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Memoirs of William Hazlitt
Ch. XIV 1814-15

Chap. I 1778-1811
Ch. II: 1791-95
Ch. III 1795-98
Ch. IV 1798
Ch. V 1798
Ch. VI 1792-1803
Ch. VII 1803-05
Ch. VIII 1803-05
Ch. IX
Ch. X 1807
Ch. XI 1808
Ch. XII 1808
Ch. XII 1812
‣ Ch. XIV 1814-15
Ch. XV 1814-17
Ch. XVI 1818
Ch. XVII 1820
Ch. XX 1821
Ch. I 1821
Ch. II 1821-22
Ch. III 1821-22
Ch. IV 1822
Ch. V 1822
Ch. VI 1822
Ch. VII 1822-23
Ch. VIII 1822
Ch. IX 1823
Ch. X 1824
Ch. XI 1825
Ch. XII 1825
Ch. XIII 1825
Ch. XIV 1825
Ch. XV 1825
Ch. XVI 1825-27
Ch. XVII 1826-28
Ch. XVIII 1829-30
Ch. XX
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I find newspaper-work his mainstay during 1814 and 1815. He wrote regularly for the Chronicle, and occasionally for the Champion and Examiner. The review of Wordsworth’sExcursion’ in the last is his.

Wordsworth had sent Lamb a copy of the poem, and one day, while Lamb was out, Martin Burney came and took the book away. My grandfather wanted the copy for his review, and had sent Martin in search of it. Lamb, when he found that the volume had disappeared, and learned the circumstances, was very much annoyed;* and my grandfather, understanding that he had taken offence, came to his rooms and “blew up” him and Mary well. “Blow up” is Lamb’s own word; and Lamb (in a letter to a friend) adds, that he supposed it would come to a breach. Which was, in fact, the case.

* Lamb was full of crotchets. He once made an extravagant outcry, because Coleridge came while he was away, and took Luther’sTable Talk.’


In the correspondence between Lamb and Wordsworth there are several references to this affair. Lamb had been invited to write a paper on ‘The Excursion’ in the Quarterly, and as there was some delay about it, he explained to the author that it arose through Hazlitt’s “unlucky detention of the book.” At the same time he put in a word for his friend. “His remarks,” he could not help saying, “had some vigour in them, particularly something about an old ruin being too modern for your primæval nature, and about a lichen.” In his next letter to the poet, he wrote:—“Your experience about tailors seems to be in point blank opposition to Burton, as much as the author of the Excursion does toto cœlo, differ in his notion of a country life from the picture which W. H. has exhibited of the same.”

The criticism, which, according to Lamb, wore a look of haste, made no difference whatever in the relations between Hazlitt and Wordsworth, which had never been cordial, or, with the exception of the short visit to Nether-Stowey in 1798, and to Grasmere in 1803, at all intimate. I am afraid that Wordsworth’s letters to Lamb contained sometimes severe things about W. H., and it cannot but be observed that if Lamb wants to fire off a sly epigram against W. H., he generally does so in his Grasmere parcel.

My grandfather had become acquainted in 1812 with Haydon, the historical painter. He met him, one day, at Northcote’s, whom he had known since his youth, and who lived at 39, Argyll Street, Regent Street.

210 MR. HAYDON.  

On this occasion they left the house together, it seems, and walked some distance, my grandfather expatiating on Shakespeare’sMacbeth.’ This was the commencement of their knowledge of each other, but they never became intimate. My grandfather unluckily could not be induced to form a very exalted estimate of Haydon’s powers, and Haydon reciprocated by attempting to paint upon paper a man whom he was incapable of understanding.

Haydon was an extraordinary egotist, and was therefore very jealous of egotism, when he observed it in other people. He congratulated himself, I find, on being a better Christian than Shelley, Keats, and the rest of that school. “Luckily for me,” he says, “I was deeply impressed with the denunciations, the promises, the hopes, the beauty of Christianity;” and again, he observes: “I never heard any sceptic, but Hazlitt, discuss the matter with the gravity such a question demanded.” I suspect that Haydon would have found it difficult to maintain his position, if Mr. Hazlitt had confronted him with “How do you know, sir, that I am a sceptic?” Perhaps Haydon may be said to have been a little too lavish of his animadversions. He was not peculiarly proof against criticism, nor very indifferent to what people said about him, and he might, with advantage to himself, have given an example of forbearance and tenderness. Besides, he should not have associated with a set whose religious opinions were so repugnant to his own; there was the great risk that he might be mistaken for one of them. I have not seen
Mr. Haydon’s picture of Christ, in which he introduced Mr. Hazlitt “looking at the Saviour as an investigator, Keats in the background, and Wordsworth ‘bowing in reverence and awe.’” It is singular enough that he should have selected two “sceptics” for such a purpose as this, even though one of them was only brought in by virtue of his critical faculty. This happened in 1817, just before the artist removed to Lisson Grove North.

A little prior to this, the notorious ‘Catalogue Raisonnée’ of the British Institution was published, and was reviewed by Mr. Hazlitt in the Examiner for 1816. He called it “the most extraordinary that ever appeared in a country making pretensions to civilization,” and declared that “the day after it came out, it ought to have been burnt by the common hangman.” Here he had all lovers of art on his side—and Mr. Haydon. Northcote, however, was so delighted with it, that he ordered a long candle the first evening of its appearance, and went to bed to read it in ecstasy! So he told Haydon.

Haydon’s ‘Solomon’ had succeeded in defiance of some adverse criticisms upon it beforehand on the part of friends, much to the painter’s exultation. He sent my grandfather a card for the private view.

“The greatest triumph,” says he (1814), “was over Hazlitt. My friend Edward Smith, a Quaker, had met him in the room, and Hazlitt abused the picture in his spitish humour; but in coming round he met me, and holding out his two cold fingers, said, ‘By God, sir, it is a victory,’ [and he] went away and wrote a capital criticism in the Morning Chronicle.”


I have the strongest suspicion that Haydon’s “greatest triumph” was no triumph at all, and that the “capital criticism in the Morning Chronicle” proceeded from the writer’s natural kindness of heart, for once at any rate, getting the better of his judgment. To Edward Smith he could afford to be more candid. If Haydon had not been a struggling and poor man, the criticism might not have been so capital, for my grandfather’s opinion of him was by no means high.

Haydon says again:—“One day I called on him and found him arranging his hair before a glass, trying different effects, and asking [he asked?] me my advice whether he should show his forehead more or less. In that large wainscoted room Milton had conceived, and perhaps written, many of his finest thoughts, and there sat one of his critics admiring his own features. Bentham lived next door. We used to see him bustling away, in his sort of half-running walk in the garden.

“Both Hazlitt and I looked with a longing eye from the windows of the room at the white-haired philosopher in his leafy shelter, his head the finest and most venerable ever placed on human shoulders.”

The breach with the Lambs, after the blowing up, did not last very long. They were at what was to have been a christening party at my grandfather’s in York Street, in the September of 1814, as I collect from a passage in Mr. Haydon’sAutobiography.’ Haydon was also there on the occasion, and has recorded his impressions. He says:—


“In the midst of Hazlitt’s weaknesses, his parental affection was beautiful. He had one boy. He loved him, doated on him. He told me one night this boy was to be christened. ‘Will ye come on Friday?’ ‘Certainly,’ said I. His eye glistened. Friday came, but as I knew all parties, I lunched heartily first, and was there punctually at four. Hazlitt then lived in Milton’s House, Westminster, next door to Bentham.

“At four I came, but he was out. I walked up and found his wife ill by the fire in a bed-gown—nothing ready for guests, and everything wearing the appearance of neglect and indifference. I said, ‘Where is Hazlitt?’ ‘Oh, dear, William has gone to look for a parson.’ ‘A parson! why, has he not thought of that before?’ ‘No, he didn’t.’ ‘I’ll go and look for him,’ said I; and out I went into the Park, through Queen’s Square, and met Hazlitt in a rage coming home. ‘Have ye got a parson?’ ‘No, sir, these fellows are all out.’ ‘What will you do?’ ‘Nothing.’”

Nothing was done that day, but a good deal of company, including Charles and Mary Lamb, dropped in soon afterwards, and there was “good talk,” but no victuals that pleased Mr. Haydon.

The christening took place, however, on the 26th of September that year, at St. Margaret’s, Westminster; it was the little boy’s third birthday. Martin Burney and Walter Coulson were the godfathers.*

* While my father was quite a little fellow, he went to Mr. Black’s at Millbank to spend the day, and going down to the river with a bucket to get water for Black’s garden, he fell in, and was rescued by his host’s dog Platoff.


I have heard odd accounts of that York Street establishment. My grandmother was woefully undomestic, and my grandfather “hated,” to use his own words, “the formal crust of circumstances, and the mechanism of society.”

As for my grandfather, he had been brought up in the country by parents who were in indifferent circumstances, and who were not of a very methodical turn of mind. At an early period, he seems to have been left a good deal to his own resources and inclinations, and when very young studied painting under his brother John, who was very far from being a formalist, and at Paris, in the Louvre, where he had to shift for himself with very slender means. We know that apart from any merely sentimental and transitory attachments he may have formed, he was disappointed in love at an early age, in a manner which preyed upon his spirits afterwards, and that he never thoroughly rallied from the blow. Added to all this, he was induced to enter into a marriage which was certainly not one of choice (though it was in no way forced upon him), and the woman with whom he thus knit himself permanently was one of the least domestic of her sex. She was a lady of excellent disposition, an affectionate mother, and endowed with no ordinary intelligence and information. But for household economy she had not the slightest turn; and she was selfish, unsympathizing, without an idea of management, and destitute of all taste in dress.

She was fond of finery, but her finery was not always
very congruous. A lady is living who recollects very well the first visit
Mrs. Hazlitt paid to her family at Bayswater. It was a very wet day, and she had been to a walking match. She was dressed in a white muslin gown, a black velvet spencer, and a Leghorn hat with a white feather. Her clothes were perfectly saturated, and a complete change of things was necessary, before she could sit down.

The stiff, ceremonious ways of Dr. Stoddart and his family did not please her at all. When one of her nephews was praised in her hearing as an example of good breeding and politeness, she laughed, and exclaimed, “Oh, do you like such manners? John seems to me like an old-fashioned dancing-master.”

The hall at York Street was a great square place like a kitchen, and the parlour where Mr. Hazlitt sat was upstairs. It was a big, wainscoted room, with two windows, which looked upon the garden of Jeremy Bentham’s house; the mantelpiece was an old-fashioned high piece of architecture, which my grandfather had made a note-book of by covering with hieroglyphical memoranda for future essays.

There was Mrs. Tomlinson, the housekeeper, and her two daughters, of whom one was a single lady, the other was married to Private ——, of Her Majesty’s —— foot.* This gallant soldier was frequently asked

* Lamb’s Becky was originally at my grandfather’s. Was she a daughter of Mrs. T.? I should think so. An apt pupil, at any rate; for she ruled the roost at Lamb’s, as her mother or mistress did at 19, York Street.

in by Mrs. T., his affectionate mamma-in-law, and there was high festival below stairs on these occasions.

Between the consumption of victuals and drink in the kitchen, and the consumption in the parlour, where the same set came to dinner about three times a week, the household expenses must have been considerable, with all the discomfort and absence of method observable in the arrangements. Mr. Walter Coulson and his brother were sometimes to be seen there. They had come up to London two poor lads, from Devonport, where their father was a carpenter. They were both able men, but especially William.