William Hazlitt 

Portrait of William Hazlitt

William Hazlitt was an English radical essayist and polemicist. He was born on 12th April 1778 in Maidstone, Kent, England and died on 18th September 1830 in Soho, London aged 52. 

Major Works

“Table Talk” (1821)
“The Plain Speaker” (1826)Biography

Biography Timeline

William Hazlitt was born on12th April 1778 at Maidstone in Kent, England. He was the son of an Irish Unitarian Preacher and because his father had supported the American Revolution he was forced to take his family back to Ireland to escape persecution.He was educated at the New Unitarian College in Hackney, London.

1787The Hazlitt family return to England and settle in Wem, Shropshire.

1791: Still a radical his father is one of those protesting at the persecution of Joseph Priestley in Birmingham.

1795: He is sent to be trained at the New Unitarian College in Hackney, London which had been founded by Priestley.

1796: He meets the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge then training to become a Unitarian Minister in Shrewsbury, who encourages him to write “The Principles of Human Action”.

1797: Losing his desire to become a radical Unitarian William Hazlitt leaves the college. Whilst in London he meets a number of influential radicals including Leigh Hunt and Lord Byron. NHe wanted to become a portrait painter but with no commissions and little success he decided on becoming a writer.

1806: He publishes his first major work “Free Thoughts on Public Affairs” which was an attack on Prime Minister William Pitt and his Government, especially in foreign policy. He opposes the war with France and the consequent heavy taxation. He next writes a succession of pamphlets about political corruption and the need to change the system of voting. He also begins to write for “The Times” newspaper as his friend Thomas Barnes is the parliamentary reporter and then became the Editor.

1808: He marries Sarah Stoddart at St. Andrew’s Church, Holborn, London. She was the sister of the Editor of “The Times” newspaper.

1813: He is taken on as the parliamentary reporter for “The Morning Chronicle” a newspaper with Whig leanings, however he criticised both the Tories and the Whigs with equal enthusiasm. He also writes scathing articles for “The Examiner”, the Radical journal edited by Leigh Hunt. Never rich he has to write for many other journals such as the “Edinburgh Review”, “The Yellow Dwarf” and the “London Magazine” to try and make ends meet. Besides politics he writes on art, drama and literature.

1817: He writes the book “Characters of Shakespeare”.

1818: He publishes “Lectures on the English Poets”.

1819: He writes “Political Essays with Sketches of Public Characters” and “The Spirit of the Age”.

1822: He gets divorced from his wife in Edinburgh due to an affair with his maid Sarah Walker.

1824: He marries Isabella Bridgewater at Coldstream, Scotland on 17th July as his divorce was not legally recognised in England but the relationship only lasted for one year.

1826: He writes “Contemporary Portraits”.

1828: Hazlitt starts on his “Life of Napoleon Bonaparte” which he completes in 1830 although his last years are dogged by ill health.

William Hazlitt died on 18th September 1830 in Soho, London, England in poverty, probably due to stomach cancer or a burst ulcer. He was buried in St. Anne’s Churchyard in Dean Street, Soho, London. England.