Features February 2000
Hazlitt & Wordsworth: the language of poetry
On Hazlitt’s adversarial relationship with Wordsworth.
The language of poetry naturally falls in with the language of power.
—William Hazlitt, essay on Coriolanus
William Hazlitt (1778–1830) was a democrat in his youth, along with Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey, his contemporaries in England’s first Romantic generation. Unlike them he was a democrat still when he died. He stood on the side of “the people and … the people’s rights,” he said in the preface to his Political Essays (1819), “against those who say they have no rights, that they are the property, the goods, the chattels, the livestock on the estate of Legitimacy.” Hazlitt defended the revolution in France not only in its early constitutional phase, which most Englishmen did, but also in its Jacobin and Napoleonic phases, during the long period of Britain’s war with France and the...
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