A Blupete Biography Page

William Hazlitt:
"Rackets and Tea." [TOC -- Hazlitt's Page.]

A Hazlitt Sampler:-

-A-
Ability:
§ "We find a class of persons who labour under an obvious natural inaptitude for whatever they aspire to. Their manner of setting about it is a virtual disqualification. The simple affirmation, 'What this man has said, I will do,' is not always considered as the proper test of capacity. On the contrary, there are people whose bare pretensions are as good or better than the actual performance of others." (Table Talk, "On the Aristocracy of Letters.")
Accolade:
§ "How much honour and honesty have been forfeited to be graced with a title or a ribbon; how much genius and worth have sunk to the grave without an escutcheon and without an epitaph!" (Table Talk, "On Patronage and Puffing.")

-B-
Books:
§ "So perishable is genius, so swift is time, so fluctuating is knowledge, and so far is it from being true that men perpetually accumulate the means of improvement and refinement. On the contrary, living knowledge is the tomb of the dead, and while light and worthless materials float on the surface, the solid and sterling as often sink to the bottom, and are swallowed up for ever in weeds and quicksands!" (Table Talk, "On Coffee-House Politicians.")

-C-
Character:
Creatures of the Present Impulse:-
§ "[We meet] people who cannot lift up a little finger to save themselves from ruin, nor give up the smallest indulgence for the sake of any other person. They cannot put themselves out of their way on any account. No one makes a greater outcry when the day of reckoning comes, or affects greater compassion for the mischiefs they have occasioned; but till the time comes, they feel nothing, they care for nothing. They live in the present moment, are the creatures of the present impulse (whatever it may be) -- and beyond that, the universe is nothing to them. The slightest toy countervails the empire of the world; they will not forego the smallest inclination they feel, for any object that can be proposed to them, or any reasons that can be urged for it. ... [One cannot] ask of these persons to put off any enjoyment for a single instant, or to gird themselves up to any enterprise of pith or moment. They have been so used to a studied succession of agreeable sensations that the shortest pause is a privation which they can by no means endure ... They lie on beds of roses, and spread their gauze wings to the sun and summer gale, and cannot bear to put their tender feet to the ground, much less to encounter the thorns and briars of the world. ... they have no fancy for fishing in troubled waters." (Table Talk, "On Effeminacy of Character.")
Character: The Hesitator:-
§ "Then there are others who "may be officious, good-natured, friendly, generous in disposition, but they are of no use to any one. They will put themselves to twice the trouble you desire, not to carry your point, but to defeat it; and in obviating needless objections, neglect the main business. If they do what you want, it is neither at the time nor in the manner that you wish. This timidity amounts to treachery ... They hesitate about the best way of beginning a thing till the opportunity for action is lost, and are less anxious about its being done than the precise manner of doing it. ... the same distraction of motive and shortsightedness which gets them into scrapes hinders them from seeing their way out of them. Such persons ... spoil the freshness and originality of their own thoughts by asking contradictory advice; and in befriending others, while they are about it and about it, you might have done the thing yourself a dozen times over." (Table Talk, "On Effeminacy of Character.")
Character: Firm and Decisive:-
§ "There is nothing more to be esteemed than a manly firmness and decision of character. I like a person who knows his own mind and sticks to it; who sees at once what is to be done in given circumstances and does it. He does not beat about the bush for difficulties or excuses, but goes the shortest and most effectual way to work to attain his own ends or to accomplish a useful object. If he can serve you, he will do so; if he cannot, he will say so without keeping you in needless suspense, or laying you under pretended obligations. T... There is stuff in him, and it is of the right practicable sort. ... [He gives no thought as to wether he be] a friend or a foe, a knave or a fool; but thinks that life is short, and that there is no time to play fantastic tricks in it, to tamper with principles, or trifle with individual feelings." (Table Talk, "On Effeminacy of Character.")
City V. Country Life:
§ "I do not think there is anything deserving the name of society to be found out of London; and that for the two following reasons. First, there is neighbourhood elsewhere, accidental or unavoidable acquaintance: people are thrown together by chance or grow together like trees; but you can pick your society nowhere but in London. The very persons that of all others you would wish to associate with in almost every line of life (or at least of intellectual pursuit) are to be met with there. It is hard if out of a million of people you cannot find half a dozen to your liking. Individuals may seem lost and hid in the size of the place; but in fact, from this very circumstance, you are within two or three miles' reach of persons that, without it, you would be some hundreds apart from. Secondly, London is the only place in which each individual in company is treated according to his value in company, and to that only. In every other part of the kingdom he carries another character about with him, which supersedes the intellectual or social one. It is known in Manchester or Liverpool what every man in the room is worth in land or money; what are his connections and prospects in life -- and this gives a character of servility or arrogance, of mercenaries or impertinence to the whole of provincial intercourse. You laugh not in proportion to a man's wit, but his wealth; you have to consider not what, but whom you contradict. You speak by the pound, and are heard by the rood. In the metropolis there is neither time nor inclination for these remote calculations. Every man depends on the quantity of sense, wit, or good manners he brings into society for the reception he meets with in it. A Member of Parliament soon finds his level as a commoner: the merchant and manufacturer cannot bring his goods to market here: the great landed proprietor shrinks from being the lord of acres into a pleasant companion or a dull fellow. When a visitor enters or leaves a room, it is not inquired whether he is rich or poor, whether he lives in a garret or a palace, or comes in his own or a hackney coach, but whether he has a good expression of countenance, with an unaffected manner, and whether he is a man of understanding or a blockhead. These are the circumstances by which you make a favourable impression on the company, and by which they estimate you in the abstract. In the country, they consider whether you have a vote at the next election or a place in your gift, and measure the capacity of others to instruct or entertain them by the strength of their pockets and their credit with their banker. Personal merit is at a prodigious discount in the provinces. I like the country very well if I want to enjoy my own company; but London is the only place for equal society, or where a man can say a good thing or express an honest opinion without subjecting himself to being insulted, unless he first lays his purse on the table to back his pretensions to talent or independence of spirit. I speak from experience." (Table Talk, "On Coffee-House Politicians.")
Civilization:
§ "We feel the full force of the spirit of hatred with all of them in turn. ... we throw aside the trammels of civilization, the flimsy veil of humanity. ... The wild beast resumes its sway within us, we feel like hunting animals, and as the hound starts in his sleep and rushes on the chase in fancy the heart rouses itself in its native lair, and utters a wild cry of joy, at being restored once more to freedom and lawless unrestrained impulses. Every one has his full swing, or goes to the Devil his own way. Here are no ... long calculations of self-interest -- the will takes its instant way to its object, as the mountain-torrent flings itself over the precipice: the greatest possible good of each individual consists in doing all the mischief he can to his neighbour." (The Plain Speaker, "On The Pleasure Of Hating.")
Common Sense:
§ "Common sense is the just result of the sum total of such unconscious impressions in the ordinary occurrences of life, as they are treasured up in the memory, and called out by the occasion. ... [It] acts as a check-weight on sophistry, and suspends our rash and superficial judgements. ... It rests upon the simple process of feeling, - it anchors in experience. It is not, nor cannot be, the test of abstract, speculative opinions. ... In art, in taste, in life, in speech, you decide from feeling, and not from reason." (Table Talk, "On Genius and Common Sense.")
Creed:
§ "I was taught to think, and I was willing to believe, that genius was not a bawd, that virtue was not a mask, that liberty was not a name, that love had its seat in the human heart." (The Plain Speaker, "On The Pleasure Of Hating.")
1822 Hazlitt Table-t. i. xi. 247 Comparisons:
§ "Comparisons are odious, because they are impertinent making one thing the standard of another which has no relation to it." (Table Talk.) Critics:
§ "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. These erudite persons constantly find out by anticipation that you are deficient in the smallest things -- that you cannot spell certain words or join the nominative case and the verb together, because to do this is the height of their own ambition, and of course they must set you down lower than their opinion of themselves. They degrade by reducing you to their own standard of merit; for the qualifications they deny you, or the faults they object, are so very insignificant, that to prove yourself possessed of the one or free from the other is to make yourself doubly ridiculous. Littleness is their element, and they give a character of meanness to whatever they touch. They creep, buzz, and fly-blow. It is much easier to crush than to catch these troublesome insects; and when they are in your power your self-respect spares them. The race is almost extinct: -- one or two of them are sometimes seen crawling over the pages of the Quarterly Review!" (Table Talk, "On Criticism.")
Custom:
§ "Action requires co-operation, but in general if you set your face against custom, people will set their faces against you. They cannot tell whether you are right or wrong, but they know that you are guilty of a pragmatical assumption of superiority over them which they do not like." (Table Talk, "On Thought and Action.")

-D-
Death:
§ "Death is a mighty abstraction, like Night, or Space, or Time." (Lectures on the English Poets.)
Democracy:
§ "The way to move great masses of men is to show that you, yourself are moved. ... in appealing to the public, no one triumphs but in the triumph of some public cause, or by showing a sympathy with the general and predominant feelings of mankind. In a private room, a satirist, a sophist may provoke admiration by expressing his contempt for each of his adversaries in turn, and by setting their opinion at defiance; but when men are congregated together on a great public question and for a weighty object, they must be treated with more respect. They are touched with what affects themselves or the general weal, not with what flatters the vanitv of the speaker; they must be moved altogether, if they are moved at all. They are impressed with gratitude for a luminous exposition of their claims or for zeal in their cause; and the lightning of generous indignation at bad men and bad measures is followed by thunders of applause." (Spirit Of The Age, "Mr. Horne Tooke.")

-E-
Equality:
§ "Two persons agree to live together in Chambers on principles of pure equality and mutual assistance -- but when it comes to the push, one of them finds that the other always insists on his fetching water from the pump in Hare-court, and cleaning his shoes for him. ... [As for Godwin's scheme, it is] like other schemes where there are all prizes and no blanks, for the accommodation of the enterprising and cunning, at the expense of the credulous and honest. This broke up the system, and left no good odour behind it!" (Spirit Of The Age, "William Godwin.")

-F-
Friends:
§ "I have observed that few of those whom I have formerly known most intimate, continue on the same friendly footing, or combine the steadiness with the warmth of attachment. Some of them are dead, or gone to live at a distance, or pass one another in the street like strangers, or if they stop to speak, do it as coolly and try to cut one another as soon as possible. Times are changed; we cannot revive our old feelings; and we avoid the sight, and are uneasy in the presence of, those who remind us of our infirmity, and put us upon an effort at seeming cordiality which embarrasses ourselves ... if we meet again after an interval of absence, we appear no longer the same. One is too wise, another too foolish, for us; and we wonder we did not find this out before. We are disconcerted and kept in a state of continual alarm by the wit of one, or tired to death of the dullness of another." (The Plain Speaker, "On The Pleasure Of Hating.")
Future:
§ "[The future is] a more fantastic creature of the brain than the other [the past], and the interest we take in it more shadowy and gratuitous ..." (Table Talk, "On The Past And Future.")

-L-
Law:
§ "Mr Bentham, in adjusting the provisions of a penal code, lays too little stress on the co-operation of the natural prejudices of mankind ... The laws of the country are therefore ineffectual and abortive, because they are made by the rich for the poor, by the wise for the ignorant ... (The Spirit of the Age, "Jeremy Bentham")
Lawyer (Mind Of):
§ As Hazlitt was to observe of Mr. Tooke, he had "the mind of a lawyer, a rigid and constant habit of attending to the exact import of every word and clause in a sentence. ... Mr. Tooke, in fact, treated words, as the chemists do substances; he separated those which are compounded of others from those which are not decompoundable. He did not explain the obscure by the more obscure, but the difficult by the plain, the complex by the simple." (Spirit Of The Age, "Mr. Horne Tooke.")
Leaders:
§ "To use means to ends; to set causes in motion; to wield the machine of society; to subject the wills of others to your own; to manage abler men than yourself by means of that which is stronger in them than their wisdom, viz. their weakness and their folly; to calculate the resistance of ignorance and prejudice to your designs, and by obviating, to turn them to account; to foresee a long, obscure, and complicated train of events, of chances and openings of success; to unwind the web of others' policy and weave your own out of it; to judge of the effects of things, not in the abstract, but with reference to all their bearings, ramifications, and impediments; to understand character thoroughly; to see latent talent or lurking treachery; to know mankind for what they are, and use them as they deserve; to have a purpose steadily in view, and to effect it after removing every obstacle; to master others and be true to yourself, asks power and knowledge, both nerves and brain. ... Such is the sort of talent that may be shown and that has been possessed by the great leaders on the stage of the world." (Table Talk, "On Thought and Action.")

-M-
Man, The Nature Of ...:
§ "Man is not the creature of sense and selfishness, even in those pursuits which grow out of that origin, so much as of imagination, custom, passion, whim, and humour." (Table Talk, "On Will Making.")

-N-
Notoriety:
§ "Unless an author has an establishment of his own, or is entered on that of some other person, he will hardly be allowed to write English or to spell his own name. To be well spoken of, he must enlist under some standard; he must belong to some coterie. He must get the esprit de corps on his side: he must have literary bail in readiness. Thus they prop up one another's rickety heads at Murray's shop, and a spurious reputation, like false argument, runs in a circle. Croker affirms that Gifford is sprightly, and Gifford that Croker is genteel; Disraeli that Jacob is wise, and Jacob that Disraeli is good-natured. A Member of Parliament must be answerable that you are not dangerous or dull before you can be of the entree. You must commence toad-eater to have your observations attended to; if you are independent, unconnected, you will be regarded as a poor creature. Your opinion is honest, you will say; then ten to one it is not profitable. It is at any rate your own. So much the worse; for then it is not the world's." (Table Talk, "On the Aristocracy of Letters.")

-O-
Opinions:
§ "They hear a remark at the Globe which they do not know what to make of; another at the Rainbow in direct opposition to it; and not having time to reconcile them, vent both at the Mitre. In the course of half an hour, if they are not more than ordinarily dull, you are sure to find them on opposite sides of the question. This is the sickening part of it. People do not seem to talk for the sake of expressing their opinions, but to maintain an opinion for the sake of talking. We meet neither with modest ignorance nor studious acquirement. Their knowledge has been taken in too much by snatches to digest properly. There is neither sincerity nor system in what they say. They hazard the first crude notion that comes to hand, and then defend it how they can; which is for the most part but ill." (Table Talk, "On Coffee-House Politicians.")

-P-
Party (The Spirit of Party):
§ "They not only damn the work in the lump, but vilify and traduce the author, and substitute lying abuse and sheer malignity for sense and satire. To have written a popular work is as much as a man's character is worth, and sometimes his life, if he does not happen to be on the right side of the question. The way in which they set about stultifying an adversary is not to accuse you of faults, or to exaggerate those which you may really have, but they deny that you have any merits at all, least of all those that the world have given you credit for; bless themselves from understanding a single sentence in a whole volume; and unless you are ready to subscribe to all their articles of peace, will not allow you to be qualified to write your own name. It is not a question of literary discussion, but of political proscription. It is a mark of loyalty and patriotism to extend no quarter to those of the opposite party. Instead of replying to your arguments, they call you names, put words and opinions into your mouth which you have never uttered ..." (Table Talk, "On Criticism.")
Passion:
§ "All people are passionate in what concerns themselves, or in what they take an interest in. The range of this last is different in different persons; but the want of passion is but another name for the want of sympathy and imagination." (Spirit Of The Age, "Lord Eldon and Mr. Wilberforce.")
Persons:
§ "... Quidnunc -- is tenacious in argument, though wary; carries his point thus and thus, bandies objections and answers with uneasy pleasantry ... [he does however] care something about you, and may be put out of his way by your remarks." [Then there is the one with] unmoved self-complacency, this cavalier, smooth, simpering indifference is more annoying than the extremest violence or irritability. ... seems to announce that nothing you say can shake his opinion a jot, that he has considered the whole of what you have to offer beforehand, and that he is in all respects much wiser and more accomplished than you. Such persons talk to grown people with the same air of patronage and condescension that they do to children. 'They will explain' -- is a familiar expression with them, thinking you can only differ from them in consequence of misconceiving what they say. Or if you detect them in any error in point of fact (as to acknowledged deficiency in wit or argument, they would smile at the idea), they add some correction to your correction, and thus have the whip-hand of you again, being more correct than you who corrected them. If you hint some obvious oversight, they know what you are going to say and were aware of the objection before you uttered it: -- 'So shall their anticipation prevent your discovery.' By being in the right you gain no advantage: by being in the wrong you are entitled to the benefit of their pity or scorn." (Table Talk, "On Coffee-House Politicians.")
Poetry:
§ "Intensity is the great and prominent distinction of Lord Byron's writings. ... He does not prepare any plan beforehand, nor revise and retouch what he has written with polished accuracy. His only object seems to be to stimulate himself and his readers for the moment... He does not like Mr. Wordsworth, lift poetry from the ground, or create a sentiment out of nothing. He does not describe a daisy or a periwinkle, but the cedar or the cypress: not poor men's cottages but princes' palaces." (Spirit Of The Age, "Lord Byron.")
Political Speeches:
§ "It is his business [as a speech making politician] and his inclination to embellish what is trite, to gloss over what is true, to vamp up some feeble sophism, to spread the colours of a meretricious fancy over the unexpected exposure of some dark intrigue, some glaring iniquity. ... The way in which Mr. Canning gets up the staple-commodity of his speeches appears to be this. He hears an observation on the excellence of the English Constitution, or on the dangers of Reform and the fickleness and headstrong humours of the people, dropped by some Member of the House, or he meets with it in an old Debate in the time of Sir Robert Walpole, or in Paley's Moral and Political Philosophy, which our accomplished scholar read, of course, as the established text-book at the University. He turns it in his mind: by dint of memory and ingenuity he illustrates it by the application of some well-known and well-authenticated simile at hand, such as 'the vessel of the state,' 'the torrent of popular fury,' 'the precipice of reform,' 'the thunderbolt of war,' 'the smile of peace,' etc. He improves the hint by the help of a little play upon words and upon an idle fancy into an allegory ... Mr. Canning piles the lofty harangue, high over-arched with metaphor, dazzling with epithets, sparkling with jests -- take it out of doors, or examine it by the light of common sense, and it is no more than a paltry string of sophisms, of trite truisms, and sorry, buffooneries." (Spirit Of The Age, "Mr. Horne Tooke.")
Politician:
§ "The Oriental curse, '0 that mine enemy had written a book!' hangs suspended over them. By never committing themselves, they neither give a handle to the malice of the world, nor excite the jealousy of friends; and keep all the reputation they have got, not by discreetly blotting, but by never writing a line." (Table Talk, "On the Aristocracy of Letters.")
§ "... 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."(Table Talk, "On Patronage and Puffing.")
Public Opinion:
§ "... men in society judge not by their own convictions, but by sympathy with others." (The Plain Speaker, "On the Difference Between Writing and Speaking.")

-R-
Revenge:
§ "It is the wound inflicted upon our self-love, not the stain upon the character of the thoughtless offender, that calls for condign punishment. Crimes, vices may go unchecked or unnoticed; but it is the laughing at our weaknesses, or thwarting our humours, that is never to be forgotten. It is not the errors of others, but our own miscalculations, on which we wreak our lasting vengeance. It is ourselves that we cannot forgive." (Table Talk, "On Will Making.")

-S-
Scotchman:
§ "To a Scotchman if a thing is, it is; there is an end of the question with his opinion about it. He is positive and abrupt, and is not in the habit of conciliating the feelings or soothing the follies of others. His only way therefore to produce a popular effect is to sail with the stream of prejudice, and to vent common dogmas, 'the total grist, unsifted, husks and all,' from some evangelical pulpit. This may answer, and it has answered. On the other hand, if a Scotchman, born or bred, comes to think at all of the feelings of others, it is not as they regard them, but as their opinion reacts on his own interest and safety. He is therefore either pragmatical and offensive, or if he tries to please, he becomes cowardly and fawning." (Spirit Of The Age, "Mr. Brougham -- Sir F. Burdett.")
Speaking:
§ "A sweeping, unqualified assertion ends all controversy." (Table Talk.)

-W-
Wealth:
§ "I doubt whether the most surprising success is to be accounted for from any such unusual attainments, or whether a man's making half a million of money is a proof of his capacity for thought in general. It is much oftener owing to views and wishes bounded but constantly directed to one particular object. To succeed, a man should aim only at success. ... The rule of business is to take what you can get, and keep what you have got; or an eagerness in seizing every opportunity that offers for promoting your own interest, and a plodding, persevering industry in making the most of the advantages you have already obtained, are the most effectual as well as the safest ingredients in the composition of the mercantile character." (Table Talk, "On Thought and Action.")
Writing:
§ "For not only a man's actions are effaced and vanish with him; his virtues and generous qualities die with him also: his intellect only is immortal and bequeathed unimpaired to posterity. Words are the only things that last for ever." (Table Talk, "On Thought and Action.")

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Peter Landry