LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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My Friends and Acquaintance
William Hazlitt VIII

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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I can call to mind only one person for whom Hazlitt seemed habitually to entertain a sentiment of personal kindness and esteem, and one only (among his contemporaries) for whose intellectual powers he felt and uniformly expressed a general deference and respect. The first of these was Charles Lamb, the second was Coleridge.

Hazlitt went about (Diogenes-like) looking, by the light of his acute and searching intellect, for a man made by Nature in her happiest and simplest mould, and not afterwards marred and curtailed of his fair proportions, on the Procrustes bed of custom and society. He believed that there might be such a man, because he felt that he himself retained much of the character, though blended with more that deformed and defaced it. He sought such a man through the world—he sought
him in books—he sought him in the ideal places of his own imagination; but he found him in
Charles Lamb alone. He found there all his own exquisite sensibilities—all his own simplicity and sincerity of heart—his uncompromising directness and singleness of spirit—his large and liberal sympathies with his kind—together with all his own profound sagacity of intellect and boundless range of thought. He also found there that in the absence of which he would scarcely have persuaded himself to believe that the other qualities which he sought could exist: I mean, many of his own intellectual weaknesses and deficiencies; much of that restless and impatient yearning after good, which is the necessary consequence of perceiving without the power of compassing it; not a little of that wilful mistaking of good for evil, and of evil for good, which is the universal concomitant of such a condition of mind; and not a few of those crotchets of the brain and heart that were never yet absent from such a brain and heart, when placed in the social circumstances which had accompanied Lamb and Hazlitt through life. Hazlitt
found all these in Charles Lamb; and he found them almost wholly uncontaminated by that “baser matter” with which he felt them to be so inextricably blended in his own nature, and from which he had never found them dissevered in any other.

Moreover, from Lamb, and from Lamb alone, among all his friends and associates, Hazlitt had never received, or even suspected, except on one occasion, any of those personal slights and marks of disrespect which he did not feel or fear the less because he was conscious of often deserving them—using the phrase in its ordinary and social acceptation. From Lamb alone, his errors, extravagancies, and inconsistencies, met with that wise and just consideration which his fine sense of the weakness no less than the strength of our human nature dictated. There was no one who spoke more freely of Hazlitt, whether behind his back or before his face, than Lamb did; but Lamb never spoke disparagingly of him. Lamb, in canvassing the faults of his character, never failed to bear in mind, and call to mind in others, the rare and admirable qualities by which they were accompanied,
and with which, it may be, they were naturally and therefore inextricably linked.

No wonder, then, that Hazlitt felt towards Lamb a sentiment of personal kindness and esteem that was not extended, even in kind, to any other individual.*

There was but one house to which Hazlitt seemed to go, or to contemplate going (which with him answered almost the same purpose) with unalloyed pleasure; and that was Charles Lamb’s. Almost the only other houses to which he ever thought of going, after my acquaintance with him, were the late Mr. Basil Montague’s, in Bedford Square, the late Mr. Hume’s, at Notting Hill, Mr. Northcote’s, Mr. Leigh Hunt’s, and my own. To

* I have sometimes felt that I might fairly extend this exception to myself. But I have as often been prevented from doing so by the consideration, that, in order to the existence of the sentiment in question, it was necessary, in this particular instance, that the party feeling it should entertain an admiration for the intellectual powers and pretensions of the object of it, little, if at all short of that which was due to his own. And in my case there was too little ground for this to induce me fairly to persuade myself that he felt more esteem for me than he did for the rest of his friends.

the first of these he continued to go, partly on account of early associations, and in compliance with feelings which had been created by many acts of kindness. But he seemed to go in fear and trembling, and never without an even chance of coming away raging or sulking like a madman or a wild beast. There was a new footman, perhaps, who, not knowing him, would leave him “kicking his heels” in the hall, while he went to ascertain whether so “strange” looking a person could be admissible to the drawing-room! And when anything of this sort happened, Hazlitt was upset for the evening; he was dum-founded, and would sit sulking and scowling silently for a quarter of an hour or so, and then get up and go away, to vent his rage in the open air; or if he stayed, it was perhaps from sheer dread of having to repass the ordeal of the ceremonious bell-ringing and the supercilious lacquey that preceded his exit.

In fact, Hazlitt never felt himself at ease for a moment, where the outward observances proper to a certain class of life were strictly
maintained by those about him—much less when they were expected from himself. Not that he overlooked or desired to depreciate their value and convenience; on the contrary, they were, perhaps, never more justly, and therefore highly estimated by any one. But it did not follow that he could himself conform to them; and the impossibility of his doing so was the very cause of the anger and uneasiness he felt whenever he found himself in the way of failing in it. The origin of this incapacity, and of its sad results as regarded his personal comfort, would form a curious and interesting subject of inquiry, in connexion with Hazlitt’s intellectual character; and, in fathoming it, the most recondite features of that character would develope themselves. But I must not venture to open the inquiry here. I must only observe that none but the peculiar circumstances connected with his visits to the house in question, could have induced Hazlitt to overcome the extreme repugnance he felt at placing himself within the observation of any individuals, whether of the meanest or the most exalted class, who were likely to look upon and treat him according to his
outward seeming. Nothing but the pleasure he took in looking at the “coronet face” (as he has called it) of
Mrs. M., and the Psyche-like form and features of her daughter, and listening to the accomplished talk of the one, and the quick wit and piquant satire of the other, could have induced Hazlitt to undergo the ordeal of being formally ushered into and out of a suite of spacious and well-appointed drawing-rooms, by a liveried lacquey who was all the while (so at least Hazlitt persuaded himself)
“Wondering how the devil he got there.”

There were other circumstances, too, which had, during the last three or four years of his life, prevented him from keeping up his former intercourse with the enlightened and accomplished family I have referred to above. He had, in his growing irritability, and the recklessness of consequences which attended it, and under the influence of those unworthy suspicions which always beset him when in that state of mind, committed some unpardonable outrages on one or more of the individual members of that family, in the form of offensive personal references to them
in his writings; at the same time adding to the outrage by everywhere pointing it out to the attention of those who might otherwise have passed it over unnoticed; for his misdeeds of this kind were of so vague, and often so utterly inapplicable a character, that nothing but his own voluntary confession of them could have fixed them upon him. And this self-accusation he never failed to furnish, and often (I am satisfied) from pure regret and remorse at the outrage and injustice he had committed. But the effect of it was ruinous to him nevertheless, and had latterly cut him off from almost all social intercourse, but that which was indispensable to the supply of his daily wants.

It is due to Hazlitt’s memory, that I here mention his repeated expressions of a regret, almost amounting to a remorse, at one in particular of those insane outrages which he had, in a moment of ungovernable anger, been induced to commit, on the chief member of the family I have now referred to; a man to whom he was indebted for many acts of substantial kindness and service, and (what Hazlitt was still more grateful for) that
uniform evidence of personal esteem and consideration, which showed itself in outward civility and respect.

To Mr. Hume’s, at Notting Hill, Hazlitt was now and then attracted by the cordial welcome he was sure to receive there, not merely from the “one fair daughter” of the worthy host, but from the half dozen, who were just sufficiently tinged with the literary hue to be aware of his pretensions. But an expedition of this kind was always a service of danger with Hazlitt; and he knew it to be so, and shrunk from it accordingly; for such was his John Buncle-like susceptibility, touching the merits and virtues of any unmarried lady between the ages of fifteen and fifty, who might chance to smile upon him, that even while despairing over the loss of one idol, he was always prepared, at a moment’s notice, to cast himself at the feet of another.

To Mr. Northcote’s, Hazlitt went frequently, and stayed long; at one time more frequently than to any other place. But his visits to Northcote were in some sort professional: and whatever he did with
a view to business, or to any after consideration whatsoever—anything which did not immediately arise out of the impulse directing it—he did reluctantly and with an ill grace. I have several times been present when Hazlitt has been at Northcote’s, and has taken part in those admirable
Conversations with the venerable artist, in which he (Hazlitt) professed that he used to take such delight. But I never saw him for a moment at ease there, or anything like himself—that self which he was when sitting in his favourite corner at the Southampton, or by Lamb’s or my fireside, or (above all) his own. I do not mean to say, that in what he has written on this subject, he has in the smallest degree exaggerated his impressions of the intellectual qualities of Northcote, or the charm of his conversation. But these were not the things on which Hazlitt’s personal ease and comfort depended in his intercourse with others. There were points in Northcote’s character, for which Hazlitt felt the greatest dislike. But what was of much more consequence to the mutual comfort of their intercourse, he knew perfectly well that Northcote often
dreaded, and therefore hated him; and, when this feeling was acting, only tolerated his presence, and talked to him the more entertainingly, on that very account. I speak of the period subsequent to Hazlitt’s occasional publication, in the “
New Monthly Magazine,” of portions of his Conversations with Northcote, under the title of “Boswell Redivivus.”

Hazlitt’s mode of turning Northcote’s conversation to a business account, while the “Boswell Redivivus” was appearing in the “New Monthly Magazine,” was sufficiently curious and characteristic. He used it more as a stimulus to his own powers than in any other character, at least as related to opinions and sentiments; for, in reporting the curious facts and personal anecdotes related to him by Northcote, he was (as I have said elsewhere) correct, even to a literal setting down of N.’s very words. When the time was at hand for preparing a number of the papers, he used to ask me, “Have you seen Northcote lately? Is he in talking cue? for I must go in a day or two, and get an article out of him.” And, if you happened to meet him anywhere on
the evening of the day on which he had paid one of these visits of business, he was sure to be unusually entertaining. He would relate every word that had passed on any noticeable topic; and almost any topic, however dry or common-place or exhausted, was sure to furnish forth something novel and curious when he and Northcote got together.

The simple truth on this matter is, that it was the astonishing acuteness and sagacity of Hazlitt’s remarks that called into active being, if they did not actually create, much of what was noticeable in Northcote’s conversation. Almost everything that he said in the way of critical opinion, on any topic that might be in question, was at least suggested by something which Hazlitt would either drop in furtively as the point arose, with a humble and deprecatory “But don’t you think, sir”—or it was superadded to some inconsequent or questionable observation of Northcote’s, with an assenting “Yes, sir; and perhaps—” adding the true statement of the case, whatever it might be. And with these intellectual promptings, the truth
and acuteness of which Northcote perceived and caught up immediately, he would go on talking “like a book” (as Hazlitt used to describe it), for half an hour together; and Hazlitt would sit listening in silent admiration, like a loving pupil, to the precepts of his revered master—he the pupil, being all the while capable of teaching or confounding the master, on almost every point of inquiry that could by possibility come into discussion between them.

The overstrained admiration which Hazlitt felt and expressed for the conversational powers of Northcote, has always seemed to me one of the most curious points in the personal history of distinguished men; and I could never satisfactorily account for it, until now that I have set myself to recollect in detail the peculiar circumstances under which the conversations between these two remarkable men took place. But now I seem to see the explanation of it very clearly. Northcote, by having preserved his intellectual faculties in all their freshness up to the very great age at which Hazlitt first became acquainted with him, and those faculties
having always included an unusual justness of tact in observing the ordinary circumstances to which the daily occurrences of life directed them, had acquired a vast superiority over Hazlitt in his actual personal knowledge of society, and its visible and superficial results on individual men. He had also an inexhaustible fund of curious facts stored in his memory, in relation to a great number of persons about whom Hazlitt felt a degree of interest and curiosity which he was wholly incapable of entertaining towards living persons, however distinguished. About
Dr. Johnson, Sir Joshua, Burke, Goldsmith, and the whole of that coterie of distinguished men of the last age, Northcote had things to tell that would have furnished forth half a dozen “Boswells Redivivus,” in a much more apt sense of the phrase than that in which Hazlitt used it; and he told them with a degree of tact, spirit, and dramatic effect, that has never been surpassed, if equalled, in any published detail of these true gems of literary and personal history.

It was this which first attracted Hazlitt’s
attention towards
Northcote, and excited that interest in everything he said, which Hazlitt never felt towards any other individual. He looked upon Northcote as a connecting link—the only existing one that he knew of—between the last age and the present, and attached to him a portion of that (so to speak) traditional respect and deference which he could never persuade himself to feel for any contemporary, however distinguished, or withhold from any to whom posterity had agreed to award them.

Another house to which Hazlitt sometimes went, but with a degree of reluctance for which it would be difficult to account, considering the partiality and personal interest which attracted him there, was that of Mr. Leigh Hunt. And these opposing influences (whatever they were) were so nearly balanced that I have often known him “of twenty minds,” as the phrase is, whether he would go or not, for hours together, and not able to settle the question at last, until it was settled by the acquiescence or refusal of somebody else to go with him. Indeed this vis inertiæ was so strong in Hazlitt that, frequently, nothing
but the actual and near prospect of absolute destitution could induce him to set about writing—except in the case of his having some subject in his head on which he desired to write, for the mere pleasure of expressing his sentiments and opinions on it: for in all other cases, the excitement derived from the mere distinction and profit of his writings was fully counterbalanced by the habitually contemplative turn of his mind, as opposed to its active qualities, and by his utter indifference to popular opinion or applause, except in so far as he felt these to be important to his immediate success as a writer by profession. No wonder then that the quality of mind I am alluding to should overcome the impulses of a mere passing inclination or a pleasant association.

There was no man of whose social qualities Hazlitt thought so highly as he did of Leigh Hunt’s; and no one with whom he had connected more pleasant associations, arising out of the earlier and happier part of his intellectual life. In fact, there was no man to whom Hazlitt felt himself more attracted, actively speaking, than towards Leigh Hunt
—no one in whose society he enjoyed more of the double pleasure arising from receiving and communicating intellectual excitement. Yet the impulse to seek that pleasure where alone it was to be found, in the instance in question, was never strong enough to overcome the negative disposition to stay where he was, wherever that might be, added to the mere imagination of the repelling force that might possibly have met him in the quarter whence the attractive one was also acting.

The truth I believe to be, that Hazlitt literally never quitted the chair on which he placed himself when he rose in the morning, and, but for the absolute necessity of providing for the physical wants of his nature by his own exertions, never would have quitted it, in search of any social intercourse or excitement whatever,—unless moved to do so by some inducement in which female attraction had a chief share. When alone with his own thoughts—and I judge from having repeatedly and purposely suffered him to remain alone with them for hours together, when I have been sitting with him after
some long and exciting batch of talk—when thus alone, I say, he would sometimes subside into an entire self-absorption, an utter abstraction from all but his own thoughts—or more probably into that vague, dreamy, and mysterious state of intellectual existence, half repose, half enjoyment, which follows high intellectual excitement of any kind in which the pleasurable has predominated—a calm, so pure and serene, that it seemed like a sin to call him from it to that actual reality which had, for him, so little to compensate for the change.

The only other house which Hazlitt visited, which I can speak of from actual observation, was my own; and to that, if I am entitled to judge at all, and may be supposed to have the materials for judging in an uninterrupted intercourse of fourteen years, I should say that he came in less fear of having to regret that he had come (for he never went anywhere without some fear of this kind), stayed with more unmingled comfort and satisfaction, and went away in a better humour with himself and the world, than he did in any other case whatever. And
the reasons for this were simple and obvious, and of such a nature that they may be stated without the risk of their being supposed to include any invidious comparisons as to the feelings and conduct of other people in their intercourse with this extraordinary man—who assuredly brought upon himself all the ills that he was compelled to endure in his intercourse with others, and perhaps (in the ordinary sense of the word) deserved them all. That I, and those belonging to me, did not think so—in other words, that we honoured, admired, and loved the nobler and finer parts of his character, and therefore could not hate or despise the weaker ones with which they were inextricably mingled, affords the simple explanation of the fact I have stated, if I may believe it to be one. We saw in William Hazlitt as noble a nature as any with which even books had made us acquainted, and of which, in actual experience, we saw few, if any other examples. And because the beautiful qualities of his mind and heart (which we scarcely saw anywhere else) were allied with a few of those deteriorating and debasing weaknesses which constitute the sum and
substance of most other hearts and minds, we saw the owners of these latter think, and speak of, and treat him, as if he were of unmixed baseness, and they were immaculate! Because, when angered in his personal feelings, or outraged in his sense of right and justice, he spoke, or wrote, or acted under the natural impulse thus created, instead of cunningly waiting till his actual feelings were cooled or passed away, and his sense of personal wrong forgotten, and then speaking, or writing, or acting, so as to reconcile a rankling desire for petty revenge with a due consideration for worldly interest, as is the wont of nine-tenths of the world—because of this, we heard him spoken of, and saw him treated, as one not fit to form a part of human society. Because, with a finer sense of the graces and elegancies of personal manner and appearance, and a juster estimation of the virtue and value of these, than almost any other man living, and a knowledge of their causes, sources, and results, that would have put to shame the tact and teaching of the most accomplished of May Fair Exclusives, he was, in his own person, awkward, embarrassed, and strange, to a degree that,
if represented on the stage, would have been deemed a clever caricature of those qualities—because of these deficiencies (which arose in a great measure from his exquisite sense of their opposites, and the high but just value which he placed on them in a social point of view), we saw him treated as a low-bred, vulgar cockney, or a savage and saturnine recluse. Because he was (with perhaps no exception whatever, among men of first-rate talent at the time I speak of) the only man who dared to hold by and express in plain and uncompromising terms those political sentiments and opinions which, at the early part of the first French Revolution, he had adopted in common with almost all the intellectual men of the day, his friends, teachers, and seniors—the
Wordsworths, Coleridges, Southeys, &c.; because, holding by these opinions to the last, in spite of their ill success and the politic putting of them off by those who helped to instil them into him, he dared to express them in terms, if stronger, yet not more violent than those in which half the world expresses them now that they can keep each other in countenance; because of this, we saw him put out of the pale of critical
and social courtesy, denounced as an outlaw, not entitled to the usages of civilised warfare, and only to be hunted down as a savage or a wild beast.

In pursuance of this latter plan, for instance, precisely because he was the most original thinker of his day, we heard him held up as a mere waiter upon the intellectual wealth of his literary acquaintance—a mere sucker of the brains of Charles Lamb and Coleridge. Precisely because his face was as pale and clear as marble, we saw him pointed at as the “pimpled Hazlitt.” Precisely became he never tasted anything but water, we saw him held up as an habitual gin-drinker and a sot!

Not to multiply instances of this treatment of Hazlitt, we saw further, what is perhaps more to the point than all else,—that these things, instead of passing by him unregarded or unnoticed (as they would have done by many) were daily and hourly acting with the most deadly effect, not merely on his feelings and habits, but on his personal character, half making him the monster that they represented him.

We saw these things in regard to Hazlitt;
we saw and felt the miserable mischiefs they were working in, his mind and temper; the intellectual martyrdom he was suffering from them, but with anything but a martyr’s patience; and we sought, not to compensate him for the injustice he was receiving elsewhere, but merely to avoid adding to the weight of that injustice, by uniformly treating him in a manner to make it impossible for him to even suspect that our feelings in regard to him were, in the smallest degree, affected by the treatment he was constantly receiving in certain quarters.

Not indeed that he feared any such effect among the male literary friends with whom he associated; nor would he have cared much, even had he seen cause for such fear among them. But he scarcely believed it possible that women could fail to be influenced by the purely personal attacks that were made on him. And the consequence was that for days, and even weeks after the appearance of any of these pretended criticisms on the writings that he was so frequently putting forth at the time I speak of, he scarcely dared to go near any one of even his most favourite resorts, lest he should see, or fancy that he
saw, “
Quarterly Review,” or “Blackwood’s Magazine,” written on the very face on which he went to gaze in silent or in eloquent admiration.

Nay, he carried his dread of the supposed personal and private results of these attacks to a pitch that, while it lasted, amounted to a sort of monomania,—many of the effects of which would have been perfectly ludicrous, had they not been so painfully the opposite to the object of them. For instance,—during the first week or fortnight after the appearance of (let us suppose) one of “Blackwood’s” articles about him, if he entered a coffee-house where he was known, to get his dinner, it was impossible (he thought) that the waiters could be doing anything else all the time he was there, but pointing him out to other guests, as “the gentleman who was so abused last month in ‘Blackwood’s Magazine.’” If he knocked at the door of a friend, the look and reply of the servant (whatever they might be), made it evident to him that he or she had been reading “Blackwood’s Magazine” before the family were up in the morning! If he had occasion to call at any of the publishers for whom he might be
writing at the time, the case was still worse,—inasmuch as there his bread was at stake, as well as that personal civility, which he valued no less.
Mr. Colburn would be “not within,” as a matter of course; for his clerks to even ascertain his pleasure on that point beforehand would be wholly superfluous: had they not all chuckled over the article at their tea the evening before? Even the instinct of the shop-boys would catch the cue from the significant looks of those above them, and refuse to take his name to Mr. Ollier. They would “believe he was gone to dinner.” He could not, they thought, want to have anything to say to a person who, as it were, went about with a sheet of “Blackwood’s” pinned to his coattail, like a dish-clout!

Then at home at his lodgings, if the servant who waited upon him did not answer his bell the first time—ah! ’twas clear—she had read “Blackwood’s,” or heard talk of it at the bar of the public-house when she went for the beer! Did the landlady send up his bill a day earlier than usual, or ask for payment of it less civilly than was her custom—how could he wonder at it? It was
“Blackwood’s” doing. But if she gave him notice to quit (on the score, perhaps, of his inordinately late hours) he was a lost man! for would anybody take him in after having read “Blackwood’s?” Even the strangers that he met in the street seemed to look at him askance, “with jealous leer malign,” as if they knew him by intuition for a man on whom was set the double seal of public and private infamy; the doomed and denounced of “Blackwood’s Magazine.”

This may seem like exaggeration to the reader of 1854. But I assure him that it falls as far short of the truth as it may seem to go beyond it; that not one of the cases to which I have alluded above but has been in substance detailed to me by Hazlitt himself, as (according to his interpretation of it) a simple matter-of-fact result of the attacks in question!