Appearing as part of his Table-Talk series, a conversational series written on topics concerning every day issues, William Hazlitt wrote "On the Pleasure of Hating" in 1823 during a bitter period of his life, amidst rising controversy over his previous works, as well as the dissolution of his marriage. Disgusted with the flowery romantic literature which was flourishing in that post-French Revolution period, Hazlitt drew inspiration from the works of Jean Jacques Rousseau, Edmund Burke, and various well-known English poets. He became known as one of the first English writers to make a profession of descriptive criticism. Fascinated with the extremes of human capabilities, Hazlitt wrote this essay as a plea for the understanding not merely of the pleasures of hating, but of the pleasures of realism. This collection includes seven essays: "The Fight," "The Indian Jugglers," "On the Spirit of Monarchy," "What is the People?", "What is the People? (concluded)," "On Reason and Imagination," and "On the Pleasure of Hating."
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This little book of essays left me eager to read more of Hazlitt, and punctured my reluctance to tackle anything written more than a hundred years ago. What a foolish prejudice! Reading this collection, it's clear I've been indulging in what today might be called, and fairly put down, as chronologism.From the "Indian Jugglers": "No man is truly great, who is great only in his lifetime." Consider modern celebrity and the petty inflations of the media, as Hazlitt discusses and dissects the great and ungreat personages of his time, and the qualities that make them so, and not.From "On the Spirit of Monarchy": "The right and the wrong are of little consequence, compared to the in and the out." About courts and kings, but who can't see the contemporary (if not the enduring state of social affirs in whatever age) in this acerbic essay?From "Reason and Imagination": A biting commentary on detached reasoning versus "natural feeling," with examples that bring to mind the ongoing excrescence of "enhanced interrogation"/torture, about which Hazlitt writes (while discussing slavery): "Practices, the mention of which make the flesh creep, and that affront the light of day, ought to be put down the instant they are known, without inquiry and without repeal."And the remarkable title essay, "On the Pleasure of Hating," which is so consistent and high-flying throughout that every phrase could be quoted and ruminated upon for its insight and application.