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[John Wilson]
Hazlitt Cross-questioned.
Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine  Vol. 3  No. 17  (August 1818)  550-52.
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No. XVII. AUGUST, 1818. Vol. III.



In the course of your practice as a critical sportsman, you have already had the merit of discovering, winging, and bagging some new kinds of game. Upon one of these, your additions to the sphere of amusement, I beg leave heartily to congratulate you. I mean that wild, black-bill Hazlitt.

You do not, I perceive, know what a paltry creature this is, otherwise you would either have said more or less about him than you have done. I am a very brief man, and can neither write sounding letters like Idoloclastes, nor doleful ones like Presbyter Anglicanus, nor jeering ones like Timothy Tickler, nor torturing ones like “gruff old General Izzard.” But I will, in three or four sentences, undertake to give you some little insight into the real character of Hazlitt.

He is a mere quack, Mr Editor, and a mere bookmaker; one of the sort that lounge in third-rate bookshops, and write third-rate books. It were well if he were honest in his humble trade. I beg, through your Miscellany, to put the following queries to him, which I hope he will answer by return of post.

Query I. Mr William Hazlitt, ex-painter, theatrical critic, review, essay, and lecture manufacturer, London, Did you, or did you not, in the course of your late Lectures on Poetry, &c. infamously vituperate and sneer at the character of Mr Wordsworth—I mean his personal character; his genius even you dare not deny?

II. Is it, or is it not, true that you owe all your ideas about poetry or criticism to gross misconceptions of the meaning of his conversation; and that you once owed your personal safety, perhaps existence, to the humane and firm interference of that virtuous man, who rescued you from the hands of an indignant peasantry whose ideas of purity you, a cockney visitor, had dared to outrage?

III. Is it, or is it not true, that you did some time ago, in your occupation of scribbler, play off upon one of your task-masters or employers, the two following tricks? 1. Sending him a translation verbatim from a common French book, and demanding pay for it as your own original composition. 2. Quoting a book upon tobacco-pipes as a book upon tides; and thereby exposing you, him, and the work itself, to the eternal derision of all who understood either the subject on which you were writing, or the German tongue, or the rules of common honesty?

IV. Being expelled, as you deserv-
Observations on Coleridge's Biographia Literaria551
ed, from the
Edinburgh Review, and obliged to take refuge in the New Series of the Scots Magazine (a work much better fitted for your merits and attainments), Is it, or is it not true, that you have been going on for some time past, abusing the good-natured ignorance, and unsuspecting simplicity, of the worthy Conductors of that Miscellany, and doing all in your power to injure their reputation and that of the said Miscellany, by playing off upon them, and procuring to be inserted in their book, all manner of gross blunders, and impudent falsehoods, and outrageous extravagancies, which might happen to come into your head?

1. For example, in an essay of yours on the “Ignorance of the Learned,” do not you congratulate yourself, and the rest of your Cockney crew, on never having received any education?

2. Do you not, in that essay, pass off for original communication, a quantity of trash already printed by you in another publication?

3. Do not you call Mr Canning, one flash of whose eye, one word of whose lip, would wither you into annihilation—the most contemptible character of the day?

4. Do not you, who cannot repeat the Greek alphabet, nay, who know not of how many letters it is formed, pretend to give an opinion of the literary character of Professor Porson?

5. Do not you assert, that Dr Burney undertook to point out solecisms in Milton's Latin style? I now tell you that your assertion is false—that Dr Burney never did undertake any such thing—but that he did write some observations on Milton's Greek style, valuable to scholars, but unintelligible to Cockneys.

6. Do you know the difference between Milton's Latin and Milton's Greek?

8. Did not you say what you knew to be false, when you said, that Dr Burney, “in his preface” (there is no preface), had “hardly a sentence of common English?”

9. Do you know any thing whatever about the late Dr Burney or his writings, or have you not been vilifying a great scholar, in all the malignity of ignorance and drunkenness of folly?

10. Do you know what is English, or what is not English, any more than you know that Latin is not Greek, or that the foam of the sea is not a tobacco-pipe?

11. Do not you pretend to claim acquaintance with Bishop Waterland, and must I have to tell you no such man ever existed?

12. Do you not, you impudent charlatan, quizz the poor Editors of the Scots Magazine into publishing a sweeping sentence, wherein the following great men are all represented as having lived and written in vain, viz. Butler, the author of the Analogy; Berkeley, the bishop of Cloyne; Bull, whom Warburton calls “one of the most masculine of English intellects;” St Augustine, the Plato of Christianity; Scioppius, Cardan, and Scaliger, three of the greatest scholars, and one of them, if you mean Julius Cæsar Scaliger, (but indeed I do not suppose you know there were two of that name) one of the greatest men modern, Europe has ever produced; and, last of all, (mirabile dictu!) Puffendorf and Grotius, who of all modern writers have been the most extensively and lastingly useful to their own and all the other countries of Europe,—but of whose works, your personal as well as your literary character affords every presumption, you have never read one word even in a translation?

13. Is it possible to be guilty of a more mean trick than thus deluding into derision, under the mask, and claiming the recompense of good will, two men, who, hard-hearted Cockney! “did thee no wrong?”

14. Do you not, on every occasion, describe the Editors of this said Scottish Magazine as perfect ninnies, and their work as a millstone? and do you not despise yourself, for mixing, for the sake of a few paltry pounds, your madness with their idiocy? and do not you say so at all times and in all places?

V. Did not you publish an answer to Malthus, though at the same time you knew that you did not understand the difference between arithmetical and geometrical proportion? and did you not pollute its pages with obscenities hideous as those of Aretine, and dull as those of Cleland?

VI. Did you not insinuate, in an essay on Shakspeare in the Examiner, that Desdemona was a lewd woman, and after that dare to publish a book on Shakspeare?

552 Observations on Coleridge's Biographia Literaria

VII. Did you not wantonly, and grossly, and indecently, insult Mr Conway, the actor, in your View of the English Stage, and publish a retracting lie, in order to escape a caning?

VIII. Do you know the Latin for a goose?

As soon as Mr Hazlitt answers these eight simple questions, other eight of a more complex nature, and worded more gravely, await his attention, from

An Old Friend with a New Face.