Quotes by William Hazlitt

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William Hazlitt (10 April 1778 - 18 September 1830) was an English writer remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, often esteemed the greatest English literary critic after Samuel Johnson. Indeed, Hazlitt's ...

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The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves. We cannot force love.

Hope is the best possession. None are completely wretched but those who are without hope. Few are reduced so low as that.
Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they might of been.
There are no rules for friendship. It must be left to itself. We cannot force it any more than love.
You know more of a road by having traveled it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world.
I do not think that what is called Love at first sight is so great an absurdity as it is sometimes imagined to be. We generally make up our minds beforehand to the sort of person we should like, grave or gay, black, brown, or fair; with golden tresses or raven locks; -- and when we meet with a complete example of the qualities we admire, the bargain is soon struck.
Prosperity is a great teacher; adversity is a greater. Possession pampers the mind; privation trains and strengthens it.
The smallest pain in our little finger gives us more concern than the destruction of millions of our fellow beings.
A hypocrite despises those whom he deceives, but has no respect for himself. He would make a dupe of himself too, if he could.
Grace in women has more effect than beauty.
Grace has been defined as the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.
Anyone who has passed through the regular gradations of a classical education, and is not made a fool by it, may consider himself as having had a very narrow escape.
If I have not read a book before, it is, for all intents and purposes, new to me whether it was printed yesterday or three hundred years ago.
People of genius do not excel in any profession because they work in it, they work in it because they excel.
Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food.
The least pain in our little finger gives us more concern and uneasiness than the destruction of millions of our fellow-beings.
There is a secret pride in every human heart that revolts at tyranny. You may order and drive an individual, but you cannot make him respect you.
I would like to spend my whole life traveling, if I could borrow another life to spend at home.
Modesty is the lowest of the virtues, and is a real confession of the deficiency it indicates. He who undervalues himself is justly undervalued by others.
Some persons make promises for the pleasure of breaking them.
There is not a more mean, stupid, dastardly, pitiless, selfish, spiteful, envious, ungrateful animal than the Public. It is the greatest of cowards, for it is afraid of itself.
Those who can command themselves command others.
If you think you can win, you can win. Faith is necessary to victory.
The best part of our lives we pass in counting on what is to come.
When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest.
The worst old age is that of the mind.
Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves.
If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago.
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 no prejudice so strong as that which arises from a fancied exemption from all prejudice.
To give a reason for anything is to breed a doubt of it.
We grow tired of everything but turning others into ridicule, and congratulating ourselves on their defects.
Satirists gain the applause of others through fear, not through love.
I hate to be near the sea, and to hear it roaring and raging like a wild beast in its den. It puts me in mind of the everlasting efforts of the human mind, struggling to be free, and ending just where it began.
The most silent people are generally those who think most highly of themselves.
Every one in a crowd has the power to throw dirt; none out of ten have the inclination.
We are not hypocrites in our sleep.
We find many things to which the prohibition of them constitutes the only temptation.
Man is a make-believe animal -- he is never so truly himself as when he is acting a part.
An honest man speaks the truth, though it may give offence; a vain man, in order that it may.
The only vice which cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.
We can scarcely hate anyone that we know.
No man is truly great who is great only in his lifetime. The test of greatness is the page of history.
The definition of genius is that it acts unconsciously; and those who have produced immortal works, have done so without knowing how or why. The greatest power operates unseen.
It is well that there is no one without a fault; for he would not have a friend in the world.
Envy among other ingredients has a mixture of the love of justice in it. We are more angry at undeserved than at deserved good-fortune.
Those who make their dress a principal part of themselves will, in general, become of no more value than their dress.
Our repugnance to death increases in proportion to our consciousness of having lived in vain.
Death cancels everything but truth; and strips a man of everything but genius and virtue. It is a sort of natural canonization. It makes the meanest of us sacred --it installs the poet in his immortality, and lifts him to the skies. Death is the greatest assayer of the sterling ore of talent. At his touch the dropsy particles fall off, the irritable, the personal, the gross, and mingle with the dust --the finer and more ethereal part mounts with winged spirit to watch over our latest memory, and protect our bones from insult. We consign the least worthy qualities to oblivion, and cherish the nobler and imperishable nature with double pride and fondness.
Gallantry to women -- the sure road to their favor -- is nothing but the appearance of extreme devotion to all their wants and wishes, a delight in their satisfaction, and a confidence in yourself as being able to contribute toward it.
The confession of our failings is a thankless office. It savors less of sincerity or modesty than of ostentation. It seems as if we thought our weaknesses as good as other people's virtues.
There is an unseemly exposure of the mind, as well as of the body.
The more we do, the more we can do; the more busy we are, the more leisure we have.
They are the only honest hypocrites, their life is a voluntary dream, a studied madness.
To a superior race of being the pretensions of mankind to extraordinary sanctity and virtue must seem... ridiculous.
The world judge of men by their ability in their profession, and we judge of ourselves by the same test: for it is on that on which our success in life depends.
The thing is plain. All that men really understand, is confined to a very small compass; to their daily affairs and experience; to what they have an opportunity to know, and motives to study or practice. The rest is affectation and imposture.
Great thoughts reduced to practice become great acts.
Good temper is an estate for life.
Good temper is one of the greatest preservers of the features.
Belief is with them mechanical, voluntary: they believe what they are paid for -- they swear to that which turns to account. Do you suppose, that after years spent in this manner, they have any feeling left answering to the difference between truth and falsehood?
To be remembered after we are dead, is but poor recompense for being treated with contempt while we are living.
The mind of man is like a clock that is always running down, and requires to be constantly wound up.
No truly great person ever thought themselves so.
Every man, in his own opinion, forms an exception to the ordinary rules of morality.
A nickname is the heaviest stone that the devil can throw at a man. It is a bugbear to the imagination, and, though we do not believe in it, it still haunts our apprehensions.
Nothing is more unjust or capricious than public opinion.
No one ever approaches perfection except by stealth, and unknown to themselves.
We never do anything well till we cease to think about the manner of doing it.
The art of pleasing consists in being pleased.
The essence of poetry is will and passion.
The poetical impression of any object is that uneasy, exquisite sense of beauty or power that cannot be contained within itself; that is impatient of all limit; that (as flame bends to flame) strives to link itself to some other image of kindred beauty or grandeur; to enshrine itself, as it were, in the highest forms of fancy, and to relieve the aching sense of pleasure by expressing it in the boldest manner.
A Whig is properly what is called a Trimmer -- that is, a coward to both sides of the question, who dare not be a knave nor an honest man, but is a sort of whiffing, shuffling, cunning, silly, contemptible, unmeaning negation of the two.
If a person has no delicacy, he has you in his power.
Prejudice is the child of ignorance.
The most learned are often the most narrow minded.
No wise man can have a contempt for the prejudices of others; and he should even stand in a certain awe of his own, as if they were aged parents and monitors. They may in the end prove wiser than he.
Few things tend more to alienate friendship than a want of punctuality in our engagements. I have known the breach of a promise to dine or sup to break up more than one intimacy.
A scholar is like a book written in a dead language. It is not every one that can read in it.
We can bear to be deprived of everything but our self-conceit.
We talk little when we do not talk about ourselves.
If the world were good for nothing else, it is a fine subject for speculation.
There is no one thoroughly despicable. We cannot descend much lower than an idiot; and an idiot has some advantages over a wise man.
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.
Taste is nothing but an enlarged capacity for receiving pleasure from works of imagination.
The slaves of power mind the cause they have to serve, because their own interest is concerned; but the friends of liberty always sacrifice their cause, which is only the cause of humanity, to their own spleen, vanity, and self-opinion.
The busier we are the more leisure we have.
Learning is, in too many cases, but a foil to common sense; a substitute for true knowledge. Books are less often made use of as spectacles to look at nature with, than as blinds to keep out its strong light and shifting scenery from weak eyes and indolent dispositions. The learned are mere literary drudges.
There is nothing more likely to drive a man mad, than the being unable to get rid of the idea of the distinction between right and wrong, and an obstinate, constitutional preference of the true to the agreeable.
The best way to procure insults is to submit to them.
The are of will-making chiefly consists in baffling the importunity of expectation.
Lest he should wander irretrievably from the right path, he stands still.
There are many who talk on from ignorance rather than from knowledge, and who find the former an inexhaustible fund of conversation.
Look up, laugh loud, talk big, keep the color in your cheek and the fire in your eye, adorn your person, maintain your health, your beauty and your animal spirits.
The public have neither shame or gratitude.
Grace is the absence of everything that indicates pain or difficulty, hesitation or incongruity.
If goodness were only a theory, it were a pity it should be lost to the world. There are a number of things, the idea of which is a clear gain to the mind. Let people, for instance, rail at friendship, genius, freedom, as long as they will --the very names of these despised qualities are better than anything else that could be substituted for them, and embalm even the most envenomed satire against them.
There are persons who cannot make friends. Who are they? Those who cannot be friends. It is not the want of understanding or good nature, of entertaining or useful qualities, that you complain of: on the contrary, they have probably many points of attraction; but they have one that neutralizes all these --they care nothing about you, and are neither the better nor worse for what you think of them. They manifest no joy at your approach; and when you leave them, it is with a feeling that they can do just as well without you. This is not sullenness, nor indifference, nor absence of mind; but they are intent solely on their own thoughts, and you are merely one of the subjects they exercise them upon. They live in society as in a solitude.
There are few things in which we deceive ourselves more than in the esteem we profess to entertain for our friends. It is little better than a piece of quackery. The truth is, we think of them as we please --that is, as they please or displease us.
The most violent friendships soonest wear themselves out.
Old friendships are like meats served up repeatedly, cold, comfortless, and distasteful. The stomach turns against them.
I like a friend the better for having faults that one can talk about.
Our friends are generally ready to do everything for us, except the very thing we wish them to do.
The person whose doors I enter with most pleasure, and quit with most regret, never did me the smallest favor.
Though familiarity may not breed contempt, it takes off the edge of admiration.
Fame is the inheritance not of the dead, but of the living. It is we who look back with lofty pride to the great names of antiquity.
The love of fame is almost another name for the love of excellence; or it is the ambition to attain the highest excellence, sanctioned by the highest authority, that of time.
There are names written in her immortal scroll at which Fame blushes!
General principles are not the less true or important because from their nature they elude immediate observation; they are like the air, which is not the less necessary because we neither see nor feel it.
One shining quality lends a luster to another, or hides some glaring defect.
He talked on for ever; and you wished him to talk on for ever.
It is hard for any one to be an honest politician who is not born and bred a Dissenter.
A strong passion for any object will ensure success, for the desire of the end will point out the means.
Reflection makes men cowards.
Life is the art of being well deceived.
Cunning is the art of concealing our own defects, and discovering the weaknesses of others.
Without the aid of prejudice and custom, I should not be able to find my way across the room.
There is a heroism in crime as well as in virtue. Vice and infamy have their altars and their religion.
We are very much what others think of us. The reception our observations meet with gives us courage to proceed, or damps our efforts.
We are all of us, more or less, the slaves of opinion.
As is our confidence, so is our capacity.
A grave blockhead should always go about with a lively one -- they show one another off to the best advantage.
Comedy naturally wears itself out -- destroys the very food on which it lives; and by constantly and successfully exposing the follies and weaknesses of mankind to ridicule, in the end leaves itself nothing worth laughing at.
A full-dressed ecclesiastic is a sort of go-cart of divinity; an ethical automaton. A clerical prig is, in general, a very dangerous as well as contemptible character. The utmost that those who thus habitually confound their opinions and sentiments with the outside coverings of their bodies can aspire to, is a negative and neutral character, like wax-work figures, where the dress is done as much to the life as the man, and where both are respectable pieces of pasteboard, or harmless compositions of fleecy hosiery.
We are the creatures of imagination, passion, and self-will, more than of reason or even of self-interest. Even in the common transactions and daily intercourse of life, we are governed by whim, caprice, prejudice, or accident. The falling of a teacup puts us out of temper for the day; and a quarrel that commenced about the pattern of a gown may end only with our lives.
The most sensible people to be met with in society are men of business and of the world, who argue from what they see and know, instead of spinning cobweb distinctions of what things ought to be.
Defoe says that there were a hundred thousand country fellows in his time ready to fight to the death against popery, without knowing whether popery was a man or a horse.
First impressions are often the truest, as we find (not infrequently) to our cost, when we have been wheedled out of them by plausible professions or studied actions. A man's look is the work of years; it is stamped on his countenance by the events of his whole life, nay, more, by the hand of nature, and it is not to be got rid of easily.
To be happy, we must be true to nature, and carry our age along with us.
We must overact our part in some measure, in order to produce any effect at all.
They are, as it were, train-bearers in the pageant of life, and hold a glass up to humanity, frailer than itself. We see ourselves at second-hand in them: they show us all that we are, all that we wish to be, and all that we dread to be. What brings the resemblance nearer is, that, as they imitate us, we, in our turn, imitate them. There is no class of society whom so many persons regard with affection as actors.
The player envies only the player, the poet envies only the poet.
One is always more vexed at losing a game of any sort by a single hole or ace, than if one has never had a chance of winning it.
The characteristic of Chaucer is intensity: of Spencer, remoteness: of Milton elevation and of Shakespeare everything.
The only way to be reconciled to old friends is to part with them for good: at a distance we may chance to be thrown back (in a waking dream) upon old times and old feelings: or at any rate we should not think of renewing our intimacy, till we have fairly spit our spite, said, thought, and felt all the ill we can of each other.
The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do, just as one pleases. We go on a journey chiefly to be free of all impediments and of all inconveniences; to leave ourselves behind, much more to get rid of others.