Related to this, asserts Hazlitt, is the undramatic nature of Wordsworth's own poetry. This is the result of a character flaw, egotism. And yet, Hazlitt reflects, as is frequently the case with men of genius, an egotistic narrowness is often found together with an ability to do one thing supremely well.
English proverbs - Wikiquote
Hazlitt concludes with a psychological analysis of the effect on Wordsworth's character of his disappointment with the poor reception of his poetry. Wordsworth has gained an increasing body of admirers "of late years". This will save him from "becoming the God of his own idolatry! The 20th-century critic Christopher Salvesen notes that Hazlitt's observation in The Spirit of the Age that Wordsworth's poetry is "synthetic"  characterises it best,  and Roy Park in an extensive study expresses the view that Hazlitt, as the poet's contemporary, most completely understood the essence of his poetry as a significant component of the "spirit of the age".
Sir James Mackintosh — , widely admired as one of the most learned men in Europe, was a Scottish lawyer, legislator, educator, philosopher, historian, scholar , and Member of Parliament from to Mackintosh came to Hazlitt's attention as early as , when he published his Vindiciae Gallicae , a defence of the French Revolution, then unfolding. Written as a response to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France , it was warmly received by liberal thinkers of the time.
Mackintosh thereafter became a bitter disappointment to Hazlitt. Looking back at the elder man's change of political sentiments, Hazlitt observed that the lecturer struck a harsh note if he felt it were a triumph to have exulted in the end of all hope for the "future improvement" of the human race; rather it should have been a matter for "lamentation". Eleven years later, in his summing up of Mackintosh's place among his contemporaries, as elsewhere in The Spirit of the Age , Hazlitt attempts a fair reassessment.
As he analyses the characteristics of Mackintosh as a public speaker, a conversationalist, and a scholarly writer, Hazlitt traces the progress of his life, noting his interactions with Edmund Burke over the French Revolution, his tenure as chief judge in India, and his final career as Member of Parliament. Of his qualifications in this regard, Hazlitt remarks, "Few subjects can be started, on which he is not qualified to appear to advantage as the gentleman and scholar. There is scarce an author he has not read; a period of history he is not conversant with; a celebrated name of which he has not a number of anecdotes to relate; an intricate question that he is not prepared to enter upon in a popular or scientific manner.
As he praises Mackintosh's impressive talents and intellect, however, Hazlitt also brings out his limitations. In demolishing his adversaries, including Godwin and the reformers in his famous lectures, Mackintosh "seemed to stand with his back to the drawers in a metaphysical dispensary, and to take out of them whatever ingredients suited his purpose. In this way he had an antidote for every error, an answer to every folly. The writings of Burke, Hume , Berkeley, Paley , Lord Bacon , Jeremy Taylor, Grotius , Puffendorf , Cicero , Aristotle , Tacitus , Livy , Sully , Machiavel , Guicciardini , Thuanus , lay open beside him, and he could instantly lay his hand upon the passage, and quote them chapter and verse to the clearing up of all difficulties, and the silencing of all oppugners.
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In his characteristic fashion, Hazlitt looks back to an earlier subject of these essays and compares Mackintosh with Coleridge. While the latter's genius often strays from reality, his imagination creates something new. Mackintosh, on the other hand, with a similarly impressive command of his subject matter, mechanically presents the thinking of others.
There is no integration of his learning with his own thinking, no passion, nothing fused in the heat of imagination. This preference for book learning and lack of intense involvement in the world around him were detrimental to Mackintosh's later career, even though he drifted back to a more liberal political stance.
Hazlitt, who heard him speak in Parliament, observes that, just as his previous appointment as a judge in India was unsuited to a man who worked out his thought in terms of "school-exercises", Mackintosh's mind did not fit well the defender of political causes, which needed more passionate engagement. Too much "interest" rather than pure "love of truth" enters into the decisions made in Parliament. And "the judgment of the House is not a balance to weigh scruples and reasons to the turn of a fraction. Sir James, in detailing the inexhaustible stores of his memory and reading, in unfolding the wide range of his theory and practice, in laying down the rules and the exceptions, in insisting upon the advantages and the objections with equal explicitness, would be sure to let something drop that a dexterous and watchful adversary would easily pick up and turn against him Mackintosh, like Coleridge, shines as one of the great conversationalists in an age of "talkers, not of doers".
In speaking, as in his later writing, the "trim, pointed expression [and] ambitious ornaments There is no principle of fusion in the work; he strikes after the iron is cold, and there is a want of malleability in the style. However much Hazlitt tries to be fair to Mackintosh, in the view of Tom Paulin, nearly two centuries later, subtle stylistic elements in his account of Mackintosh, even in the latter's triumphant lectures, undermine his own account of him as an impressively learned man, casting the scholarly jurist and Member of Parliament in a ridiculous light and showing him to be "a self-caricaturing absurdity".
Thomas Robert Malthus — was an English clergyman, philosopher, economist, and educator whose Essay on the Principle of Population shocked the philosophers and social reformers of Europe in , sparking two centuries of controversy about human population and its control. In Hazlitt's day, at least one major political faction claimed that direct public assistance to alleviate poverty was ineffective, maintaining that businesses pursuing profit would automatically result in the best social conditions possible, allowing the inevitability of some attrition of the poor by disease and starvation.
The attempt to use Malthus's ideas to change the Poor Laws came in , and the controversy was stirred to a fever pitch. As one of the first critics of Malthusian theory, Hazlitt was afterward noted to have influenced later Malthusian critics, though he was typically uncredited.
By the time he came to compose his account of Malthus for The Spirit of the Age , Hazlitt had acquired perspective and achieved a more balanced view of his subject. He notes at the outset that "Mr. Malthus has been the first to bring into general notice, and as we think, to establish beyond the fear of contradiction.
Hazlitt then lays out several things we should know if we are to accept this proposition. First, the idea was not at all original with Malthus but was conceived, even in many details, "in an obscure and almost forgotten work published about the middle of the last century, entitled Various Prospects of Mankind, Nature, and Providence , by a Scotch gentleman of the name of Wallace.
The Structure of an Expository Essay
The "geometrical" and "arithmetical" ratios constitute a fallacy, Hazlitt claims; for agricultural crops, like the human population, would grow geometrically if there were room to contain them. Malthus is to be credited for showing that "population is not as had been sometimes taken for granted an abstract and unqualified good". This emphasis on vice and misery, and the alleged "geometric" nature of human population increase, was brought to bear by Malthus as an alarm raised against all Utopian schemes of human improvement, such as that in "Mr.
Godwin's Enquiry concerning Political Justice. This we conceive to be the boldest paralogism that was ever offered to the world, or palmed upon willing credulity. Malthus", The Spirit of the Age. On the other hand, at those times when Malthus does allow for "moral restraint" as a population check, and allows that "its influence depends greatly on the state of laws and manners", then " Utopia stands where it did, a great way off indeed, but not turned topsy-turvy by our magician's wand! Malthus might have created a much better book, suggests Hazlitt, "a great work on the principle of population".
Malthus's 'gospel is preached to the poor. Hazlitt, as in many of these sketches anticipating modern journalism by mingling a personal sketch with his discussions of a contemporary's ideas, concludes by stepping back and acknowledging Malthus's "correct and elegant" style. His "tone of controversy [is] mild and gentlemanly; and the care with which he has brought his facts and documents together, deserves the highest praise. Two centuries later, critic Roy Park noted the significance of Hazlitt's criticism: Hazlitt understood Malthus's weaknesses as those common to many philosophers of the age, a reliance on excessive "abstraction", along with the erroneous belief that, man being inherently selfish, only selfish individual action results in public good.
William Gifford — was an English satirical poet, translator, literary critic, and editor , most notably of the influential periodical The Quarterly Review. Notorious for his staunchly conservative political and religious views and for his merciless attacks on writers of liberal political sympathies, Gifford was, as was widely known, hired by Tory government officials for the express purpose of vilifying the characters of authors deemed dangerous by the government. The following year, after the second edition of Hazlitt's Characters of Shakespear's Plays had just been published, Gifford followed it with a review that resulted in the near drying-up of the sales of that book.
Hazlitt had had enough, and, after having responded in vain in some short essays, had published at his own expense an page pamphlet, A Letter to William Gifford, Esq. By the time Hazlitt penned The Spirit of the Age five years later, he had cooled somewhat but still produced a portrait of Gifford that was laced throughout with satire. Hazlitt introduces his characterisation by summing up Gifford's background, position, and skills: "The low-bred, self-taught man, the pedant, and the dependant on the great contribute to form the Editor of the Quarterly Review.
He is admirably qualified for this situation, which he has held for some years, by a happy combination of defects, natural and acquired Hazlitt then elaborates on the nature of Gifford's skills as a critic, which amount to practising a very narrow, nitpicking form of criticism. There is nothing liberal, nothing humane in this style of judging; it is altogether petty, captious, and literal. Gifford", The Spirit of the Age. Hazlitt goes on to note his belief that Gifford shows such narrowness in his reviews not simply because he is a political tool, but because he really cannot understand literary originality.
He inclines, by a natural and deliberate bias, to the traditional in laws and government; to the orthodox in religion; to the safe in opinion; to the trite in imagination; to the technical in style; to whatever implies a surrender of individual judgment into the hands of authority, and a subjection of individual feeling to mechanic rules. These limitations, according to Hazlitt's psychological analysis, caused Gifford himself internal pain—"he is tetchy and impatient of contradiction; sore with wounded pride; angry at obvious faults, more angry at unforeseen beauties"  —as well as leading him to inflict undeserved damage on the literary reputations of others of far superior talents.
Hazlitt then brings up the case of the then deceased poet John Keats, whom Hazlitt had been among the first to recognize as "a true poet". Agnes ", after which he offers for comparison some of Gifford's own poetry, "improverished lines" written "in a low, mechanic vein",  stating that the reader might easily judge which was superior, and lamenting that it was only for his low birth and his political associations that Keats with "his fine talents and wounded sensibilities" was "hooted out of the world" by Gifford or someone writing under his editorship. Hazlitt then elaborates on the methods of Gifford's Quarterly Review , in which he and his "friends systematically explode every principle of liberty, laugh patriotism and public spirit to scorn, resent every pretence to integrity as a piece of singularity or insolence, and strike at the root of all free inquiry or discussion, by running down every writer as a vile scribbler and a bad member of society, who is not a hireling and a slave.
Hazlitt next steps back and sums up Gifford's other skills, as a satirist and as a textual editor of old dramatists. In the latter capacity, Hazlitt notes his one positive accomplishment. While as a satirist he is "violent Gifford is entitled to considerable praise for the pains he has taken in revising the text, and for some improvements he has introduced into it. Hazlitt never mellowed in his attitude toward Gifford as he did toward his "apostate" former friends,  but as a result he created a sketch that has come to be recognized as a "masterpiece of invective".
Francis Jeffrey — , later Lord Jeffrey, was a Scottish jurist, Whig politician, literary critic, and editor of and major contributor to the quarterly Edinburgh Review. Arising from the intellectual ferment in Edinburgh around the turn of the 19th century, the Edinburgh was the first periodical of its kind to engage in extensive analysis and broad commentary, in which a "review" was really "an extended article based on a book and frequently departing from it.
With a distinct Whig political bias, but also notable for encouraging fair, open discourse,  and with a mission of educating the upper and increasingly literate middle classes, the Edinburgh Review was the most prestigious and influential periodical of its kind in Europe for more than two decades at the time Hazlitt wrote this sketch. Hazlitt's connection with Jeffrey was never close, but it played an important role in his career. Hazlitt, on his part, was always grateful for the support. So closely identified was Jeffrey with the Edinburgh Review that Hazlitt begins this sketch without referring to him directly.
Instead, he contrasts Jeffrey's periodical with the Quarterly Review , to the detriment of the latter, continuing a theme from the preceding sketch of Gifford. The Quarterly , notes Hazlitt, was founded in reaction to the Edinburgh and to the latter's "spirit Hazlitt then assures his readers that he does "not implicitly bow to the political opinions, nor to the critical decisions of the Edinburgh Review After praising the Edinburgh Review 's general attempts at fairness, Hazlitt begins to note the flaws in its critical tone and method.
For instance, in arguing a position, the Edinburgh allows too much to the opposite side "from an affectation of magnanimity and candour". Also, in its attempts to be fair to Malthus, it went too far, and ended by "screen[ing] his errors.
Finally, Hazlitt focuses on Jeffrey himself. As with his assessment of the Review , he begins with copious praise, then qualifies it as he goes along. Jeffrey is perfectly suited for his office of editor of this periodical, as a "person in advance of the age, and yet perfectly fitted both from knowledge and habits of mind to put a curb upon its rash and headlong spirit.
Jeffrey is neither a bigot nor an enthusiast. He is not the dupe of the prejudices of others, nor of his own. Jeffrey", The Spirit of the Age. There are, Hazlitt notes, flaws in the man as in the periodical: "A too restless display of talent, a too undisguised statement of all that can be said for and against a question, is perhaps the great fault that is to be attributed to him.
Hazlitt then considers Jeffrey's writing style: "He is a master of the foils. His strength consists in great range of knowledge, an equal familiarlty with the principles and details of a subject, and in a glancing brilliancy and rapidity of style. From Jeffrey's writing style, Hazlitt transitions to the conversational abilities of the man in company and it is only in "mixed company" that "Mr.
Jeffrey shines". Jeffrey's conversation is equally lively, various and instructive. Whether it be politics, or poetry, or science, or anecdote, or wit, or raillery, he takes up his cue without effort" and provides "an uninterrupted flow of cheerfulness and animal spirits" and enormous "fund of information". In addition, he shows too much of the lawyer: "what is said by another, seems to make no impression on him; he is bound to dispute, to answer it, as if he was in Court". This makes Jeffrey "too didactic, too pugnacious, too full of electric shocks, too much like a voltaic battery", and he "reposes too little on his own excellent good sense, his own love of ease, his cordial frankness of temper and unaffected candour.
Hazlitt concludes with warm praise, presenting Jeffrey as "a person that no one knows without esteeming He is a Scotchman without one particle of hypocrisy, of cant, of servility, or selfishness in his composition. Later critics have judged this sketch of Jeffrey as largely positive—Paulin emphasises that Hazlitt's characterisation of his personality as "electric" and constantly in motion generally signified high praise from Hazlitt, valuing life over mechanism—but also incorporating serious criticism.
Hazlitt's sketch combining Henry Brougham and Sir Francis Burdett is the first of a number of mostly shorter essays concluding The Spirit of the Age , sometimes thought to mark a falling off in quality. Henry Brougham — , later Lord Brougham and Vaux, was a lawyer, Member of Parliament, and cofounder of and major contributor to the Edinburgh Review. A lifelong reformer, he was involved in the abolition of slavery, support for the freedom of religion, and the spread of educational opportunities for the lower and middle classes,  and assisted in effecting major legal reforms. Much for which he would later become famous was accomplished after Hazlitt's death, however, such as helping to pass into law the Great Reform Bill of Hazlitt knew Brougham chiefly as a Parliamentary speaker and contributor to the Edinburgh Review.
In this brief account, he focuses on Brougham primarily as a representative of a class of speakers, typifying "Scotch eloquence", which Hazlitt contrasts with "Irish eloquence", a topic he had broached in the sketch of Mackintosh, and had explored at length in the article "On the Present State of Parliamentary Eloquence" in the October issue of The London Magazine. Scottish eloquence is concerned only with facts, presented in dry, plodding monotonous fashion.
If the Irish orator riots in a studied neglect of his subject and a natural confusion of ideas, playing with words, ranging them into all sorts of combinations, because in the unlettered void or chaos of his mind there is no obstacle to their coalescing into any shapes they please, it must be confessed that the eloquence of the Scotch is encumbered with an excess of knowledge, that it cannot get on for a crowd of difficulties, that it struggles under a load of topics, that it is so environed in the forms of logic and rhetoric as to be equally precluded from originality or absurdity, from beauty or deformity Hazlitt presents both Mackintosh, whom he had already profiled, and Brougham as exemplifying the pinnacle of Scottish eloquence, which fails to attain great heights because of its "dry and rigid formality".
Thus, just as Mackintosh weights his arguments with "abstract principles" found in "old authors",  Brougham, whom Hazlitt had witnessed in Parliamentary debate,  loads his with innumerable facts, impossible for an impatient audience to follow. Brougham is "apprised of the exact state of our exports and imports Burdett", The Spirit of the Age. Hazlitt then narrows his focus, ironically exclaiming: "Mr.
Brougham has one considerable advantage in debate: he is overcome by no false modesty, no deference to others. He has no reserve of discretion, no Drawing on his personal experience, Hazlitt narrows his focus still further by observing that "Mr. Brougham speaks in a loud and unmitigated tone of voice, sometimes almost approaching to a scream. He is fluent, rapid, vehement, full of his subject, with evidently a great deal to say, and very regardless of the manner of saying it. Yet the scope of Brougham's interests and accomplishments is remarkable in itself.
After addressing the public in an election he might on returning home complete an article, three or four of which would be published in a single number of the Edinburgh Review. He has, Hazlitt continues, mastered several languages, "is a capital mathematician",  and, "among other means of strengthening and enlarging his views, has visited Presenting a marked contrast to Brougham, whom Hazlitt believed to have shown some of the deviousness of in Hazlitt's formulation the typical Scot,  Hazlitt subjoins a brief sketch of Sir Francis Burdett.
Burdett — , scion of the Burdett family of Bramcote, was a member of parliament from until his death. A celebrated reformer and friend of the people, his connection to Hazlitt goes back to the gatherings of Horne Tooke, of whom Burdett had been a follower,  and, in later years, to his representing Parliament as Member for Westminister, where Hazlitt was a householder from to , and thus could vote for him. Burdett is "a plain, unaffected, [and] unsophisticated English gentleman, Burdett's only flaw, according to Hazlitt, who gently chides him for the error, is that he believed that the source of liberty in modern times was to be found in the English constitution of old Hazlitt ascribes liberty to "the growth of books and printing".
Otherwise, Hazlitt's praise of Burdett is unstinting. He finds Sir Francis a man of courage, honesty, and integrity. He has the firmness of manhood with the unimpaired enthusiasm of youthful feeling about him. Eldon was respected for his legal subtlety and for having enacted major legal decisions;  as an arch-conservative, however, he was also widely hated. Eldon, as Lord Chancellor, later continued to help enforce the government's severe reaction to the civil unrest in the wake of the French Revolution and during the Napoleonic Wars , and was a notoriously persistent blocker of legal reforms as well as of the speedy resolution of lawsuits over which he presided.
As both Attorney General and Lord Chancellor, Eldon consistently stood against every humanitarian principle that Hazlitt had so fervently supported. Nevertheless, paradoxically, in person, Lord Eldon, as Hazlitt found, just as consistently presented himself as a kindly, amiable, even humble soul. What passes in the world for "good-nature", Hazlitt argues, "is often no better than indolent selfishness".
The Lord Chancellor, as an example of a good-natured man, "would not hurt a fly Their charity begins and ends at home. Wilberforce", The Spirit of the Age. As was frequently noted at the time, and Hazlitt reminds his readers, Lord Eldon delights in investigating the mazes of the law, and will prolong a case as necessary to decide fairly between participants in a legal matter; and the decision, however protracted the delay, might well be a fair one. In this, Hazlitt notes, Eldon has been consistent, "a thorough-bred Tory The Lord Chancellor does this not out of malice; his persistent failure to sympathise with the suffering of the common man is due to his blindness to it.
This in turn is enabled by the persistent underlying support of royal favour, along with other motives: "The King's hand is velvet to the touch—the Woolsack is a seat of honour and profit! Thus Lord Eldon presents himself to others as a pleasant person, "without one trace of pride, of spleen, or discontent in his whole demeanor".
Thus "there has been no stretch of power attempted in his time that he has not seconded: no existing abuse, so odious or absurd, that he has not sanctioned On all the great questions that have divided party opinion or agitated the public mind, the Chancellor has been found uniformly on the side of prerogative and power, and against every proposal for the advancement of freedom.
For the book, Hazlitt added, as an interesting contrast, a sketch of William Wilberforce. William Wilberforce — was a prominent and long-serving Member of Parliament — , best known as a lifelong Abolitionist and campaigner against the slave trade. As an Evangelical Christian , he was a central member of the Clapham Sect. While celebrated for his tireless campaigning against slavery, Wilberforce was also frequently criticised for his conservative political position, supporting repressive domestic policies in the wake of the French Revolution and the period of the Napoleonic Wars,  including even what became known as the " Peterloo massacre ", with the journalist William Cobbett going so far as to accuse Wilberforce of "hypocrisy".
As with Lord Eldon, Hazlitt takes a psychological approach in his assessment of Wilberforce, whom he had been watching and thinking about for years. Differing with Cobbett, Hazlitt does not believe that Wilberforce is a true hypocrite. Rather, Wilberforce speaks "cant", that is, as Hazlitt explains, he vociferously expresses his religious beliefs while unwilling or unable to practise them consistently. Wilberforce is a man "of many excellent and admirable qualifications": he is eloquent, "amiable, charitable, conscientious, pious, loyal, [and] humane".
But he is also "tractable to power" and "accessible to popularity". Wilberforce's first object and principle of action is to do what he thinks right: his next and that we fear is of almost equal weight with the first is to do what will be thought so by other people. So in love with praise, both popular and in the highest circles, is Wilberforce, observes Hazlitt, that he was even half inclined to give up his favourite cause, abolition of the slave trade, when William Pitt , the Prime Minister, was set to abandon it,  and he sided with Pitt in approval of the repressive measures then imposed by the government in Britain and the government's later severe measures during the period of the Napoleonic Wars and afterward.
He must give no offence. He preaches vital Christianity to untutored savages; and tolerates its worst abuses in civilized states. In the words of Wilberforce biographer William Hague , who quotes Hazlitt's Spirit of the Age criticism, "Hazlitt considered that Wilberforce meant well, but would never risk becoming unpopular with the ruling establishment: 'He In line with his practice of interweaving personal elements into these sketches, Hazlitt briefly summarises the character of Wilberforce's speeches in Parliament: "Mr.
Wilberforce's style of speaking is not quite parliamentary , it is halfway between that and evangelical. As in all things, he must have things both ways: "He is altogether a double-entendre Hazlitt concludes by exclaiming that to him, the real hero of the Abolitionist movement is not Wilberforce, but Thomas Clarkson , a man who persisted in the fight consistently without Wilberforce's "equivocation": with his "Herculean labours of body, and equally gigantic labors of mind", Clarkson was "the true Apostle of human Redemption on that occasion.
George Canning — was an English politician, a long-time Member of Parliament, who also held several powerful and influential government offices, most notably that of British Foreign Secretary —, — For a few months at the end of his life he was Prime Minister. In his early years he was also a satiric poet. Canning was acclaimed as a powerful orator  and in later years for his achievements in international diplomacy. Canning was the cleverest boy at Eton", exclaims Hazlitt, opening his sketch with a focus on Canning's personal character. Later he merely transplanted his manner of speaking to the equally artificial climate of Parliament.
As a member of parliament, he was always too insulated from his constituents to be able to understand them. Canning's oratory, Hazlitt maintains, is entirely artificial, his "reasoning a tissue of glittering sophistry Canning", The Spirit of the Age. A master of sophistry, Canning can make a superficial case for any political action. Often it seems that his arguments follow his whims.
Although Canning's arguments may seem arbitrary, so that sometimes some good may come of them, examination of their tendency shows a darker influence: that of support of "Legitimacy", warmongering for the restoration of Bourbon royalty on the European continent, with disastrous consequences. By unpredictable, seemingly arbitrary but carefully calculated movements, Canning "advances boldly to 'the deliverance of mankind'—into the hands of legitimate kings, but can do nothing to deliver them out of their power.
Yet, after Napoleon's defeat, when the Bourbon King Ferdinand was restored to the Spanish throne but then broke all his promises to abide by a constitutional government and turned into a brutal oppressor,  Canning's argument was that it would be " Quixotic " to interfere in Spain's affairs in any attempt to support the Spanish people. Winding up this account of George Canning as sophist in the service of devious political ends, Hazlitt maintains that his career is a significant example of the "Genius of the Age".
Canning's success as an orator, and the space he occupies in the public mind, are strong indications of the Genius of the Age, in which words have obtained a mastery over things 'and to call evil good and good evil,' is thought the mark of a superior and happy spirit. But his satire, Hazlitt maintains, is of a shallow kind founded in dismissal of human feeling, in superficial contempt for the true poetry of life. This sketch, originally an unsigned contribution to The Examiner of 11 July , entitled "Character of Mr.
Canning", appeared in book form only in the Paris edition of The Spirit of the Age. William Cobbett — was an English journalist, farmer, social commentator and reformer, and a prolific author of books on gardening, household economy , religion, and other topics, including a popular grammar. His self-published Cobbett's Political Register scornfully nicknamed "two-penny trash" by the political opposition, as it was affordable by labourers of modest means  was the most popular political journal of the day.
In agreement about the wrongheadedness of Thomas Malthus's economic theories, Hazlitt and Cobbett met in or around when the latter published a series of Hazlitt's essays criticising Malthus, in the form of pseudonymous letters, in the Political Register. Cobbett, asserts Hazlitt, is like the great prize-fighter Cribb —the most effective living political writer, as well as one of the best writers of any kind in the English language, so powerful in verbal combat that he amounts to a " fourth estate " in the politics of Great Britain.
It is like that of Edmund Burke, which Hazlitt admired immensely,  in only one way, namely, that he is sui generis , and his style is not quite like anyone else's. He is, Hazlitt grants, somewhat like Thomas Paine in his popular appeal and sympathy with the cause of the common man; but even then there are significant differences. Paine is a "sententious" and "poetical" writer; many of his lines are memorable and quotable.
Cobbett's writing contains almost nothing suitable for quotation. Prosaic and down to earth, it produces its effects by the incessant accumulation of closely observed details. Cobbett, Hazlitt observes, is so powerful a verbal combatant that one would think him unopposable, that "not only no individual, but no corrupt system could hold out against his powerful and repeated attacks. These include a maddening inconsistency, as well as an unwillingess to compromise or collaborate with others.
In fact, he antagonizes his would-be supporters along with his opponents: "with the same weapon" he uses against his enemies, he also "lays his friends low, and puts his own party hors de combat. Cobbett", The Spirit of the Age. But Cobbett is not dishonest, servile, or mercenary. He believes in what he fights for, for the moment. He is not wedded to his notions, not he. He has not one Mrs. Cobbett among his opinions. With his usual psychological focus, Hazlitt observes that Cobbett takes pleasure only in opposition.
As soon as it seems that he has gained ground and the other party has backed off, he loses interest and retreats. He is interested in the truth, but not in holding his ground founded on "fixed principles" kept constantly in mind. In short, wherever power is, there is he against it. I do not think this is vanity or fickleness so much as a pugnacious dispostion, that must have an antagonist power to contend with, and only finds itself at ease in systematic opposition. Cobbett "likes the cut and thrust, the falls, bruises, and dry blows of an argument The amusement is over, when the matter is once fairly decided.
Cobbett even brought Paine's bones back with him from the United States to England, planning to erect a monument. But then his enthusiasm dwindled, and he " ratted from his own project", and went off to fight other battles. Cobbett attacks only until he meets serious opposition, and then runs away, like a bullying schoolboy. Pursuing his analysis, Hazlitt stops to consider a major cause of Cobbett's inconsistency: the "want of a regular education. Anyone with a conventional education would know enough of what has been thought before to be discouraged from believing that the kind of discoveries Cobbett made about corruption are anything new, would be less likely to be impressed by the originality of his own discoveries.
He would know that there has been evil and corruption in the world before him, and be more likely to remain content with things as they are. There is an advantage, however, in learning things for oneself. Cobbett, discovering the world anew, understands it better in its small details, and is better equipped to persuade others. Cobbett's observations are always fresh. He is in the constant hurry and fever of gestation: his brain teems incessantly with some fresh project. Hazlitt in conclusion shows his subject in a favourable light, appending a footnote with his impression of Cobbett's appearance on the occasion when they met: "Mr.
Cobbett speaks almost as well as he writes", although does not seem to care about how extreme some of his critical expressions might be. Later commentators have noted how Cobbett was filled with the prejudices of the age. A century and a half later, biographer A.
Grayling applauded Hazlitt's preserving in this essay Cobbett's appearance, down to the details of "the flaps of [his] waistcoat pockets",  while James Sambrook noted that Hazlitt "caught perfectly Cobbett's political temper, and the vitality which can thrive only on opposition", declaring that Hazlitt's account of Cobbett "remains far and away the best characterization of Cobbett as a man and writer Thomas Campbell — was a Scottish poet and the editor of the New Monthly Magazine , where several of the essays that were later incorporated into The Spirit of the Age were first published.
With the publication of his poem "The Pleasures of Hope", written in the formal language and rhymed couplets characteristic of an earlier period though also with some traits of the emerging Romantic period ,  Campbell was catapulted into fame, becoming one of the most popular poets of the day, far more so than his Romantic contemporaries Wordsworth and Coleridge, whose Lyrical Ballads had been issued the previous year. Despite the popular acclaim, "The Pleasures of Hope" did not gain critical favour, Hazlitt being one of the disapproving critics.
In his Lectures on the English Poets , he heaped scorn on the poem's sacrificing "sense and keeping in the ideas" to a "jingle of words and epigrammatic turn of expression". Still embodying some of the conventions and the formality of Augustan poetry, it was also heavily sentimental like much literature of the later 18th century. But in its narration of a specific event based on historical fact however loosely , its exotic setting, and its verse form, the Spenserian stanza , it belonged to the emerging Romantic era though the Spenserian stanza dated back hundreds of years, many of Campbell's contemporaries were experimenting with such older verse forms.
In his Lectures , after severely censuring "The Pleasures of Hope", Hazlitt pauses to observe that Gertrude of Wyoming is better, with some bright spots. By the time he wrote the present essay in , his overall attitude toward the earlier poem had softened, and he compares it favourably to the "too effeminate" Samuel Rogers ' "The Pleasures of Memory" on the one hand, and the overly "extravagant" poetry of Lord Byron on the other.
Crabbe", The Spirit of the Age. The more recent Gertrude of Wyoming now receives yet greater approbation, containing, as Hazlitt had come to feel, "passages of so rare and ripe a beauty, that they challenge, as they exceed all praise. The only qualification Hazlitt makes is in his noting that the achievement of this poem is "chiefly in sentiment and imagery":. The story moves slow, and is mechanically conducted, and rather resembles a Scotch canal carried over lengthened aqueducts and with a number of locks in it, than one of those rivers that sweep in their majestic course, broad and full, over Transatlantic plains and lose themselves in rolling gulfs, or thunder down lofty precipices.
Hazlitt then heaps praise on some of Campbell's shorter verse, much of which was about warfare, quoting in full his "Battle of Hohenlinden" about the battle of that name between the Austrians and Bavarians, and the French, and calling Campbell's short poem "of all modern compositions the most lyrical in spirit and in sound. Later commentators on Campbell's poetry and Hazlitt's extravagant praise of it have noted this as one instance in The Spirit of the Age where Hazlitt's judgement failed him, his enthusiasm for Campbell's poetry having been carried too far.
Recent critical assessment has rated Campbell's poetry, now mostly forgotten, far lower than Hazlitt here did. George Crabbe — , an English clergyman, surgeon, and amateur entomologist , was best known as a poet, later often considered an early practitioner of the style of literary "realism". Hazlitt first reviewed Crabbe at length in his Lectures on the English Poets. This was followed by an article in The London Magazine much of which he incorporated into the present sketch in which he critically surveyed many of Crabbe's major works, including The Village and The Borough In he included lengthy extracts from, among other works, The Village , The Borough including "Peter Grimes" , and the collection Tales in his anthology of Select British Poets.
In The Spirit of the Age he presents Crabbe as a radical contrast to Campbell, characterising at length the nature of Crabbe's poetry, attempting to account for its popularity, and adding some historical background. Crabbe, notes Hazlitt, focuses on the lives of ordinary people in minutely described, most often dreary and oppressive, surroundings.
He does not omit the meanest, least flattering aspects of human behavior or the petty disappointments, the sickness and misery found in everyday life. He "dissects the most trivial objects" with "microscopic minuteness"; and he "deals in incessant matters of fact Yet this is "nature". We are part of nature and deeply interested in its tiniest details, even if the focus is on the sordid and trivial.
That "Mr. Crabbe is one of the most popular and admired of our living authors Crabbe gives us one part of nature, the mean, the little, the disgusting, the distressing; that he does this thoroughly and like a master, and we forgive all the rest! Though often oppressive, Crabbe's poetry had remarkable popular appeal, which Hazlitt attempts to explain by isolating two causes: the reading public was tiring of the formal, conventional, empty phrasing of most poetry of the day; and simultaneously there had been developing a public taste for painting.
Something in Crabbe's The Village had caught the interest of the respected critic Dr. Johnson , but it was a painter, the famous Sir Joshua Reynolds , who in had brought it to his attention. Unfortunately, the artificial and labored character of his versification has a detrimental effect on the poetry, and Hazlitt suggests that Crabbe might have written his tales in plain prose: "Mr.
Crabbe's shift in approach was not necessarily a bad thing. The flaw in Crabbe's poetry, however, is, according to Hazlitt, that, with all its detail, it misses much of life, emphasising much too heavily the oppressive and the squalid, along with the mean and malicious tendencies of human nature. Hazlitt points to ways in which all this might be incorporated into literature and yet made uplifting, as in tragedy.
With Crabbe, we get mostly the oppressive. In this, Hazlitt finds Crabbe unimaginative. It is not that he doesn't indulge in flights of fancy, but rather that he doesn't use his imagination to see, and help the reader see, into the minds and hearts of the poor, to feel what they feel in their situation.
Instead, scrutinizing in detail the squalor of their surroundings, he attributes to them feelings he would have in their place. Crabbe's persistent depressed attitude might be, Hazlitt muses in one of his psychological analyses, because Crabbe himself was a dissatisfied man, a country parson set down in a remote location for life, "and he takes his revenge by imprisoning the reader's imagination in luckless verse. Shut out from social converse, from learned colleges and halls, where he passed his youth, he has no cordial fellow feeling with the unlettered manners of the Village or the Borough ; and he describes his neighbors as more uncomfortable and discontented than himself.
Hazlitt concludes with a lengthy quotation from the "Peter Grimes" letter in The Borough , characterising it as "an exact fac-simile of some of the most unlovely parts of the creation. Still oppressive, this later poetry contains "highly finished, striking, and original portraits", with acute psychological insight, "an intimate knowledge of the small and intricate folds of the human heart.
Essay on man is judged by the company he keeps
Thus "they will remain, 'as a thorn in the side of poetry,' perhaps for a century to come! Hazlitt's sketch of Crabbe has drawn much more serious interest by recent critics than the companion sketch on Campbell. Tim Fulford assents to Hazlitt's observation that Crabbe viewed his poor villagers from a distance "as an overseer of the poor";  the words are from his lectures on poetry  but the idea was brought forward into The Spirit of the Age , rather than showing the reader what they feel about their situation.
Roy Park notes with approval Hazlitt's observations on the imbalance in what Crabbe shows the reader in his verse narratives, his overemphasis of the pictorial, as well as of the dark side of the human condition. Thomas Moore — was an Irish-born English poet, songwriter, satirist , and writer of miscellaneous prose.
He skyrocketed to fame in with his exotic poem Lalla Rookh , and his controversial biography of Byron was an immediate success. For these, Moore set original lyrics to traditional Irish tunes, and he frequently publicly performed them himself. Some, like " The Last Rose of Summer ", remained popular well into the twentieth century. Hazlitt devoted serious coverage to Moore's poetry in one of his January Lectures on the English Poets ,  an earlier lecture in which series Moore himself had attended.
Hazlitt and Moore shared many left-wing political views;  however, Hazlitt's critical stance against much of Moore's poetry and some of his actions later distanced the two men. One of these actions was Moore's discouraging his friend Byron from joining Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt in Hunt's new left-leaning political journal, The Liberal. Hazlitt begins his sketch of Moore in The Spirit of the Age by focusing on Lalla Rookh , which had appeared in , at the height of the craze for poetry about exotic locales, particularly the Near East.
Moore's poetry The characteristic distinction of our author's style is this continuous and incessant flow of voluptuous thoughts and shining allusions. Leigh Hunt", The Spirit of the Age. However delightful this may sometimes be, Hazlitt observes, Moore carries all to excess, to satisfy popular taste: "It has been too much our author's object to pander to the artificial taste of the age. Now all must be raised to the same tantalising and preposterous level. The craving of the public mind after novelty and effect There is no principle of massing or of continuity in his productions—neither height nor breadth nor depth of capacity.
There is no truth of representation, no strong internal feeling [but merely] flippant forwardness and unmeaning sentimentality. Neither does Moore's superficial sentimentality, especially in light of the tribulations of Ireland at the time, go well with Irish patriotism in Moore's Irish Melodies , Hazlitt adds, and he gibes: "If these national airs do indeed express the soul of impassioned feeling in his countrymen, the case of Ireland is hopeless.
Moore's satire, on the other hand, claims Hazlitt, shows Moore's talent at its best. In such works as the Twopenny Post-bag and, to a lesser degree, The Fudge Family in Paris , Moore's "light, agreeable, polished style pierces through the body of the court Hazlitt concludes with a note—in line with his practise in The Spirit of the Age  —on Moore's personal character, observing that "Mr.
Moore is in private life an amiable and estimable man. While he stands fast by his patriotic beliefs and "vindicates his own dignity" thereby preventing his ever being accepted in royal circles , Moore "has been Moore," Hazlitt disappointedly wonders aloud, "insist on the double claim of birth and genius as a title to respectability in all advocates of the popular side—but himself?
Although most of Moore's accomplishments faded from the public eye his satire having been too topical to last, however stunning it was in its day ,  in a reassessment of Moore a century and a half later, critic and biographer Miriam Allen deFord singled out Hazlitt's treatment of Moore in this sketch to have been particularly level-headed and on point, stating, "The most acute critic of Moore in his own time was William Hazlitt Leigh Hunt — was an English man of letters —a poet, political commentator, drama critic, literary critic, translator, and essayist.
It drew many enthusiastic admirers, but its theme of forbidden love provided Hunt's political foes with an instrument to chastise him, and from then on Hunt's reputation was sharply split along political lines. Hazlitt and Hunt became close friends—helped by their strong radical political alignment—but Hunt's self-centered ways and Hazlitt's irritation with, and finally his tactless open reaction to, Hunt's egotism severely strained their relationship.
Distinguished as a poet, Hunt is at the same time, according to Hazlitt, one of the finest prose writers among those primarily known as poets  along with Southey, as he remarks in the sketch of the latter poet. He singles out for special mention several of Hunt's poems, yet along the way expresses numerous qualifications.
A smile plays round the sparkling features of the one; a tear is ready to start from the other. What is distinctive about Leigh Hunt, according to Hazlitt, and compensates for his faults as an author, is his captivating personality. His natural gaiety and spriteliness of manner, his high animal spirits, and the vinous quality of his mind, produce an immediate fascination and intoxication in those who come in contact with him His look, his tone are required to point many things that he says Summing up while alluding to the politically motivated attacks that prevented Hunt's fuller acceptance as a major literary figure in his time, Hazlitt draws a comparison with certain gentleman-poets of an earlier age, integrating this with what he has noted of Hunt's personal vanity: "We have said that Lord Byron is a sublime coxcomb: why should we not say that Mr.
Hunt is a delightful one? He is the only poet or literary man we ever knew who puts us in mind of Sir John Suckling or Killigrew or Carew ; or who united rare intellectual acquirements with outward grace and natural gentility. A wit and a poet, Mr. Hunt is also distinguished by fineness of tact and sterling sense: he has only been a visionary in humanity, the fool of virtue. His crime is, to have been Editor of the Examiner ten years ago Nearly two centuries afterward, Hunt's biographer Anthony Holden found this sketch of Hunt as "vivid and candid as any we have Both authors enjoyed sudden, near simultaneous, popularity in Britain in , as Lamb began his celebrated series of essays under the name "Elia" in The London Magazine in that year,  and Irving, the first American author to attract significant notice in Europe,  had his collection of essays and short stories, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon , Gent.
In the light of their near-simultaneous emergence into the literary spotlight, Hazlitt presents the two as a contrasted pair. Irving's writings made for pleasant reading, Hazlitt allowed, yet he believed that Lamb, whose writing under the pen name of "Elia" is Hazlitt's chief focus here,  was more original and deserved greater attention. Having been close friends with Lamb for almost two decades,  Hazlitt had written warmly of his frequent attendance at Charles and Mary Lamb 's "at home" gatherings, he and Charles had had endless literary discussions and had sometimes written on the same topics,  and Hazlitt had dedicated his book Characters of Shakespear's Plays to Lamb, all of which provided Hazlitt with a wealth of personal impressions to draw upon.
Lamb's shyness and unpretentiousness, combined with his personal convictions and critical taste, along with his antiquarian preferences, Hazlitt explains, have led him away from the fashions of the day. In his writing as "Elia", he "has borrowed from previous sources",  but his taste and discernment enable his style to "run Lamb has the very soul of an antiquarian, as this implies a reflecting humanity. He is shy, sensitive, the reverse of every thing coarse, vulgar, obtrusive, and commonplace.
Lamb succeeds not by conforming to the Spirit of the Age , but in opposition to it. He does not march boldly along with the crowd, but steals off the pavement to pick his way in the contrary direction. Although there is something of an affectation in Lamb's focus on the past, "the obscure and remote",  that focus is justified by its depth of humanity. He discerns that which possesses an "intrinsic and silent merit". Hazlitt then probes Lamb's distaste for the new, and affection for the past, but that only as it has "something personal and local in it.
Battle's Opinions on Whist", his portrayal of "lasting and lively emblems of human infirmity" in fictionalised sketches of his friends and family, and then, "With what a gusto Mr. Lamb describes the inns and courts of law, the temple and Gray's-Inn, as if he had been a student there for the last two hundred years", and, in general, his ability to render the life and implied history in his native city: "The streets of London are his fairy-land, teeming with wonder, with life and interest in his retrospective glance, as it did to the eager eye of childhood: he has contrived to weave its tritest traditions into a bright and endless romance!
Hazlitt then reflects further on Lamb's taste in literature and art, his abilities as a conversationalist, and his appearance and personal character. Lamb's taste in books is not the worse for a little idiosyncrasy Looking back a century and a half later, the critic John Kinnaird finds Hazlitt's presentation of Lamb, especially in the place where it is inserted, to be more appropriate than is immediately obvious.
The figure of Elia represents in the symbolic landscape of the age those least tractable but deeply natural 'infirmities' of man which, ignored by, when not wholly invisible to, the humorless self-abstraction of modern pride, will never be made to yield to 'the progress of intellectual refinement. Many contemporary critics in England and Scotland praised the book as an original, distinctly American contribution to literature. A century and more afterward, critics observed the influences that Irving shared with his Romantic contemporaries, in particular the influence of Sir Walter Scott,  and Irving's own original contributions to literary form.
It is here, Hazlitt finds, where Irving comes up short. The English life that Irving describes is that of the past. So heavily influenced is Irving by the English writers of the previous century, maintains Hazlitt, that the very characters he depicts in his wanderings through England are those that might have appeared in essays by Addison or Steele , or novels by Fielding , character types that flourished in the eighteenth century but are not representative of those found in the nineteenth.
Arriving in England for the first time, the American writer, in Hazlitt's judgement, saw what he encountered with the eyes of one steeped in the writings of the previous century. Irving, he notes, has absorbed the refined style of the older writers and writes well: "Mr. Irvine's [ sic ] language is with great taste and felicity modeled on that of Addison, Goldsmith, Sterne , or Mackenzie "; but what he sees might have been seen with their eyes, and are such as are scarcely to be found in modern England.
He has Parson Adams, or Sir Roger de Coverley  in his ' mind's eye ' ; and he makes a village curate or a country 'squire sit to these admired models for their portraits in the beginning of the nineteenth century. Paralleling his treatment of other contemporaries, Hazlitt concludes with a glance at Irving's character and appearance, combined with a summing up of the key flaw in the books Irving produced to introduce himself to the British public: "Mr.
If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals. Man You Equality True See. The measure of a man is what he does with power.
Essay on man is judged by the company he keeps
Man Power Measure He. The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. Samuel Johnson. Good Man True Someone.
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If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives. Robert South. Man Measure He Than.
It was a big deal to leave home and my culture and my language. But I believed that in America, I could truly reap what I sowed and that the measure of a man was his ability and determination to succeed. This was the land of boundless opportunity. Thomas Peterffy. Man Home Culture Determination. My dad always said, 'Champ, the measure of a man is not how often he is knocked down, but how quickly he gets up. Man Dad Down Always. I have always thought you could take the measure of a man by his sports manners - that is to say, the way in which he conducts himself on the playing field, or even over a game of chess or cards.
Graydon Carter. Sports Man You Game.
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