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Memoirs of William Hazlitt
Ch. VI 1822

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 subject concluded.

Mr. Hazlitt, upon the conclusion of the affair, with the exception of certain formalities, wrote to Mr. Patmore:—

“10, George Street, Edinburgh.
[June 18 or 19, received June 20, 1822.]
“My dear Friend,

“The deed is done, and I am virtually a free man. Mrs. H. took the oath on Friday. . . . . What had I better do in these circumstances? . . . . She [Miss W.] has shot me through with poisoned arrows, and I think another winged wound would finish me. It is a pleasant sort of balm she has left in my heart. One thing I agree with you in, it will remain there for ever, but yet not very long. It festers and consumes me. If it were not for my little boy, whose face I see struck blank at the news, and looking through the world for pity, and meeting with contempt, I should soon settle the question by my death. That is the only thought that brings my wandering reason to an anchor, that
excites the least interest, or gives me fortitude to bear up against what I am doomed to feel for the ungrateful. Oh, answer me, and save me, if possible, for her and from myself.

“W. H.

“Will you call at Mr. Dawson’s school, Hunter Street, and tell the little boy I’ll write to him or see him on Saturday morning. Poor little fellow! See Colburn for me about the book. The letter, I take it, was from him.”

[Edinburgh, June 25, 1822.]
“My dear and good Friend,

“I am afraid that I trouble you with my querulous epistles; but this is probably the last. To-morrow decides my fate with respect to her; and the next day I expect to be a free man. There has been a delay pro formâ of ten days. In vain! Was it not for her, and to lay my freedom at her feet, that I took this step that has cost me infinite wretchedness? . . . . You, who have been a favourite with women, do not know what it is to be deprived of one’s only hope, and to have it turned to a mockery and a scorn. There is nothing in the world left that can give me one drop of comfort—that I feel more and more. . . . . The breeze does no cool me, and the blue sky does not allure my eye. I gaze only on her face, like a marble image averted from me—ah! the only face that ever was turned fondly to me!


“I shall, I hope, be in town next Friday at furthest. . . . . Not till Friday week. Write, for God’s sake, and let me know the worst.

“I have no answer from her. I wish you to call on Roscoe* in confidence, to say that I intend to make her an offer of marriage, and that I will write to her father the moment I am free (next Friday week), and to ask him whether he thinks it will be to any purpose, and what he would advise me to do. . . . . You don’t know what I suffer, or you would not be so severe upon me. My death will, I hope, satisfy every one before long.

“W. H.”

A very important letter, so far as regards this very delicate and painful subject, was received from Mr. Patmore in reply to the above. He had made inquiries, and the result was that there was the best authority for supposing Miss Walker to be a person of good character and conduct, but that she was not disposed to entertain any proposal on the part of Mr. Hazlitt, of whom, to say the truth, after what she had seen and heard, she stood in considerable awe. Nothing could be more candid and blunt than the tone of Mr. Patmore’s letter, and I think that this candour and bluntness operated beneficially in the end. But the effect was not immediate.

While Mr. Hazlitt was in correspondence with Mr. Patmore and the Walkers about this unfortunate

* The gentleman who had married the sister, and was said to be very happy in his choice.

and extraordinary business, his wife, as she was still, till sentence was pronounced, was occupied in her tour. On her return to Edinburgh, she found letters from
Mr. Coulson, from Peggy Hazlitt, and from her son, waiting for her.

Mrs. Hazlitt’s Diary resumed.

Saturday, 29th June, 1822.—Sent the child’s letter to his father with a note, telling him that I was just returned from Dublin with four shillings and sixpence in my pocket, and I wanted more money. He came about two o’clock, and brought me ten pounds, and said he did not think he was indebted to me my quarter’s money, as he had supplied me with more than was necessary to keep me. . . . . He had been uneasy at not hearing from the child, though he had sent him a pound and ordered him to write. I remarked that the letter I sent him was addressed to him, and I supposed the child did not know how to direct to him. He said he would if he had attended to what he told him. That he wrote to Patmore, and desired him to see for the child, and convey him to Mr. John Hunt’s, and that in his answer he said, “I have been to the school, and rejoiced the poor little fellow’s heart by bringing him away with me, and in the afternoon he is going by the stage to Mr. Hunt’s.* He has only been detained two days after the holidays begun.” . . . . That Mr. Prentice had told him last night it [the business] was again

* At Taunton.

put off another fortnight; requested me to write to Mr. Gray, to know whether I should be called on next Friday, and if it would be necessary for me to remain in Scotland after that time; if not, he thought I had better go on the Saturday by the steamboat, as the accommodation was excellent, and it was very pleasant and good company. That he intended going by it himself, as soon as he could, when the affair was over, and therefore I had better set out first, as our being seen there together would be awkward, and would look like making a mockery of the lawyers here. Wished I would also write to the child in the evening, as his nerves were in such an irritable state he was unable to do so. Both which requests I complied with.

Monday, 1st July.—Received a note from Mr. Gray, to say I should not be called on for two or three weeks, but without telling me how long I must remain in Scotland.

Saturday, 6th July [1822].— . . . . Met Mr. Hazlitt and Mr. Henderson, who had just arrived [at Dalkeith Palace] in a gig. Mr. H. said he had heard again from Patmore, who saw the child last Tuesday, and that he was well and happy. I told him of my last letter and its contents. . . . . [He] adverted again to the awkwardness of our going back in the same boat. I told him I had some thoughts of going by boat to Liverpool and the rest by land, as I should see more of the country that way; which he seemed to like. Asked me if I meant to go to Winterslow? Said, yes, but that I should be a week or two in London first. He said he
meant to go to Winterslow, and try if he could write,* for he had been so distracted the last five months he could do nothing. That he might also go to his mother’s† for a short time, and that he meant to take the child from school at the half-quarter, and take him with him; and that after the holidays at Christmas he should return to Mr. Dawson’s again. Said he had not been to town [London], and that we had better have no communication at present, but that when it was over he would let me have the money as he could get it. Asked if I had seen Roslin Castle, and said he was there last Tuesday with
Bell, and thought it a fine place. Mr. Henderson shook hands, and made many apologies for not recollecting me, and said I looked very well, but that from my speaking to Mr. H. about the pictures, he had taken me for an artist. . . . . The two gentlemen passed me in their gig as I was returning.

These extracts may appear needlessly full and lengthy, but they are so abundant in characteristic touches that it is difficult to deal with them more succinctly. They show, what there is nothing else to show, Mr. Hazlitt’s peculiar temperament as developed by the present transaction, my grandmother’s practical turn and dismissal of all sentimentality, and, at the same time, the strong affection of both of them for their child—he made the only common ground there was ever to be again, perhaps that there ever had been,

* Mrs. H. had a house in the village, but Mr. H. put up at the Hut. A strangely close juxtaposition!

† At Alphington, near Exeter.

between the husband and the wife. In the next entry there is more about the “money.”

Wednesday, 10th July [1822].—Called on Mr. Ritchie, to ask if he thought I should finish the business on Monday? I told him that I wanted to know what was to be done about my own payment, as Mr. Hazlitt now seemed to demur to the one quarter that he had all along agreed to, and there was also the 20l. that I was to have as a present. He said that he was at present very much engaged in some business which would end in two days more, and that then, if I was at all apprehensive about it, he would write to, or see, Mr. Hazlitt on the subject.

Thursday, 11th July.—Met Mr. Hazlitt in Catherine Street, and asked him what I was to do if Mr. Gray sent in my bill to me, and he said I had nothing to do with it, for that he had paid Mr. Prentice 40l., which was nearly the whole expense for both of them. I said that was what Mr. Ritchie, to whom I had spoken about it, thought. He said Mr. Ritchie had nothing at all to do with it, and I remarked that he was the person he had sent to me about it, and that he did not think it would finish on Monday; and [I] asked if he had heard anything more? He said no, but he thought it would be Monday or Tuesday; and as soon as it was done, he wished I would come to him to finally settle matters, as he had some things to say, and I told him I would. I was rather flurried at meeting him, and totally forgot many things I wished to have said, which vexed me afterwards.


Friday, 12th July.—On my return [from a walk to Holyrood House] I found a note from Mr. Gray, appointing next Wednesday for my attendance, and desiring a “payment of 20l. towards the expense.” I took it to Mr. Bell’s; he and Mr. Hazlitt went out at the back door as I went in at the front. I gave the message to Mrs. Bell, who told me Mr. Hazlitt had been to Mr. Gray’s. . . . .

Saturday, 13th July.—Met Mr. Hazlitt at the foot of my stairs, coming to me. He said that Mr. Gray was to have the money out of what he had paid Mr. Prentice. . . . . I told him he need not be uneasy about meeting me in the steamboat, for I did not intend to go that way. Asked him if he thought it a good collection of pictures at Dalkeith House [this is so characteristic!]; he said no, very poor. . . . .

Wednesday, 17th July.—Mr. Bell called between ten and eleven. . . . . He had come, by Mr. Gray’s desire, to accompany me to the court, and was himself cited as a witness. [Mrs. H. then describes going to the court, but the proceedings were pro formâ, as the depositions had been arranged to be taken at Mr. Bell’s private residence.] Returned, and wrote a note to Mr. Hazlitt, to have in case he was out, saying that I would call on him at two o’clock. I left it. . . . . Saw Mr. Hazlitt at four o’clock; he was at dinner; but I stopped and drank tea with him. [!] He told me that all was done now, unless Mrs. Bell should make any demur in the part required of her. . . . . Said he would set off to London by the mail that night, though he thought he
should be detained by illness or die on the road, for he had been penned up in that house for five months . . . . unable to do any work; and he thought he had lost the job to Italy, but to get out of Scotland would seem like the road to paradise. I told him* he had done a most injudicious thing in publishing what he did in the
[New Monthly] Magazine about Sarah Walker, particularly at this time, and that he might be sure it would be made use of against him, and that everybody in London had thought it a most improper thing, and Mr. John Hunt was quite sorry that he had so committed himself.

He said that he was sorry for [it], but that it was done without his knowledge or consent. That Colburn had got hold of it by mistake, with other papers, and published it without sending him the proofs. He asked me where I should be in town, and I told him at Christie’s. He inquired what kind of people they were. I told him a very respectable quiet young couple lately married. He desired me to take care of myself, and keep up a respectable appearance, as I had money enough to do so. He† wished he could marry some woman with a good fortune, that he might not be under the necessity of writing another line; and be enabled to

* The italics are mine. This passage must find room here, in spite of my scruples. The affair was well known, and was soon in print in the ‘Liber Amoris.’ To conceal it would be useless; and all that I can do is to place it in its true light before the world. Mrs. H. was a plain-spoken woman, without any false delicacy about her. She was perfectly acquainted with the whole history of the matter.

† The italics are mine. The John referred to presently was, of course, his brother. This passage is very remarkable.

provide for the child, and do something for
John; and that now his name was known in the literary world, he thought there was a chance for it, though he could not pretend to anything of the kind before. . . . . I left Mr. Henderson with him, pressing him to accompany him to the Highlands; but he seemed, after some hesitation, to prefer going to London, though I left the matter uncertain. He [Mr. Henderson] had been dawdling backward and forward about it for three weeks, wishing to have the credit of taking him there, but grudging the money, though he was living upon us for a week together in London.

Mr. Hazlitt said that, if he went to Winterslow, he would take the child, as he wished to have him a little with him; so I thought he had better go with the first that went, as I did not think of staying in town more than two or three weeks, and then making some stay at Winterslow, and proceeding afterwards to Crediton.* He said we could settle that best in town.

Mrs. Dow [Mr. H.’s landlady] brought in the bill, which he just looked at and said, “Is that the whole, ma’am?” “Yes, sir; you had better look over it, and see that it is correct, if you please.” “That, ma’am,” he said, “is one of the troubles I get rid of. I never do it.” “You are a very indolent man, sir.” “There is a balance of twenty-four shillings, ma’am; can you have

* “Where Mr. H.’s relations were settled! This is also a curious part of the business. My grandmother was intimate and friendly with the Hazlitts to the last, and frequently visited them here.

so much confidence in me as to let me have that?” “No, sir, I can’t do that, for I have not the money.” “I shall be glad then, ma’am, if you will let me have the four shillings, and you may pay the pound to
Mrs. Hazlitt on Saturday, as when it comes, she will be here.” “Yes, sir, and Mrs. Hazlitt may look over the bill, if she pleases.”

Thursday, 18th July [1822].—She returned with the four shillings, saying she had been to two or three places to get that. . . . . Went to Mr. Ritchie, who gave me the note-of-hand for fifty pounds at six months, dated 6th May, and the copy of memorandums signed by Mr. Hazlitt. . . . . He said he had expected him and Mr. Henderson to supper last night, but they did not come. I told him he wished to go to London by the mail, and probably had done so. . . . . He said he must repeat that he thought we had taken the step most advisable for both parties. . . . . Called at his [Mr. H.’s] lodgings to inquire if he went by the mail. Mrs. Dow said yes; he left there about eight o’clock. . . . . Called at the coach-office, and they said Mr. Hazlitt did not go by the mail. Saw the waiter at the inn door, who said he went by the steamboat at eight o’clock this morning. . . . .

Carried back Mrs. Bell’s book. Mr. Bell said I was a great fool to have acceded to his wish for a divorce, but that it was now done, and he thought I had better get some old rich Scotch lord, and marry here. “I was now Miss Stoddart, and was I not glad of that?” “No; I had no intention of marrying, and should not do
what he talked of.” He said I must needs marry; and I told him I saw no such necessity

This is the conclusion. Mrs. Hazlitt sailed on the following day, at 2 p.m., in the smack Favourite from Leith. I have also done with the Patmore correspondence, of which I have only two other letters, postmarked July 3 and July 8, 1822, but both destitute of interest and illustration.*

* Yet there is a passage in one of them—where he tells Mr. P. he thinks he shall come home by the mail, and asks him to come in and see him, about eight o’clock—which I shall quote, because it demonstrates his deep affection and respect for one of the most worthy men that ever lived—John Hunt. He says: “I wish much to see you and her, and John Hunt and my little boy once more; and then, if she is not what she once was to me, I care not if I die that instant.”