Hazlitt Essays On The Past And The Future

Hazlitt Essays On The Past And The Future-16
De Quincey’s main complaint about Hazlitt’s derivative style is that he feels it is “dishonest” (De Quincey 136) “to express one’s own thoughts by another man’s words” (De Quincey 135).If the thought to be expressed is not powerful enough, De Quincey argues, then it should not be camouflaged by quoting others.

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In 87 pages, Hazlitt takes to task his staunchest critic’s comments about his work not only by pointing out Gifford’s selling out to power, or as Hazlitt puts it, his being “by appointment, literary toad-eater to greatness, and taster to the Court” (Hazlitt 1819, 41), but also by responding in detail, sometimes line by line and word by word, to Gifford’s many objections to his writing, among which is Hazlitt’s quoting and misquoting of Shakespeare.1 , contributed significantly to the canonization of Shakespeare in the early nineteenth century.

However, while as John Kinnaird points out, “after 1820 Hazlitt never returns (except, incidentally in one essay [“Sir Walter Scott, Racine, and Shakespear [ the echoing of Shakespeare, and he also points out inaccuracies in these quotations: “Next to want of precision, the most striking peculiarity of his style is the odd expression with which it is diversified, from popular poets, especially from Shakespeare” (Gifford 1818, 426).

To make a subtle distinction of meaning that may easily be missed, while egotism names the quality of being excessively conceited or absorbed in oneself, “egoism”, which is often used interchangeably with “egotism”, is also a philosophical term for the theory that one’s self is—or should be—the fountain from which motivation springs.

It is in this sense that Woolf writes that the essay is primarily an “egoistical” form, that is, a form which is primarily “an expression of personal opionion”.

Almost all essays begin with a capital I—“I think”, “I feel”—and when you have said that, it is clear that you are not writing history or philosophy or biography or anything but an essay, which may be brilliant or profound, which may deal with the immortality of the soul, or the rheumatism in your left shoulder, but is primarily an expression of personal opinion.

(Woolf 4) The term, “egoistical”, as used here by Woolf, should not be conflated with “egotistic” and its negative connotations.

Pour ce faire, il se penche sur l’œuvre de William Hazlitt (1778-1830) et, plus spécifiquement, sur les échos de Shakespeare dans les essais personnels de Hazlitt.

Si les échos de Shakespeare sont nombreux dans son œuvre, il s’agit bien souvent d’échos déformés qui ne font pas directement référence à la source citée.

The nature and function of these misquotations are key considerations in this essay, in which it is claimed that Hazlitt’s misquotations of Shakespeare are not simply errors but a signature element of an essayistic style marked by an echoing that recalls the well-known original—thus appealing to the force of that which is already known by his readers—while veering from it, over and over again, into new directions as a form of self-fashioning.

In “A Letter to William Gifford, Esq.”, William Hazlitt responds in detail to what Leigh Hunt describes as the “wretched cavilings, wilful falsehoods and omissions, and servile malignity of [Gifford’s] well-known articles in the ” about Hazlitt’s writing (Hunt n.p.).


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