Essays Picked by blupete


Originally The Round Table was a book, a collection of essays that had been published in the Examiner (edited by Leigh Hunt). The essays were written by a variety of people, quite a few by Hunt. The first edition of the book, consisting of two volumes, came out in 1817. My volume of The Round Table (London: Sampson Low, Son, & Marston, 1869) pretty much only contains essays written by Hazlitt, the editors having considered the rest to be "both inferior and dissimilar to him."

On the Literary Character
(Oct. 28, 1813)

"Literary men are not attached to the persons of their friends, but to their minds. They look upon them in the same light as on the books in their library ... When we are tired of a book we can lay it down, but we cannot so easily put our friends on the shelf when we grow weary of their society. The necessity of keeping up appearances, therefore, adds to the dissatisfaction on both sides, and at length irritates indifference into contempt."
On Patriotism. -- A Fragment
(Jan. 5, 1814)

"It is not possible that we should have an individual attachment to sixteen millions of men, any more than to sixty millions. We cannot be habitually attached to places we never saw, and people we never heard of."
On Posthumous Fame
(May 22, 1814)

"... we recall the names of the celebrated men of past times, and the idolatrous worship we pay to their memories, that we learn what a delicious thing fame is, and would willingly make any efforts or sacrifices to be thought of in the same way."
On Hogarth's Marriage á-la-Mode
(June 5, 1814)

"We shall attempt to illustrate a few of their [Hogarth's pictures] most striking excellencies ... they contain so much truth of nature, they present the objects to the eye under so many aspects and bearings, admit of so many constructions, and are so pregnant with meaning, that the subject is in a manner inexhaustible."
On Hogarth's Marriage á-la-Mode, Continued
(June 19, 1814)

"... Hogarth treated his subjects historically ... his works represent the manners and humours of mankind in action ... Every thing in his pictures has life and motion in it."
Observations on Mr. Wordsworth's poem, 'The Excursion'
(Aug. 21, 28, 1814)

"The Excursion may be considered as a philosophical pastoral poem, -- as a scholastic romance. It is less a poem on the country, than on the love of the country. It is not so much a description of natural objects, as of the feelings associated with them; not an account of the manners of rural life, but the result of the poet's reflections on it. ... Mr. Wordsworth's mind ... resists all change of character, all variety of scenery, all the bustle, machinery, and pantomime of the stage, or of real life, -- ... The power of his mind preys upon itself. It is as if there were nothing, but himself and the universe. He lives in the busy solitude of his own heart; in the deep silence of thought."
On Religious Hypocrisy
(Oct. 9, 1814.)

"Religion either makes men wise and virtuous, or it makes them set up false pretences to both. ... Religion is, in grosser minds, an enemy to self-knowledge. ... the greatest hypocrites in the world are religious hypocrites."
On the Love of Life
(Jan. 15, 1815)

"Our notions with respect to the importance of life, and our attachment to it, depend on a principle which has very little to do with its happiness or its misery. The love of life is, in general, the effect not of our enjoyments, but of our passions."
On Classical Education
(Feb. 12, 1815)

"[Those without] are everlasting converts to every crude suggestion that presents itself, and the last opinion is always the true one."
On The Tatler
(March 5, 1815)

"Systems and opinions change, but nature is always true."
On the Beggar's Opera
(June 18, 1815)

"Every line in this sterling comedy sparkles with wit, and is fraught with the keenest sarcasm. ... we have seen great statesmen ... heartily enjoying the joke, laughing most immoderately at the compliments paid to them as not much worse than pickpockets and cut-throats in a different line of life ..."
On Modern Comedy
(Aug. 20, 1815)

"What an impulse must it give to the blood, what a keenness to the invention, what a volubility to the tongue! ‘Mr. Smirk, you are a brisk man,’ was then the most significant commendation. But now-a-days—a woman can be but undressed!"
On Milton's Versification
(Aug. 20, 1815)

"Milton has borrowed more than any other writer; yet he is perfectly distinct from every other writer. ... He describes objects of which he had only read in books, with the vividness of actual observation. His imagination has the force of nature. He makes words tell as pictures ..."
On Manner
(Aug. 27, 1815)

"More undertakings fail for want of spirit than for want of sense. Confidence gives a fool the advantage over a wise man. In general, a strong passion for any object will ensure success, for the desire of the end will point out the means."
On The Tendency Of Sects
(Sep. 10, 1815)

"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."
On the Causes of Methodism
(Oct. 22, 1815)

"[Religious invalids], they seek for the life to come; they are deficient in steadiness of moral principle, and they trust to grace to make up the deficiency; they are dull and gross in apprehension, and therefore they are glad to substitute faith for reason, and to plunge in the dark, under the supposed sanction of superior wisdom, into every species of mystery and jargon."
On the Midsummer Night's Dream
(Nov. 26, 1815)

"It is astonishing that Shakspeare should be considered, not only by foreigners, but by many of our own critics, as a gloomy and heavy writer ... His delicacy and sportive gaiety are infinite. In the Midsummer Night’s Dream alone ... The reading of this play is like wandering in a grove by moonlight: the descriptions breathe a sweetness like odours thrown from beds of flowers."
On Beauty
(Feb. 4, 1816)

"All motion is beautiful that is not contradictory to itself,—that is free from sudden jerks and shocks,—that is either sustained by the same impulse, or gradually reconciles different impulses together."
On Imitation
(Feb. 18, 1816)

"The painter of still life, as it is called, takes the same pleasure in the object as the spectator does in the imitation; because by habit he is led to perceive all those distinctions in nature, to which other persons never pay any attention till they are pointed out to them in the picture."
On Pedantry
(March 3, 1816)

"It is a very bad sign (unless where it arises from singular modesty) when you cannot tell a man’s profession from his conversation."
On Pedantry, Continued
(March 10, 1816)

"Life is the art of being well deceived; and in order that the deception may succeed, it must be habitual and uninterrupted. ... Any one settled pursuit, together with the ordinary alternations of leisure, exercise, and amusement, and the natural feelings and relations of society, is quite enough to take up the whole of our thoughts, time, and affections; and any thing beyond this will, generally speaking, only tend to dissipate and distract the mind."
On the Character of Rousseau
(April 14, 1816)

"He owed all his power to sentiment. The writer who most nearly resembles him in our own times is [Wordsworth]. We see no other difference between them, than that the one wrote in prose and the other in poetry; ... and we will confidently match the Citizen of Geneva's adventures on the lake of Bienne against the Cumberland Poet's floating dreams on the lake of Grasmere. Both create an interest out of nothing, or rather out of their own feelings; both weave numberless recollections into one sentiment; both wind their own being round whatever object occurs to them."
On Different Sorts of Fame
(April 21, 1816)

"We are ... glad to get the good opinion of a friend, but that may be partial; the good word of a stranger is likely to be more sincere, but he may be a blockhead; the multitude will agree with us, if we agree with them; accident, the caprice of fashion, the prejudice of the moment, may give a fleeting reputation; our only certain appeal, therefore, is to posterity ..."
Character of John Bull
(May 19, 1816)

"If a Frenchman is pleased with every thing, John Bull is pleased with nothing ... You cannot put him so much out of his way as by agreeing with him. ... If you find fault with him, he is in a rage; and if you praise him, suspects you have a design upon him. ... [He has] a total disregard of other people’s feelings and opinions. ... A civil answer is too much to expect from him."
On Gusto
(May 26, 1816)

"Gusto in art is power or passion defining any object. -- It is not so difficult to explain this term in what relates to expression (of which it may be said to be the highest degree) as in what relates to things without expression, to the natural appearances of objects, as mere colour or form."
On Good Nature
(June 9, 1816)

"... a great many people pass for very good-natured persons, for no other reason than because they care about nobody but themselves; and, consequently, as nothing annoys them but what touches their own interest, they never irritate themselves unnecessarily about what does not concern them, and seem to be made of the very milk of human kindness."
On the Character of Milton's Eve
(July 21, 1816)

"Milton describes Eve not only as full of love and tenderness for Adam, but as the constant object of admiration in herself. She is the idol of the poet’s imagination, and he paints her whole person with a studied profusion of charms."
On Common-place Critics
(Nov. 24, 1816)

"A common-place critic has something to say upon every occasion, and he always tells you either what is not true, or what you knew before, or what is not worth knowing. He is a person who thinks by proxy, and talks by rote. He differs with you, not because he thinks you are in the wrong, but because he thinks somebody else will think so. ... [A person that never] admits any opinion that can cost the least effort of mind in arriving at, or of courage in declaring it."
On Actors and Acting
(Jan. 5, 1817)

"They live from hand to mouth: they plunge from want into luxury; they have no means of making money breed ... Uncertain of the future, they make sure of the present moment. This is not unwise. Chilled with poverty, steeped in contempt, they sometimes pass into the sunshine of fortune, and are lifted to the very pinnacle of public favour; yet even there cannot calculate on the continuance of success ..."

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[TOC -- Hazlitt's Page]
[Hazlitt's Works]
[General Essays]
[Round Table]
[Political Essays]
[The Spirit of the Age]
[The Plain Speaker]

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Peter Landry