William Hazlitt
Name: William Hazlitt
Occupation: Writer
Gender: Male
Birth Day: April 10, 1778
Death Date: 18 September 1830(1830-09-18) (aged 52)
Soho, London, England
Age: Aged 52
Birth Place: Maidstone, Kent, England, British
Zodiac Sign: Taurus

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William Hazlitt

William Hazlitt was born on April 10, 1778 in Maidstone, Kent, England, British (52 years old). William Hazlitt is a Writer, zodiac sign: Taurus. Nationality: British. Approx. Net Worth: Undisclosed.

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Family Members

# Name Relationship Net Worth Salary Age Occupation
#1 Sarah Stoddart Hazlitt Spouse N/A N/A N/A

Does William Hazlitt Dead or Alive?

As per our current Database, William Hazlitt died on 18 September 1830(1830-09-18) (aged 52)
Soho, London, England.


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Biography Timeline


William, the youngest of the surviving Hazlitt children, was born in Mitre Lane, Maidstone, in 1778. In 1780, when he was two, his family began a nomadic lifestyle that was to last several years. From Maidstone his father took them to Bandon, County Cork, Ireland; and from Bandon in 1783 to the United States, where the elder Hazlitt preached, lectured, and sought a ministerial call to a liberal congregation. His efforts to obtain a post did not meet with success, although he did exert a certain influence on the founding of the first Unitarian church in Boston. In 1786–87 the family returned to England and settled in Wem, in Shropshire. Hazlitt would remember little of his years in America, save the taste of barberries.


Hazlitt was educated at home and at a local school. At age 13 he had the satisfaction of seeing his writing appear in print for the first time, when the Shrewsbury Chronicle published his letter (July 1791) condemning the riots in Birmingham over Joseph Priestley's support for the French Revolution. In 1793 his father sent him to a Unitarian seminary on what was then the outskirts of London, the New College at Hackney (commonly referred to as Hackney College). The schooling he received there, though relatively brief, approximately two years, made a deep and abiding impression on Hazlitt.


Returning home, around 1795, his thoughts were directed into more secular channels, encompassing not only politics but, increasingly, modern philosophy, which he had begun to read with fascination at Hackney. In September 1794, he had met William Godwin, the reformist thinker whose recently published Political Justice had taken English intellectual circles by storm. Hazlitt was never to feel entirely in sympathy with Godwin's philosophy, but it gave him much food for thought. He spent much of his time at home in an intensive study of English, Scottish, and Irish thinkers like John Locke, David Hartley, George Berkeley, and David Hume, together with French thinkers like Claude Adrien Helvétius, Étienne Bonnot de Condillac, the Marquis de Condorcet, and Baron d'Holbach. From this point onwards, Hazlitt's goal was to become a philosopher. His intense studies focused on man as a social and political animal, and, in particular, on the philosophy of mind, a discipline that would later be called psychology.


Around 1796, Hazlitt found new inspiration and encouragement from Joseph Fawcett, a retired clergyman and prominent reformer, whose enormous breadth of taste left the young thinker awestruck. From Fawcett, in the words of biographer Ralph Wardle, he imbibed a love for "good fiction and impassioned writing", Fawcett being "a man of keen intelligence who did not scorn the products of the imagination or apologize for his tastes". With him, Hazlitt not only discussed the radical thinkers of their day, but ranged comprehensively over all kinds of literature, from John Milton's Paradise Lost to Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy. This background is important for understanding the breadth and depth of Hazlitt's own taste in his later critical writings.


On 14 January 1798, Hazlitt, in what was to prove a turning point in his life, encountered Coleridge as the latter preached at the Unitarian chapel in Shrewsbury. A minister at the time, Coleridge had as yet none of the fame that would later accrue to him as a poet, critic, and philosopher. Hazlitt, like Thomas de Quincey and many others afterwards, was swept off his feet by Coleridge's dazzlingly erudite eloquence. "I could not have been more delighted if I had heard the music of the spheres", he wrote years later in his essay "My First Acquaintance with Poets". It was, he added, as if "Poetry and Philosophy had met together. Truth and Genius had embraced, under the eye and with the sanction of Religion." Long after they had parted ways, Hazlitt would speak of Coleridge as "the only person I ever knew who answered to the idea of a man of genius". That Hazlitt learned to express his thoughts "in motley imagery or quaint allusion", that his understanding "ever found a language to express itself," was, he openly acknowledged, something he owed to Coleridge. For his part, Coleridge showed an interest in the younger man's germinating philosophical ideas, and offered encouragement.

Meanwhile, the fact remained that Hazlitt had chosen not to follow a pastoral vocation. Although he never abandoned his goal of writing a philosophical treatise on the disinterestedness of the human mind, it had to be put aside indefinitely. Still dependent on his father, he was now obliged to earn his own living. Artistic talent seemed to run in the family on his mother's side and, starting in 1798, he became increasingly fascinated by painting. His brother, John, had by now become a successful painter of miniature portraits. So it occurred to William that he might earn a living similarly, and he began to take lessons from John.


Later in 1802, Hazlitt was commissioned to travel to Paris and copy several works of the Old Masters hanging in the Louvre. This was one of the great opportunities of his life. Over a period of three months, he spent long hours rapturously studying the gallery's collections, and hard thinking and close analysis would later inform a considerable body of his art criticism. He also happened to catch sight of Napoleon, a man he idolised as the rescuer of the common man from the oppression of royal "Legitimacy".


On 22 March 1803, at a London dinner party held by William Godwin, Hazlitt met Charles Lamb and his sister Mary. A mutual sympathy sprang up immediately between William and Charles, and they became fast friends. Their friendship, though sometimes strained by Hazlitt's difficult ways, lasted until the end of Hazlitt's life. He was fond of Mary as well, and—ironically in view of her intermittent fits of insanity—he considered her the most reasonable woman he had ever met, no small compliment coming from a man whose view of women at times took a misogynistic turn. Hazlitt frequented the society of the Lambs for the next several years, from 1806 often attending their famous "Wednesdays" and later "Thursdays" literary salons.


It was in this period also that he came across Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who became one of the most important influences on the budding philosopher's thinking. He also familiarized himself with the works of Edmund Burke, whose writing style impressed him enormously. Hazlitt then set about working out a treatise, in painstaking detail, on the "natural disinterestedness of the human mind". It was Hazlitt's intention to disprove the notion that man is naturally selfish (benevolent actions being rationally modified selfishness, ideally made habitual), a premise fundamental to much of the moral philosophy of Hazlitt's day. The treatise was finally published only in 1805. In the meantime the scope of his reading had broadened and new circumstances had altered the course of his career. Yet, to the end of his life, he would consider himself a philosopher.

With few commissions for painting, Hazlitt seized the opportunity to ready for publication his philosophical treatise, which, according to his son, he had completed by 1803. Godwin intervened to help him find a publisher, and the work, An Essay on the Principles of Human Action: Being an Argument in favour of the Natural Disinterestedness of the Human Mind, was printed in a limited edition of 250 copies by Joseph Johnson on 19 July 1805. This gained him little notice as an original thinker, and no money. Although the treatise he valued above anything else he wrote was never, at least in his own lifetime, recognised for what he believed was its true worth, it brought him attention as one who had a grasp of contemporary philosophy. He therefore was commissioned to abridge and write a preface to a now obscure work of mental philosophy, The Light of Nature Pursued by Abraham Tucker (originally published in seven volumes from 1765 to 1777), which appeared in 1807 and may have had some influence on his own later thinking.


There was an article on The Tatler itself. Mostly his political commentary was reserved for other vehicles, but included was a "Character of the Late Mr. Pitt", a scathing characterisation of the recently deceased former Prime Minister. Written in 1806, Hazlitt liked it well enough to have already had it printed twice before (and it would appear again in a collection of political essays in 1819).


Hazlitt also contributed three letters to William Cobbett's Weekly Political Register at this time, all scathing critiques of Thomas Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population (1798 and later editions). Here he replaced the dense, abstruse manner of his philosophical work with the trenchant prose style that was to be the hallmark of his later essays. Hazlitt's philippic, dismissing Malthus's argument on population limits as sycophantic rhetoric to flatter the rich, since large swathes of uncultivated land lay all round England, has been hailed as "the most substantial, comprehensive, and brilliant of the Romantic ripostes to Malthus". Also in 1807 Hazlitt undertook a compilation of parliamentary speeches, published that year as The Eloquence of the British Senate. In the prefaces to the speeches, he began to show a skill he would later develop to perfection, the art of the pithy character sketch. He was able to find more work as a portrait painter as well.


In May 1808, Hazlitt married Sarah Stoddart, a friend of Mary Lamb and sister of John Stoddart, a journalist who became editor of The Times newspaper in 1814. Shortly before the wedding, John Stoddart established a trust into which he began paying £100 per year, for the benefit of Hazlitt and his wife—this was a very generous gesture, but Hazlitt detested being supported by his brother-in-law, whose political beliefs he despised. This union was not a love match, and incompatibilities would later drive the couple apart; yet, for a while, it seemed to work well enough, and their initial behavior was both playful and affectionate. Miss Stoddart, an unconventional woman, accepted Hazlitt and tolerated his eccentricities just as he, with his own somewhat offbeat individualism, accepted her. Together they made an agreeable social foursome with the Lambs, who visited them when they set up a household in Winterslow, a village a few miles from Salisbury, Wiltshire, in southern England. The couple had three sons over the next few years, Only one of their children, William, born in 1811, survived infancy. (He in turn fathered William Carew Hazlitt.)


As the head of a family, Hazlitt was now more than ever in need of money. Through William Godwin, with whom he was frequently in touch, he obtained a commission to write an English grammar, published on 11 November 1809 as A New and Improved Grammar of the English Tongue. Another project that came his way was the work that was published as Memoirs of the Late Thomas Holcroft, a compilation of autobiographical writing by the recently deceased playwright, novelist, and radical political activist, together with additional material by Hazlitt himself. Though completed in 1810, this work did not see the light of day until 1816, and so provided no financial gain to satisfy the needs of a young husband and father. Hazlitt in the meantime had not forsaken his painterly ambitions. His environs at Winterslow afforded him opportunities for landscape painting, and he spent considerable time in London procuring commissions for portraits.


In January 1812 Hazlitt embarked on a sometime career as a lecturer, in this first instance by delivering a series of talks on the British philosophers at the Russell Institution in London. A central thesis of the talks was that Thomas Hobbes, rather than John Locke, had laid the foundations of modern philosophy. After a shaky beginning, Hazlitt attracted some attention—and some much-needed money—by these lectures, and they provided him with an opportunity to expound some of his own ideas.

The year 1812 seems to have been the last in which Hazlitt persisted seriously in his ambition to make a career as a painter. Although he had demonstrated some talent, the results of his most impassioned efforts always fell far short of the very standards he had set by comparing his own work with the productions of such masters as Rembrandt, Titian, and Raphael. It did not help that, when painting commissioned portraits, he refused to sacrifice his artistic integrity to the temptation to flatter his subjects for remunerative gain. The results, not infrequently, failed to please their subjects, and he consequently failed to build a clientele.

In October 1812, Hazlitt was hired by The Morning Chronicle as a parliamentary reporter. Soon he met John Hunt, publisher of The Examiner, and his younger brother Leigh Hunt, the poet and essayist, who edited the weekly paper. Hazlitt admired both as champions of liberty, and befriended especially the younger Hunt, who found work for him. He began to contribute miscellaneous essays to The Examiner in 1813, and the scope of his work for the Chronicle was expanded to include drama criticism, literary criticism, and political essays. In 1814 The Champion was added to the list of periodicals that accepted Hazlitt's by-now profuse output of literary and political criticism. A critique of Joshua Reynolds' theories about art appeared there as well, one of Hazlitt's major forays into art criticism.


Having by 1814 become established as a journalist, Hazlitt had begun to earn a satisfactory living. A year earlier, with the prospect of a steady income, he had moved his family to a house at 19 York Street, Westminster, which had been occupied by the poet John Milton, whom Hazlitt admired above all English poets except Shakespeare. As it happened, Hazlitt's landlord was the philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham. Hazlitt was to write extensively about both Milton and Bentham over the next few years.

His circle of friends expanded, though he never seems to have been particularly close with any but the Lambs and to an extent Leigh Hunt and the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon. His low tolerance for any who, he thought, had abandoned the cause of liberty, along with his frequent outspokenness, even tactlessness, in social situations made it difficult for many to feel close to him, and at times he tried the patience of even Charles Lamb. In The Examiner in late 1814, Hazlitt was the first to provide a critique of Wordsworth's poem The Excursion (Hazlitt's review appeared weeks before Francis Jeffrey's notorious dismissal of the poem with the words "This will never do"). He lavished extreme praise on the poet—and equally extreme censure. While praising the poem's sublimity and intellectual power, he took to task the intrusive egotism of its author. Clothing landscape and incident with the poet's personal thoughts and feelings suited this new sort of poetry very well; but his abstract philosophical musing too often steered the poem into didacticism, a leaden counterweight to its more imaginative flights. Wordsworth, who seems to have been unable to tolerate anything less than unqualified praise, was enraged, and relations between the two became cooler than ever.


Though Hazlitt continued to think of himself as a "metaphysician", he began to feel comfortable in the role of journalist. His self-esteem received an added boost when he was invited to contribute to the quarterly The Edinburgh Review (his contributions, beginning in early 1815, were frequent and regular for some years), the most distinguished periodical on the Whig side of the political fence (its rival The Quarterly Review occupied the Tory side). Writing for so highly respected a publication was considered a major step up from writing for weekly papers, and Hazlitt was proud of this connection.

On 18 June 1815, Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. Having idolised Napoleon for years, Hazlitt took it as a personal blow. The event seemed to him to mark the end of hope for the common man against the oppression of "legitimate" monarchy. Profoundly depressed, he took up heavy drinking and was reported to have walked around unshaven and unwashed for weeks. He idolised and spoiled his son, William Jr., but in most respects his household grew increasingly disordered over the following year: his marriage deteriorated, and he spent more and more time away from home. His part-time work as a drama critic provided him with an excuse to spend his evenings at the theatre. Afterwards he would then tarry with those friends who could tolerate his irascibility, the number of whom dwindled as a result of his occasionally outrageous behaviour.


His lecturing in particular had drawn to Hazlitt a small group of admirers. Best known today is the poet John Keats, who not only attended the lectures but became Hazlitt's friend in this period. The two met in November 1816 through their mutual friend, the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon, and were last seen together in May 1820 at a dinner given by Haydon. In those few years before the poet's untimely death, the two read and admired each other's work, and Keats, as a younger man seeking guidance, solicited Hazlitt's advice on a course of reading and direction in his career. Some of Keats's writing, particularly his key idea of "negative capability", was influenced by the concept of "disinterested sympathy" he discovered in Hazlitt, whose work the poet devoured. Hazlitt, on his part, later wrote that of all the younger generation of poets, Keats showed the most promise, and he became Keats's first anthologist when he included several of Keats's poems in a collection of British poetry he compiled in 1824, three years after Keats's death.


For relief from all that weighed on his mind, Hazlitt became a passionate player at a kind of racquet ball similar to the game of Fives (a type of handball of which he was a fan) in that it was played against a wall. He competed with savage intensity, dashing around the court like a madman, drenched in sweat, and was accounted a good player. More than just a distraction from his woes, his devotion to this pastime led to musings on the value of competitive sports and on human skill in general, expressed in writings like his notice of the "Death of John Cavanagh" (a celebrated Fives player) in The Examiner on 9 February 1817, and the essay "The Indian Jugglers" in Table-Talk (1821).

Early in 1817, forty of Hazlitt's essays that had appeared in The Examiner in a regular column called "The Round Table", along with a dozen pieces by Leigh Hunt in the same series, was collected in book form. Hazlitt's contributions to The Round Table were written somewhat in the manner of the periodical essays of the day, a genre defined by such eighteenth-century magazines as The Tatler and The Spectator.


Nonetheless Hazlitt's satisfaction at the relief he gained from his financial woes was supplemented by the positive response his return to the lecture hall received. In early 1818 he delivered a series of talks on "the English Poets", from Chaucer to his own time. Though somewhat uneven in quality, his lectures were ultimately judged a success. In making arrangements for the lectures, he had met Peter George Patmore, Assistant Secretary of the Surrey Institution where the lectures were presented. Patmore soon became a friend as well as Hazlitt's confidant in the most troubled period of the latter's life.


Although Hazlitt rejected the Unitarian theology, his time at Hackney left him with much more than religious scepticism. He had read widely and formed habits of independent thought and respect for the truth that would remain with him for life. He had thoroughly absorbed a belief in liberty and the rights of man, and confidence in the idea that the mind was an active force which, by disseminating knowledge in both the sciences and the arts, could reinforce the natural tendency in humanity towards good. The school had impressed upon him the importance of the individual's ability, working both alone and within a mutually supportive community, to effect beneficial change by adhering to strongly held principles. The belief of many Unitarian thinkers in the natural disinterestedness of the human mind had also laid a foundation for the young Hazlitt's own philosophical explorations along those lines. And, though harsh experience and disillusionment later compelled him to qualify some of his early ideas about human nature, he was left with a hatred of tyranny and persecution that he retained to his dying days, as expressed a quarter-century afterward in the retrospective summing up of his political stance in his 1819 collection of Political Essays: "I have a hatred of tyranny, and a contempt for its tools ... I cannot sit quietly down under the claims of barefaced power, and I have tried to expose the little arts of sophistry by which they are defended."

His thoughts drifted to gloom and misanthropy. His mood was not improved by the fact that by now there was no pretence of keeping up appearances: his marriage had failed. Years earlier he had grown resigned to the lack of love between him and Sarah. He had been visiting prostitutes and displayed more idealised amorous inclinations toward a number of women whose names are lost to history. Now in 1819, he was unable to pay the rent on their rooms at 19 York Street and his family were evicted. That was the last straw for Sarah, who moved into rooms with their son and broke with Hazlitt for good, forcing him to find his own accommodation. He would sometimes see his son and even his wife, with whom he remained on speaking terms, but they were effectively separated.


In August 1820, a month after his father's death at the age of 83, he rented a couple of rooms in 9 Southampton Buildings in London from a tailor named Micaiah Walker. Walker's 19-year-old daughter Sarah, who helped with the housekeeping, would bring the new lodger his breakfast. Immediately, Hazlitt became infatuated with Miss Walker, more than 22 years his junior. (Before much longer, this "infatuation" turned into a protracted obsession.) His brief conversations with Walker cheered him and alleviated the loneliness that he felt from his failed marriage and the recent death of his father. He dreamed of marrying her, but that would require a divorce from Sarah Hazlitt—no easy matter. Finally, his wife agreed to grant him a Scottish divorce, which would allow him to remarry (as he could not had he been divorced in England).


Hazlitt discovered the truth about Tomkins, and from then on his jealousy and suspicions of Sarah Walker's real character afforded him little rest. For months, during the preparations for the divorce and as he tried to earn a living, he alternated between rage and despair, on the one hand, and the comforting if unrealistic thought that she was really "a good girl" and would accept him at last. The divorce was finalised on 17 July 1822, and Hazlitt returned to London to see his beloved—only to find her cold and resistant. They then become involved in angry altercations of jealousy and recrimination. And it was over, though Hazlitt could not for some time persuade himself to believe so. His mind nearly snapped. At his emotional nadir, he contemplated suicide.


By pouring out his tale of woe to anyone he happened to meet (including his friends Peter George Patmore and James Sheridan Knowles), he was able to find a cathartic outlet for his misery. But catharsis was also provided by his recording the course of his love in a thinly disguised fictional account, published anonymously in May 1823 as Liber Amoris; or, The New Pygmalion. (Enough clues were present so that the identity of the writer did not remain hidden for long.)

In 1823 Hazlitt also published anonymously Characteristics: In the Manner of Rochefoucault's Maxims, a collection of aphorisms modelled explicitly, as Hazlitt noted in his preface, on the Maximes (1665–1693) of the Duc de La Rochefoucauld. Never quite as cynical as La Rochefoucauld's, many, however, reflect his attitude of disillusionment at this stage of his life. Primarily, these 434 maxims took to an extreme his method of arguing by paradoxes and acute contrasts. For example, maxim "CCCCXXVIII":

He also found relief, finally, from the Sarah Walker imbroglio. In 1823, Hazlitt had met Isabella Bridgwater (née Shaw), who married him in March or April 1824, of necessity in Scotland, as Hazlitt's divorce was not recognised in England. Little is known about this Scottish-born widow of the Chief Justice of Grenada, or about her interaction with Hazlitt. She may have been attracted to the idea of marrying a well-known author. For Hazlitt, she offered an escape from loneliness and to an extent from financial worries, as she possessed an independent income of £300 per annum. The arrangement seems to have had a strong element of convenience for both of them. Certainly Hazlitt nowhere in his writings suggests that this marriage was the love match he had been seeking, nor does he mention his new wife at all. In fact, after three and half years, tensions likely resulting from (as Stanley Jones put it) Hazlitt's "improvidence", his son's dislike of her, and neglect of his wife due to his obsessive absorption in preparing an immense biography of Napoleon, resulted in her abrupt departure, and they never lived together again.


For now, in any case, the union afforded the two of them the opportunity to travel. First, they toured parts of Scotland, then, later in 1824, began a European tour lasting over a year.

On 1 September 1824, Hazlitt and his wife began a tour of the European continent, crossing the English Channel by steamboat from Brighton to Dieppe and proceeding from there by coach and sometimes on foot to Paris and Lyon, crossing the Alps in Savoy, then continuing through Italy to Florence and Rome, the most southerly point on their route. Crossing the Apennines, they travelled to Venice, Verona, and Milan, then into Switzerland to Vevey and Geneva. Finally they returned via Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France again, arriving at Dover, England, on 16 October 1825.


Before Hazlitt and his new bride set off for the continent, he submitted, among the miscellany of essays that year, one to the New Monthly on "Jeremy Bentham", the first in a series entitled "Spirits of the Age". Several more of the kind followed over the next few months, at least one in The Examiner. Together with some newly written, and one brought in from the "Table-Talk" series, they were collected in book form in 1825 as The Spirit of the Age: Or, Contemporary Portraits.

Hazlitt's time at Vevey was not passed entirely in a waking dream. As at Paris, and sometimes other stopping points such as Florence, he continued to write, producing one or two essays later included in The Plain Speaker, as well as some miscellaneous pieces. A side trip to Geneva during this period led him to a review of his Spirit of the Age, by Francis Jeffrey, in which the latter takes him to task for striving too hard after originality. As much as Hazlitt respected Jeffrey, this hurt (perhaps the more because of his respect), and Hazlitt, to work off his angry feelings, dashed off the only verse from his pen that has ever come to light, "The Damned Author's Address to His Reviewers", published anonymously on 18 September 1825, in the London and Paris Observer, and ending with the bitterly sardonic lines, "And last, to make my measure full,/Teach me, great J[effre]y, to be dull!"

As comfortable as Hazlitt was on settling in again to his home on Down Street in London in late 1825 (where he remained until about mid-1827), the reality of earning a living again stared him in the face. He continued to provide a stream of contributions to various periodicals, primarily The New Monthly Magazine. The topics continued to be his favourites, including critiques of the "new school of reformers", drama criticism, and reflections on manners and the tendencies of the human mind. He gathered previously published essays for the collection The Plain Speaker, writing a few new ones in the process. He also oversaw the publication in book form of his account of his recent Continental tour.


There were times in this turbulent period when Hazlitt could not focus on his work. But often, as in his self-imposed seclusion at Winterslow, he was able to achieve a "philosophic detachment", and he continued to turn out essays of remarkable variety and literary merit, most of them making up the two volumes of Table-Talk. (A number were saved for later publication in The Plain Speaker in 1826, while others remained uncollected.)

There were two extended stops on this excursion: Paris, where the Hazlitts remained for three months; and Vevey, Switzerland, where they rented space in a farmhouse for three months. During those lengthy pauses, Hazlitt accomplished some writing tasks, primarily submitting an account of his trip in several instalments to The Morning Chronicle, which helped to pay for the trip. These articles were later collected and published in book form in 1826 as Notes of a Journey through France and Italy (despite the title, there is also much about the other countries he visited, particularly Switzerland).

In August 1826, Hazlitt and his wife set out for Paris again, so he could research what he hoped would be his masterpiece, a biography of Napoleon, seeking "to counteract the prejudiced interpretations of Scott's biography". Hazlitt "had long been convinced that Napoleon was the greatest man of his era, the apostle of freedom, a born leader of men in the old heroic mould: he had thrilled to his triumphs over 'legitimacy' and suffered real anguish at his downfall".


With his own works failing to sell, Hazlitt had to spend much time churning out more articles to cover expenses. Yet distractions notwithstanding, some of these essays rank among his finest, for example his "On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth", published in The Monthly Magazine (not to be confused with the similarly named New Monthly Magazine) in March 1827. The essay "On a Sun-Dial", which appeared late in 1827, may have been written during a second tour to Italy with his wife and son.

On returning to London with his son in August 1827, Hazlitt was shocked to discover that his wife, still in Paris, was leaving him. He settled in modest lodgings on Half-Moon Street, and thereafter waged an unending battle against poverty, as he found himself forced to grind out a stream of mostly undistinguished articles for weeklies like The Atlas to generate desperately needed cash. Relatively little is known of Hazlitt's other activities in this period. He spent as much time, apparently, at Winterslow as he did in London. Some meditative essays emerged from this stay in his favourite country retreat, and he also made progress with his life of Napoleon. But he also found himself struggling against bouts of illness, nearly dying at Winterslow in December 1827. Two volumes—the first half—of the Napoleon biography appeared in 1828, only to have its publisher fail soon thereafter. This entailed even more financial difficulties for the author, and what little evidence we have of his activities at the time consists in large part of begging letters to publishers for advances of money.


In 1828, Hazlitt found work reviewing for the theatre again (for The Examiner). In playgoing he found one of his greatest consolations. One of his most notable essays, "The Free Admission", arose from this experience. As he explained there, attending the theatre was not merely a great solace in itself; the atmosphere was conducive to contemplating the past, not just memories of the plays themselves or his reviewing of past performances, but the course of his whole life. In words written within his last few months, the possessor of a free admission to the theatre, "ensconced in his favourite niche, looking from the 'loop-holes of retreat' in the second circle ... views the pageant of the world played before him; melts down years to moments; sees human life, like a gaudy shadow, glance across the stage; and here tastes of all earth's bliss, the sweet without the bitter, the honey without the sting, and plucks ambrosial fruits and amaranthine flowers (placed by the enchantress Fancy within his reach,) without having to pay a tax for it at the time, or repenting of it afterwards."


The last conversation (originally published in The Atlas on 15 November 1829, when Hazlitt had less than a year to live) is especially telling. Whether it really occurred more or less as given, or was a construct of Hazlitt's own imagination, it provides perspective on Hazlitt's own position in life at that time.

After a brief stay on Bouverie Street in 1829, sharing lodgings with his son, Hazlitt moved into a small apartment at 6 Frith Street, Soho. He continued to turn out articles for The Atlas, The London Weekly Review, and now The Court Journal. Plagued more frequently by painful bouts of illness, he began to retreat within himself. Even at this time, however, he turned out a few notable essays, primarily for The New Monthly Magazine. Turning his suffering to advantage, he described the experience, with copious observations on the effects of illness and recovery on the mind, in "The Sick Chamber". In one of his last respites from pain, reflecting on his personal history, he wrote, "This is the time for reading. ... A cricket chirps on the hearth, and we are reminded of Christmas gambols long ago. ... A rose smells doubly sweet ... and we enjoy the idea of a journey and an inn the more for having been bed-rid. But a book is the secret and sure charm to bring all these implied associations to a focus. ... If the stage [alluding to his remarks in "The Free-Admission"] shows us the masks of men and the pageant of the world, books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own. They are the first and last, the most home-felt, the most heart-felt of our enjoyments". At this time he was reading the novels of Edward Bulwer in hopes of reviewing them for The Edinburgh Review.


He found some time to return to his earlier philosophical pursuits, including popularised presentations of the thoughts expressed in earlier writings. Some of these, such as meditations on "Common Sense", "Originality", "The Ideal", "Envy", and "Prejudice", appeared in The Atlas in early 1830. At some point in this period he summarised the spirit and method of his life's work as a philosopher, which he had never ceased to consider himself to be; but "The Spirit of Philosophy" was not published in his lifetime. He also began contributing once again to The Edinburgh Review; paying better than the other journals, it helped stave off hunger.

William Hazlitt was buried in the churchyard of St Anne's Church, Soho in London on 23 September 1830, with only his son William, Charles Lamb, P.G. Patmore, and possibly a few other friends in attendance.


His works having fallen out of print, Hazlitt underwent a small decline, though in the late 1990s his reputation was reasserted by admirers and his works reprinted. Two major works then appeared: The Day-Star of Liberty: William Hazlitt's Radical Style by Tom Paulin in 1998 and Quarrel of the Age: The Life and Times of William Hazlitt by A. C. Grayling in 2000. Hazlitt's reputation has continued to rise, and now many contemporary thinkers, poets, and scholars consider him one of the greatest critics in the English language, and its finest essayist.


In 2003, following a lengthy appeal initiated by Ian Mayes together with A. C. Grayling, Hazlitt's gravestone was restored in St Anne's Churchyard, and unveiled by Michael Foot. A Hazlitt Society was then inaugurated. The society publishes an annual peer-reviewed journal called The Hazlitt Review.

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