Opinions & Views

The Critical Temper

Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic by David Bromwich; Oxford University Press, New York.

T.S. Eliot: A Study in Character and Style by Ronald Bush; Oxford University Press, New York.

I stumbled on Hazlitt while I was still in college and have some old books of his that cost me 50 cents each-one that I won't part with is the little green volume of The Spirit of the Age in the old Oxford World Classics. Hazlitt also wrote Lectures on the English Comic Writers and Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, which are a great introduction both to them and to his mind. David Bromwich has used the 21 volume edition of The Complete Works which was edited exactly half a century ago. It suggests that if you are going to do Hazlitt, you will have to drop most of everything else.

William Hazlitt was born in 1778 and became, in his short and argumentative life, one of the best of the Romantic critics. Coleridge was more intelligent, but did not cover nearly as great an area. Like Coleridge and Wordsworth, Hazlitt was influenced by the French Revolution. He retained (qualified) admiration for that first of all modern events and, like Stendhal and Balzac, he worshipped Napoleon, he worshiped Napoleon. He certainly knew what 1789 meant:

About the time of the French Revolution, it was agreed that the world had hitherto been in its dotage or its infancy; and that Mr....

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