E212-M William Hazlitt Questions

Assigned: "On Gusto" (513-19), "My First Acquaintance with Poets" (519-26).

"On Gusto"

1. How does Hazlitt initially define "gusto in art"? How does he further refine his definition as the essay moves along?

2. What does Hazlitt's essay suggest about the relationship between art and criticism, and about their relative value? Does his treatment of gusto challenge the supremacy of art in relation to critical understanding of it? If so, to what extent?

3. What key examples does Hazlitt offer of the way in which various artists do or don't exhibit "gusto" in their work? Does the lack of gusto necessarily make a poet or artist uninteresting? How does Hazlitt deal with those who, according to him, don't exhibit gusto in their art?

"My First Acquaintance with Poets"

4. What effect does Hazlitt say Samuel Taylor Coleridge had upon him as a young man? What possibilities did Coleridge open up for him?

5. Hazlitt spends much of the essay characterizing Coleridge's appearance and habits, and some of the circumstances surrounding his visit to Shropshire. To what extent does Hazlitt introduce notes of irony and criticism into his characterization? Discuss some examples.

6. Hazlitt seems fond of quoting or near-quoting the observations and sentiments of others. Why do you think he does that? Do you find that it adds to the effect of his essays, or detracts? Explain.

7. How does Hazlitt describe Wordsworth (523)? What qualities set him off from Coleridge? What observations come to Hazlitt as a result of reading Wordsworth's contributions to Lyrical Ballads (522)?

8. How much about himself does Hazlitt reveal, deliberately or otherwise, in this descriptive and ruminative account of a youthful meeting with two great poets?

Edition: Abrams, M. H. et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vols. 2A-C. 7th ed. New York: Norton, 2000. ISBN 2A = 0393975681, 2B = 039397569X, 2C = 0393975703.