The Spirit of the Age

The Spirit of the Age - William Hazlitt [These notes were made in 1983:]. From this book, which took me some weeks to get through, I learned chiefly that Mr. Hazlitt was a Whig, at a time when Whigs were well out of power, and that he had an extremely vituperative pen for all his political opponents. His chief complaint is of something called "Legitimacy," which I take to be some sort of secularized version of the Divine Right of Kings. His observations on contemporary literary figures are also strongly tinctured by his political sentiments. His admiration for Scott's novels, f'r'instance, is in obvious conflict with his horror of Scott's conservatism, and Wordsworth comes under attack for his swing to the right (Southey not so much, strangely enough - it seems he was a personal friend). But behind all that, there is enough acute criticism and interesting personal observation to make these essays worth reading. It's unfortunate that the impression of their author we're left with is such an unpleasant one, tho'! (I do rather admire the way he refuses to go back and change his harshnesses on Byron simply because he hears of Byron's death).