Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Quote, Unquote (William Hazlitt Edition).


William Hazlitt (1778 - 1830)
William Hazlitt was an English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, and as a grammarian and philosopher.

He is now considered one of the great critics and essayists of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell, but his work is currently little-read and mostly out of print.

During his lifetime he befriended many people who are now part of the 19th-century literary canon, including Charles and Mary Lamb, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth.

Following his death in 1830, Hazlitt was buried in the churchyard of St Anne's Church, Soho, London. One of Soho's fashionable hotels is named after the writer - "Hazlitt's Hotel", located on Frith Street, is one of the homes William lived in.

“No one has said to me, Believe this, do that, say what we would have you: no one has come between me and my free-will”
William Hazlitt.

“I have naturally but little imagination, and am not of a very sanguine turn of mind. I have some desire to enjoy the present good, and some fondness for the past; but I am not at all given to build castles in the air, nor to look forward with much confidence or hope to the brilliant illusions held out by the future.”
Essay On the Past and Future (1822).

“Seeing all this as I do, and unravelling the web of human life into its various threads of meanness, spite, cowardice, want of feeling, and want of understanding, of indifference towards others, and ignorance of ourselves, - seeing custom prevail over all excellence, itself giving way to infamy - mistaken as I have been in my public and private hopes, calculating others from myself, and calculating wrong; always disappointed where I placed most reliance; the dupe of friendship, and the fool of love; - have I not reason to hate and to despise myself? Indeed I do; and chiefly for not having hated and despised the world enough.”
On the Pleasure of Hating (c. 1826).

“So I have loitered my life away, reading books, looking at pictures, going to plays, hearing, thinking, writing on what pleased me best. I have wanted only one thing to make me happy; but wanting that, have wanted everything.”
On My First Acquaintance With Poets (1823).

"I was at that time dumb, inarticulate, helpless, like a worm by the way-side, crushed, bleeding, lifeless; but now, bursting from the deadly bands that bound them... my ideas float on winged words, and as they expand their plumes, catch the golden light of other years. My soul has indeed remained in its original bondage, dark, obscure, with longings infinite and unsatisfied; my heart shut up in the prison-house of this rude clay, has never found, nor will it ever find, a heart to speak to; but that my understanding did not also remain dumb and brutish, or at length found a language to express itself, I owe to Coleridge."
On My First Acquaintance With Poets (1823).

Quotes supplied by Joseph Ouseph of Rupert Road, Sheffield.


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4/9/10 18:39

    Excellent stuff. Just one minor point - Though technically I suppose WH did briefly 'live' in the building now called Hazlitt's Hotel, the address is perhaps better known for being the place in which he 'died'. His reported last words: "Well, I've had a happy life...."

    Soon after his death, an anonymous admirer had a memorial stone raised above his grave with the following inscription:

    Here rests
    Born April 10, 1778, Died 18 September, 1830
    He lived to see his deepest wishes gratified
    as he has expressed them in his Essay,
    'on the Fear of Death'.
    'To see the downfall of the Bourbons.
    And some prospect of good to mankind':
    (Charles X
    was driven from France 29th July, 1830).
    'To leave some sterling work to the world':
    (He lived to complete his 'Life of Napoleon').
    His desire
    That some friendly hand should consign
    Him to the grave was accomplished to a
    Limited but profound extent; on
    These conditions he was ready to depart,
    And to have inscribed on his tomb,
    'Grateful and Contented'.
    He was
    The first (unanswered) Metaphysician of the age.
    A despiser of the merely Rich And Great:
    A lover of the People, poor or oppressed:
    A hater of the Pride and Power of the Few,
    As opposed to the happiness of the Many;
    A man of true moral courage,
    Who sacrificed Profit and present Fame
    To Principle,
    And a yearning for the good of Human Nature.
    Who was a burning wound to an Aristocracy,
    That could not answer him before men,
    And who may confront him before their maker.
    He lived and died
    The unconquered champion
    Truth, Liberty, and Humanity,
    'Dubitantes opera legite'.
    This stone
    Is raised by one whose heart is
    With him, in his grave.
    With fraternal thoughts, J. Ouseph