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life, the business of the Liber Amoris and the divorce with his first wife, took place. The first could only be properly described by an abundance of extracts for which there is here no room. Of the second, which, it must be remembered, went on simultaneously with the first, it is sufficient to say that the circumstances are nearly incredible. It was conducted under the Scotch law with a blessed indifference to collusion: the direct means taken to effect it were, if report may be trusted, scandalous; and the parties met during the whole time, and placidly wrangled over money matters, with a callousness which is ineffably disgusting. I have hinted, in reference to Sarah Walker, that the tyranny of "Love unconquered in battle' may be taken by a very charitable person to be a sufficient excuse. In this other affair there is no such palliation; unless the very charitable person should hold that a wife, who could so forget her own dignity, justified any forgetfulness on the part of her husband; and that a husband, who could haggle and chaffer about the terms on which he should be disgracefully separated from his wife, justified any forgetfulness of dignity on the wife's part.
Little has to be said about the rest of Hazlitt's life. Miss Sarah Walker would have nothing to say to him; and it has been already mentioned that the lady whom he afterward married, a Mrs. Bridgewater, had enough of him after a year's experience. He did not outlive this last shock more than five years; and unfortunately his death was preceded by a complete financial breakdown, though he was more industrious during these later years than at any other time, and though he had abundance of well-paid work. The failure of the publishers, who were to have paid him five hundred pounds for his magnum opus, the one-sided and almost valueless Life of Napoleon, had something to do with this, and the dishonesty of an agent is said to have had more, but details are not forthcoming. died on the eighteenth of September, 1830, saying, Well, I have had a happy life; and despite his son's assertion that, like Goldsmith, he had something on his mind, I believe this to have been not ironical but quite sincere.
He was only fifty-two, so that the infirmities of age had not begun to press on him. Although, except during the brief duration of his second marriage, he had always lived by his wits, it does not appear that he was ever in any want, or that he had at any time to deny himself his favorite pleasures of wandering about and being idle when he chose. If he had not been completely happy in his life, he had lived it if he had not seen the triumph of his opinions, he had been able always to hold to them. He was one of those men, such as an extreme devotion to literature now and then breeds, who, by the intensity of their enjoyment of quite commonplace delights-a face passed in the street, a sunset, a quiet hour of reflection, even a well-cooked meal-make up for the suffering of not wholly commonplace woes. I do not know whether even the joy of literary battle did not overweigh the pain of the dishonest wounds which he received from illiberal adversaries. I think that he had a happy life, and I am glad that he had. For he was in literature a great man. I am myself disposed to think that, for all his accesses of hopelessly uncritical prejudice, he was the greatest critic that England has yet produced; and there are some who think (though I do not agree with them) that he was even greater as a miscellaneous essayist than as a critic. is certainly upon his essays, critical and other, that his fame must rest; not on the frenzied outpourings of the Liber Amoris, or upon the one-sided and illplanned Life of Napoleon; still less on his clever-boy essay on the Principles of Human Action, or on his attempts in grammar, in literary compilation and abridgment, and the like. Seven volumes of Bohn's Standard Library, with another published elsewhere containing his writings on Art, contain nearly all the documents of Hazlitt's fame a few do not seem to have been yet collected from his Remains and from the publications in which they originally appeared.
These books-the Spirit of the Age, Table-Talk, The Plain Speaker, The Round Table (including the Conversations with Northcote and Characteristics), Lectures on the English Poets and Comic Writers, Elizabethan Literature and Characters of Shakespeare, Sketches and
Essays (including Winterslow)-represent the work, roughly speaking, of the last twenty years of Hazlitt's life; for in the earlier and longer period he wrote very little, and indeed declares that for a long time he had a difficulty in writing at all. They are all singularly homogeneous in general character, the lectures written as lectures differing very little from the essays written as essays, and even the frantic diatribes of the Letter to Gifford" bearing a strong family likeness to the good-humored reporting of the "On Going to a Fight," or the singularly picturesque and pathetic egotism of the "Farewell to Essay-Writing." This family resem
blance is the more curious because, independently of the diversity of subject, Hazlitt can hardly be said to possess a style or, at least, a manner-indeed, he somewhere or other distinctly disclaims the possession. Yet, irregular as he is in his fashion of writing, no less than in the merit of it, the germs of some of the most famous styles of this century may be discovered in his casual and haphazard work. Everybody knows Jeffrey's question to Macaulay, "Where the devil did you get that style?" If any one will read Hazlitt (who, be it remembered, was a contributor to the Edinburgh) carefully, he will see where Macaulay got that style, or at least the beginning of it, much as he improved on it afterward. Nor is there any doubt that, in a very different way, Hazlitt served as a model to Thackeray, to Dickens, and to many not merely of the most popular but of the greatest writers of the middle of the century. Indeed, in the Spirit of the Age there are distinct anticipations of Carlyle. He had the not uncommon fate of producing work which, little noted by the public, struck those of his juniors who had any literary faculty very strongly. If he had been just by a little a greater man than he was, he would, no doubt, have elaborated an individual manner, and not contented himself with the hints and germs of manners. As it was, he had more of seed than of fruit. And the secret of this is, undoubtedly, to be found in the obstinate individuality of thought which characterized him all through. Hazlitt may sometimes have adopted an opinion precisely because other people did not
hold it, but he never adopted an opinion because other people did hold it. And all his opinions, even those which seem to have been adopted simply to quarrel with the world, were genuine opinions. He has himself drawn a striking contrast in this point between himself and Lamb in one of the very best of all his essays, the beautiful Farewell to Essay-Writing" reprinted in Winterslow. The contrast is a remarkable one, and most men, probably, who take great interest in literature or politics, or indeed in any subject admitting of principles, will be able to furnish similar contrasts from their own experience.
"In matters of taste and feeling, one proof that my conclusions have not been quite shallow and hasty is the circumstance of their having been lasting. I have the same favorite
books, pictures, passages that I ever had; I may therefore presume that they will last me my life-nay, I may indulge a hope that my thoughts will survive me. This continuity of impression is the only thing on which I pride myself. Even Lamb, whose relish of certain things is as keen and earnest as possible, takes
a surfeit of admiration, and I should be afraid to ask about his select authors or particular friends after a lapse of ten years. As for myself, any one knows where to have me. What I have once made up my mind to, I abide by to the end of the chapter."
This is quite true if we add a proviso to it-a proviso, to be sure, of no small importance. Hazlitt is always the same when he is not different, when his political or personal ails and angers do not obscure his critical judgment. His uniformity of principle extends only to the two subjects of literature and of art; unless a third may be added, to wit, the various good things of this life, as they are commonly called. He was not so great a metaphysician as he thought himself. He "shows to the utmost of his knowledge, and that not deep;" a want of depth not surprising when we find him confessing that he had to go to Taylor, the Platonist, to tell him something of Platonic ideas. may be more than suspected that he had read little but the French and English philosophers of the eighteenth century: a very interesting class of persons, but, except Condillac, Hume and Berkeley, scarcely metaphysicians. As for his politics, Hazlitt seems to me to have had no clear political creed at all. He hated something called "the hag legiti
macy," "but for the hag despotism, in the person of Bonaparte, he had nothing but love. How any one possessed of brains could combine Liberty and the first Napoleon in one common worship is, I confess, a mystery too great for me; and I fear that any one who could call "Jupiter Scapin' ""the great est man who ever lived," must be entirely blind to such constituents of greatness as justice, mercy, chivalry, and all that makes a gentleman. Indeed, I fear that gentleman" is exactly what cannot be predicated of Hazlitt. No gentleman could have published the Liber Amoris, not at all because of its so-called voluptuousness, but because of its shameless "kissing and telling." But the most curious example of Hazlitt's weaknesses is the language he uses in regard to those men with whom he had both political and literary differences. That he had provocation in some cases (he had absolutely none from Sir Walter Scott) is perfectly true. But what provocation will excuse such things as the following, all taken from one book, the Spirit of the Age? He speaks of Scott's zeal to restore the spirit of loyalty, of passive obedience, and of non-resistance, as an acknowledgment for his having been created a baronet by a prince of the House of Brunswick.' Alas! for dates and circumstances, for times and seasons, when they stand in the way of a fling of Hazlitt's. In the character of Scott himself an entire page and a half is devoted to an elaborate peroration in one huge sentence, denouncing him in such terms as "pettifogging," littleness, pique,' secret and envenomed blows, slime of rankling malice and mercenary trammels of servility, lies, "garbage," etc., etc. The Duke of Wellington he always speaks of as a brainless noodle, forgetting apparently that the description does not exactly make his idol's defeat more creditable to the vanquished. As for the character of Gifford, and the earlier Letter to Gifford," I should have to print them entire to show the state of Hazlitt's mind in regard to this notorious, and certainly not very amiable, person. His own words, the dotage of age and the fury of a woman," form the best short description of both. He
screams, he foams at the mouth, he gnashes and tears and kicks, rather than fights. Nor is it only on living authors and living persons (as some of his unfavorable critics have said) that he exercises his spleen. His remarks on Burke (Round Table, p. 150) suggest temporary insanity. Sir Philip Sidney (as Lamb, a perfectly impartial person who had no politics at all, pointed out) was a kind of representative of the courtly monarchist school in literature. So down must Sir Philip go; and not only the Arcadia, that vain and amatorious poem" which Milton condemned, but the sonnets which one would have thought such a lover of poetry as Hazlitt must have spared, go down also before his remorseless bludgeon.
But there is no need to say any more of these faults of his, and there is no need to say much of another and more purely literary fault with which he has been charged-the fault of excessive quotation. In him the error lies rather in the constant repetition of the same than in a too great multitude of different borrowings. Almost priding himself on limited study, and (as he tells us) very rarely reading his own work after it was printed, he has certainly abused his right of his right of press most damnably in dry as a remainder biscuit," and of no mark or likelihood," occur to me as the most constantly recurrent tags, but there are many others.
These various drawbacks, however, only set off the merits which almost every lover of literature must perceive in him. in him. In most writers, in all save the very greatest, we look for one or two, or for a few special faculties and capacities, and we know perfectly well that other (generally many other) capacities and faculties will not be found in them at all. We do not dream of finding rollicking mirth in Milton, or gorgeous embroidery of style in Swift, or unadorned simplicity in Browne. in Hazlitt you may find something of almost everything, except the finer kinds of wit and humor; to which last, however, he makes a certain side approach by dint of his appreciation of the irony of Nature and Fate. Almost every other grace of matter and form that can be found in prose may be found at times in his. He is generally thought of as,
and for the most part is, a rather plain and straightforward writer, with few tricks and frounces of phrase and style. Yet most of the fine writing of these latter days is but as crumpled tarlatan to brocaded satin beside the passage on Coleridge in the English Poets, or the description of Winterslow and its neighborhood in the "Farewell to EssayWriting," or "On a Landscape of Nicolas Poussin," in the Table-Talk. Read these pieces and nothing else, and an excusable impression might be given that the writer was nothing if not florid. But turn over a dozen pages, and the most admirable examples of the grave and chaste manner occur. He is an inveterate quoter, yet few men are more original. No man is his superior in lively, gossiping description, yet he could within his limits reason closely and expound admirably. It is indeed almost always necessary when he condemns anything to inquire very carefully as to the reasons of the condemnation. But nothing that he likes is (except Napoleon) ever bad: everything that he praises will repay the right man who, at the right time, examines it to see for what Hazlitt likes it. I have, for my part, no doubt that Miss Sarah Walker was a very engaging young woman; but (though the witness is the same) I have the gravest doubts as to Hazlitt's charges against her.
We shall find this same curious difference everywhere in Hazlitt. He has been talking, for instance, with keen relish of the Conversation of Authors" (it is he, be it remembered, who has handed down to us the immortal debate at one of Lamb's Wednesdays on People one would Like to have Seen"), and saying excellent things about it. Then he changes the key, and tells us that the conversation of Gentlemen and Men of Fashion" will not do. Perhaps not; but the wicked critic stops and asks himself whether Hazlitt had known much of the conversation of Gentlemen and Men of Fashion"? We can find no record of any such experiences of his. In his youth he had no opportunity in his middle age he was notoriously recalcitrant to all the usages of society, would not dress, and scarcely ever dined out except with a few cronies. This does not seem to be the
best qualification for a pronouncement on the question. Yet this same essay is full of admirable things, the most admirable being, perhaps, the description of the man who had you at an advantage by never understanding you." I find, indeed, in looking through my copies of his books, reread for the purpose of this paper, an innumerable and bewildering multitude of essays, of passages and short phrases, marked for reference. In the seven volumes above referred to (to which, as has been said, not a little has to be added) there must be hundreds of separate articles and conversations; not counting as separate the short maxims and thoughts of the Characteristics, and one or two other similar collections, in which, indeed, several passages are duplicated from the Essays. At least two out of every three are characteristic of Hazlitt: not one in any twenty is not well worth reading and, if occasion served, commenting on. They are, indeed, as far from being consecutive as (according to the Yankee) was the conversation of Edgar Poe; and the multitude and diversity of their subjects fit them better for occasional than for continuous reading. Perhaps, if any single volume deserves to be recommended to a beginner in Hazlitt it had better be The Plain Speaker, where there is the greatest range of subject, and where the author is seen in an almost complete repertory of his numerous parts.
But there is not much to choose between it and The Round Table (where, however, the papers are shorter as a rule), Table-Talk, and the volume called, though not by the author, Sketches and Essays. I myself care considerably less for the Conversations with Northcote, the personal element in which has often attracted readers; and the attempts referred to above as Characteristics, avowedly in the manner of La Rochefoucauld, are sometimes merely extracts from the essays, and rarely have the self-containedness, the exact and chiselled proportion, which distinguishes the true "thought" as La Rochefoucauld and some other Frenchmen, and as Hobbes perhaps alone of Englishmen, wrote it. But to criticise these numerous papers is like sifting a cluster of motes, and the mere enumeration of their titles would fill up more
than half the room which I have to spare. They must be criticised or characterised in two groups only, the strictly critical and the miscellaneous, the latter excluding politics; and as for art, I do not pretend to be more than a connoisseur according to Blake's definition, that is to say, one who refuses to let himself be connoisseured out of his senses. I shall only, in reference to this last subject, observe that the singularly germinal character of Hazlitt's work is noticeable here also; for no one who reads the essay on Nicolas Poussin will fail to add Mr. Ruskin to Hazlitt's fair herd of literary children.
His criticism is scattered through all the volumes of general essays; but is found by itself in the series of lectures, or essays (they are rather the latter than the former), on the characters of Shakespeare, on Elizabethan Literature, on the English Poets, and on the English Comic Writers. I cannot myself help thinking that in these four Hazlitt is at his best; though there may be nothing so attractive to the general, and few such brilliant passages as may be found in the Farewell to Essay Writing," in the paper on Poussin, in the "Going to Going to a Fight," in the Going a Journey, and others of the same class. The reason of the preference is by no means a greater interest in the subject of one class than in the subject of another. It is that, from the very nature of the case, Hazlitt's unlucky prejudices interfere much more seldom with his literary work. They interfere sometimes, as in the case of Sidney, as in some remarks about Coleridge and Wordsworth, and elsewhere; but these instances are rare indeed compared with those that occur in the other division. On the other hand, Hazlitt's enthusiastic appreciation of what is good in letters, his combination of gusto with sound theory as to what is excellent in prose and verse, his felicitous method of expression, and the acuteness that kept him from that excessive and paradoxical admiration which both Lamb and Coleridge affected, and which has gained many more pupils than his own moderation, are always present. Nothing better has ever been written than his general view of the subject as an introduction to his Lectures on Elizabethan Literature; and almost all the
faults to be found with it are due merely to occasional deficiency of information, not to error of judgment. He is a little paradoxical on Jonson; but not many critics could furnish a happier contrast than his enthusiastic praise of certain passages of Beaumont and Fletcher, and his cool toning down of Lamb's extravagant eulogy on Ford. He is a little unfair to the Caroline poets; but here the great disturbing influence comes in. If his comparison of ancient and modern literature is rather weak, that is because Hazlitt was anything but widely acquainted with either; and, indeed, it may be said in general that wherever he goes wrong, it is not because he judges wrongly on known facts, but because he either does not know the facts, or is prevented from seeing them by distractions of prejudice. To go through his Characters of Shakespeare would be impossible, and besides, it is a point of honor for one student of Shakespeare to differ with all others. I can only say that I know no critic with whom on this point I differ so seldom as with Hazlitt. Even better, perhaps, are the two sets of lectures on the Poets and Comic Writers. The generalizations are not always sound, for, as must be constantly repeated, Hazlitt was not widely read in literatures other than his own, and his standpoint for comparison is therefore rather insufficient. But take him where his information is sufficient and how good he is! Of the famous four treatments of the dramatists of the Restoration-Lamb's, Hazlitt's, Leigh Hunt's and Macaulay's-his seems to me by far the best. In regard to Butler, his critical sense has for once triumphed over his political prejudice ; unless some very unkind devil's advocate should suggest that the supposed ingratitude of the King to Butler reconciled Hazlitt to him. He is admirable on Burns; and nothing can be more unjust or sillier than to pretend, as has been pretended, that Burns's loose morality engaged Hazlitt on his side. Quincey was often a very acute critic, but anything more uncritical than his attack on Hazlitt's comparison of Burns and Wordsworth in relation to passion, it would be difficult to find. Hazlitt could forgive Swift for being a Tory,' he tells us-which is at any rate more