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William Hazlitt

Geburtstag: 10. April 1778
Todesdatum: 18. September 1830
Andere Namen: 威廉·赫茲利特

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William Hazlitt war ein englischer Essayist und Schriftsteller.

Hazlitt war der Sohn eines unitarischen Geistlichen. Die Maler John Hazlitt und Peggy Hazlitt waren seine Geschwister. Sein Vater zog 1780 mit der Familie nach Bandon, County Cork, und drei Jahre später in die USA. Dort gründete er u.a. in Boston die First Unitarian Church.

1787 kam Hazlitt mit seiner Familie wieder zurück nach Großbritannien und ließ sich in Wem, Shropshire nieder. Auf Wunsch des Vater sollte Hazlitt Theologie studieren und dieses versuchte er am Hackney College in London. Nach einem Jahr brach Hazlitt sein Studium ab und versuchte eine künstlerische Ausbildung in Paris. Dies brach er zugunsten der Literatur ab. Sein Bruder John war inzwischen bei Sir Joshua Reynolds in der Ausbildung.

Zurück in London, machte er sich bald bei den Romantikern einen Namen. Mit Samuel Taylor Coleridge und William Wordsworth befreundete er sich. Auch mit den Geschwistern Charles Lamb und Mary Lamb machte er Bekanntschaft. 1808 heiratete Hazlitt mit 30 Jahren Sarah Stoddart, eine enge Freundin der Geschwister Lamb. Durch diese Heirat wurde John Stoddart, der Herausgeber von The Times sein Schwager. Hazlitt ließ sich mit seiner Frau in Winterslow, Salisbury nieder.

Ab 1812 war Hazlitt hauptberuflich als Essayist für verschiedene Zeitungen und Zeitschriften wie The Times und Edinburgh Review tätig. Während er beruflich erfolgreich war, gab es in seiner Ehe zunehmende Probleme. 1819 trennte Sarah sich von Hazlitt, 1822 wurde die Ehe endgültig geschieden.

Ab 1820 wohnte Hazlitt in einer kleinen Pension in London und hatte eine Affaire mit der 19-jährigen Tochter des Hauses, Sarah Walker. Er hoffte, sie nach seiner Scheidung heiraten zu können, wurde jedoch abgewiesen. Enttäuscht veröffentlichte er anonym eine wenig verschleierte Darstellung seiner Liebe zu Sarah Walker unter dem Titel Liber Amoris. Seine Urheberschaft blieb nicht lange verborgen. Es kam zum Skandal und seine journalistische Karriere war zu Ende.

1824 heiratete er ein zweites Mal, und zwar Isabella Bridgwater, geb. Shaw, die er jedoch in keinem seiner Werke je erwähnt.

Verarmt und vereinsamt starb William Hazlitt am 18. September 1830 in London und fand seine letzte Ruhestätte auf dem Friedhof St. Anne in Soho.

Gerade seine Essays begründeten den Ruhm Hazlitts. Sie kommentieren und widerspiegeln unverfälscht den Zeitgeist und haben größtenteils bis heute nicht an Bedeutung verloren.

Zitate William Hazlitt

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„Im Schlaf sind wir keine Heuchler.“

— William Hazlitt
The Plain Speaker, On Dreams, 1826

„A party-feeling of this kind once formed will insensibly communicate itself to other topics; and will be too apt to lead its votaries to a contempt for the opinions of others, a jealousy of every difference of sentiment, and a disposition to arrogate all sound principle as well as understanding to themselves, and those who think with them.“

— William Hazlitt
Context: There is a natural tendency in sects to narrow the mind. The extreme stress laid upon difierences 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. A party-feeling of this kind once formed will insensibly communicate itself to other topics; and will be too apt to lead its votaries to a contempt for the opinions of others, a jealousy of every difference of sentiment, and a disposition to arrogate all sound principle as well as understanding to themselves, and those who think with them. We can readily conceive how such persons, from fixing too high a value on the practical pledge which they have given of the independence and sincerity of their opinions, come at last to entertain a suspicion of every one else as acting under the shackles of prejudice or the mask of hypocrisy. All those who have not given in their unqualified protest against received doctrines and established authority, are supposed to labour under an acknowledged incapacity to form a rational determination on any subject whatever. Any argument, not having the presumption of singularity in its favour, is immediately set aside as nugatory. There is, however, no prejudice so strong as that which arises from a fancied exemption from all prejudice. For this last implies not only the practical conviction that it is right, but the theoretical assumption that it cannot be wrong. From considering all objections as in this manner "null and void,” the mind becomes so thoroughly satisfied with its own conclusions, as to render any farther examination of them superfluous, and confounds its exclusive pretensions to reason with the absolute possession of it. "On the Tendency of Sects"

„Mankind are an incorrigible race.“

— William Hazlitt
Context: Mankind are an incorrigible race. Give them but bugbears and idols — it is all that they ask; the distinctions of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood, of good and evil, are worse than indifferent to them. "Common Places," No. 76, The Literary Examiner (September - December 1823)

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„There is, however, no prejudice so strong as that which arises from a fancied exemption from all prejudice. For this last implies not only the practical conviction that it is right, but the theoretical assumption that it cannot be wrong.“

— William Hazlitt
Context: There is a natural tendency in sects to narrow the mind. The extreme stress laid upon difierences 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. A party-feeling of this kind once formed will insensibly communicate itself to other topics; and will be too apt to lead its votaries to a contempt for the opinions of others, a jealousy of every difference of sentiment, and a disposition to arrogate all sound principle as well as understanding to themselves, and those who think with them. We can readily conceive how such persons, from fixing too high a value on the practical pledge which they have given of the independence and sincerity of their opinions, come at last to entertain a suspicion of every one else as acting under the shackles of prejudice or the mask of hypocrisy. All those who have not given in their unqualified protest against received doctrines and established authority, are supposed to labour under an acknowledged incapacity to form a rational determination on any subject whatever. Any argument, not having the presumption of singularity in its favour, is immediately set aside as nugatory. There is, however, no prejudice so strong as that which arises from a fancied exemption from all prejudice. For this last implies not only the practical conviction that it is right, but the theoretical assumption that it cannot be wrong. From considering all objections as in this manner "null and void,” the mind becomes so thoroughly satisfied with its own conclusions, as to render any farther examination of them superfluous, and confounds its exclusive pretensions to reason with the absolute possession of it. "On the Tendency of Sects"

„He who has a contempt for poetry, cannot have much respect for himself, or for anything else.“

— William Hazlitt
Context: Poetry is the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself. He who has a contempt for poetry, cannot have much respect for himself, or for anything else.

„There is a natural tendency in sects to narrow the mind.“

— William Hazlitt
Context: There is a natural tendency in sects to narrow the mind. The extreme stress laid upon difierences 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. A party-feeling of this kind once formed will insensibly communicate itself to other topics; and will be too apt to lead its votaries to a contempt for the opinions of others, a jealousy of every difference of sentiment, and a disposition to arrogate all sound principle as well as understanding to themselves, and those who think with them. We can readily conceive how such persons, from fixing too high a value on the practical pledge which they have given of the independence and sincerity of their opinions, come at last to entertain a suspicion of every one else as acting under the shackles of prejudice or the mask of hypocrisy. All those who have not given in their unqualified protest against received doctrines and established authority, are supposed to labour under an acknowledged incapacity to form a rational determination on any subject whatever. Any argument, not having the presumption of singularity in its favour, is immediately set aside as nugatory. There is, however, no prejudice so strong as that which arises from a fancied exemption from all prejudice. For this last implies not only the practical conviction that it is right, but the theoretical assumption that it cannot be wrong. From considering all objections as in this manner "null and void,” the mind becomes so thoroughly satisfied with its own conclusions, as to render any farther examination of them superfluous, and confounds its exclusive pretensions to reason with the absolute possession of it. "On the Tendency of Sects"

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„Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own.“

— William Hazlitt, Essays of William Hazlitt: Selected and Edited, with Introduction and Notes, by Frank Carr
"The Sick Chamber," The New Monthly Magazine (August 1830), reprinted in Essays of William Hazlitt, selected and edited by Frank Carr (London, 1889)

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