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Memoirs of William Hazlitt
Ch. III 1821-22

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. Walker, tailor and lodging-house keeper, 9, Southampton Buildings—His daughter Sarah—History of the ‘Liber Amoris’—Correspondence with Patmore and K—— —Mrs. Hazlitt’s diary.

In the year 1820 Mr. Hazlitt had first taken apartments at No. 9, Southampton Buildings, Chancery Lane. His landlord was a Mr. Walker, a tailor by trade, and a lodging-house keeper. Walker was Mr. J. P. Collier’s tailor. Whether he was Mr. Hazlitt’s tailor also, and it was thus he was led to go there, I know not.

He had two daughters, Sarah and Betsy; and it happened on the 16th August, 1820, that Mr. Hazlitt saw Sarah Walker for the first time, and was smitten by her personal attractions. Betsy Walker afterwards married a gentleman named Roscoe, and made him an excellent wife, it is said.

To him Sarah Walker was perfect loveliness. He was infatuated. He thought that he saw in her features a likeness to the old paintings of the Madonna. The girl herself must have been, at any rate, of somewhat superior breeding, if not looks. She felt, or pretended
to feel, an interest in
Mr. Hazlitt’s works, of some of which she had copies, given to her by himself. He gave her other books, but she said that his own were those she chiefly prized! She admired a statuette of Napoleon which he possessed, and he gave that to her. But she declined to receive it, and returned it to him afterwards, with the remark that she fancied he only meant she was to take care of it while he was away. In one of his conversations with Miss Walker, Mr. Hazlitt took occasion to describe to her the nice points of difference between the French, English, and Italian characters, and Miss W. pretended to feel an interest in the subject, and to express a wish to see foreign countries, and to study foreign manners, if the opportunity should ever present itself.

H. But I am afraid I tire you with this prosing description of the French character, and abuse of the English? You know there is but one subject on which I should ever like to talk, if you would let me.

S. I must say you don’t seem to have a very high opinion of this country.

H. Yes, it is the place that gave you birth ——.

S. Do you like the French women better than the English.

H. No: though they have finer eyes, talk better, and are better made. But they none of them look like you. I like the Italian women I have seen much better than the French. They have darker eyes, darker hair, and the accents of their native tongue are so much richer and more melodious. But I will give
you a better account of them when I come back from Italy, if you would like to have it.

S. I should much. It is for that I have sometimes had a wish for travelling abroad, to understand something of the manners and characters of different people. . . . .”

Even an honest hallucination has its respectability to recommend or excuse it. Mr. Hazlitt’s was complete and sincere as any man’s ever was. As to dishonourable views, I unhesitatingly affirm, once for all, that he had them not. A careful perusal of the book in which his passion is told will convince anybody of so much, who goes to the task of reading it with a correct knowledge of the writer’s character.

Take another episode from this book, that of the flageolet. She has one, but he is not sure it is good enough for her.

S. It is late, and my father will be getting impatient at my stopping so long.

H. You know he has nothing to fear for you; it is poor I that am alone in danger. But I wanted to ask about buying you a flageolet. Could I see that you have? If it is a pretty one, it wouldn’t be worth while; but if it isn’t, I thought of bespeaking an ivory one for you. Can’t you bring up your own to show me?

S. Not to-night, sir.

H. I wish you could.

S. I cannot, but I will in the morning.

H. Whatever you determine I must submit to. Good night, and bless thee!”


“[The next morning S. brought up the tea-kettle, on which, and looking towards the tea-tray, she said, ‘Oh, I see my sister has forgot the teapot.’ It was not there, sure enough; and tripping down-stairs, she came up in a minute, with the teapot in one hand and the flageolet in the other, balanced so sweetly and gracefully. It would have been awkward to have brought up the flageolet on the tea-tray, and she could not go down again on purpose to fetch it. Something therefore was to be omitted as an excuse. Exquisite witch!]”

It appears that my grandfather was not the first person of position whom this “exquisite witch” had entranced. There must have been a good deal in her, surely?

She confessed to my grandfather the existence of another attachment, one day, when he pressed her.

H. . . . Is there not a prior attachment in the case? Was there any one else that you did like?

S. Yes; there was another.

H. Ah! I thought as much. Is it long ago, then?

S. It is two years, sir.

H. And has time made an alteration, or do you still see him, sometimes?

S. No, sir; but he is one to whom I feel the sincerest affection, and ever shall, though he is far distant.

H. But did he return your regard?

S. I had every reason to think so.

H. What, then, broke off your intimacy?

S. It was the pride of birth, sir, that would not permit him to think of our union.


H. Was he a young man of rank, then?

S. His connections were high

H. And did he never attempt to persuade you to anything else?

S. No; he had too great a regard for me.

H. Tell me; how was it? Was he so very handsome? Or was it the fineness of his manners?

S. It was more his manner; but I can’t tell how it was. It was chiefly my fault. I was foolish to suppose he could ever think seriously of me. But he used to make me read with him—and I used to be with him a good deal, though not much, neither—and I found my affections engaged before I was aware of it.

H. And did your mother and family know of it?

S. No, I have never told any one but you; and I should not have mentioned it now, but I thought it might give you some satisfaction.

H. Why did he go at last?

S. We thought it better to part.

H. And do you correspond?

S. No, sir. But, perhaps, I may see him again some time or other, though it will only be in the way of friendship. . . .”

I have thought it desirable to bring forward these passages, as I shall have to do others, in order to throw a little light on the character of Miss Walker. The difficulty is that we can only get at that through one who, though his love of truth was so great as to lead him often to speak it to his own disadvantage and dis-
paragement, was in this case the dupe of one of the most extraordinary illusions recorded in biography. The passion “led him like a little child” (to use his own phrase), and if it was satisfied, he augured that his “way would be like that of a little child.” What is peculiarly striking is, that when he found that she had a second admirer, for whom though absent, and almost hopelessly lost to her, she entertained, as she told him, a sincere and unalterable fondness, he declared that he could bear to see her happy with this other, and would promote that object if he could! But what he dreaded was, the feeling that she had a repugnance to him, independently of this. He began, perhaps, to fear that some of the
Blackwood’s people had been to her and had told her that he was pimpled Hazlitt, and the author of the books of which some account had been given in their magazine and in the ‘Quarterly!’

When Mr. Hazlitt went to 9, Southampton Buildings, he was living separate from his wife. He had been doing so for some little time before the autumn of 1819, but I cannot supply the precise dates. The reason for this rupture has been already referred to, and it has been also shown that Mr. Hazlitt was not without his cause of complaint and dissatisfaction.

I am also without exact information as to the period when Mr. Hazlitt proposed a formal separation under the Scottish law; it must have been late in 1820, or early in 1821, at all events, some time in the latter year. There were delays and postponements from some cause or other, and Mr. Hazlitt himself does not seem
to have gone to Scotland till the beginning of 1822. In January of that year he was still at Stamford, and wrote while there an account of his conversations with
Miss Walker, which he afterwards called ‘Liber Amoris.’ The original MS. is dated “Stamford, January 29th, 1822.”

In a letter to a friend he says, “I was detained at Stamford and found myself dull, and could hit upon no other way of employing my time so agreeably.”

He seems to have taken his departure very shortly after the commencement of the new year (1822); for on the 17th of the month I find a letter addressed to him by Miss Walker from London (Southampton Buildings), in answer to one she had received. It was as follows:—

“London, January 17th [1822].

“Doctor Read sent the ‘London Magazine,’ with compliments and thanks; no letters or parcels, except the one which I have sent with the ‘Magazine,’ according to your directions. Mr. Lamb sent for the things which you left in our care, likewise a cravat which was sent with them. I send my thanks for your kind offer, but must decline accepting it. Baby is quite well. The first floor is occupied at present; it is quite uncertain when it will be disengaged.

“My family send their best respects to you. I hope, sir, your little son is quite well.

“From yours respectfully,
“S. Walker.
“W. Hazlitt, Esq.”

The following is a business note from Mr. Hessey the publisher. I surmise that it was forwarded to him in the country, as it is evident that he had left town a week before:—

“My dear Sir,

“I have the pleasure to send you, enclosed, a cheque for twenty pounds. I have not had time to make out the account; but from a slight glance of it, I think the paper on the ‘Marbles,’* just received, will pretty nearly balance it. Shall we put your signature, W. H. or I., at the foot of the paper? Please to send a line by bearer to answer this question, and to say you have received the cheque—a pleasant journey to you.

“Yours very truly,
“J. A. Hessey.
“Jan. 23, 1822.

“We shall be glad to receive the remainder of the essay as soon as it is ready. I think Vinkebooms will have no objection to play his part in the controversy.

“W. Hazlitt, Esq.”

Upon his arrival at Edinburgh he opened a correspondence with a friend, whom he had made the repository of his confidence and his secrets—at present, the sole repository, I imagine. He wrote to Mr. Patmore† when he had been in Scotland three weeks

* The ‘Essay on the Elgin Marbles,’ contributed to the ‘London Magazine.’

† If Mr. Patmore had not avowed himself in ‘My Friends and Acquaintance’ to be the person to whom the corre-

nearly, and told him that he had written twice to
Miss Walker, and had had only one note from her, couched in very distant terms. Mr. Hazlitt’s letter (or one of them rather) was written in February 1822; he sent Mr. Patmore a copy of it.

“You will scold me for this,” he began, “and ask me if this is keeping my promise to mind my work. One half of it was to think of Sarah; and besides, I do not neglect my work either, I assure you. I regularly do ten pages a day, which mounts up to thirty guineas’ worth a week, so that you see I should grow rich at this rate, if I could keep on so. . . . I walk out here in an afternoon, and hear the notes of the thrush, that come up from a sheltered valley below, welcome in the spring; but they do not melt my heart as they used: it is grown cold and dead. As you say, it will one day be colder. . . . Do not send any letters that come. I should like you and your mother (if agreeable) to go and see Mr. Kean in ‘Othello,’ and Miss Stephens in ‘Love in a Village.’ If you will, I will write to Mr. T—— to send you tickets. Has Mr. Patmore called? . . . .”

spondence was addressed, I should have felt it my duty to suppress his name. As it is, I do not see that there can be any object in doing so.