William Hazlitt: as a British essayist.

Also Read

      William Hazlitt, (1778-1830) too, like Lamb is another example of the intimate, personal essays (which are outside his critical essays). He, too, is a man endowed with a rich zest of life. He tasted life like an epicure. "There was the restless inquisitiveness of the literary vagabond in him". And his miscellaneous essays are the revelations of this delightful personality. It is the flavour of the personality that is the main charm of these essays. His variety of subjects, too, is wide. He tells us the exact circumstances in which he first made acquaintance of books, authors and friends etc.

The style of Hazlitt is individualistic. His style is simple, vigorous and often conversational. His fondness for apt quotations and balanced sentences lend a peculiar charm to it, his diction is pure and expression concise. He is a great master of English style.
William Hazlitt

      Thus Hazlitt recalls how he set up half the night to read Paul and Virginia, which picked up at an inn or sat down to read Rousseau at another inn over a bottle of Sherry and cold chicken; he speaks of his numerous walking tours and the various lovely aspects of nature that he came across and similar other things. He also felt the glamour of London, though not with the force of Lamb. In the treatment of these subjects he occasionally rises to poetic heights, displaying the imagination of a romantic poet. But Hazlitt lacks the delicious humour of Lamb and also the command over pathos. His joy at things is always uttered with a 'gusto', an enthusiasm, which constitutes the main charm of his essays.

      The style of Hazlitt is individualistic. His style is simple, vigorous and often conversational. His fondness for apt quotations and balanced sentences lend a peculiar charm to it, his diction is pure and expression concise. He is a great master of English style. Hazlitt assembled his personal essays in two major serious Table Talk (1821-1822) and The Plain Speaker (1826). Among his famous essays are On Reading Old Books, On Going on a Journey, The Flight, On First Acquaintance with Poets, On Sun-Dial, On Disagreeable People.

      Hazlitt's essays are characterised by 'gusto', although he does not have the variety and vivacity of Lamb's style. De Quincey wrote Confessions of an English Opium-eater, on Murder Considered as one of the fine Arts, Dream Fague etc. His essays are autobiographical sketches. He makes adventures in the world of dreams. His prose is imaginative, musical and impassioned. His prose writings profoundly influenced Ruskin and other prose writers of the Victorian age.

      William Hazlitt is a romantic critic whose studies of Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, Lectures on the English Poets, Lectures on the English Comic Writers and Lectures on the Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth have, however, a particular character of their own. He seized on a play or a poem and gave in a direct vigorous manner a reader's impressions of the work or the character. He agrees with Coleridge that Shakespeare had a natural inspiration and sees everything by intuition. But Hazlitt was less transcendental than Coleridge. He excelled in the knowledge of the passions and description of their earthly reactions. Some knowledge of the world mingled with his aesthetic insight as when he suggested that Shakespeare took their side of the nobles in Coriolanus. He showed no less power of intuitive perception in his Spirit of the Age in which he reviewed the writers of his own time but here allowances must be made for his animosities. He was able to do justice to Pope and to the eighteenth century even while he glorified the Renaissance. Hazlitts prose is lucid and virile, but has less charm than that of Lamb.

Previous Post Next Post