Prologue
William Hazlitt by J.B. Priestley

'I began to read my Hazlitt. I was astonished. I found a solid writer, without pretentiousness, courageous to speak his mind, sensible and plain, with a passion for the arts that was neither gushing nor forced, various, interested in the life about him, ingenious, sufficiently profound for his purposes, but with no affectation of profundity, humorous, sensitive. And I liked his English. It was natural and racy, eloquent when eloquence was needed, easy to read, clear and succinct, neither below the weight of his matter nor with fine phrases trying to give it a specious importance. If art is nature seen through the medium of a personality, 'Hazlitt is a great artist.'

So wrote Somerset Maugham in The Gentleman In The Parlour, and a younger master of English, the writer of this essay, says in it:

'When I was first beginning to write, over forty years ago, I read him at all hours; he was then my favourite, my model author, and the only one who directly influenced my own writing. To explain and praise him here is merely to make a first payment reducing an old debt'.
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