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Memoirs of William Hazlitt
Ch. XVIII 1829-30

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 last essays of William Hazlitt—‘Life of Napoleon,’ vols, iii. and iv.—Pecuniary difficulties connected with the work—Contributions to the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ ‘New Monthly Magazine,’ and ‘Atlas’—Τελος.

Mr. Hazlitt removed, about 1827, from Down Street to 40, Half-Moon Street, Piccadilly; and here he lodged, when in town, during a couple of years.

It happened, when the MS. of the second volume of ‘Napoleon’ was almost ready for the printer, some burglars, who had got at the back of the premises through Shepherd’s Market, tried to break in, and put Mr. Hazlitt into a great state of terror. He posted off the next morning to the Atlas office with his MS., and begged that it might be taken care of till the printer wanted it; and he had not even then, when the danger or alarm was all over, and his treasure was secure, quite overcome his excitement. I owe this anecdote to a gentleman who became acquainted with Mr. Hazlitt towards the close of his life, and who was an eye-witness of his arrival, MS. in hand, at the newspaper-office.

To another friend, whom he met with the adventure fresh in his mind, he said, “You know, sir, I had no
watch, and they wouldn’t have believed I had no watch and no money; and, by G—, sir, they’d have cut my throat.”

His industry never flagged. He was unceasingly occupied. His health was by no means re-established, and his spirits were sadly indifferent; but he went on, in spite of every obstacle, with the activity and continuity of a beginner.

In 1829, he shifted his quarters from 40, Half-Moon Street, to 3, Bouverie Street, Fleet Street, where he occupied (with his son) a first floor.

There was an alarm of fire while he was here, and the business was to get their pictures away—the copies of Titian and the ‘Death of Clorinda.’ He was cross with my father (ill-health improves nobody’s temper) for being so cool; but he himself did nothing but act the bystander with great success. They were temporarily deposited, till the danger was over, at the Sussex Coffee-House over the way.

At Bouverie Street he wrote numerous papers in the Atlas, two or three in the ‘New Monthly,’ one or more in the Examiner, and two in the ‘Edinburgh Review’—Flaxman’sLectures on Sculpture’ and Wilson’sLife of Defoe.’ The latter is in the ‘Review’ for January, 1830.

Lamb, in the postscript of a letter to Wilson, Nov. 15, 1829, says:—“Hazlitt is going to make your book a basis for a review of De Foe’s novels in the ‘Edinbro’.’ I wish I had health and spirits to do it.”

It seems that it was his greatest wish to make a paper
Bulwer’s novels in the ‘Review,’ and he spoke upon the subject to Jeffrey, and, after his retirement from the editorship, to his successor, Mr. Napier. But there was a difficulty felt and intimated, in connection with the proposal, both by Jeffrey and Napier. Mr. Hazlitt could never learn what it was; but he had to give up the notion. He regretted this the more, inasmuch as he had read ‘Paul Clifford,’ and been pleased with it; and he was anxious, as Mr. Patmore has it, to “get the job,” if it was only to furnish him with a motive for going through the others.

He was now bringing to completion his Magnum Opus, which, since his strength had begun visibly to decline, after that telling illness of 1827, he was fondly solicitous of seeing off his hands and in type. The finishing touches were put to the third and fourth volumes at the latter end of 1829, under the roof of Mr. Whiting the printer, of Beaufort House, in the Strand;* and the second and concluding portion of the ‘Life’ was at length launched safely in 1830. The sale of the former volumes had been very inconsiderable, and the publication of the remainder did not greatly help it on, I am afraid. It came after Sir Walter’s, and did not go off at all well.

But the author’s chief aim was not present gain so much as posthumous identification with a subject, which he considered, as time went on, would grow in interest, and would be judged, as it deserved.

* Perhaps, after the alarm of fire at Bouverie Street, he thought the MS. safer at Mr. Whiting’s.


I have understood, however, that he was to have had for the copyright a considerable sum (500l.), of which he received only a portion (140l.) in a bill, which, when the affairs of Messrs. Hunt and Clarke became hopelessly involved, was mere waste paper.

Mr. Hazlitt was dreadfully harassed by this disappointment. To him, as to most literary men, especially where there is sickness and growing incapacity for application, a sum of some hundreds of pounds was of the utmost moment, and the loss of it entailed the greatest possible inconvenience and personal worry.

I have no inclination to go into the painful details, and I shall merely mention that the pecuniary crisis, which Mr. Hazlitt had hoped to avert, was accelerated by a knavish accountant, introduced to him (in ignorance of his real character, doubtless) by Mr. Hone. Mr. Hazlitt’s strength and spirits were completely shattered by this deplorable and shameful affair. He removed in the beginning of 1830 to 6, Frith Street, Soho, and there he was now threatened with a return of his old enemies, dyspepsia and gastric inflammation.

His early friends, the Reynells, took leave of him to go over to Havre, where they had arranged to settle; and he was then poorly, and under the care of a M. Sannier. This was in June. There is a letter from Lamb to the first Mrs. Hazlitt, dated June 3, 1830, respecting a suggestion she wished made to my grandfather through Lamb, on a point in which the unhappy circumstances inspired her with the deepest motherly interest and anxiety—her son’s establishment in life.


It has never been printed, and I may therefore insert it:—

[June 3, 1830.]
“Dear Sarah,

“I named your thought about William to his father, who expressed such horror and aversion to the idea of his singing in public, that I cannot meddle in it directly or indirectly. Ayrton is a kind fellow, and if you choose to consult him, by letter or otherwise, he will give you the best advice, I am sure, very readily. I have no doubt that Mr. Burney’s objection to interfering was the same with mine. With thanks for your pleasant long letter, which is not that of an invalid, and sympathy for your sad sufferings,* I remain,

“In haste,
“Yours truly,
[Charles Lamb.]

Mary’s kindest love.

“Mrs. Hazlitt,
“At Mr. Broomhead’s,
“St. Anne’s Square, Buxton.”

The “thought” was that William should go with Mr. Braham the singer, and that he should adopt the profession. But his father’s insuperable repugnance to the choice of any line of life lingered with him till the last; he wanted to see him a gentleman, and to be able to leave him independent of the world.

In the course of the summer, my grandfather grew

* Mrs. H. was beginning to labour under frequent and severe attacks of rheumatism.

weaker and worse, and the services of
Dr. Darling and Mr. Lawrence were volunteered. Still he was able to think and write a little. He composed a paper on ‘Personal Politics,’ in view of the then recent deposition of Charles X. and the overthrow of the Bourbon dynasty in France. It was something, he thought, to have been spared to witness that. The possibility of their recal occurred to him.

“Even then,” he wrote, “I should not despair. The Revolution of the Three Days was like a resurrection from the dead, and showed plainly that liberty too has a spirit of life in it; and that the hatred of oppression is ‘the unquenchable flame, the worm that dies not.’”

The end was near. He had struggled with death through August and a part of September, and seemed to live on by a pure act of volition. But he was sinking. He asked those who were with him to fetch his mother to him, that he might see her once more. He knew that he was going fast. But his mother could not come to him; she was in Devonshire, and heavily stricken in years.

As he lay there, on his dying bed, he mentioned to Lamb, who was by, that William was engaged to Kitty,* and said that the idea gave him pleasure.

One Saturday afternoon in September, when Charles Lamb was in the room, the scene closed. He died so quietly that his son, who was sitting by his bedside, did not know that he was gone till the vital breath had been extinct a moment or two.

* Miss Catherine Reynell. They were married June 8, 1833.


His last words were: “Well, I’ve had a happy life.”

In my grandmother’s handwriting I find this contemporary memorandum:—

“Saturday, 18th September, 1830, at about half-past four in the afternoon, died at his lodgings, No. 6, Frith Street, Soho, William Hazlitt, aged 52 years, five months, and eight days.

Mr. Lamb, Mr. White, Mr. Hessey, and his own son were with him at the time.”

In a letter written by a friend to his sister in Havre, on the following Tuesday, there is a reference to the loss which his acquaintance, his son, and literature had sustained on that 18th of September, 1830.

“Of the events which have occurred here since your departure,” Mr. W. H. Reynell writes, “none will astonish you more, or at least affect you more, than the death of poor Hazlitt; though the uncertain state in which he has been for the last two months ought to have prepared his friends for the worst. It appears, however, from all accounts, that his son has entertained a very different opinion, or at least caused a very different opinion to be entertained. His father died on Saturday, and on Friday William told me that he was much better; and even on the following day (the day he died) gave out that he was in no danger, but that he had something in his mind, which would kill him if he did not dispel it. I hear that Mr. Lawrence and another medical man were present, besides Dr. Darling, who had been attending him throughout, and who, they think, had not treated him judiciously. Mr. Hone
called in Broad Street on Saturday afternoon to inform me of the melancholy event. My
father will be very much shocked to hear of the departure of his old friend so suddenly.”

Talfourd observes:—

Hazlitt’s death did not so much shock Lamb at the time, as it weighed down his spirits afterwards, when he felt the want of those essays which he had used periodically to look for with eagerness in the magazines and reviews, which they alone made tolerable to him; and when he realised the dismal certainty that he should never again enjoy that rich discourse of old poets and painters with which so many a long winter’s night had been gladdened, or taste life with an additional relish in the keen sense of enjoyment which endeared it to his companion.”

So, two years before the Reform Bill his spirit ascended. If such things might be, would that it had been vouchsafed to him to see the forced concession of the first instalment of that claim, of which the second is overdue as I lay the pen down!