Two Extended Quotes From William Hazlitt’s Essays

William Hazlitt is one of my favorite writers. Writing in the early- and mid-nineteenth century, Hazlitt articulated the voice of the Romantic movement like few others could. An essayist, painter, poet, and, for all intents and purposes, the inventor of sports journalism (which he did with an article about a cricket game), Hazlitt was an impressive man to say the least.

But the reason why I particularly like him is twofold: he articulated emotion extremely well in his writing, and his worldview was informed by an age which, on balance, embraced emotion. It’s ironic, then, that his works had a resurgence in popularity in the early 1990s; perhaps it was a response to postmodern reductionism, nullification and alienation. Personally, in spite of my ability to write in an extremely far-removed and jargon-heavy manner, I am, for better or worse, a hopeless romantic. And I, like many of my ilk today, choose to read the works of others like us. Continue reading “Two Extended Quotes From William Hazlitt’s Essays”

A Quick Thought On Awesome

I want to find something awesome, you know, in the 19th century sense of the word ‘Awesome’. I’ve never really sat in awe of anything before. In finding what I find awesome, I will find what I want to do with my life.

I had a phone conversation with a friend of mine, Ted Gonder, about the end of autumn quarter, the inexcusable humanitarian atrocities perpetrated against students during finals week by the University of Chicago, and our plans for the Christmas holiday. Somewhere in there, conversation drifted to one of those very collegiate “what do you want to do when you grow up?” kind of exchanges. I am to a certain extent envious of Ted, because he knows, or at least has a ballpark estimate, of what he wants to do.

I don’t. I’m interested in approximately fifty bajillion things, ranging from 19th-20th century British and American history, astrophysics, cosmology, American literature old and new, psychology and cognition, and, for good measure, some finance, entrepreneurship, and not-for-profit work (because I like to pretend I’m a good person every once in awhile). I came to the following realization:

“I want to find something awesome, you know, in the 19th century, romantic sense of the word ‘Awesome’. I’ve never really sat in awe of anything before.  In finding what I find awesome, I will find what I want to do with my life.”

Unfortunately, for me, for now, I am not easily impressed by much. That will have to change.

A longer post, along The Halcyon Days’s vein of early summertime college apathy, is in the works.

Mass Art, and Some Thoughts on Romanticism

The afternoon was spent perusing the various art museums here on Yale’s campus.  In one there was the standard fare: the oil paintings of Jesus and nobles and the poor at work, the amorphous sculptures characteristic of the middle of the twentieth century, and many other categories not named here. From each, the quintessence of the genre, its cream of the crop, so to speak, was on display.  But at the museum of British art, there was an exhibition of posters from the various railed transportation systems of London (i.e. the Underground) and the various train lines that conveyed haggard city-dwellers to the country and the coast.

One of the more quintessentially British posters on display

 

On display were popularized conceptions of the idyllic life, one that, for the Brits, can be reduced efficiently to platitude: 

The British thirst for power, and an ornamentalist view of the Empire's land holdings.

 

A love of masculine, nonviolent and collegiate sport.

 

The love of cultivated nature.

 

It is, of course, more than this, more than platitude, than distilled zeitgeist, than a superficial “takeaway” from the work.  For better or worse, it is a charming way to look at things, to romanticize and to gloss over a thing’s faults.  I suppose I, to a certain degree, am guilty of this in my WASPy Ivy League romanticization of my experience visiting Yale. Romanticism implodes when it is “found out” to be a farce, a facade–that the quality celebrated in something turned out to be non-existent: the very product of the smoke and mirrors of romanticism.  

There is, however, much to love about the old buildings of New Haven, the students studying here, the strange feeling of superiority (of questionable merit, but nonetheless omnipresent), and–it must be said–the deeply evocative, fundamentally romantic, statement made by the students after they leave here for the autumn, that they, if only for a summer, were a part of the “Ivy League.” In so, the romantic notions of the Ivy League are substantiated, and are thus not the product of romanticism but the product of a certain quality conferred upon those who come here. I asked a friend about what one might call this quality. “I don’t know, man. How one would qualify it as something objective? You know, binary, something that one either possesses or lacks. Sounds like romanticism to me.”