LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
William Hazlitt XXIV

Vol I Contents
Charles Lamb I
Charles Lamb II
Charles Lamb III
Charles Lamb IV
Charles Lamb V
Charles Lamb VI
Charles Lamb VII
Charles Lamb VIII
Charles Lamb IX
Charles Lamb X
Thomas Campbell I
Thomas Campbell II
Thomas Campbell III
Thomas Campbell IV
Thomas Campbell V
Thomas Campbell VI
Thomas Campbell VII
Lady Blessington I
Lady Blessington II
Lady Blessington III
Lady Blessington IV
Lady Blessington V
R. Plumer Ward I
R. Plumer Ward II
R. Plumer Ward III
R. Plumer Ward IV
R. Plumer Ward V
R. Plumer Ward VI
Appendix vol I
Vol II Contents
R. Plumer Ward VII
R. Plumer Ward VIII
R. Plumer Ward IX
R. Plumer Ward X
R. Plumer Ward XI
R. Plumer Ward XII
R. Plumer Ward XIII
R. Plumer Ward XIV
R. Plumer Ward XV
R. Plumer Ward XVI
R. Plumer Ward XVII
R. Plumer Ward XVIII
R. Plumer Ward XIX
R. Plumer Ward XX
R. Plumer Ward XXI
R. Plumer Ward XXII
R. Plumer Ward XXIII
Horace & James Smith I
Horace & James Smith II
William Hazlitt I
William Hazlitt II
William Hazlitt III
William Hazlitt IV
William Hazlitt V
William Hazlitt VI
William Hazlitt VII
William Hazlitt VIII
Appendix vol II
Vol III Contents
William Hazlitt IX
William Hazlitt X
William Hazlitt XI
William Hazlitt XII
William Hazlitt XIII
William Hazlitt XIV
William Hazlitt XV
William Hazlitt XVI
William Hazlitt XVII
William Hazlitt XVIII
William Hazlitt XIX
William Hazlitt XX
William Hazlitt XXI
William Hazlitt XXII
William Hazlitt XXIII
‣ William Hazlitt XXIV
William Hazlitt XXV
William Hazlitt XXVI
Laman Blanchard I
Laman Blanchard II
Laman Blanchard III
Laman Blanchard IV
Laman Blanchard V
Laman Blanchard VI
Laman Blanchard VII
Laman Blanchard VIII
R & T Sheridan I
R & T Sheridan II
R & T Sheridan III
R & T Sheridan IV
R & T Sheridan V
R & T Sheridan VI
R & T Sheridan VII
R & T Sheridan VIII
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The writings of Bulwer had not attracted Hazlitt’s attention till just before his death. As I have said before, he never read a line of any living writer, except when called upon to do so as a matter of business—either with a view to an article in the Edinburgh Review, or when a new work was sent to him to criticise for any other periodical. At last, on my repeatedly urging to him do so, he read “Paul Clifford,” and he thought so highly of it, that he at once made up his mind to read all Bulwer’s novels, with the intention of discussing their merits in the Edinburgh Review. And I believe he wrote to Mr. Jeffrey proposing the subject—as he always did in similar cases before going to work.

So the matter rested for some time—Hazlitt, in the interim, often expressing his
anxiety to get “the job,” as he called it—if it were only that he might have a sufficiently strong inducement to read the works of which “
Paul Clifford” had given him so attractive a foretaste. Shortly after this period, Mr. Jeffrey retired from the ostensible management of the Edinburgh Review—which was confided to Mr. Macvey Napier; and on that gentleman visiting town, Hazlitt proposed to him personally the subject of Bulwer’s novels. I saw him immediately after he had spoken to Mr. Napier on this matter; and I found that there was a hitch somewhere; though in what particular point of literary, personal, or political demerit on the part of Bulwer the difficulty turned, Hazlitt could never learn. Certain it is, however, that Hazlitt anxiously desired to write the review in question; that he expressly proposed it to Mr. Napier (as I believe he had done to Mr. Jeffrey before—though of this I am not quite certain), and that it was positively and finally refused—the subject being an interdicted one.

The literary public must draw their own conclusions from this little fact in the secret
history of one of our great critical tribunals. I cannot help them to any further means of arriving at the solution of the mystery; nor should I have thought of making any allusion to it here, had it not proved what may be satisfactory to the numerous admirers of
Bulwer as a novelist—namely, that even the perusal of one only of his works conveyed a due impression of his powers to the greatest critic of the day. Hazlitt also stated to me, on this curious point of literary history, that in his interview with Mr. Napier, that gentleman had mentioned to him that Mr. Campbell had more than once pointed Mr. Jeffrey’s attention to Bulwer’s novels, as a fit subject for a conspicuous notice in the Review, but that the same obstacle (whatever it was) had existed at that time.

Of Walter Savage Landor, Hazlitt entertained a very high opinion, even before the production of his noble work, the “Imaginary Conversations;” but Mr. Landor’s intimate connexion and friendship with Southey created that personal feeling about him in Hazlitt’s mind which always prevented his judgment from forming an unbiassed decision. That
the fierce republican, and the poet of the “
Vision of Judgment,” should be able to set their horses together, seemed to throw a doubt on the sincerity, as well as the stability, of the opinions of both. On the appearance, however, of the “Imaginary Conversations,” Hazlitt lost all doubt of Landor’s sincerity and political honesty, and attributed the contradiction in question to one of those crotchets of the brain with which genius is so apt to be haunted. The book was one after his own heart; and some parts of it he considered finer than anything else from a modern pen. There were, however, many parts which he looked upon as pure raving, and others which seemed as if they were put forth in that spirit of arrogant and insolent assumption of superiority over all the rest of the world, past and present, which was peculiarly obnoxious to Hazlitt’s essentially diffident nature. He did not think that the fate of a nation was to be settled by a phrase, or the character of a whole people predicated in the stroke of a pen. Not that he had any respect for a name. But he hesitated to set aside the award of a whole generation; and for that of
ages he entertained what might almost have been deemed a superstitions reverence, but that it was founded on deep and accurate observation of the causes and qualities which lead to a national reputation. He believed, indeed, that a people is infallible in its decisions, on all questions of fact and of national feeling—of course, provided it have the fair means and materials for forming its decision; and therefore, that to dispute “Public Opinion” is to dispute an identical proposition. Prove to him, for example, that the actual government of any given state is supported by public opinion, fairly and properly so called, and his inference was that that was the form of government fitted for the people governed by it. And so of any other question, moral, political, or literary—any question in which the imagination and the feelings take part.

It followed that Mr. Landor’s dogmatic mode of abolishing a reputation of ages’ standing by a breath of his mouth, or creating one by the same summary process where nobody else had ever seen a vestige of the materials for it, did not fall in with Hazlitt’s
notions of what was just and fitting. Hence the violent and, in some degree, unjust portions of an
article which he wrote on the “Imaginary Conversations” in the Edinburgh Review. He was, however, not answerable, he told me, for the whole of that article, alterations and additions having been made in it after it left his hands.

Subsequently Hazlitt was personally introduced to Landor, at his residence at Florence; and he returned to England with an improved and heightened opinion of his great talents, and with all the prejudices he had formerly entertained against his personal character almost entirely removed.