When the World’s Classics series was launched in 1901, two of the first twenty title were by William Hazlitt, who sat on the shelf alongside Swift, Bunyan, Dickens and Darwin. Nearly a hundred years later, under the stewardship of the Oxford University Press, the series has just a one-volume selection of Hazlitt. Ruskin and Arnold have been dropped altogether. Tom Paulin's characteristically high-octane study of Hazlitt has been written to try and rescue his hero from the dusty mausoleum of belles lettres. Has he succeeded?
T S Eliot thought that Hazlitt had 'the least interesting mind of our great critics', but Paulin doesn't much care for Eliot and pitches his claim for Hazlitt with a remarkably sustained look at Hazlitt's 'radical style', which he believes turned a jobbing journalist, essayist and reviewer into a genius.