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Memoirs of William Hazlitt
Ch. XX 1821

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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The duel between Mr. Scott and Mr. Christie—Difference between Mr. Hazlitt and Mr. Leigh Hunt.

Blackwood’s Magazine’ had been originally established by Mr. Pringle, but its management fell into the hands of Professor Wilson, Mr. Lockhart, and a few others, some months after its commencement, Blackwood and Pringle having disagreed. This change led to the insertion of a series of articles, some of which contained serious personalities.*

As Mr. Hazlitt’s name has been mentioned in connexion with a duel which arose out of these attacks on persons of the day, connected with my grandfather’s side in politics, and as the accounts of it found in some books are not accurate, the contemporary narrative from the ‘Annual Register’ is here given entire:—

“A duel was fought on Friday, Feb. 16 [1821], at nine

* Lockhart wrote under the signature of Z. The first article which was printed in the magazine of this character was one by Hogg, called ‘The Chaldee MS.,’ but which was in fact so altered by Lockhart and the rest before insertion, that it retained very little of its original form. Lockhart was the writer of the attacks on Leigh Hunt, which was of course an aggravation in the eyes of Mr. Hazlitt.

o’clock at night, between two gentlemen of the names of
Scott and Christie. The parties met at Chalk Farm, by moonlight, attended by their seconds and surgeons; and after exchanging shots without effect, at the second fire Mr. Christie’s ball struck Mr. Scott just above the hip on the right side. Mr. Scott fell, and was removed to the Chalk Farm Tavern. The meeting took place in consequence of the following circumstances:—Mr. Lockhart, the reputed author of ‘Peter’s Letters to his Kinsfolk,’ having been personally and violently attacked in the ‘London Magazine,’ a work professedly edited by Mr. Scott, came to London for the purpose of obtaining from Mr. Scott an explanation, apology, or meeting. Mr. Scott, as we understand, declined giving anything of the sort, unless Mr. Lockhart would first deny that he was editor of ‘Blackwood’s Magazine.’ This Mr. Lockhart did not consider it necessary to do; and their correspondence ended with a note from Mr. Lockhart, containing very strong and unqualified expressions touching Mr. Scott’s personal character and courage. To meet this Mr. Scott published his account of the affair, which differed very little as to facts; but a circumstance occurred subsequently which placed the matter on a different footing. Mr. Lockhart, in his statement, which was printed, says that a copy of it had been sent to Mr. Scott; whereas it appears that the statement generally circulated contained a disavowal of Mr. Lockhart’s editorship of ‘Blackwood’s Magazine,’ which the copy of his statement actually sent to Mr. Scott did not. Mr. Scott therefore says, that in
withholding from him the disavowal he asked, he prevented the meeting; and that, in affixing to the statement the declaration that a copy of that statement had been forwarded to him (Mr. Scott), Mr. Lockhart had been guilty of falsehood. The other party say, that though Mr. Lockhart would own to the world that he was not the editor of ‘Blackwood’s Magazine,’ he never would say that he was not the editor to Mr. Scott; because Mr. Scott had no right to demand such an explanation.

“It appears that the error arose in leaving the paragraph standing, which states that a copy of the statement had been sent to Mr. Scott. Mr. Scott’s attack produced a reply from Mr. Christie, Mr. Lockhart’s friend, which reply produced a challenge from Mr. Scott, which Mr. Christie accepted; and at Mr. Scott’s suggestion, agreed to meet him at nine o’clock at night. Mr. Christie did not fire at Mr. Scott in the first instance, a circumstance of which Mr. Scott was not apprized; but on the second shot he levelled his pistol at him, and too truly hit his mark. Mr. Lockhart is one of his Majesty’s counsel at the Scotch bar, and son-in-law of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. Mr. Scott expired at half-past nine, on the night of Tuesday the 27th, without a groan. He was between thirty and forty years of age, and has left a wife and two children. An inquest was held on the body, and a verdict of Wilful Murder given against Mr. Christie and the two seconds, Mr. Trail and Mr. Patmore.* The coroner’s

* The incident brought Mr. Patmore into great discredit at the time, not because he was concerned in the duel, but

warrant was accordingly issued for their apprehension; but the parties have for the present withdrawn.”

Now, it remains to be seen how Mr. Hazlitt was indirectly implicated in the matter. Mr. Redding, in his ‘Recollections,’ says:—

[Horace] Smith thought and said* that I must be under a mistake, when I stated some years afterwards that ‘Campbell declared to me that Hazlitt had been a means of irritating John Scott to such a degree, that he was one cause of his going out in the duel in which he fell.’ The remark of Smith is: ‘[Thomas] Campbell was too prone to believe whatever he might hear in disparagement of Hazlitt, and in this instance I have reason to think he was misinformed.’

“I believe I also stated the manner in which I was informed Hazlitt spoke. Not with the intention of provoking Scott directly, but in a mode which had the same effect—for it would appear that it was a point upon which Scott was sensitive—a sort of taunting. ‘I don’t pretend [said Hazlitt] to hold the principles of honour which you hold. I would neither give nor accept a challenge—you hold the opinions of the world—with you it is different—as for me it would be nothing. I do not think as you and the world think.’”

A sequel to this sad catastrophe, more striking than

because he did not interfere at the proper moment to save Scott’s life. Scott married Colnaghi the printseller’s daughter; she is said to have been a beauty.

* In a paper called ‘A Greybeard’s Gossip about His Literary Acquaintance.’

appropriate or agreeable, was the difference which arose a few months afterwards between
Mr. Hazlitt and Mr. Leigh Hunt, owing to some remarks upon Mr. Shelley in ‘Table Talk.’ The passage occurs in the essay ‘On Paradox and Common-place.’ Shelley is characterized as a philosophic fanatic; and there were other points to complain of. This attack on Mr. Hunt and his friend brought the following letter from the former:—

“Hampstead, April 20 [1821].

“I think, Mr. Hazlitt, you might have found a better time, and place too, for assaulting me and my friends in this bitter manner. A criticism on ‘Table Talk’ was to appear in next Sunday’s Examiner, but I have thought it best, upon the whole, not to let it appear, for I must have added a quarrelsome note to it; and the sight of acquaintances and brother-reformers cutting and carbonadoing one another in public is, I conceive, no advancement to the cause of liberal opinion, however you may think they injure it in other respects. In God’s name, why could you not tell Mr. Shelley in a pleasant manner of what you dislike in him? If it is not mere spleen, you make a gross mistake in thinking that he is not open to advice, or so wilfully in love with himself and his opinions. His spirit is worthy of his great talents. Besides, do you think that nobody has thought or suffered, or come to conclusions through thought or suffering, but yourself? You are fond of talking against vanity: but do you think that people will see no vanity in that very fondness—in your being
so intolerant with everybody’s ideas of improvement but your own, and in resenting so fiercely the possession of a trifling quality or so which you do not happen to number among your own? I have been flattered by your praises: I have been (I do not care what you make of the acknowledgment) instructed, and I thought bettered, by your objections; but it is one thing to be dealt candidly with or rallied, and another to have the whole alleged nature of one’s self and a dear friend torn out and thrown in one’s face, as if we had not a common humanity with yourself. Is it possible that a misconception of anything private can transport you into these—what shall I call them?—extravagances of stomach? or that a few paltry fellows in
Murray’s or Blackwood’s interest can worry you into such outrageous efforts to prove you have no vanities in common with those whom you are acquainted with? At all events, I am sure that this sulky, dog-in-the-manger philosophy, which will have neither one thing nor t’other, neither alteration nor want of it, marriage nor no marriage, egotism nor no egotism, hope nor despair, can do no sort of good to anybody. But I have faith enough in your disinterestedness and suffering to tell you so privately instead of publicly; and you might have paid as decent a compliment to a man half killed with his thoughts for others if you had done as much for me, instead of making my faults stand for my whole character, and inventing those idle things about ‘. . . . .’ and hints to emperors. If you wished to quarrel with me you should have done so at once, instead of inviting
me to your house, coming to mine, and in the meanwhile getting ready the proof-sheets of such a book as this—preparing and receiving specimens of the dagger which was to strike at a sick head and heart, and others whom it loved. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of even in your philosophy; and if you had a little more imagination, the very ‘cruelty’ of your stomach would carry you beyond itself, and inform you so. If you did not wish to quarrel with or to cut me, how do you think that friends can eternally live upon their good behaviour in this way, and be cordial and comfortable, or whatever else you choose they should be—for it is difficult to find out—on pain of being drawn and quartered in your paragraphs? I wish you well.

“Leigh Hunt.

“P.S.—Since writing this letter, which I brought to town with me to send you, I have heard that you have expressed regret at the attack upon myself. If so, I can only say that I am additionally sorry at being obliged to send it; but I should have written to you, had you attacked my friends only in that manner. I am told also, that you are angry with me for not always being punctual with you in engagements of visiting. I think I have always apologized and explained when I have not been so; but if not, surely a trifle of this kind, arising out of anything but a sense of my being necessary to others, ought not to make you tear one to pieces in this way for the sport of our mutual enemies; and I must say,
that since I got any notion of your being annoyed by such things, I have come to see you sometimes when I have been ready to drop in the streets with illness and anguish.

“William Hazlitt, Esq.,
“Southampton Buildings, Chancery Lane.”

Mr. Hazlitt hereupon saw Mr. Hunt, or communicated with him, and evinced a conciliatory tendency. The probability is that a letter passed, for Mr. Hunt wrote what he had further to say; and by an accident this second document is also before me:—

“Monday, April [ , 1821].
“Dear Hazlitt,

“If you do not want to quarrel with me, I certainly do not want to quarrel with you. I have always said, to my own mind and to those few to whom I am in the habit of speaking on such things, that Hazlitt might play me more tricks than any man; and I conceive you have played me some.* If I have teased you, as you

* There was always a little feeling of jealousy between my grandfather and Leigh Hunt. The former saw in his friend all those social qualities which he himself was not possessed of, and many elegant accomplishments to which he could not pretend. On the other hand, Mr. Hunt was apt to take umbrage if Mr. Hazlitt happened, in any company where they might both be, to attract more than a fair share of attention by the interest awakened in his remarks on any subject in which he was versed. But apart from these foibles, I believe sincerely that Mr. Hunt had a real friendship and regard for my grandfather, and that the latter reciprocated the sentiment—to a certain extent, valuing Mr. Hunt as one who had been, and

say, I have never revenged myself by trampling upon you in public; and I do not understand you when you say that there is no difference between having an ill opinion of one in private and trying to make everybody else partake it. But I am not aware how I can have teased you to the extent you seem to intimate. How can anybody say that I talked about the collusion you speak of? It is impossible. I both spoke of your lectures in the
Examiner, and came to hear them; not indeed so often as I could wish, but Mrs. Hunt knows how I used to fret myself every evening at not being able to go. It was illness, and nothing else, upon my soul, that detained me; and in this it is that I accuse you of want of imagination. You have imagination enough to sympathize with all the world in the lump; but out of the pale of your own experience, in illness and other matters of consciousness, you seem to me incapable of making the same allowance for others which you demand for yourself. I attribute your cuttings-up of me to anything but what should make me resent them, and yet you will put the worst construction on anything I do or omit—I mean the unhandsomest construction towards yourself. I think I have consulted our personal feelings, always where I might have

was, an earnest champion in the Liberal cause, long since deserted by Coleridge and Southey, and wanting all the support its true friends could lend to it. It will be remarked that in the first letter which Mr. Hunt addressed to Mr. H., he reproved him—not without reason—for betraying any, the slightest, symptom of disunion in the Liberal ranks.

revenged myself publicly, and sometimes where I have publicly praised you. I imagined, for instance, I had selected a good moment for doing the latter, when I called upon you in the Examiner to hear the hisses bestowed upon the
Duke of Wellington. But these per contra accounts are unpleasant. I am willing to be told where my attentions to a friend are deficient; nor could you mistake me more when you say I should have ‘laughed’ at you for complaining. On the contrary, let but the word friendship be mentioned, and nobody is disposed to be graver than myself—to a pitch of emotion. But here I will let you into one of the secrets you ask for. I have often said, I have a sort of irrepressible love for Hazlitt, on account of his sympathy with mankind, his unmercenary disinterestedness, and his suffering; and I should have a still greater and more personal affection for him if he would let one; but I declare to God I never seem to know whether he is pleased or displeased, cordial or uncordial—indeed, his manners are never cordial—and he has a way with him, when first introduced to you, and ever afterwards, as if he said, ‘I have no faith in anything, especially your advances: don’t you flatter yourself you have any road to my credulity: we have nothing in common between us.’ Then you escape into a corner, and your conversation is apt to be as sarcastic and incredulous about all the world as your manner. Now, egregious fop as you have made me out in your book, with my jealousy of anything bigger than a leaf, and other marvels—who is to be fop enough to suppose that any
efforts of his can make you more comfortable? Or how can you so repel one, and then expect, not that we should make no efforts (for those we owe you on other accounts), but that it could possibly enter our heads you took our omissions so much to heart? The tears came into the eyes of this heartless coxcomb when he read the passage in your letter where you speak of not having a soul to stand by you. I was very ill, I confess, at the time, and you may lay it to that account. I was also very ill on Thursday night, when I took up your book to rest my wits in, after battling all day with the most dreadful nervousness. This, and your attack on
Mr. Shelley, which I must repeat was most outrageous, unnecessary, and even, for its professed purposes, impolitic, must account for my letter. But I will endeavour to break the force of that blow in another manner, if I can. As to the other points in your letter, if you wish me to say anything about them—everybody knows what I think of Godwin’s behaviour and of your magnanimity to boot, in such matters. But in sparing and assisting Godwin, you need not have helped him to drive irons into Shelley’s soul. Reynolds is a machine I don’t see the meaning of. As to Lamb, I must conclude that he abstained from speaking of you, either because you cut so at Coleridge, or from thinking that his good word would really be of no service to you. Of the ‘execution’ you may remember what I have said; but I was assured again on Saturday that Bentham knew nothing of it. How can you say I ‘shirked’ out of Blackwood’s business, when I took all the pains I could
to make that raff and coward,
Z,* come forward? But I will leave these and other matters to talk over when I see you, when I will open myself more to you than I have done, seeing that it may not be indifferent to you for me to do so. At any rate, as I mean this in kindness, oblige me in one matter, and one only, and take some early opportunity of doing justice to the talents and generous qualities of Shelley, whatever you may think of his mistakes in using them. The attack on me is a trifle compared with it, nor should I allude to it again but to say, and to say most honestly, that you might make five more if you would only relieve the more respectable part of my chagrin and impatience in that matter. You must imagine what I feel at bottom with regard to yourself, when I tell you that there is but one other person from whom I could have at all borne this attack on Shelley; but in one respect that only makes it the less bearable.

“Yours sincerely,
“L. H.”

The next tidings we get of the business is in the correspondence of Hunt and Shelley. In a letter from Leigh Hunt to his friend, of the 10th May, 1821, the subject is thus touched upon:—

“You may have heard also that Hazlitt, after his usual fashion towards those whom he likes, and gets impatient with, has been attacking Shelley, myself, and everybody else, the public included, though there

* Lockhart.

his liking stops. I wrote him an angry letter about S.—[these italics are mine]—the first one I ever did, and I believe he is sorry: but this is his way. Next week perhaps he will write a panegyric upon him. He says that Shelley provokes him by his going to a pernicious extreme on the Liberal side, and so hurting it. I asked him what good he would do the said side by publicly abusing the supporters of it, and caricaturing them? To this he answers nothing. I told him I would not review his book, as I must quarrel with him publicly if I did so, and so hurt the cause further. Besides, I was not going to give publicity to his outrages. I am sorry for it on every account, because I really believe Hazlitt to be a disinterested and suffering man, who feels public calamities as other men do private ones, and this is perpetually redeeming him in my eyes. I told him so, as well as some other things; but you shall see our correspondence by-and-by. Did Shelley ever cut him up at
Godwin’s table? Somebody says so, and [that] this is the reason of Hazlitt’s attack. I know that Hazlitt does pocket up wrongs in this way, to draw them out again some day or other. He says it is the only comfort which the friends of his own cause leave him.”

In a later letter to Shelley (August 28, 1821), Leigh Hunt returns to the topic, in consequence seemingly of something or other that Shelley had let fall in reply. He says: “I took an opportunity, a few weeks back, of mentioning you in one of my political articles [in the Examiner] in company with Hazlitt, [and in such a way as showed how I valued your heart and genius, as well
as his talents. It was nothing of a comparison. I was only mentioning the authors who would and who would not be in a new Literary Royal Academy, which they talk of getting up. But those who know Hazlitt’s
book (not a great many, for he is not popular) will see how little effect these idle fightings with his side of the question have upon us. As to the rest, if he attacks you again, I have told him in so many words that he must expect me to be his public antagonist. But I think it pretty certain that he will not, and that, if he speaks of you again, it will even be in another manner. The way in which you talk of him is just what I expected of you.”

It happened, however, that Mr. Hazlitt was not in the slightest degree deterred by Mr. Leigh Hunt’s representations from expressing in print what his opinion was of Mr. Shelley as a writer. It was not in my grandfather’s character to draw back or recant under such circumstances, and in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ for July, 1824, was a criticism on Shelley’s ‘Posthumous Poems,’ not harshly or unfairly written, but written in a spirit of dissent from the school and class of poetry of which this author was the archetype. I cannot find that any notice was taken by Mr. Hunt of this, but in the ‘New Monthly Magazine’ for August, 1826, Mr. Hazlitt attacked Shelley in a manner which led to a correspondence between Mr. Hunt and the ostensible editor, Mr. T. Campbell. This latter individual, of whom Mr. Hazlitt, regardless of his (Campbell’s) notorious dislike to him, had spoken most handsomely
in the ‘
Spirit of the Age,’ had no real responsibility or control, it seems, in the conduct of the periodical with which his name was connected. He probably never took the trouble to look at any article before it appeared, and Mr. Hazlitt’s business communications, if any, were addressed to Mr. Colburn himself. On the present occasion, in a letter of August 11th, 1826, Mr. Campbell expressed his regret for the “detestable passage in Mr. Hazlitt’s paper,” and pleaded guilty to “culpable negligence in not rejecting what related to Mr. S.” He supposed, however, that he was “stupefied by the fatigue of reading over a long roll of articles.” He concludes: “The oversight, nevertheless, I expect, was blamable, and I am justly punished for it by finding myself under the catspaw of Hazlitt’s calumny.”

Now, if anybody desires to qualify himself to appreciate this tissue of nonsense and falsehood, he may go to two books, of which one is well known, and the other deserves, with all its faults, to be better so—Mr. Redding’sRecollections,’ and Mr. Patmore’sFriends and Acquaintance.’ There he will see to what amount of fatigue Mr. Campbell was exposed in “reading over a long roll of articles.”

I have permitted myself to anticipate events, and to show in one view the commencement and termination of this controversy, because Mr. Leigh Hunt’s name is not one which will occur again very often or very prominently in these memoirs. What I have further to observe of the relations between these distinguished contemporaries, I must reserve for another opportunity.


The temporary and private soreness of feeling on Mr. Hunt’s part did not affect Mr. Hazlitt’s connection with the Examiner, to which he was still a contributor from time to time, though much more sparingly than of old. An essay on ‘Guy Faux’ from his pen appeared in the paper this very year of the short-lived rupture.

It was Lamb who suggested this subject to him, and he says, “I urged him to execute it.” As Lamb would not, he entered on the task.

The writer’s object was to make something more than a fifth-November puppet out of Guy: to set his hero before the world in more respectable colours. It was a subject which had been started years and years before at Lamb’s. There is a description of one of the celebrated Wednesday Evenings, as early as 1806, at which the theme was broached; and Lamb is made by my grandfather to instance Guy Faux and Judas Iscariot as two persons “he would like to have seen.”*

The articles in the Examiner, however, were the first to appear in print, and from the novelty of the thing, and the sort of reputation the writer had for casting new lights on old theories, it promised well.

Curiously enough, a few months afterwards (Nov. 1823) Lamb capped the ExaminerGuy Faux’ with a London MagazineGuy Faux.’ The subject had been allowed to sleep thus far, and now in the same year two of the principal authors of the day emptied out their thoughts about this redoubtable and not improbably much-maligned individual upon paper. Lamb was, no doubt,

* See p. 289 of this volume.

led to employ his pen on this service by reading
Mr. Hazlitt’s observations in the Examiner, for he commences with these words: “A very ingenious and subtle writer, whom there is good reason for suspecting to be an ex-Jesuit, not unknown at Douay some five-and-twenty years since . . . . about a twelvemonth back set himself to prove the character of the Powder-Plot conspirators to have been that of heroic self-devotedness and true Christian martyrdom. Under the mask of Protestant candour he actually gained admission for his treatise into a London weekly paper. . .”

But my grandfather’s ‘Guy Faux’ has never yet been reprinted (a fault to be amended), nor was Lamb’sGuy Faux’ till very lately, and then in America. It was an ungenteel topic. It smelled of Jacobinism. It might have been perhaps thought, if the two ‘Guy Fauxes,’ coming out so close one upon the other, had been reprinted in octavo with ‘Elia’ and ‘Table Talk,’ that Mr. Lamb and Mr. Hazlitt were in the pay of the Catholics.