William Hazlitt was a nineteenth century writer famed for his political works
When and Where was he Born?
12th April 1778, Maidstone, Kent, England.
William Hazlitt was the son of an Irish Unitarian Preacher and because his father had supported the American Revolution he was forced to take his family back to Ireland to escape persecution.
New Unitarian College, Hackney, London.
Chronology/Biography of William Hazlitt:
1787: The Hazlitt family returned to England and settled in Wem, Shropshire.
1791: Still a radical his father was one of those protesting at the persecution of Joseph Priestley in Birmingham.
1795: William Hazlitt was sent to be trained at the New Unitarian College in Hackney, London which had been founded by Priestley.
1796: He met the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, then training to become a Unitarian Minister in Shrewsbury, who encouraged him to write “The Principles of Human Action”.
1797: Losing his desire to become a radical Unitarian William Hazlitt left the college. Whilst in London he met a number of influential radicals including Leigh Hunt and Lord Byron. Next he had desires at being a portrait painter but with no commissions and little success he decided on becoming a writer.
1806: Hazlitt published his first major work “Free Thoughts on Public Affairs” which was an attack on William Pitt and his Government, especially in foreign policy. He opposed the war with France and the consequent heavy taxation. He next wrote a succession of pamphlets about political corruption and the need to change the system of voting. He also began to write for “The Times” newspaper as his friend Thomas Barnes was the parliamentary reporter and then became the Editor.
1807: Published “Reply to Malthus”
1813: He was taken on as the parliamentary reporter for “The Morning Chronicle” a newspaper with Whig leanings, however he criticised both the Tories and the Whigs with equal enthusiasm. He also wrote scathing articles for “The Examiner” the Radical journal edited by Leigh Hunt. Never rich he had to write for many other journals such as the “Edinburgh Review” “The Yellow Dwarf” and the “London Magazine” to try and make ends meet. Besides politics he wrote on art, drama and literature.
1817: Wrote the book “Characters of Shakespeare”.
1818: Published “Lectures on the English Poets”.
1819: William Hazlitt wrote “Political Essays with Sketches of Public Characters” and “The Spirit of the Age”.
1826: Wrote “Contemporary Portraits”.
1828: William Hazlitt started on his “Life of Napoleon Bonaparte” which he completed in 1830. His last years were dogged by ill health.
1805: “An Essay on the Principles of Human Action.”
1806: “Free Thoughts on Public Affairs.”
1817: “Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays.”
1818: “Lectures on the English Poets.” “A Review of the English Stage.”
1819: “Lectures on the English Comic Writers.” “Political Essays, with Sketches of Public Characters.”
1821: “Lectures on Elizabethan Drama.” “Table Talk.”
1823: “Liber Amoris.”
1824: “Sketches of the Principal Picture Galleries of England.”
1825: “The Spirit of the Age.”
1826: “Journey through France and Italy.” “The Plain Speaker.”
1828: “The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte.”
(1836): “Literary Remains with Memoir by his Son.”
1st May 1808 to Sarah Stoddart at St. Andrew’s Church, Holborn, London. She was the sister of the Editor of “The Times” newspaper. (1822. Divorced in Edinburgh due to an affair with his maid Sarah Walker).
17th July 1824 to Isabella Bridgewater at Coldstream, Scotland as the divorce was not legally recognised in England but the relationship only lasted for one year.
When and Where did he Die?
18th September 1830, Soho, London, England in poverty, probably due to stomach cancer.
Age at Death:
Site of Grave:
St. Anne’s Churchyard, Dean Street, Soho, London. England.
Places of Interest:
Visits S.T. Coleridge and Robert Southey at Greta Hall, Keswick.
Lynton, The Valley of Rocks. Walked there with S.T. Coleridge.
Shrewsbury Unitarian Church.
Dunster. Walked there with S.T. Coleridge.