William Hazlitt

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and works of William Hazlitt. Hazlitt is best known for his essays, which ranged in subject matter from Shakespeare, through his first meeting with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to a boxing match. What is less well-known, however, is that he began his writing life as a philosopher, before deliberately abandoning the field for journalism. Nonetheless, his early reasoning about the power of the imagination to take human beings beyond narrow self-interest, as encapsulated in his ‘Essay on the Principles of Human Action’, shines through his more popular work.Hazlitt is a figure full of contradictions - a republican who revered Napoleon, and a radical who admired the conservative philosopher Edmund Burke. His reputation suffered terribly from his book ‘Liber Amoris’, a self-revealing memoir of his infatuation with his landlady’s daughter. But in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, his importance was acknowledged by writers like Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson and Ford Madox Ford. In the 180 years since his death, his stature as perhaps the finest essayist in the language has grown and grown.

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  • Jonathan Bate 16 episodes
    Professor of English Literature at the University of Warwick
  • Anthony Grayling 10 episodes
    Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London
  • Uttara Natarajan No other episodes
    Senior Lecturer in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths College, University of London

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. On a tomb in the graveyard of St Anne's Church in London, there's an inscription that reads, the first unanswered metaphysician of the age, a despiser of the merely rich and great, a lover of the people, poor or oppressed, a hater of the pride and power of the few, the unconquered champion of truth, liberty and humanity.