From William Hazlitt's Political Essays - "Preface."

Hazlitt, William, 1778-1830: Political essays : with sketches of public characters ..

Description : William Hazlitt (1778-1830) developed a variety of identities as a writer: essayist, philosopher, critic of literature, drama, and painting, biographer, political commentator, and polemicist. What unites this variety is his dramatic and passionate intelligence, his unswerving commitment to individual and political liberty, and his courageous opposition to established political and cultural power. Hailed in 1819 as `one of the ablest and most eloquent critics of our nation', Hazlitt was also reviled for his political radicalism by the conservative press of the period. His writing engages with many of the important cultural and political debates of a revolutionary period, and retains its power both to provoke and move the reader.

While it is curiously reminiscent of Coleridge's desponding , Hazlitt's double-pronged disdain here (both for the press and the public) needs to be considered within the context of his own relations with the press, both ministerial and otherwise, if we are to understand why contemporary critics found his own politics so unpalatable. How is it that, formulating as well as he does the necessity of smuggling politics into a sandwich of literature if they are to have any chance of going down with the reading public, his own writing sticks so uncomfortably in the throat of so many of his own readers and reviewers?

A preliminary answer may be read, once again, in Hazlitt's figure of the critic-as-coquette, whose impudent versatility qualifies him to direct fashions, yet renders him vulnerable to appropriation and redirection by party politics. As Hazlitt proceeds to sample the offerings of the periodical press, the criterion that emerges is the correspondence between editorial taste and the "liberal taste" which Hazlitt holds to be "the true characteristic of the age" (16: 232): while the editor of the occasionally fails to bring his pudding to a boil, leaving things in a "confused, unconcocted state," the editor of the errs in the other direction, tampering until "the taste and spirit evaporate" (16: 232).

3. MR. SOUTHEY'S NEW-YEAR'S ODE - Political Essays - Hazlitt

☯ Full Synopsis : "William Hazlitt (1778-1830) developed a variety of identities as a writer: essayist, philosopher, critic of literature, drama, and painting, biographer, political commentator, and polemicist. What unites this variety is his dramatic and passionate intelligence, his unswerving commitment to individual and political liberty, and his courageous opposition to established political and cultural power. Hailed in 1819 as `one of the ablest and most eloquent critics of our nation', Hazlitt was also reviled for his political radicalism by the conservative press of the period. His writing engages with many of the important cultural and political debates of a revolutionary period, and retains its power both to provoke and move the reader."Article| William Hazlitt| Statement ..."

Get this from a library! Political essays. [William Hazlitt]

Similarly directing fashion, polishing manners, and interfering in politics, the operations of the periodical press are distinctly coquettish. Hazlitt even goes so far as to model the contemporary critic on the coquette, announcing that since "we exist in the bustle of the world, and cannot escape from the notice of our contemporaries..., [w]e must please to live, and therefore should live to please. We must look to the public for support" (16: 220). Impudent, witty, bold, and as vulnerable as coquettes, critics rely upon their extraordinary forwardness, their disregard of forms and decorum, to appeal to the vanity of their readers. The success of periodical criticism attends upon its ability to smile and be polite, under cover of which facetious attentions the truly radical critic can essay to smuggle in "politics" past the coquetted gatekeepers.

The Selected Writings Of William Hazlitt Political Essays

Acutely aware as he is of the Janus-faced versatility of criticism (its facility for seduction coupled with its susceptibility to exploitation), Hazlitt re-formulates this dilemma again and again throughout his appraisal of the periodical press. And each time he does so, we can glimpse the constitutive versatility of Hazlitt's own critical posture, that of a political leveller who is nevertheless a defiant cultural highbrow. Although Hazlitt appears to have taken upon himself the task of vindicating the reading public against Coleridge's censorious ridicule, his defense of miscellaneous criticism often amounts to little more than a melancholic acknowledgement of its necessarily miscellaneous character:

While in London Hazlitt became friends with a group of writers with radical political ideas. The group included Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Lamb, William Wordsworth, Thomas Barnes, Henry Brougham, Leigh Hunt, Robert Southey and Lord Byron. At first Hazlitt attempted to become a portrait painter but after a lack of success he turned to writing.

Get this from a library! Political essays, with sketches of public characters.. [William Hazlitt]

Hazlitt's Preface to Political Essays and Walter Scott…

In "On Criticism" (included in the 1821 edition of ), Hazlitt clarifies that the basis of what he derides as "political criticism" is first-and-foremost the "virulence of party spirit," for "the basis of this style of writing is a of impotent spite and dulness, till it is varnished over with the slime of servility, and thrown into a state of unnatural activity by the venom of the most rancorous bigotry" (10: 220). Hazlitt continues, in a voice reminiscent of his contemptuous denunciation of Gifford two years earlier:


On Oct 8, 2008 Stephen Burley published: Hazlitt's Preface to Political Essays and Walter Scott's Old Mortality

The intensely collision of the political with the literary in Hazlitt's own writing marks it as dangerously critical for a periodical press that is (most prominently between Waterloo and Peterloo) singularly preoccupied with the relation between romantic politics and romantic writing, a relation characterized by an aestheticization of politics that is as uncontrollable as it is unavoidable. While a reviewer as sympathetic as Talfourd marginalizes Hazlitt's splenetic invective by insisting on the status of criticism as , Gifford condemns Hazlitt's writing as seditious libel in order to discredit his increasingly celebrated status as a literary critic. Regardless of the partisan politics of the reviewer, Hazlitt's intemperate writing inevitably provokes a display of the critical and ideological anxieties which characterize romantic criticism (including Hazlitt's own). Motivated at either extreme by the seeming necessity of defending literature, literary criticism, and the periodical press against Hazlitt's saucy reading practices, romantic criticism is repeatedly forced to confront the disturbing possibility that Hazlitt's politics not only brand every aspect of his writing, but also empower its resistance to any and all principles of literary taste and decorum, including that law of genre according to which literary criticism is not to be contaminated by politics--unless, of course, it is disguised in a "sandwich of literature."

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This is like a moment from Wordsworth - Hazlitt continued to proclaim his admiration for his poetry long after they quarrelled about politics - and as we read Hazlitt we find a whole series of complex images like this which express philosophical ideas in the same way that Wordsworth's spots of time passages in The Prelude do.