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Memoirs of William Hazlitt
Ch. VII 1822-23

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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Publication of the ‘Liber Amoris’—The ‘Liberal’—Going to the Fight.

Upon his return from Scotland, Mr. Hazlitt superintended through the press his book of ‘Conversations with the Statue,’ adding his correspondence with Mr. Patmore and Mr. S—— K——. Certain alterations, in my opinion hasty and ill-considered very often, were introduced into the text, and here and there a comparison with the MSS. shows that insertions were made. Occasionally even the matter was transposed; and, altogether, the volume, as it stands, seems to me, looking at it simply in a literary point of view, perplexing, ill-digested, and unsatisfactory.

The title attached to it was ‘Liber Amoris; or, the New Pygmalion.’ The vignette which accompanies it was engraved by Mr. Reynolds of Bayswater, from the original, which is particularly alluded to in the first ‘Conversation.’


Mr. John Hunt was the publisher; but the copyright was purchased by Mr. C. H. Reynell, of Broad Street, for 100l. from the author himself.

What De Quincey said of the ‘Liber Amoris’ was eloquently, yet strictly and religiously true. He writes on this matter as follows:—

“It was an explosion of frenzy. He threw out his clamorous anguish to the clouds and to the winds and to the air; caring not who might listen, who might sympathize, or who might sneer. Pity was no demand of his; laughter no wrong; the sole necessity for him was—to empty his over-burdened spirit.”

The divorce was a separation a mensâ et thoro, and my grandfather had accomplished what he desired, the severance of his connection with a lady who, he conceived, did not understand or value him, and who had her independent means of support. But it was not a parting for ever. Strangely enough, there does not seem to have been any ill-will on either side in the matter. They were to meet again.

It should be remembered that they had a strong tie remaining, which they could not or would not cut. It was my father—their only surviving child. They were both fondly attached to him, Mr. Hazlitt in his way, and Mrs. Hazlitt in hers, and he was often a channel of communication between his disunited parents.

Let me leave this subject of the ‘Liber Amoris’ for good, with one observation, that it does not seem that the passion left a very deep or lasting impression on his mind. It was a piece of Buncle-ishness, which soon eva-
porated, and we hear, fortunately, very little of it afterwards, and then only in casual and half unintelligible allusions. As for the dissolution of that marriage-bond, it was decidedly the best course to have taken, and it was a mere piece of diplomacy after all. There were no tears shed on either side. It was a stroke of business. Let it pass. Majora canemus.

He was all this time at work upon a second series of ‘Table Talk’ for Mr. Colburn, to be published in one volume, uniform with the last; and of this the greater part, if not all, was completed in Edinburgh or at Renton Inn, Berwickshire, in the presence of a great anxiety, and in an indifferent state of bodily health, between January and March, 1822.

At the end of one of his letters to Mr. Patmore, written in March, he says:—

“You may tell Colburn when you see him that his work is done magnificently, to wit:—I. ‘On the Knowledge of Character,’ 40 pp. II. ‘Advice to a Schoolboy,’ 60 pp. III. ‘On Patronage and Puffing,’ 50 pp. IV. and V. ‘On Spurzheim’s Theory,’ 80 pp. VI. ‘On the Disadvantages of Intellectual Superiority,’ 25 pp. VII. ‘On the Fear of Death,’ 25 pp. VIII. ‘Burleigh House,’ 25 pp. IX. ‘Why Actors should not sit in the Boxes,’ 35 pp.—in all 340 pages. To do by Saturday night:—X. ‘On Dreams,’ 25 pp. ‘On Individuality,’ 25 pp.—390 pages.”

In this labour he found a relief and distraction from less agreeable thoughts, and the exertion was, besides, necessary as a source of ways and means. Nor was this
the full extent of his occupation. He had other essays on the stocks, that is to say, in his head, for other people.

For, in the year after his disagreement with Mr. Leigh Hunt, he received overtures from that gentleman to aid him in an undertaking which had been set on foot for Mr. Hunt’s benefit under the auspices of Lord Byron. The undertaking was of course a literary one, and was a publication—now well known as the ‘Liberal: Verse and Prose from the South.’ The contributors were Mr. Hunt himself, Lord Byron, and Mr. Shelley; and upon Shelley’s death it was proposed that Mr. Hazlitt should supply his place on the periodical, it being thought doubtless that his name would be valuable and strengthening.

In one of Byron’s conversations with Medwin, he says, “I believe I told you of a plan we had in agitation for his (Hunt’s) benefit. His principal object in coming out [to Italy] was to establish a literary journal, whose name is not yet fixed. I have promised to contribute, and shall probably make it a vehicle for some occasional poems; for instance, I mean to translate Ariosto. I was strongly advised by Tom Moore, long ago, not to have any connection with such a company as Hunt, Shelley, and Co.; but I have pledged myself——.”

Co. was Mr. Hazlitt. I shall give Co.’s history of the ‘Liberal’ and its projectors.

“At the time that Lord Byron thought proper to join with Mr. Leigh Hunt and Mr. Shelley in the publication called the ‘Liberal.’ ‘Blackwood’s Magazine
overflowed, as might be expected, with tenfold gall and bitterness; the ‘
John Bull’ was outrageous; and Mr. Jerdan black in the face at this unheard-of and disgraceful disunion. But who would have supposed that Mr. Thomas Moore and Mr. Hobhouse, those stanch friends and partisans of the people, should also be thrown into almost hysterical agonies of well-bred horror at the coalition between their noble and ignoble acquaintance, between the patrician and the ‘newspaper-man.’ Mr. Moore darted backwards and forwards from Coldbath Fields Prison to the Examiner office, from Mr. Longman’s to Mr. Murray’s shop, in a state of ridiculous trepidation, to see what was to be done to prevent this degradation of the aristocracy of letters, this indecent encroachment of plebeian pretensions, this undue extension of patronage and compromise of privilege.

“The Tories were shocked that Lord Byron should grace the popular side by his direct countenance and assistance—the Whigs were shocked that he should share his confidence and counsels with any one who did not unite the double recommendations of birth and genius—but themselves. Mr. Moore had lived so long among the great that he fancied himself one of them, and regarded the indignity as done to himself. Mr. Hobhouse had lately been black-balled by the clubs, and must feel particularly sore and tenacious on the score of public opinion.

Mr. Shelley’s father, however, was an older baronet than Mr. Hobhouse’s. Mr. Leigh Hunt was ‘to the full
as genteel a man’ as
Mr. Moore, in birth, appearance, and education. The pursuits of all four were the same—the Muse, the public favour, and the public good. Mr. Moore was himself invited to assist in the undertaking, but he professed an utter aversion to, and warned Lord Byron against having any concern with joint publications, as of a very neutralizing and levelling description. He might speak from experience. He had tried his hand at that Ulysses’ bow of critics and politicians, the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ though his secret had never transpired. Mr. Hobhouse, too, had written ‘Illustrations of Childe Harold’ (a sort of partnership concern)—yet, to quash the publication of the ‘Liberal,’ he seriously proposed that his noble friend should write once a week, in his own name, in the Examiner—the ‘Liberal’ scheme, he was afraid, might succeed: the newspaper one, he knew, could not.

“I have been whispered that the member for Westminster (for whom I once gave an ineffectual vote) has also conceived some distaste for me. I do not know why, except that I was at one time named as the writer of the famous ‘Trecenti Juravimus Letter,’ to Mr. Canning, which appeared in the Examiner, and was afterwards suppressed. He might feel the disgrace of such a supposition: I confess I did not feel the honour.

“The cabal, the bustle, the significant hints, the confidential rumours were at the height when, after Mr. Shelley’s death, I was invited to take part in this obnoxious publication (obnoxious alike to friend and foe); and when the ‘Essay on the Spirit of Monarchy
appeared (which must indeed have operated like a bombshell thrown into the coteries that
Mr. Moore frequented, as well as those that he had left) this gentleman wrote off to Lord Byron to say that there was a taint in the ‘Liberal,’ and that he should lose no time in getting out of it.’ And this from Mr. Moore to Lord Byron—the last of whom had just involved the publication, against which he was cautioned as having a taint in it, in a prosecution for libel by his ‘Vision of Judgment;’ and the first of whom had scarcely written anything all his life that had not a taint in it.

“It is true that the Holland House party might be somewhat staggered by a jeu d’esprit that set their Blackstone and De Lolme theories at defiance, and that they could as little write as answer. But it was not that.

Mr. Moore also complained that ‘I had spoken against “Lalla Rookh,” though he had just before sent me his “Fudge Family.”’ Still it was not that.

“But at the time he sent me that very delightful and spirited publication, my little bark was seen ‘hulling on the flood’ in a kind of dubious twilight; and it was not known whether I might not prove a vessel of gallant trim. Mr. Blackwood had not then directed his Grub-street battery against me; but as soon as the was the case, Mr. Moore was willing to ‘whistle me down the wind,’ and let me prey at fortune: not that I ‘proved haggard,’ but the contrary. It is sheer cowardice and want of heart. The sole object of this set is not to stem the tide of prejudice and falsehood,
but to get out of the way themselves. The instant another is assailed (however unjustly), instead of standing manfully by him, they cut the connection as fast as possible. . . . .”

In another place he takes occasion to inquire whether “Mr. Moore is bound to advise a noble poet to get as fast as possible out of a certain publication, lest he should not be able to give an account, at Holland or at Lansdowne House, how his friend Lord B[yron] had associated himself with his friend L[eigh] H[unt]? Is he afraid,” Mr. Hazlitt asks at the same time, “that the ‘Spirit of Monarchy’ will eclipse the ‘Fables for the Holy Alliance’ in virulence and plain speaking?”

The ‘Liberal’ lived into the fourth number, and Mr. Hazlitt contributed to it five papers: ‘My First Acquaintance with Poets,’ ‘Arguing in a Circle,’ ‘On the Scotch Character,’ ‘Pulpit Oratory,’ and ‘On the Spirit of Monarchy.’

I find attributed to him under 1822 an octavo volume called ‘A Selection of Speeches Delivered at Several County Meetings, in the years 1820 and 1821,’ but I do not believe it to be his. The advertisement, which is the only original part of the book, is not in his manner, and he was away from England from January to July, 1822.

It happened at the beginning of December the same year, within a few months after the close of the Scottish business, that his friend Mr. Patmore heard there was to
be a grand prize-fight at a place in Berkshire, on the 11th, between
Hickman and Neate; and he half-jocularly suggested to my grandfather that he should run down with him, and do an account of the thing for the ‘New Monthly Magazine.’ But Mr. Hazlitt took him more readily at his word than he had dreamt of.

The fact was, that getting an article out of the matter was a consideration which always weighed more or less; and then he had never seen a good fight. He spoke to Colburn about it, and Colburn seemed to entertain the notion; so he determined to make a day, or rather two, of it.

But somehow or other, he and Patmore, when it came to the time—the afternoon of the 10th—missed each other, and Mr. Hazlitt had to find another companion, his friend Joseph Parkes, Esq. Fights in those days were spectacles from which even the author of ‘Elia’ would not have shrunk.

Nothing which I could ever put together would approach his own narrative of the adventure, as I propose to give it, divested only of certain particulars which possess no permanent interest. The incident itself, as it is related below, is intrinsically valuable, since it exhibits the writer in one of his healthier moods, when he was no longer the “poor creature” he liked occasionally, in fits of gloom, to proclaim himself (such a cry was sure never to lack a chorus); and it would have astonished Lamb’s friends, Lamb and his biographer included, to have seen him step out along the road, and snuff up the country air.


Where there’s a will there’s a way. I said so to myself, as I walked down Chancery Lane, about half-past six o’clock on Monday the 10th of December [1822], to inquire at Jack Randall’s where the fight the next day was to be; and I found ‘the proverb’ nothing ‘musty’ in the present instance. I was determined to see this fight, come what would, and see it I did, in great style. It was my first fight, yet it more than answered my expectations. Ladies! it is to you I dedicate this description; nor let it seem out of character for the fair to notice the exploits of the brave. . . .

“I was going down Chancery Lane, thinking to ask at Jack Randall’s where the fight was to be, when looking through the glass door of the Hole in the Wall, I heard a gentleman asking the same question at Mrs. Randall, as the author of ‘Waverley’ would express it. Now Mrs. Randall stood answering the gentleman’s question with the authenticity of the lady of the Champion of the Light Weights. Thinks I, I’ll wait till this person comes out, and learn from him how it is. For, to say a truth, I was not fond of going into this house of call for heroes and philosophers, ever since the owner of it (for Jack is no gentleman) threatened once upon a time to kick me out of doors for wanting a mutton-chop at his hospitable board, when the conqueror in thirteen battles was more full of blue ruin than of good manners. I was the more mortified at this repulse, inasmuch as I had heard Mr. James Simpkins, hosier in the Strand, one day when the character of the Hole in the Wall was brought in
question, observe—‘The house is a very good house, and the company quite genteel: I have been there myself!’ Remembering this unkind treatment of mine host, to which mine hostess was also a party, and not wishing to put her in unquiet thoughts at a time jubilant like the present, I waited at the door; when who should issue forth but my friend
Joe Toms,* and turning suddenly up Chancery Lane with the quick jerk and impatient stride which distinguishes a lover of the Fancy, I said, ‘I’ll be hanged if that fellow is not going to the fight, and is on his way to get me to go with him.’ So it proved in effect, and we agreed to adjourn to my lodgings to discuss measures with that cordiality which makes old friends like new, and new friends like old, on great occasions Toms and I, though we seldom meet, were an alter idem on this memorable occasion, and had not an idea that we did not candidly impart; and ‘so carelessly did we fleet the time,’ that I wish no better, when there is another fight, than to have him for a companion on my journey down. . . . .

Joe Toms and I could not settle about the method of going down. He said there was a caravan, he understood, to start from Tom Belcher’s at two, which would go there right out and back again the next day. Now I never travel all night, and I said I should get a cast to Newbury by one of the mails. Joe swore the thing was impossible, and I could only answer that I had made up my mind to it. In short, he seemed to me

* The late Mr. Joseph. Parkes.

to waver, said he only came to see if I was going, had letters to write, a cause coming on the day after, and faintly said at parting (for I was bent on setting out that moment)—‘Well, we meet at Philippi!’ I made the best of my way to Piccadilly. The mail-coach stand was bare. ‘They are all gone,’ said I. ‘This is always the way with me—in the instant I lose the future—if I had not stayed to pour out that last cup of tea, I should have been just in time;’ and cursing my folly and ill-luck together, without inquiring at the coach-office whether the mails were gone or not, I walked on in despite, and to punish my own dilatoriness and want of determination. At any rate, I would not turn back: I might get to Hounslow, or perhaps farther, to be on my road the next morning. I passed Hyde Park Corner (my Rubicon), and trusted to fortune. Suddenly I heard the clattering of a Brentford stage, and the fight rushed full upon my fancy. I argued (not unwisely) that even a Brentford coachman was better company than my own thoughts (such as they were just then), and at his invitation mounted the box with him. I immediately stated my case to him—namely, my quarrel with myself for missing the Bath or Bristol mail, and my determination to get on in consequence as well as I could, without any disparagement or insulting comparison between longer or shorter stages. It is a maxim with me that stage-coaches, and consequently stage-coachmen, are respectable in proportion to the distance they have to travel; so I said nothing on that subject to my Brentford friend. Any
incipient tendency to an abstract proposition, or (as he might have construed it) to a personal reflection of this kind, was however nipped in the bud; for I had no sooner declared indignantly that I had missed the mails, than he flatly denied that they were gone along; and lo! at the instant three of them drove by in rapid, provoking, orderly succession, as if they would devour the ground before them. . . . . If I had stopped to inquire at the White Horse Cellar, which would not have taken me a minute, I should now have been driving down the road in all the dignified unconcern and ideal perfection of mechanical conveyance. The Bath mail I had set my mind upon, and I had missed it, as I miss everything else, by my own absurdity, in putting the will for the deed, and aiming at ends without employing means. ‘Sir,’ said he of the Brentford, ‘the Bath mail will be up presently, my brother-in-law drives it, and I will engage to stop him if there is a place empty.’ I almost doubted my good genius; but, sure enough, up it drove like lightning, and stopped directly at the call of the Brentford Jehu. I would not have believed this possible, but the brother-in-law of a mail-coach driver is himself no mean man. I was transferred without loss of time from the top of one coach to that of the other; desired the guard to pay my fare to the Brentford coachman for me, as I had no change; was accommodated with a great-coat; put up my umbrella to keep off a drizzling mist, and we began to cut through the air like an arrow. The milestones disappeared one after another; the rain kept off;
Tom Thurtell the trainer
sat before me on the coach-box, with whom I exchanged civilities as a gentleman going to the fight; the passion that had transported me an hour before was subdued to pensive regret and conjectural musing on the next day’s battle; I was promised a place inside at Reading, and upon the whole I thought myself a lucky fellow. Such is the force of imagination! On the outside of any other coach on the 10th of December, with a Scotch mist drizzling through the cloudy moonlight air, I should have been cold, comfortless, impatient, and no doubt wet through; but seated on the royal mail, I felt warm and comfortable, the air did me good, the ride did me good, I was pleased with the progress we had made, and confident that all would go well through the journey. When I got inside at Reading I found Thurtell and a stout valetudinarian, whose costume bespoke him one of the Fancy, and who had risen from a three months’ sick bed to get into the mail to see the fight. They were intimate, and we fell into a lively discourse. . . . .”