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Memoirs of William Hazlitt
Ch. V 1822

Chap. I 1778-1811
Ch. II: 1791-95
Ch. III 1795-98
Ch. IV 1798
Ch. V 1798
Ch. VI 1792-1803
Ch. VII 1803-05
Ch. VIII 1803-05
Ch. IX
Ch. X 1807
Ch. XI 1808
Ch. XII 1808
Ch. XII 1812
Ch. XIV 1814-15
Ch. XV 1814-17
Ch. XVI 1818
Ch. XVII 1820
Ch. XX 1821
Ch. I 1821
Ch. II 1821-22
Ch. III 1821-22
Ch. IV 1822
‣ Ch. V 1822
Ch. VI 1822
Ch. VII 1822-23
Ch. VIII 1822
Ch. IX 1823
Ch. X 1824
Ch. XI 1825
Ch. XII 1825
Ch. XIII 1825
Ch. XIV 1825
Ch. XV 1825
Ch. XVI 1825-27
Ch. XVII 1826-28
Ch. XVIII 1829-30
Ch. XX
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The subject continued.

It is necessary now to shut up the Diary, and to resume our examination of the correspondence with Patmore, where we shall find (what the Diary does not tell us) an account of Mr. Hazlitt’s temporary return to town. The letter which follows the last from which I extracted the pertinent and illustrative parts, was written, it should be recollected, on the 21st April, 1822, on the very day of Mrs. Hazlitt’s arrival at Leith in the Superb. The next has no date, but from an expression in the letter which succeeds, it may be securely assigned to the 2nd of June. It was posted at Scarborough, where the steamboat put in by which Mr. Hazlitt had taken his passage to London.

[Off Scarborough,
in the steamboat for London.]
“Dear Patmore,

“What have I suffered since I parted with you! A raging fire is in my heart and in my brain, that never
quits me. The steamboat (which I foolishly ventured on board) seems a prison-house, a sort of spectre-ship, moving on through an infernal lake, without wind or tide, by some necromantic power—the splashing of the waves, the noise of the engine, gives me no rest, night or day—no tree, no natural object, varies the scene—but the abyss is before me, and all my peace lies weltering in it! . . . The people about me are ill, uncomfortable, wretched enough, many of them—but to-morrow or next day they reach the place of their destination, and all will be new and delightful. To me it will be the same. . . . . . The people about me even take notice of my dumb despair, and pity me. What is to be done? I cannot forget her; and I can find no other like what she seemed. . . . .

“W. H.”

The arrangement of the letters in the ‘Liber Amoris’ is again incorrect and unfaithful to the order of time. In the series of the original autographs, from which I quote, the next letter is of the 3rd June. Nothing had yet been settled, and Mrs. Hazlitt had started on a tour to the Highlands and to Ireland. She was in tolerably active correspondence during the interval with her son, Miss Lamb, Mr. Walter Coulson, and her sister-in-law, Peggy Hazlitt.

The 3rd of June letter, however, contains only one passage which is at all to the purpose, and even that perhaps might be not disadvantageously omitted. It demonstrates the overwhelming force of the infatuation
as well as the nervous shock, and is so far worth a place.

“Do you know,” he says to his correspondent, “the only thing that soothes or melts me is the idea of taking my little boy, whom I can no longer support, and wandering through the country as beggars! . . . . .” He finishes by saying that if he could find out her [S. W.’s] real character to be different from what he had believed, “I should be no longer the wretch I am, or the god I might have been, but what I was before, poor, plain W. H.

The next is a note, which does not occur in the printed book:—

[Between June 3 and June 9, 1822, but undated.]
“My only Friend,

“I should like you to fetch the MSS., and then to ascertain for me whether I had better return there or not, as soon as this affair is over. I cannot give her up without an absolute certainty. Only, however, sound the matter by saying, for instance, that you are desired to get me a lodging, and that you believe I should prefer being there to being anywhere else. You may say that the affair of the divorce is over, and that I am gone a tour in the Highlands. . . . . Ours was the sweetest friendship. Oh! might the delusion be renewed, that I might die in it! Test her through some one who will satisfy my soul I have lost only a lovely frail one that I was not likely to gain by true love. I am going to see K——, to get him to go with me to the High lovely frail one that I was not likely to gain by true love. I am going to see K——, to get him to go with me to the High-
46WITH S—— K—— IN THE 
lands, and talk about her. I shall be back Thursday week, to appear in court pro formâ the next day. . . .

“Send me a line about my little boy.

“W. H.
“10, George Street,

He found out K——, as he had said he should do, and induced him to accompany him to the Highlands. Their conversations appear to have been, for the most part, a mere repetition of what we are already, to confess the truth, a little too familiar with. In a letter, which he addressed to K—— afterwards, or which at least is thrown in the ‘Liber Amoris’ into an epistolary shape, he reminds him of what they talked of and what they saw during this remarkable trip together.

“You remember,” he says to him, “the morning when I said, ‘I will go and repose my sorrows at the foot of Ben Lomond’—and when from Dumbarton Bridge its giant-shadow, clad in air and sunshine, appeared in view? We had a pleasant day’s walk. We passed Smollett’s monument on the road (somehow these poets touch one in reflection more than most military heroes)—talked of old times. You repeated Logan’s beautiful verses to the cuckoo, which I wanted to compare with Wordsworth’s, but my courage failed me; you then told me some passages of an early attachment which was suddenly broken off; we considered together which was the most to be pitied, a disappointment in love where the attachment was mutual, or one where there has been no return; and
we both agreed, I think, that the former was best to be endured, and that to have the consciousness of it a companion for life was the least evil of the two, as there was a secret sweetness that took off the bitterness and the sting of regret. . . . . One had been my fate, the other had been yours!

“You startled me every now and then from my reverie by the robust voice in which you asked the country people (by no means prodigal of their answers) ‘if there was any trout-fishing in those streams?’ and our dinner at Luss set us up for the rest of our day’s march.

“The sky now became overcast; but this, I think, added to the effect of the scene. The road to Tarbet is superb. It is on the very verge of the lake—hard, level, rocky, with low stone bridges constantly flung across it, and fringed with birch-trees, just then budding into spring, behind which, as through a slight veil, you saw the huge shadowy form of Ben Lomond The snow on the mountain would not let us ascend; and being weary of waiting, and of being visited by the guide every two hours to let us know that the weather would not do, we returned, you homewards, and I to London. . . . .”

He did not hear from Patmore, whom he had requested to let him know how matters were going on at Southampton Buildings, and he returned to Scotland without going to London at all. On the 9th of June he wrote to Mr. Patmore from an inn in Berwickshire:

“Renton Inn, Berwickshire.
[June 9, 1822.]
“My dear Patmore,

“Your letter raised me for a moment from the depths of despair, but not hearing from you yesterday or to-day, as I hoped, I am gone back again I grant all you say about my self-tormenting madness, but has it been without cause? When I think of this, and I think of it for ever (except when I read your letters), the air I breathe stifles me. . . . . I can do nothing. What is the use of all I have done? Is it not this thinking beyond my strength, my feeling more than I ought about so many things, that has withered me up, and made me a thing for love to shrink from and wonder at? . . . . My state is that I feel I shall never lie down again at night nor rise up of a morning in peace, nor ever behold my little boy’s face with pleasure, while I live, unless I am restored to her favour I wander, or rather crawl, by the sea-side, and the eternal ocean, and lasting despair, and her face are before me. . . . . Do let me know if anything has passed: suspense is my greatest torment. Jeffrey (to whom I did a little unfold) came down with 100l, to give me time to recover, and I am going to Renton Inn to see if I can work a little in the three weeks before it will be over, if all goes well. Tell Colburn to send the ‘Table Talk’ to him, 92, George Street, Edinburgh, unless he is mad, and wants to ruin me. . . . . Write on the receipt of this, and believe me yours unspeakably obliged,

“W. H.”

The next letter hardly requires a preface:—

[Renton Inn, Berwickshire,
June 18, 1822.]
“My dear Friend,

“Here I am at Renton, amid the hills and groves which I greeted in their barrenness in winter, but which have now put on their full green attire, that shows lovely in this northern twilight, but speaks a tale of sadness to this heart, widowed of its last and its dearest, its only hope. For a man who writes such nonsense, I write a good hand. Musing over my only subject (Othello’s occupation, alas! is gone), I have at last hit upon a truth that, if true, explains all, and satisfies me. You will by this time probably know something, from having called and seen how the land lies, that will make you a judge how far I have stepped into madness in my conjectures. If I am right, all engines set at work at once that punish ungrateful woman! Oh, lovely Renton Inn! here I wrote a volume of Essays; here I wrote my enamoured follies to her, thinking her human, and that below was not all the fiends. . . . . By this time you probably know enough, and know whether this following solution is in rerum naturâ at No. 9, S. B. . . . . Say that I shall want it [the lodging] very little the next year, as I shall be abroad for some months, but that I wish to keep it on, to have a place to come to when I am in London If you get a civil answer to this, take it for me, and send me word. . . . . Learn first if the great man of Penmaen-Mawr is still there.
You may do this by asking after my hamper of books, which was in the back parlour. . . . . Tell her that I am free, and that I have had a severe illness.

“W. H.

“I would give a thousand worlds to believe her anything but what I suppose. . . . .

“W. H.
“P. G. Patmore, Esq.,
“12, Greek Street, Soho,

So runs this letter, crossed and crossed again, of June 18th; there is a good deal in it which I have withheld, as irrelevant and foreign to the purpose. By comparing it with the version given in the ‘Liber Amoris,’ very important discrepancies present themselves, probably introduced by the writer subsequently, when the correspondence was returned to him for the purposes of the book. I have strictly adhered to the text as was originally composed.

Mrs. Hazlitt’s Diary resumed.

Sunday, 9th June, 1822.—Sent a letter to Mr. Hazlitt to remit the money he had promised.

Monday, 1Oth June.—. . . . . Received a note from Mr. Ritchie, to say he would come the next day and explain about money matters to me. Had also a letter from the child. . . . .

Tuesday, 11th June.—Mr. Ritchie came. . . . Told me that Mr. Hazlitt only got 56l. from Glasgow,
and nothing from
Colburn, so that he could not give me the money I asked, but that he had told him whatever small sums of money I wanted to go on with, he would let me have by some means or other.

Thursday, 13th June [1822].—Mr. Bell called, and said that Mr. Hazlitt had gone to Renton Inn, but that he would remit me some money, which he showed him he had for the purpose, as soon as the oath was taken, which he said he was to give him due notice of. . . . . Asked if I did not take the oath to-morrow? I said I had not heard from Mr. Gray, but was in hourly expectation of it. . . . . The note came soon after, appointing the next day. . . . .

Friday, 14th June.—Mr. Bell called, and said he was going to Mr. Gray’s, and would come back for me. Returned, and said Mr. Gray informed him he could not be admitted, as he would be called on with Mrs. Bell the next Friday as witnesses. So I undertook to let him know when the ceremony was over. [Here follows the description of the taking of the oath.] . . . . On the whole, with the utmost expedition they can use, and supposing no impediments, it will be five weeks from this day before all is finished. Went down and reported this to Mr. and Mrs. Bell: dined there. They told me that Mr. Hazlitt took 90l. to the Renton Inn with him. . . . . Mr. Bell undertook to send him a parcel that night with the joyful intelligence of the oath being taken, as he would get it sooner that way than by the post . . . .

Saturday, 15th June.—Mr. Bell called, and wrote a
letter to
Mr. Hazlitt here, and made it into a parcel, not having sent to him last night, as he promised. Wrote to Peggy. Feel very faint to-day.

Sunday, 16th June [1822].—Adam Bell called, while I was at breakfast, to say that Mr. Hazlitt was come back, and had been at their house the night before. . . . .

Monday, 17th June.—Went to Mr. Bell as soon as I had breakfasted. He told me that Mr. Ritchie was to bring me 20l. that day in part of payment, and that the rest would be paid me as Mr. Hazlitt could get it. That he had proposed only ten now, but that Mr. Bell had told him that that would not do, as I proposed taking some journey, and had no money. Said he did not know anything about the child. Went home very uneasy about him, as his holidays were to begin this day; and I fretted that he should be left there, and thought he would be very uneasy if they had not sent him to Winterslow, and feel quite unhappy and forsaken; and thought on his father’s refusing to tell me where he was to be, till I was so nervous and hysterical I could not stay in the house.

Went down to Mr. Bell’s again at one, as they told me he [Mr. H.] would be there about that time, that I might see him myself, and know where the child was. He was not come, and Mr. Bell did not like my meeting him there. I told him if I could not gain information of the child, I would set off to London directly, and find him out, and leave the business here just as it was. He then gave me a note to send him
[Mr. H.] about it, but I carried it myself, and asked to see him.

They said he was out, but would return at three o’clock. I left the note, and went at three. They then said he would be back to dinner at four. I wandered about between that and Mr. Bell’s till four; then, going again, I met him by the way: he gave me 10l., and said I should have more soon by Mr. Bell. I said I did not like Mr. Bell; I had rather he sent by Mr. Ritchie, which he said he would.

I asked about the child, and he said he was going to write that night to Mr. John Hunt about him; so that the poor little fellow is really fretting, and thinking himself neglected. . . . .

Mr. Bell said that he seemed quite enamoured of a letter he had been writing to Patmore; that in their walk the day before he pulled it out of his pocket twenty times, and wanted to read it to them; that he talked so loud, and acted so extravagantly, that the people stood and stared at them as they passed, and seemed to take him for a madman. . . . .

[The next twelve days were spent by Mrs. H. in the tour to the Highlands and to Dublin. She returned on the 28th June.]