William Hazlitt

English essayist and writer

William Hazlitt (10 April 177818 September 1830) was an English writer remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism. He is sometimes esteemed the greatest English literary critic after Samuel Johnson.

Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.

Quotes edit

Those who aim at faultless regularity will only produce mediocrity, and no one ever approaches perfection except by stealth, and unknown to themselves.
You know more of a road by having travelled it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world.
The art of life is to know how to enjoy a little and to endure much.
The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves.
  • The slaves of power mind the cause they have to serve, because their own interest is concerned; but the friends of liberty always sacrifice their cause, which is only the cause of humanity, to their own spleen, vanity, and self-opinion.
    • Review of Lord Byron's Childe Harold in Yellow Dwarf (2 May 1818), reprinted in The Collected Works of William Hazlitt, ed. A.R. Waller and Arnold Glover (1902-1904)
  • Those who aim at faultless regularity will only produce mediocrity, and no one ever approaches perfection except by stealth, and unknown to themselves.
    • "Thoughts on Taste", Edinburgh Magazine (July 1819), final paragraph
  • We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts.
    • "Thoughts on Taste," Edinburgh Magazine, (October 1818), reprinted in The Collected Works of William Hazlitt (1902-1904)
  • Do not keep on with a mockery of friendship after the substance is gone — but part, while you can part friends. Bury the carcass of friendship: it is not worth embalming.
  • Look up, laugh loud, talk big, keep the colour in your cheek and the fire in your eye, adorn your person, maintain your health, your beauty, and your animal spirits, and you will pass for a fine man.
    • "On The Conduct of Life" (1822)
  • You know more of a road by having travelled it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world.
    • "On The Conduct of Life" (1822)
  • The art of life is to know how to enjoy a little and to endure much.
    • "Common Places," No. 1, The Literary Examiner (September - December 1823), reprinted in The Collected Works of William Hazlitt (1902-1904)
  • A scholar is like a book written in a dead language — it is not every one that can read in it.
    • "Common Places," No. 13, The Literary Examiner (September - December 1823)
  • I hate to be near the sea, and to hear it roaring and raging like a wild beast in its den. It puts me in mind of the everlasting efforts of the human mind, struggling to be free, and ending just where it began.
    • "Common Places," No. 60, The Literary Examiner (September - December 1823)
  • Mankind are an incorrigible race. Give them but bugbears and idols — it is all that they ask; the distinctions of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood, of good and evil, are worse than indifferent to them.
    • "Common Places," No. 76, The Literary Examiner (September - December 1823)
  • Man is a make-believe animal — he is never so truly himself as when he is acting a part.
    • Notes of a Journey through France and Italy (1824), ch. XVI
  • If a person has no delicacy, he has you in his power, for you necessarily feel some towards him; and since he will take no denial, you must comply with his peremptory demands, or send for a constable, which out of respect for his character you will not do.
    • "On The Want Of Money," Monthly Magazine (January 1827), reprinted in The Collected Works of William Hazlitt (1902-1904)
  • Belief is with them mechanical, voluntary: they believe what they are paid for — they swear to that which turns to account. Do you suppose, that after years spent in this manner, they have any feeling left answering to the difference between truth and falsehood?
    • "The Modern Gradus ad Parnassum," London Weekly Review (17 May 1828), reprinted in New Writings by William Hazlitt (1925), edited by P. P. Howe
  • The least pain in our little finger gives us more concern and uneasiness, than the destruction of millions of our fellow-beings.
    • "American Literature — Dr. Channing," Edinburgh Review, (October 1829), reprinted in The Collected Works of William Hazlitt (1902-1904)
  • The origin of all science is in the desire to know causes; and the origin of all false science and imposture is in the desire to accept false causes rather than none; or, which is the same thing, in the unwillingness to acknowledge our own ignorance.
    • Burke and the Edinburgh Phrenologists in The Atlas (15 February 1829); reprinted in New Writings by William Hazlitt, William Hazlitt and Percival Presland Howe (ed.), (2nd edition, 1925), p. 117; also reprinted in The Complete Works of William Hazlitt, Volume 20: Miscellaneous writings, (J.M. Dent and Sons, 1934), (AMS Press, 1967), p. 201
  • When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest.
    • "On The Spirit of Controversy," The Atlas (30 January 1830), reprinted in The Collected Works of William Hazlitt (1902-1904)
  • Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own.
    • "The Sick Chamber," The New Monthly Magazine (August 1830), reprinted in Essays of William Hazlitt, selected and edited by Frank Carr (London, 1889)
  • Well, I've had a happy life.
    • Last words (18 September 1830), quoted by his grandson, William Carew Hazlitt, in Memoirs of William Hazlitt (1867) vol. II, p. 238

The Eloquence of the British Senate (1808) edit

  • General principles are not the less true or important because, from their nature they elude immediate observation; they are like the air, which is not the less necessary because we neither see nor feel it, or like that secret influence which binds the world together and holds the planets in their orbits.

The Round Table (1815-1817) edit

  • The perfect joys of heaven do not satisfy the cravings of nature.
    • "On the Literary Character" (28 October 1813)
  • They are the only honest hypocrites. Their life is a voluntary dream; a studied madness.
  • There is a natural tendency in sects to narrow the mind.
    The extreme stress laid upon differences of minor importance, to the neglect of more general truths and broader views of things, gives an inverted bias to the understanding; and this bias is continually increased by the eagerness of controversy, and captious hostility to the prevailing system. A party-feeling of this kind once formed will insensibly communicate itself to other topics; and will be too apt to lead its votaries to a contempt for the opinions of others, a jealousy of every difference of sentiment, and a disposition to arrogate all sound principle as well as understanding to themselves, and those who think with them. We can readily conceive how such persons, from fixing too high a value on the practical pledge which they have given of the independence and sincerity of their opinions, come at last to entertain a suspicion of every one else as acting under the shackles of prejudice or the mask of hypocrisy. All those who have not given in their unqualified protest against received doctrines and established authority, are supposed to labour under an acknowledged incapacity to form a rational determination on any subject whatever. Any argument, not having the presumption of singularity in its favour, is immediately set aside as nugatory. There is, however, no prejudice so strong as that which arises from a fancied exemption from all prejudice. For this last implies not only the practical conviction that it is right, but the theoretical assumption that it cannot be wrong. From considering all objections as in this manner "null and void,” the mind becomes so thoroughly satisfied with its own conclusions, as to render any farther examination of them superfluous, and confounds its exclusive pretensions to reason with the absolute possession of it.
    • "On the Tendency of Sects"
  • Grace has been defined the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.
    • "On Manner"
  • Grace in women has more effect than beauty.
    • "On Manner"
  • Grace is the absence of every thing that indicates pain or difficulty, or hesitation or incongruity.
    • "On Beauty"

Lectures on the English Poets (1818) edit

Lecture I, "On Poetry in General" edit

  • All that is worth remembering in life, is the poetry of it.
  • Poetry is the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself. He who has a contempt for poetry, cannot have much respect for himself, or for anything else.
  • The poetical impression of any object is that uneasy, exquisite sense of beauty or power that cannot be contained within itself; that is impatient of all limit; that (as flame bends to flame) strives to link itself to some other image of kindred beauty or grandeur; to enshrine itself, as it were, in the highest forms of fancy, and to relieve the aching sense of pleasure by expressing it in the boldest manner, and by the most striking examples of the same quality in other instances.

Lecture III, "On Shakespeare and Milton" edit

Lecture VIII, "On the Living Poets" edit

  • The temple of fame stands upon the grave: the flame that burns upon its altars is kindled from the ashes of dead men.
  • He talked on for ever; and you wished him to talk on for ever.
  • The love of fame, as it enters at times into his mind, is only another name for the love of excellence; or it is the ambition to attain the highest excellence, sanctioned by the highest authority — that of time.

Political Essays (1819) edit

Political Essays, with Sketches of Public Characters (1819)
I have a hatred of tyranny, and a contempt for its tools; and this feeling I have expressed as often and as strongly as I could.
  • I am no politician, and still less can I be said to be a party-man : I have a hatred of tyranny, and a contempt for its tools; and this feeling I have expressed as often and as strongly as I could. I cannot sit quietly down under the claims of barefaced power, and have tried to expose the little arts of sophistry by which they are defended. I have no mind to have my person made a property of, nor my understanding made a dupe of. I deny that liberty and slavery are convertible terms, that right and wrong, truth and falsehood, plenty and famine, the comforts or wretchedness of a people, are matters of perfect indifference. That is all I know of the matter; but on these points I am likely to remain incorrigible, in spite of any arguments that I have seen used to the contrary. It needs no sagacity to discover that two and two make four; but to persist in maintaining this obvious position, if all the fashion, authority, hypocrisy, and venality of mankind were arrayed against it, would require a considerable effort of personal courage, and would soon leave a man in a very formidable minority.
  • The Tory is one who is governed by sense and habit alone. He considers not what is possible, but what is real; he gives might the preference over right. He cries long life to the conqueror, and is ever strong upon the stronger side — the side of corruption and prerogative.
    • "Preface"
  • Those who make their dress a principal part of themselves, will, in general, become of no more value than their dress.
  • It is hard for any one to be an honest politician who is not born and bred a Dissenter.
    • "On Court-Influence" (January 3/January 10, 1818)
  • We are all of us more or less the slaves of opinion.
    • "On Court-Influence" (January 3/January 10, 1818)
  • The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves.
    • "The Times Newspaper"

Lectures on the English Comic Writers (1819) edit

  • Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.
    • "On Wit and Humour"
  • Anyone must be mainly ignorant or thoughtless, who is surprised at everything he sees; or wonderfully conceited who expects everything to conform to his standard of propriety.
    • "On Wit and Humour"
  • Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food.
    • "On Wit and Humour"
  • Some one is generally sure to be the sufferer by a joke.
    • "On Wit and Humour"

Table Talk: Essays On Men And Manners (1821-1822) edit

  • Indolence is a delightful but distressing state; we must be doing something to be happy.
    • "On the Pleasure of Painting"
  • First impressions are often the truest, as we find (not unfrequently) to our cost when we have been wheedled out of them by plausible professions or actions. A man's look is the work of years, it is stamped on his countenance by the events of his whole life, nay, more, by the hand of nature, and it is not to be got rid of easily.
    • "On the Knowledge of Character"
  • Great thoughts reduced to practice become great acts.
    • "On the Knowledge of Character"
  • Modesty is the lowest of the virtues, and is a real confession of the deficiency it indicates. He who undervalues himself is justly undervalued by others.
    • "On the Knowledge of Character"
  • One has no notion of him as making use of a fine pen, but a great mutton-fist; his style stuns readers...He is too much for any single newspaper antagonist; "lays waste" a city orator or Member of Parliament, and bears hard upon the government itself. He is kind of fourth estate in the politics of the country.
  • He changes his opinions as he does his friends, and much on the same account. He has no comfort in fixed principles; as soon as anything is settled in his own mind, he quarrels with it. He has no satisfaction but the chase after truth, runs a question down, worries and kills it, then quits it like a vermin, and starts some new game, to lead him a new dance, and give him a fresh breathing through bog and brake, with the rabble yelping at his heels and the leaders perpetually at fault.
    • "On the Character of Cobbett"
  • Scholars, like princes, may learn something by being incognito. Yet we see those who cannot go into a bookseller's shop, or bear to be five minutes in a stage-coach, without letting you know who they are. They carry their reputation about with them as the snail does its shell, and sit under its canopy, like the lady in the lobster. I cannot understand this at all. What is the use of a man's always revolving round his own little circle? He must, one should think, be tired of it himself, as well as tire other people.
    • "On People With One Idea"
  • Any one who has passed through the regular gradations of a classical education, and is not made a fool by it, may consider himself as having had a very narrow escape.
    • "On the Ignorance of the Learned"
  • Learning is, in too many cases, but a foil to common sense; a substitute for true knowledge.
    • "On the Ignorance of the Learned"
  • The thing is plain. All that men really understand is confined to a very small compass; to their daily affairs and experience; to what they have an opportunity to know and motives to study or practise. The rest is affectation and imposture.
    • "On the Ignorance of the Learned"
  • The most sensible people to be met with in society are men of business and of the world, who argue from what they see and know, instead of spinning cobweb distinctions of what things ought to be.
    • "On the Ignorance of the Learned"
  • It is better to be able neither to read nor write than to be able to do nothing else.
    • "On the Ignorance of the Learned"
  • If we wish to know the force of human genius, we should read Shakespeare. If we wish to see the insignificance of human learning, we may study his commentators.
    • "On the Ignorance of the Learned"
  • Danger is a good teacher, and makes apt scholars. So are disgrace, defeat, exposure to immediate scorn and laughter. There is no opportunity in such cases for self-delusion, no idling time away, no being off your guard (or you must take the consequences) — neither is there any room for humour or caprice or prejudice.
    • "The Indian Jugglers"
  • No man is truly great who is great only in his lifetime. The test of greatness is the page of history.
    • "The Indian Jugglers"
  • What I mean by living to one's-self is living in the world, as in it, not of it: it is as if no one know there was such a person, and you wished no one to know it: it is to be a silent spectator of the mighty scene of things, not an object of attention or curiosity in it; to take a thoughtful, anxious interest in what is passing in the world, but not to feel the slightest inclination to make or meddle with it.
    • "On Living to One's-Self"
  • Even in the common affairs of life, in love, friendship, and marriage, how little security have we when we trust our happiness in the hands of others!
    • "On Living to One's-Self"
  • There is not a more mean, stupid, dastardly, pitiful, selfish, spiteful, envious, ungrateful animal than the Public. It is the greatest of cowards, for it is afraid of itself.
    • "On Living to One's-Self"
  • When a man is dead, they put money in his coffin, erect monuments to his memory, and celebrate the anniversary of his birthday in set speeches. Would they take any notice of him if he were living? No!
    • "On Living to One's-Self"
  • Thought depends on the habitual exercise of the speculative faculties; action, on the determination of the will. The one assigns reasons for things, the other puts causes into act. … Such is the effeminacy of the speculative and philosophical temperament, compared with the promptness and vigour of the practical! … Reasoners in general are undecided, wavering, and sceptical, or yield at last to the weakest motive as most congenial to their feeble habit of soul.
    • "On Thought and Action"
  • The great requisite … for the prosperous management of ordinary business is the want of imagination.
  • It [will-making] is the latest opportunity we have of exercising the natural perversity of the disposition … This last act of our lives seldom belies the former tenor of them for stupidity, caprice, and unmeaning spite. All that we seem to think of is to manage matters so (in settling accounts with those who are so unmannerly as to survive us) as to do as little good, and to plague and disappoint as many people, as possible.
    • "On Will-Making"
  • His hypothesis goes to this — to make the common run of his readers fancy they can do all that can be done by genius, and to make the man of genius believe he can only do what is to be done by mechanical rules and systematic industry. This is not a very feasible scheme; nor is Sir Joshua sufficiently clear and explicit in his reasoning in support of it.
  • It has been the resolution of mankind in all ages of the world. No people, no age, ever threw away the fruits of past wisdom, or the enjoyment of present blessings, for visionary schemes of ideal perfection. It is the knowledge of the past, the actual infliction of the present, that has produced all changes, all innovations, and all improvements — not (as is pretended) the chimerical anticipation of possible advantages, but the intolerable pressure of long-established, notorious, aggravated, and growing abuses.
    • "On Paradox and Common-Place"
  • Of the two classes of people, I hardly know which is to be regarded with most distaste, the vulgar aping the genteel, or the genteel constantly sneering at and endeavouring to distinguish themselves from the vulgar. … True worth does not exult in the faults and deficiencies of others; as true refinement turns away from grossness and deformity, instead of being tempted to indulge in an unmanly triumph over it. … Real power, real excellence, does not seek for a foil in inferiority; nor fear contamination from coming in contact with that which is coarse and homely.
    • "On Vulgarity and Affectation"
  • Our first of poets was one of our first of men. He was an eminent instance to prove that a poet is not another name for the slave of power and fashion … who merely aspire to make up the pageant and show of the day. There are persons in common life who … can so little bear to be left for any length of time out of the grand carnival and masquerade of pride and folly, that they will gain admittance to it at the expense of their characters … Milton was not one of these. He had lofty contemplative principle, and consciousness of inward power and worth, [not] to be tempted by such idle baits.
    • "On Milton's Sonnets"
  • One of the pleasantest things in the world is going a journey; but I like to do it myself. I can enjoy society in a room; but out of doors, nature is company enough for me. I am then never less alone than when alone.
    • "On Going on a Journey"
  • I cannot see the wit of walking and talking at the same time. When I am in the country, I wish to vegetate like the country.
    • "On Going on a Journey"
  • The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do just as one pleases.
    • "On Going on a Journey"
  • Give me the clear blue sky over my head, and the green turf beneath my feet, a winding road before me, and a three hours' march to dinner — and then to thinking! … I begin to feel, think, and be myself again. Instead of an awkward silence, broken by attempts at wit or dull common-places, mine is that undisturbed silence of the heart which alone is perfect eloquence.
    • "On Going on a Journey"
  • I should on this account like well enough to spend the whole of my life in travelling abroad, if I could anywhere borrow another life to spend afterwards at home.
    • "On Going on a Journey"
  • It is strange that people should take so much interest at one time in what they so soon forget; — the truth is, they feel no interest in it [news of the day] at any time, but it does for something to talk about. Their ideas are served up to them, like their bill of fare, for the day; and the whole creation, history, war, politics, morals, poetry, metaphysics, is to them like a file of antedated newspapers, of no use, not even for reference, except the one which lies on the table! You cannot take any of these persons at a greater disadvantage than before they are provided with their cue for the day. They ask with a face of dreary vacuity, 'Have you anything new?' — and on receiving an answer in the negative, have nothing further to say.
    • "On Coffee-House Politicians"
  • We cannot by a little verbal sophistry confound the qualities of different minds, nor force opposite excellences into a union by all the intolerance in the world. … If we have a taste for some one precise style or manner, we may keep it to ourselves and let others have theirs. If we are more catholic in our notions, and want variety of excellence and beauty, it is spread abroad for us to profusion in the variety of books and in the several growth of men's minds, fettered by no capricious or arbitrary rules.
    • "On Criticism"
  • The last sort I shall mention are verbal critics — mere word-catchers, fellows that pick out a word in a sentence and a sentence in a volume, and tell you it is wrong. The title of Ultra-Crepidarian critics has been given to a variety of this species.
    • "On Criticism"
  • It is not easy to write a familiar style. Many people mistake a familiar for a vulgar style, and suppose that to write without affectation is to write at random. On the contrary, there is nothing that requires more precision, and, if I may so say, purity of expression, than the style I am speaking of. It utterly rejects not only all unmeaning pomp, but all low, cant phrases, and loose, unconnected, slipshod allusions. It is not to take the first word that offers, but the best word in common use; it is not to throw words together in any combinations we please, but to follow and avail ourselves of the true idiom of the language. To write a genuine familiar or truly English style, is to write as anyone would speak in common conversation who had a thorough command and choice of words, or who could discourse with ease, force, and perspicuity, setting aside all pedantic and oratorical flourishes... It is easy to affect a pompous style, to use a word twice as big as the thing you want to express: it is not so easy to pitch upon the very word that exactly fits it, out of eight or ten words equally common, equally intelligible, with nearly equal pretensions, it is a matter of some nicety and discrimination to pick out the very one the preferableness of which is scarcely perceptible, but decisive.
    • "On Familiar Style" (1821)
  • Very trifling circumstances do give great and daily annoyance, and as often prove too much for our philosophy and forbearance, as matters of the highest moment. … The truth is, we pamper little griefs into great ones, and bear great ones as well as we can … To great evils we submit; we resent little provocations.
    • "On Great and Little Things"
  • If you think you can win, you can win. Faith is necessary to victory.
    • "On Great and Little Things"
  • Whatever is placed beyond the reach of sense and knowledge, whatever is imperfectly discerned, the fancy pieces out at its leisure; and all but the present moment, but the present spot, passion claims for its own, and brooding over it with wings outspread, stamps it with an image of itself. Passion is lord of infinite space, and distant objects please because they border on its confines and are moulded by its touch.
    • "Why Distant Objects Please"
  • There is (so to speak) "a mighty stream of tendency" to good in the human mind, upon which all objects float and are imperceptibly borne along; and though in the voyage of life we meet with strong rebuffs, with rocks and quicksands, yet there is a "a tide in the affairs of men," a heaving and a restless aspiration of the soul, by means of which, "with sails and tackle torn," the wreck and scattered fragments of our entire being drift into the port and haven of our desires!
    • "Why Distant Objects Please"
  • We can scarcely hate any one that we know.
    • "Why Distant Objects Please"
  • In art, in taste, in life, in speech, you decide from feeling, and not from reason … If we were obliged to enter into a theoretical deliberation on every occasion before we act, life would be at a stand, and Art would be impracticable.
    • "On Genius and Common Sense"
  • The objects that we have known in better days are the main props that sustain the weight of our affections, and give us strength to await our future lot. The future is like a dead wall or a thick mist hiding all objects from our view; the past is alive and stirring with objects, bright or solemn, and of unfading interest.
    • "On the Past and Future"
  • I think it is a rule that men in business should not be taught other things. Any one will be almost sure to make money who has no other idea in his head. A college education, or intense study of abstract truth, will not enable a man to drive a bargain … The best politicians are not those who are deeply grounded in mathematical or in ethical science. Rules stand in the way of expediency. Many a man has been hindered from pushing his fortune in the world by an early cultivation of his moral sense.
    • "On the Disadvantages of Intellectual Superiority"
  • Corporate bodies are more corrupt and profligate than individuals, because they have more power to do mischief, and are less amenable to disgrace or punishment. They feel neither shame, remorse, gratitude, nor goodwill.
    • "On Corporate Bodies"
  • They [universities] may be said to resemble antiquated coquettes of the last age, who think everything ridiculous and intolerable but what was in fashion when they were young, and yet are standing proofs of the progress of taste and the vanity of human pretensions. Our universities are, in a great measure, become cisterns to hold, not conduits to disperse knowledge. … they can only be of service as a check-weight on the too hasty and rapid career of innovation. … The unavoidable aim of all corporate bodies of learning is not to grow wise, or teach others wisdom, but to prevent any one else from being or seeming wiser than themselves.
    • "On Corporate Bodies"
  • Reputation runs in a vicious circle, and Merit limps behind it, mortified and abashed at its own insignificance. It has been said that the test of fame or popularity is to consider the number of times your name is repeated by others … So, if you see the same name staring you in the face in great letters at the corner of every street, you involuntarily think the owner of it must be a great man to occupy so large a space in the eye of the town. The appeal is made, in the first instance, to the senses, but it sinks below the surface into the mind. There are various ways of playing one's-self off before the public, and keeping one's name alive. The newspapers, the lamp-posts, the walls of empty houses, the shutters of windows, the blank covers of magazines and reviews, are open to every one.
    • "On Patronage and Puffing"
  • No young man believes he shall ever die.
    • "On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth"
  • There is a feeling of Eternity in youth which makes us amends for everything. To be young is to be as one of the Immortals.
    • "On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth"
  • Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when we were not: this gives us no concern — why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be?
    • "On the Fear of Death"
  • The art of will-making chiefly consists in baffling the importunity of expectation.
    • "On Will-Making"

Characteristics, in the manner of Rochefoucauld's Maxims (1823) edit

Characteristics, in the manner of Rochefoucauld's Maxims (1823)
The true barbarian is he who thinks every thing barbarous but his own tastes and prejudices.
  • Though familiarity may not breed contempt, it takes off the edge of admiration.
    • No. 2
  • Envy among other ingredients has a mixture of the love of justice in it. We are more angry at undeserved than at deserved good-fortune.
    • No. 19
  • Hope is the best possession. None are completely wretched but those who are without hope; and few are reduced so low as that.
    • No. 34
  • Death is the greatest evil, because it cuts off hope.
    • No. 35
  • The confession of our failings is a thankless office. It savors less of sincerity or modesty than of ostentation. It seems as if we thought our weaknesses as good as other people's virtues.
    • No. 43
  • There are names written in her immortal scroll, at which FAME blushes!
    • No. 53
  • The world judge of men by their ability in their profession, and we judge of ourselves by the same test; for it is on that on which our success in life depends.
    • No. 54
  • There are few things in which we deceive ourselves more than in the esteem we profess to entertain for our friends. It is little better than a piece of quackery. The truth is, we think of them as we please — that is as they please or displease us.
    • No. 60
  • It is well that there is no one without a fault; for he would not have a friend in the world.
    • No. 66
  • Satirists gain the applause of others through fear, not through love.
    • No. 72
  • The public have neither shame or gratitude.
    • No. 85
  • Our friends are generally ready to do everything for us, except the very thing we wish them to do.
    • No. 87
  • As is our confidence, so is our capacity.
    • No. 89
  • Cunning is the art of concealing our own defects, and discovering other people's weaknesses.
    • No. 101
  • The truly proud man knows neither superiors nor inferiors. The first he does not admit of: the last he does not concern himself about.
    • No. 112
  • No wise man can have a contempt for the prejudices of others; and he should even stand in a certain awe of his own, as if they were aged parents and monitors. They may in the end prove wiser than he.
    • No. 132
  • Unlimited power is helpless, as arbitrary power is capricious. Our energy is in proportion to the resistance it meets. We can attempt nothing great, but from a sense of the difficulties we have to encounter: we can persevere in nothing great, but from a pride in overcoming them.
    • No. 156
  • One shining quality lends a lustre to another, or hides some glaring defect.
    • No. 162
  • To a superior race of beings the pretensions of mankind to extraordinary sanctity and virtue must seem equally ridiculous.
    • No. 191
  • The only vice which cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.
    • No. 257
  • If the world were good for nothing else, it is a fine subject for speculation.
    • No. 302
  • Every man, in his own opinion, forms an exception to the ordinary rules of morality.
    • No. 305
  • The most learned are often the most narrow-minded men.
    • No. 330
  • The true barbarian is he who thinks every thing barbarous but his own tastes and prejudices.
    • No. 333
  • We are very much what others think of us. The reception our observations meet with gives us courage to proceed, or damps our efforts.
    • No. 364
  • A grave blockhead should always go about with a lively one — they shew one another off to the best advantage.
    • No. 376
  • An honest man speaks the truth, though it may give offence; a vain man, in order that it may.
    • No. 387
  • Those only deserve a monument who do not need one; that is, who have raised themselves a monument in the minds and memories of men.
    • No. 388
  • Fame is the inheritance not of the dead, but of the living. It is we who look back with lofty pride to the great names of antiquity, who drink of that flood of glory as of a river, and refresh our wings in it for future flight.
    • No. 389
  • He will never have true friends who is afraid of making enemies.
    • No. 401
  • The way to procure insults is to submit to them. A man meets with no more respect than he exacts.
    • No. 402
  • Those who can command themselves, command others.
    • No. 407
  • Some persons make promises for the pleasure of breaking them.
    • No. 413
  • Men of genius do not excel in any profession because they labour in it, but they labour in it because they excel.
    • No. 416
  • To be remembered after we are dead, is but a poor recompense for being treated with contempt while we are living.
    • No. 429

The Spirit of the Age (1825) edit

  • This Journal, then, is a depository for every species of political sophistry and personal calumny. There is no abuse or corruption that does not there find a jesuitical palliation or a bare-faced vindication. There we meet the slime of hypocrisy, the varnish of courts, the cant of pedantry, the cobwebs of the law, the iron hand of power. Its object is as mischievous as the means by which it is pursued are odious.
  • One truth discovered is immortal, and entitles its author to be so; for, like a new substance in nature, it cannot be destroyed.

The Plain Speaker (1826) edit

  • The player envies only the player, the poet envies only the poet.
    • "On Envy"
  • For my own part, as I once said, I like a friend the better for having faults that one can talk about.
  • If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago.
    • "On the Pleasure of Hating"
  • We grow tired of every thing but turning others into ridicule, and congratulating ourselves on their defects.
    • "On Application to Study"
  • Genius, like humanity, rusts for want of use.
    • "On Application to Study"
  • No really great man ever thought himself so.
    • "Whether Genius is Conscious of its Powers?"
  • Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks.
    • "Whether Genius is Conscious of its Powers?"
  • He who comes up to his own idea of greatness, must always have had a very low standard of it in his mind.
    • "Whether Genius is Conscious of its Powers?"
  • To give a reason for anything is to breed a doubt of it…
    • "On the Difference Between Writing and Speaking"
  • Few things tend more to alienate friendship than a want of punctuality in our engagements. I have known the breach of a promise to dine or sup to break up more than one intimacy.
  • The person whose doors I enter with most pleasure, and quit with most regret, never did me the smallest favour.
    • "On the Spirit of Obligations"
  • So have I loitered my life away, reading books, looking at pictures, going to plays, hearing, thinking, writing on what pleased me best. I have wanted only one thing to make me happy, but wanting that have wanted everything.
  • Learning is its own exceeding great reward; and at the period of which we speak, it bore other fruits, not unworthy of it.
    • "On Old English Writers and Speakers" (1825)
  • The way to secure success, is to be more anxious about obtaining than about deserving it; the surest hindrance to it is to have too high a standard of refinement in our own minds, or too high an opinion of the discernment of the public.
  • We are not hypocrites in our sleep.
    • "On Dreams"
  • We often forget our dreams so speedily: if we cannot catch them as they are passing out at the door, we never set eyes on them again.
    • "On Dreams"
  • A gentleman is one who understands and shows every mark of deference to the claims of self-love in others, and exacts it in return from them.
    • "On the Look of a Gentleman"

Winterslow: Essays and Characters (1850) edit

  • Happy are they who live in the dream of their own existence, and see all things in the light of their own minds; who walk by faith and hope; to whom the guiding star of their youth still shines from afar, and into whom the spirit of the world has not entered! They have not been "hurt by the archers", nor has the iron entered their souls. The world has no hand on them.
    • "Mind and Motive"
  • To get others to come into our ways of thinking, we must go over to theirs; and it is necessary to follow, in order to lead.
    • "A Farewell to Essay-Writing" (March 1828)

Men and Manners: Sketches and Essays (1852) edit

  • If I have not read a book before, it is, to all intents and purposes, new to me, whether it was printed yesterday or three hundred years ago.
    • "On Reading New Books" (1825)
  • Prosperity is a great teacher; adversity is a greater. Possession pampers the mind; privation trains and strengthens it.
    • "On the Conversations of Lords," New Monthly Magazine (April 1826)
  • Horus non numero nisi serenas—"I count only the hours that are serene"—is the motto of a sundial near Venice. There is a softness and a harmony in the words and in the thought unparalleled.
  • Gallantry to women (the sure road to their favor) is nothing but the appearance of extreme devotion to all their wants and wishes, a delight in their satisfaction, and a confidence in yourself as being able to contribute toward it.
  • But there is an unseemly exposure of the mind, as well as of the body.
    • "On Disagreeable People"
  • Indeed some degree of affectation is as necessary to the mind as dress is to the body; we must overact our part in some measure, in order to produce any effect at all.
  • We all wear some disguise — make some professions — use some artifice to set ourselves off as being better than we are; and yet it is not denied that we have some good intentions and praiseworthy qualities at bottom, though we may endeavour to keep some others that we think less to our credit as much as possible in the background…
    • "On Cant and Hypocrisy"
  • The mind of man is like a clock that is always running down, and requires to be as constantly wound up.
    • "On Cant and Hypocrisy"
  • Again, there is a heroism in crime as well as in virtue. Vice and infamy have also their altars and their religion.
    • "On Cant and Hypocrisy"
  • We never do anything well till we cease to think about the manner of doing it.
    • "On Prejudice"
  • Defoe says, that there were a hundred thousand stout country-fellows in his time ready to fight to the death against popery, without knowing whether popery was a man or a horse.
    • "On Prejudice"
  • Without the aid of prejudice and custom, I should not be able to find my way across the room; nor know how to conduct myself in any circumstances, nor what to feel in any relation of life.
    • "On Prejudice"
  • A nickname is the heaviest stone that the devil can throw at a man.
    • "On Nicknames"
  • But fashion is the abortive issue of vain ostentation and exclusive egotism: it is haughty, trifling, affected, servile, despotic, mean and ambitious, precise and fantastical, all in a breath — tied to no rule, and bound to conform to every whim of the minute.
    • "On Fashion"
  • The way to get on in the world is to be neither more nor less wise, neither better nor worse than your neighbours.
    • "On Knowledge of the World"

Misattributed edit

  • Good temper is one of the great preservers of the features.
    • This is from Hazlitt's "Conversations of James Northcote, Esq., R.A.," New Monthly Magazine (1826-1827), published in book form in 1830; but the words were spoken by Northcote
  • He who would see old Hoghton right
    Must view it by the pale moonlight.

Quotes about Hazlitt edit

Sorted alphabetically by author or source
  • His manners are to 99 in 100 singularly repulsive—; brow-hanging, shoe-contemplative, strange. … he is, I verily believe, kindly-nature; is very of, attentive to, and patient with children; but he is jealous, gloomy, and of an irritable pride — and addicted to women, as objects of sexual indulgence.
    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in a letter to Thomas Wedgwood (1803), in Unpublished Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. E.L. Griggs (1932)
  • If Samuel Johnson was the more deliberate aphorist, Hazlitt was the more self-conscious literary architect. You quote lines from Johnson; you want to recite entire passages from Hazlitt.
    • Arthur Krystal, in The New Yorker (18 May 2009), p. 74
  • John Lamb (the brother of Charles) once knocked down Hazlitt, who was impertinent to him; and on those who were present interfering and begging Hazlitt to shake hands and forgive him, Hazlitt said, "Well, I don't care if I do. I am a metaphysician, and do not mind a blow; nothing but an idea hurts me."
    • Thomas Moore, in his Journal (9 September 1820), vol. III, p. 146
  • The miscreant Hazlitt continues, I have heard, his abuses of Southey, Coleridge and myself, in the Examiner. — I hope that you do not associate with this Fellow, he is not a proper person to be admitted into respectable society, being the most perverse and malevolent Creature that ill luck has ever thrown in my way. Avoid him — hic niger est — And this, I understand, is the general opinion wherever he is known in London.
    • William Wordsworth, in a letter to Benjamin Robert Haydon (7 April 1817), in Critical Opinions of William Wordsworth, ed. M.L. Peacock (1950)

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