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Memoirs of William Hazlitt
Ch. XVII 1820
illiam Hazlitt sen. to the Editor of the Monthly Repository; [July 1808]

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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“Wem, Shropshire,
[July, 1808.]

“I am not so much surprised as probably some of your readers at the mortifying account which has been published in your work (p. 9) of the brutality of Sterne to his mother. For, above forty years ago, as I was travelling in a coach from Bath to London, my companion, a Dr. Marriot, who was his near neighbour, gave me such a character of the man as filled me with unfavourable impressions of him ever since. Being then a young man, and, like most other young men, being too forward to show my opinion of men and books, I began to express my high admiration of the writings of Sterne, and to pass unqualified eulogiums upon him, as a man possessed of the finest feelings and philanthropy.

“As soon as I had ended my frothy declamation, the Doctor very placidly told me that I did not know the man as well as he did; that he was his very near neigh-
bour; and that of all the men he ever knew he was the most devoid of the feelings of humanity, or of everything that we call sympathy.

“As one proof of this, the Doctor told me that his daughter had some acquaintance with Miss Sterne, and therefore that she frequently passed an afternoon at his house; that Miss Sterne was subject to violent epileptic fits; that she had been lately seized with one of these, which was accompanied with such alarming symptoms, as made him and his daughter apprehend that she was dying; that they therefore sent to Mr. Sterne to apprize him of the circumstance, and to come to them immediately.

“After waiting for some time in anxious expectation, the gentleman made his appearance, and seeing his daughter agonized upon the floor, and seemingly ready to expire, he coolly observed that she would be well again presently, and that he could not stop a moment, being engaged to play the first fiddle at York that night. Thus he took his leave, and hastily hurried out of the house.

“We cannot therefore conclude with any certainty what a man feels from the pathos of his writings, unless we have an intimate acquaintance with the man himself; unless we can prove from his actions that his high-wrought descriptions are the index of his mind. It is even possible, as the philosopher Moies asserted, that a man of no feeling may succeed best in giving us a finished picture of distress.

“How is this to be accounted for, unless it be, that because they have no interest in what they deliver, they are not hurried on by any real passion—they take
time to dress it to the popular taste, by ornamenting it with all the nick-nackery which it will bear?

“The man, however, who feels and suffers in a high degree, must express himself strongly on a subject which affects him, though he does not go out of his way to introduce any artful embellishment.

“I intended to have attempted an explanation of this, but rather wish to have this done by some of your ingenious correspondents. I shall only observe, that notwithstanding all the admiration which Sterne’s ‘Maria’ has produced, he could not, to save his life, have written anything equal to David’s lamentation over Absalom. He would, like Dr. Swift, if in his situation, have been proud and witty, even when deploring the death of his lovely Stella.

“W. Hazlitt.”