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30 Works of William Hazlitt

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Few subjects are more nearly allied than these two–vulgarity and affectation. It may be said of them truly that ‘thin partitions do their bounds divide.’ There cannot be a surer proof of a low origin or of an innate meanness of disposition than to be always talking and thinking of being genteel. One must feel […]

Those persons who are much accustomed to abstract contemplation are generally unfitted for active pursuits, and vice versa. I myself am sufficiently decided and dogmatical in my opinions, and yet in action I am as imbecile as a woman or a child. I cannot set about the most indifferent thing without twenty efforts, and had […]

On Will-Making

Story type: Essay

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Few things show the human character in a more ridiculous light than the circumstance of will-making. It is the latest opportunity we have of exercising the natural perversity of the disposition, and we take care to make a good use of it. We husband it with jealousy, put it off as long as we can, […]

The two chief points which Sir Joshua aims at in his Discourses are to show that excellence in the Fine Arts is the result of pains and study rather than of genius, and that all beauty, grace, and grandeur are to be found, not in actual nature, but in an idea existing in the mind. […]

I have been sometimes accused of a fondness for paradoxes, but I cannot in my own mind plead guilty to the charge. I do not indeed swear by an opinion because it is old; but neither do I fall in love with every extravagance at first sight because it is new. I conceive that a […]

People have about as substantial an idea of Cobbett as they have of Cribb. His blows are as hard, and he himself is as impenetrable. One has no notion of him as making use of a fine pen, but a great mutton-fist; his style stuns his readers, and he ‘fillips the ear of the public […]

There are people who have but one idea: at least, if they have more, they keep it a secret, for they never talk but of one subject. There is Major Cartwright: he has but one idea or subject of discourse, Parliamentary Reform. Now Parliamentary Reform is (as far as I know) a very good subject […]

For the more languages a man can speak,His talent has but sprung the greater leak:And, for the industry he has spent upon’t,Must full as much some other way discount.The Hebrew, Chaldee, and the SyriacDo, like their letters, set men’s reason back,And turn their wits that strive to understand It(Like those that write the characters) left-handed.Yet […]

Coming forward and seating himself on the ground in his white dress and tightened turban, the chief of the Indian Jugglers begins with tossing up two brass balls, which is what any of us could do, and concludes with keeping up four at the same time, which is what none of us could do to […]

ON LIVING TO ONE’S-SELF[1] Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow,Or by the lazy Scheldt or wandering Po. I never was in a better place or humour than I am at present for writing on this subject. I have a partridge getting ready for my supper, my fire is blazing on the hearth, the air is mild for […]

It is astonishing, with all our opportunities and practice, how little we know of this subject. For myself, I feel that the more I learn, the less I understand it. I remember, several years ago, a conversation in the diligence coming from Paris, in which, on its being mentioned that a man had married his […]

‘There is a pleasure in painting which none but painters know.’ In writing, you have to contend with the world; in painting, you have only to carry on a friendly strife with Nature. You sit down to your task, and are happy. From the moment that you take up the pencil, and look Nature in […]

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 […]

We hear it maintained by people of more gravity than understanding, that genius and taste are strictly reducible to rules, and that there is a rule for everything. So far is it from being true that the finest breath of fancy is a definable thing, that the plainest common sense is only what Mr. Locke […]

Distant objects please, because, in the first place, they imply an idea of space and magnitude, and because, not being obtruded too close upon the eye, we clothe them with the indistinct and airy colours of fancy. In looking at the misty mountain-tops that bound the horizon, the mind is as it were conscious of […]

Corporate bodies have no soul. Corporate bodies are more corrupt and profligate than individuals, because they have more power to do mischief, and are less amenable to disgrace or punishment. They feel neither shame, remorse, gratitude, nor goodwill. The principle of private or natural conscience is extinguished in each individual (we have no moral sense […]

I think not; and that for the following reasons, as well as I can give them:– Actors belong to the public: their persons are not their own property. They exhibit themselves on the stage: that is enough, without displaying themselves in the boxes of the theatre. I conceive that an actor, on account of the […]

The chief disadvantage of knowing more and seeing farther than others, is not to be generally understood. A man is, in consequence of this, liable to start paradoxes, which immediately transport him beyond the reach of the common-place reader. A person speaking once in a slighting manner of a very original-minded man, received for answer, […]

A gentle usher, Vanity by name. –Spenser. A lady was complaining to a friend of mine of the credulity of people in attending to quack advertisements, and wondering who could be taken in by them–“for that she had never bought but one half-guinea bottle of Dr. —–‘s Elixir of Life, and it had done her […]

Ha! here’s three of us are sophisticated:–off, you lendings. There is such a thing as an aristocracy or privileged order in letters which has sometimes excited my wonder, and sometimes my spleen. We meet with authors who have never done anything, but who have a vast reputation for what they could have done. Their names […]

On Criticism

Story type: Essay

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Criticism is an art that undergoes a great variety of changes, and aims at different objects at different times. At first, it is generally satisfied to give an opinion whether a work is good or bad, and to quote a passage or two in support of this opinion: afterwards, it is bound to assign the […]

These little things are great to little man. –Goldsmith. The great and the little have, no doubt, a real existence in the nature of things; but they both find pretty much the same level in the mind of man. It is a common measure, which does not always accommodate itself to the size and importance […]

It is not easy to write a familiar style. Many people mistake a familiar for a vulgar style, and suppose that to write without affectation is to write at random. On the contrary, there is nothing that requires more precision, and, if I may so say, purity of expression, than the style I am speaking […]

Effeminacy of character arises from a prevalence of the sensibility over the will; or it consists in a want of fortitude to bear pain or to undergo fatigue, however urgent the occasion. We meet with instances of people who cannot lift up a little finger to save themselves from ruin, nor give up the smallest […]

(A Fragment) The natural in visible objects is whatever is ordinarily presented to the senses: the picturesque is that which stands out and catches the attention by some striking peculiarity: the ideal is that which answers to the preconceived imagination and appetite in the mind for love and beauty. The picturesque depends chiefly on the […]

And blind Orion hungry for the morn. Orion, the subject of this landscape, was the classical Nimrod; and is called by Homer, ‘a hunter of shadows, himself a shade.’ He was the son of Neptune; and having lost an eve in some affray between the Gods and men, was told that if he would go […]

The great object of the Sonnet seems to be, to express in musical numbers, and as it were with undivided breath, some occasional thought or personal feeling, ‘some fee-grief due to the poet’s breast.’ It is a sigh uttered from the fulness of the heart, an involuntary aspiration born and dying in the same moment. […]

One of the pleasantest things in the world is going a journey; but I like to go by myself. I can enjoy society in a room; but out of doors, nature is company enough for me. I am then never less alone than when alone. The fields his study, nature was his book. I cannot […]

There is a set of people who fairly come under this denomination. They spend their time and their breath in coffee-houses and other places of public resort, hearing or repeating some new thing. They sit with a paper in their hands in the morning, and with a pipe in their mouths in the evening, discussing […]

And our little life is rounded with a sleep. Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when we were not: this gives us no concern–why, then, should it trouble us that a time will come when […]