nor none for research ; his methods were personal, his results singular and brief; he was as it were an accidental writer, whose true material was in himself. His health broke, and worsened ; his publishers went bankrupt; he lost the best part of the £ 500 which he had hoped to earn by his work; and though, consulting none but anti-English authorities, he lived to complete a book containing much strong thinking and not a few striking passages, it was a thing foredoomed to failure: a matter in which the nation, still hating its tremendous enemy, and still rejoicing in the man and the battle which had brought him to the ground, would not, and could not take an interest. Two volumes were published in 1828 (Sir Walter's Napoleon appeared in 1827), and two more in 1830; but the work of writing them killed the writer.2 His digestion, always feeble, was ruined; and in the September of 1830 he died. He was largely, I should say, a sacrifice to tea, which he drank, in vast quantities, of extraordinary strength. However this be, his ending was (as he'd have loved to put it) • as a Chrissom child's.' 1
1 Both the Characters and the English Poets were reviewed by Gifford in the Quarterly. The style of these reviews' is abject; the inspiration venal; che matter the very dirt of the mind. Gifford hated Hazlitt for his politics, and set out to wither Hazlitt's repute as a man of letters. For the tremendous reprisal with which he was visited, the reader is referred to the Letter to William Gifford, Esq., in the first volume of the present Edition. If he find it over-savage : probably, being of to-day, he will : let him turn to his Quarterly, and consider, if he have the stomach, Gifford and the matter of offence.
? He lived to rejoice in the Revolution of July; but of the great movement in the arts—of Henri Trois et sa Cour and Hernani, of Delacroix and Barye, of Géricault and Bonington and de Vigny, and the rest of its heroes—he seems to have known nothing. That was his way. The new did not exist for him. A dissenter by birth and conviction, he yet cared only for the past, and the elder *glories of our blood and state' were to him, not shadows but, the sole substantial things he could keep room for in the kingdom of his mind.
Thus much, thus all-too little, of his course in print. For his life, despite his many bursts of confidence,' the admissions of his grandson, and the discoveries of such friends as Patmore, the half of it, I think, has to be told to us. This was not his fault, for he was in no sense secretive: he would no more lie about himself than he would lie about Southey or Gifford. His trick of drinking was, while it lasted, public; he proclaimed with all his lungs his frank and full approval of the fundamentals of the Revolution and his preference of Bonaparte before all the Kings in Europe ; he despised Shelley the politician, and rejected Shelley the poet, and he cherished and made the most he could of his resentment against Coleridge and Wordsworth, though his disdain for concealment perilled his friendship with Lamb, and well nigh cost him the far more facile regard of Leigh Hunt; while, as for Byron, he so bitterly resented the noble Lord's' pre-eminency that he made no difference, strongly as he contemned the Laureate, between the Laureate's Vision of Judgment, a piece of English verse immortal by the sheer force of its absurdity, and that other Vision of Judgment, which is one of the great things in English poetry. 'Twas much the same in life. Poor Mrs. Hazlitt, though she was well-read, of no account as an housekeeper, fond of incongruous finery,' and capable of child-bearing withal, was, one may take for granted, not distinguished as a woman. Now, her husband, thinker as he approved himself, was very much of a male. Who runs may read of his early loves—Miss Railton and the rest ; 'tis history—at any rate 'tis history according to Wordsworth 2-that once, in Lakeland, he so dealt with the local beauty
1 'Tis a pleasure to remember that Lamb was with him to the end—was in his death-chamber in the very article of mortality. We have all read Carlyle on Lamb. The everlasting pity is that we shall never read Hazlitt on Carlyle. ? Him Shelley calls a solemn and unsexual man.'