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Posts Tagged ‘Samuel Coleridge’

Meeting Coleridge

April 10, 2014 | by

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Hazlitt’s self-portrait, 1802

William Hazlitt, born in England on April 10, 1778, had a diverse and storied career in the arts: he was an essayist, a philosopher, an art critic, a literary critic, a drama critic, a cultural critic, and—just to even things out—a painter. Despite their age, his essays remain surprisingly readable. They are, in their sense of purpose and their tweedy vastness, distinctly nineteenth-century English; Hazlitt’s subjects are so broad, so plainly monumental, that any undergraduate who dared to write on them today would be flunked immediately. (His essay “On Great and Little Things” begins, “The great and the little have, no doubt, a real existence in the nature of things.”)

Hazlitt also chose his acquaintances wisely, at least insofar as many of them wound up ascending into the canon: Wordsworth, Stendhal, Charles and Mary Lamb. His landlord was Jeremy Bentham. But then there was Coleridge, ah, Coleridge! In his 1823 essay “My First Acquaintance with Poets,” Hazlitt rhapsodizes about his first encounter with the poet, who would become a kind of distant mentor, though later there came the requisite falling-out. It’s a gushing account, endearingly thorough and fanboy-ish, full of deft turns of phrase—and it humanizes both men, reminding us that these two Dead White Guys were once … Living White Guys, with fears and ambitions and impressive heads of hair. Read More »

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