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Memoirs of William Hazlitt
Ch. X 1807

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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Mr. Hazlitt’s engagement to Miss Stoddart.

Corydon Dowling turned out as ill as Corydon Turner and Corydon White had done before him; perhaps he did not like settlements. There is a large gap in the correspondence of Miss Lamb at this point, but not too large to mark appropriately the revolution which the next survivor of this interesting, and to me highly valuable series, discloses to view. William is once more the hero of the situation—the lover!

No date [but early in 1807].
“My dear Sarah,

“I have deferred answering your last letter, in hopes of being able to give you some intelligence that might be useful to you, for I every day expected that Hazlitt or you would communicate the affair to your brother; but as the Doctor is silent on the subject I conclude he yet knows nothing of the matter. You desire my advice, and therefore I tell you I think you ought to tell your brother as soon as possible; for at present he is on very friendly visiting terms with
Hazlitt, and if he is not offended by a too long concealment, will do everything in his power to serve you. If you choose that I should tell him, I will; but I think it would come better from you. If you can persuade Hazlitt to mention it, that would be still better, for I know your brother would be unwilling to give credit to you, because you deceived yourself in regard to Corydon. Hazlitt, I know, is shy of speaking first; but I think it of such importance to you to have your brother friendly in the business, that if you can overcome his reluctance it would be a great point gained; for you must begin the world with ready money—at least an hundred pound; for if you once go into furnished lodgings, you will never be able to lay by money to buy furniture.

“If you obtain your brother’s approbation, he might assist you, either by lending or otherwise. I have a great opinion of his generosity, where he thinks it will be useful.

Hazlitt’s brother is mightily pleased with the match, but he says that you must have furniture, and be clear in the world at first setting out, or you will be always behindhand. He also said he would give you what furniture he could spare. I am afraid you can bring but few things away from your own house. What a pity that you have laid out so much money on your cottage; that money would have just done.

“I most heartily congratulate you on having so well got over your first difficulties, and now that it is quite settled, let us have no more fears. I now mean, not
only to hope and wish, but to persuade myself that you will be very happy together. . . . .

“Do not tease yourself about coming to town. When your brother learns how things are going, we will consult him about meetings and so forth, but at present any hasty step of that kind would not answer, I know. If Hazlitt were to go down to Salisbury, or you were to come up here without consulting your brother, you know it would never do.

Charles is just come in to dinner; he desires his love and best wishes.

“Yours affectionately,
“M. Lamb.
“Miss Stoddart,
“Winterslow, near Salisbury,

So it appears that at the date of this letter Miss Stoddart was regularly and finally engaged to my grandfather; that the latter was in London, and on visiting terms with Dr. Stoddart (now returned from Malta); and that John Hazlitt was pleased with the proposed union, and ready to put out his hand to the young couple.

At an early stage of the engagement the lover grew a less regular correspondent than his mistress could wish; which will scarcely be a subject of wonder, when it is known that he carried with him through life a detestation of letter-writing of every description. Miss Stoddart complained of his negligence to Miss Lamb, who sent the following explanation:—

No date [but the end of 1807]
“My dear Sarah,

“I am two letters in your debt, but it has not been so much from idleness, as a wish first to see how your comical love affair would turn out. You know I make a pretence not to interfere; but like all old maids I feel a mighty solicitude about the event of love stories. I learn from the lover that he has not been so remiss in his duty as you supposed. His effusion, and your complaints of his inconstancy, crossed each other on the road. He tells me his was a very strange letter, and that probably it has affronted you. That it was a strange letter I can readily believe, but that you were affronted by a strange letter is not so easy for me to conceive, that not being your way of taking things; but however it be, let some answer come, either to him or else to me, showing cause why you do not answer him—and pray by all means preserve the said letter, that I may one day have the pleasure of seeing how Mr. Hazlitt treats of love. . . . . .

“Yesterday evening we were at Rickman’s, and who should we find there but Hazlitt; though if you do not know it was his first invitation there, it will not surprise you as much as it did us. We were very much pleased, because we dearly love our friends to be respected by our friends.

“The most remarkable events of the evening were, that we had a very fine pine-apple; that Mr. Phillips, Mr. Lamb, and Mr. Hazlitt played at cribbage in the most polite and gentlemanly manner possible; and that I won two rubbers at whist. . . . .


“Farewell! Determine as wisely as you can in regard to Hazlitt; and if your determination is to have him, heaven send you many happy years together. If I am not mistaken, I have concluded letters on the Corydon courtship with this same wish. I hope it is not ominous of change; for if I were sure you would not be quite starved to death, nor beaten to a mummy, I should like to see Hazlitt and you come together, if (as Charles observes) it were only for the joke sake.

“Write instantly to me.

“Yours most affectionately,
“M. Lamb.
“Saturday morning.
“Miss Stoddart, Winterslow, Salisbury.”

So we see that it was a settled thing. “Hazlitt” was, perhaps, better than Corydon after all. He was making new friends, visiting Dr. and Mrs. Stoddart (in spite of an impression that the doctor secretly disliked him); meeting the Lambs (to their surprise; at the house of Mr. Rickman, whom he knew through his brother; and, besides, gradually beginning to earn repute in the literary world. His abridgment of Tucker’sLight of Nature’ was at last out, and was highly spoken of by persons competent to judge. Other things were in hand, among them a ‘Reply to Mr. Malthus’s Essay on Population.’

The early portion of this new work, which was in a series of letters, had appeared in Cobbett’s ‘Weekly
Political Register;’ but Messrs. Longman took up the undertaking, and advertised it for publication in a single octavo volume, as follows:—

A Reply to Mr. Malthus’s Remarks on the Poor, by a person of eminence, is in the press.

This must have been peculiarly gratifying to the author under the circumstances in which he was placed with regard to the Stoddarts. Whatever might be his own private estimate of the worth of the book as a book, he could not but see its value as raising him in the eyes of the Doctor, whose good will and opinion there can be no doubt that he was just now very well disposed to conciliate if he could. To have to point to a work like the Tucker, and to shine in publishers’ lists as “a person of eminence,” was therefore neither unpleasing nor unseasonable.

1807 was a busy year—the busiest one by far he had had yet. It was, in fact, almost the first one in which Mr. Hazlitt appeared on the literary stage with any degree of prominence. Besides the ‘Reply to Malthus’ and the abridgment of Tucker’sLight of Nature Pursued,’ he published a compilation, in two volumes octavo, entitled ‘The Eloquence of the British Senate; or, Select Specimens from the Speeches of the Most Distinguished Parliamentary Speakers, from the Beginning of the Reign of Charles I. to the Present Time. With Notes, Biographical, Critical, and Explanatory.’

His object in preparing for publication a work, from which the pecuniary returns were probably very
inconsiderable, will be explained best in his own words:—

“This collection,” he says in the advertisement, “took its rise from a wish which the compiler had sometimes felt, in hearing the praises of the celebrated orators of former times, to know what figure they would have made by the side of those of our own times, with whose productions we are better acquainted. For instance, in reading Burke, I should have been glad to have had the speeches of Lord Chatham at hand, to compare them; and I have had the same curiosity to know whether Walpole had anything like the dexterity and plausibility of Pitt. . . . Who could not give almost anything to have seen Garrick, and Betterton, and Quin?”

That Mr. Malthus’s work created a great sensation at the time of its appearance, is familiar enough to all those who are versed in the literary history of the period. It was confidently expected by Mr. Malthus and his friends that, unless some vigorous legislation was set on foot, the country, in a few years, would be overpeopled and starved. There were a few who detected the absurd fallacy; there were a great many who did not. My grandfather was among those, I am glad to have to say, who set down the views of Malthus at their true worth; and he went farther, by exposing the shallow delusion in print.

Shelley was of a different opinion. In one of his letters from abroad, dated Oct. 8, 1818, he says: “I ought to say that I have just read Malthus in a French
translation. Malthus is a very clever man, and the world would be a great gainer if it would seriously take his lessons into consideration——”

Southey, however, was on Mr. Hazlitt’s side in this question—a great and stirring one in its day, though we have grown beyond it a long time ago. He (Southey) says, in a letter to Captain Southey, Nov. 18, 1812, “I am writing upon the state of the poor, or rather the populace, for the ‘Quarterly;’ and the first thing to be done is to make an exposure of Malthus.”

Miss Stoddart’s new project seemed to promise well so far. Her love affair with William Hazlitt ran smoothly enough into 1808. No fresh Corydons developed themselves. If there had been a little coolness on her side inconsequence of his supposed neglecting to write, Miss Lamb’s letter explained the remissness away; and as to his frankness in alluding, as we shall presently see, to his “old flame,” it was a kind of frankness she liked: it was scarcely her “way of taking things” to be hurt by that.

In spite of Miss Lamb’s injunction, I am afraid that Miss Stoddart did not preserve the letter. that she might see “how Mr. Hazlitt treated of love.” Possibly it was a little too strange.

He sent her another, however, at the beginning of the next year, which she did keep, and which, as it is unique in its way, I may be pardoned for producing. There is no date, and the post-mark is defaced. The figures 1808 are legible, and it must have been in January:—

“Tuesday night.
“My dear Love,

“Above a week has passed, and I have received no letter—not one of those letters ‘in which I live, or have no life at all.’ What is become of you? Are you married, hearing that I was dead (for so it has been reported)? Or are you gone into a nunnery? Or are you fallen in love with some of the amorous heroes of Boccaccio? Which of them is it? Is it with Chynon, who was transformed from a clown into a lover, and learned to spell by the force of beauty? Or with Lorenzo, the lover of Isabella, whom her three brethren hated (as your brother does me), who was a merchant’s clerk? Or with Federigo Alberigi, an honest gentleman, who ran through his fortune, and won his mistress by cooking a fair falcon for her dinner, though it was the only means he had left of getting a dinner for himself? This last is the man; and I am the more persuaded of it, because I think I won your good liking myself by giving you an entertainment—of sausages, when I had no money to buy them with. Nay now, never deny it! Did not I ask your consent that very night after, and did you not give it? Well, I should be confoundedly jealous of those fine gallants, if I did not know that a living dog is better than a dead lion: though, now I think of it, Boccaccio does not in general make much of his lovers: it is his women who are so delicious. I almost wish I had lived in those times, and had been a little more amiable. Now if a woman had written the book, it would not have had this effect upon
me: the men would have been heroes and angels, and the women nothing at all. Isn’t there some truth in that? Talking of departed loves, I met my old flame* the other day in the street. I did dream of her one night since, and only one: every other night I have had the same dream I have had for these two months past. Now, if you are at all reasonable, this will satisfy you.

Thursday morning.—The book is come. When I saw it I thought that you had sent it back in a huff, tired out by my sauciness, and coldness, and delays, and were going to keep an account of dimities and sayes, or to salt pork and chronicle small beer as the dutiful wife of some fresh-looking, rural swain; so that you cannot think how surprised and pleased I was to find them all done. I liked your note as well or better than the extracts; it is just such a note as such a nice rogue as you ought to write after the provocation you had received. I would not give a pin for a girl ‘whose cheeks never tingle,’ nor for myself if I could not make them tingle sometimes. Now, though I am always writing to you about ‘lips and noses,’ and such sort of stuff, yet as I sit by my fireside (which I do generally eight or ten hours a day), I oftener think of you in a serious, sober light. For, indeed, I never love you so well as when I think of sitting down with you to dinner on a boiled scrag-end of mutton, and hot potatoes. You please my fancy more then than when I think of you

* This is the reference I meant. I suspect it was Miss Shepherd—Sally Shepherd, daughter of Dr. Shepherd of Gateacre. See above, p. 103.—W. C. H.

in—no, you would never forgive me if I were to finish the sentence. Now I think of it, what do you mean to be dressed in when we are married? But it does not much matter! I wish you would let your hair grow; though perhaps nothing will be better than ‘the same air and look with which at first my heart was took.’ But now to business. I mean soon to call upon your
brother in form, namely, as soon as I get quite well, which I hope to do in about another fortnight; and then I hope you will come up by the coach as fast as the horses can carry you, for I long mightily to be in your ladyship’s presence—to vindicate my character. I think you had better sell the small house, I mean that at 4. 10, and I will borrow 100l. So that we shall set off merrily in spite of all the prudence of Edinburgh.

“Good-bye, little dear!

“W. H.
“Miss Stoddart,