William Hazlitt, By Duncan Wu

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

"No critic... ever heard the strange language of a new school of poetry with such an alert sympathy," wrote Michael Foot about his hero. Yet this spokesman for Romanticism described Shelley as having "a fever in his blood, a maggot in his brain... which mark out the philosophic fanatic", while he in turn was hated by Coleridge and Wordsworth, who "dedicated themselves to the dismantling of Hazlitt's reputation by fair means or foul." Hazlitt was strong stuff, a man of extremes, particularly where women were concerned.

The founding father of opinion journalism had to be hustled out of Keswick after spanking a local hussy's bottom. Later, he suffered a breakdown when rejected by the woman for whom he divorced his wife. Hazlitt is a terrific subject and Wu does him proud.