William Hazlitt (1778-1830) was an English man of letters, a writer and literary critic held in the same esteem as luminaries such as Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. Hazlitt was and still is considered the greatest critic of his age, a reputation based on his astute observations and keen humanistic essays. Hazlitt was also a painter; the above picture is a self-portrait. Despite his legendary acclaim, many of Hazlitt’s writings are currently out of print. A key theme in his writings is the importance of experience over abstraction, an idea quite evident in the quote below.
“Danger is a good teacher, and makes apt scholars. So are disgrace, defeat, exposure to immediate scorn, and laughter. There is no opportunity in such cases for self-delusion, no idling time away, no being off your guard (or you must take the consequences) — neither is there any room for humour or caprice or prejudice.”