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The English Poets
By William Hazlitt
MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
The essays on Characters of Shakespear's Plays and Lectures on the English Poets here printed were first published, the former in 1817, the latter in the following year. They were succeeded in 1819 by the Lectures on English Comic Writers, and in 1821 by those on the Dramatic Literature of the Reign of Elizabeth. It is the opinion of some good critics—Professor Saintsbury is one of them—that in these four volumes, issued in this rapid succession, we have Hazlitt “at his best.” From his other writings passages of greater brilliancy may be picked out, but nowhere is his excellence more sustained, or his judgment less warped by his rather numerous prejudices.
Both the Characters and the Lectures on the English Poets offer interesting materials for'a Bibliographical Note. Mr. Augustine Birrell has recently pointed out in his life of Hazlitt in Macmillan's English Men of Letters, that, although not usually connected with Hazlitt's stage criticisms, no inconsiderable part of the Characters, and that part the best, consists of extracts from his criticisms of Kean and Kemble bodily uplifted from the Chronicle, the Champion, and the Examiner.
1 William Hazlitt. By Augustine Birrell, 1902, pp. 105, 106.