Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Monday, August 3, 2009

the English Montaigne?

My essay on William Hazlitt — and Duncan Wu’s recent biography of the great essayist — is now up on the Books & Culture website. Excerpt:

Reading Hazlitt's essays I am rarely conscious of anything much happening to me. His prose moves in irregular rhythms, but without calling overmuch attention to itself, and in his best work he does not seem even to try to convince me that his subject is important or his treatment distinctive. And yet when I reach the end of any of his finest pieces, I find myself setting the book on my lap and raising my head from the page a while: I feel vibrations in my mind, echoes of ideas that have just been suggested to me, echoes that resonate with one another variously and strangely. No one makes me think quite the way that Hazlitt does.

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