HAZLITT, William (1778-1830)
Plaque erected in 1905 by London County Council at 6 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 3JA, City of Westminster
Journalism and Publishing, Literature
WILLIAM HAZLITT 1778-1830 Essayist Died Here
The original plaque pigment was green but has faded to light blue over time. The plaque was re-installed when the front wall of the building was rebuilt in 1909.
William Hazlitt is regarded as one of the greatest critics of the 19th century. He took lodgings at 6 Frith Street in Soho in early 1830 and died there later the same year.
FROM PAINTING TO ESSAY WRITING
Hazlitt was born in Kent into an Irish dissenting family. Moving to London in his teens, he decided to become a painter – like his elder brother John – and mixed in the circle that included William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Charles and Mary Lamb. However, in 1812 he turned to lecturing and journalism, writing for newspapers and periodicals such as the Morning Chronicle and The Examiner, founded by Leigh Hunt.
His first collection of essays, The Round Table, was published in 1817, and was followed four years later by Table-Talk. Hazlitt had his greatest success with The Spirit of the Age, or, Contemporary Portraits (1824), a collection of biographical studies of such figures as Lord Byron and Jeremy Bentham.
By the time of his move to Frith Street, Hazlitt was living in considerable poverty and had been briefly placed under arrest for debt. The appearance of the third and fourth volumes of his biography of Napoleon had been delayed owing to the publisher’s bankruptcy and his health was also a concern. His brief essay ‘The Sick Chamber’, published in the periodical The Atlas in August 1830, reflected his decline in fortunes.
The following month Hazlitt was confined, dangerously ill, to his bed in a small room at the back of number 6. He wrote to Francis Jeffrey of the Edinburgh Review:
Dear Sir, I am dying; can you send me 10£, and so consummate your many kindnesses to me?
He died at number 6 with his son William (1811–93) and Charles Lamb at his bedside. A light-green wreathed plaque was put up in 1905 and re-erected when the front wall was rebuilt in 1909. Number 6 now forms part of the popular hotel, Hazlitt’s.