William Hazlitt (Unitarian minister)
William Hazlitt was a Unitarian
Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement, named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being....

 minister and author, and the father of the writer of the same name
William Hazlitt
William Hazlitt was an English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, and as a grammarian and philosopher. He is now considered one of the great critics and essayists of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. Yet his work is...

. He was an important figure in eighteenth-century English dissent
English Dissenters
English Dissenters were Christians who separated from the Church of England in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.They originally agitated for a wide reaching Protestant Reformation of the Established Church, and triumphed briefly under Oliver Cromwell....

, and had a major influence on his son's work.


Hazlitt was born to Presbyterian parents in Ireland, and – after a grammar school education – went to Glasgow University, where he was taught by Adam Smith
Adam Smith
Adam Smith was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations...

, Joseph Black
Joseph Black
Joseph Black FRSE FRCPE FPSG was a Scottish physician and chemist, known for his discoveries of latent heat, specific heat, and carbon dioxide. He was professor of Medicine at University of Glasgow . James Watt, who was appointed as philosophical instrument maker at the same university...

 and James Watt
James Watt
James Watt, FRS, FRSE was a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer whose improvements to the Newcomen steam engine were fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world.While working as an instrument maker at the...

. After graduating he became a chaplain to Sir Conyers Joscelyn at Hyde Hall in Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England. The county town is Hertford.The county is one of the Home Counties and lies inland, bordered by Greater London , Buckinghamshire , Bedfordshire , Cambridgeshire and...

, and then worked as a minister at Wisbech
Wisbech is a market town, inland port and civil parish with a population of 20,200 in the Fens of Cambridgeshire. The tidal River Nene runs through the centre of the town and is spanned by two bridges...

. In 1766 he married Grace Loftus, before moving to Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

. In the same year he commenced his writing career, when Benjamin Davenport and Joseph Johnson
Joseph Johnson (publisher)
Joseph Johnson was an influential 18th-century London bookseller and publisher. His publications covered a wide variety of genres and a broad spectrum of opinions on important issues...

 published Hazlitt's Sermon on Human Mortality.

In 1770 William and Grace Hazlitt, along with their sons John and Loftus, moved to Maidstone
Maidstone is the county town of Kent, England, south-east of London. The River Medway runs through the centre of the town linking Maidstone to Rochester and the Thames Estuary. Historically, the river was a source and route for much of the town's trade. Maidstone was the centre of the agricultural...

 in Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, where a daughter, Margaret, was born that year. Loftus died in infancy. During this period Hazlitt maintained ties with figures such as Joseph Priestley
Joseph Priestley
Joseph Priestley, FRS was an 18th-century English theologian, Dissenting clergyman, natural philosopher, chemist, educator, and political theorist who published over 150 works...

, Richard Price
Richard Price
Richard Price was a British moral philosopher and preacher in the tradition of English Dissenters, and a political pamphleteer, active in radical, republican, and liberal causes such as the American Revolution. He fostered connections between a large number of people, including writers of the...

 and Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

, and was an active writer, contributing to Priestley's Theological Repository
Theological Repository
The Theological Repository was a periodical founded and edited from 1769 to 1771 by the eighteenth-century British polymath Joseph Priestley...

under the pseudonyms
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 "Philalethes" and "Rationalis", and publishing five volumes of religious works. His work provoked a substantial body of writing by other authors. In 1778 his son William
William Hazlitt
William Hazlitt was an English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, and as a grammarian and philosopher. He is now considered one of the great critics and essayists of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. Yet his work is...

 was born.

In the 1780s Hazlitt returned to Ireland, ministering to a congregation at Bandon
Bandon, County Cork
Bandon is a town in County Cork, Ireland. With a population of 5,822 as of census 2006, Bandon lies on the River Bandon between two hills. The name in Irish means "Bridge of the Bandon", a reference to the origin of the town as a crossing-point on the river. In 2004 Bandon celebrated its...

 in County Cork
County Cork
County Cork is a county in Ireland. It is located in the South-West Region and is also part of the province of Munster. It is named after the city of Cork . Cork County Council is the local authority for the county...

 for three years. During this time he exposed in the press the abuse of American prisoners of war at Kinsale
Kinsale is a town in County Cork, Ireland. Located some 25 km south of Cork City on the coast near the Old Head of Kinsale, it sits at the mouth of the River Bandon and has a population of 2,257 which increases substantially during the summer months when the tourist season is at its peak and...

 prison, which led to the replacement of the regiment accused of perpetrating the abuses. He also defended Roman Catholics from violent abuse by British soldiers. However, the consequence of this was that Hazlitt himself became the target of abuse, it being reported that people cried out "beware of the black rebel" when he walked down the street.

Hazlitt's sympathy with the American cause, and the threats of physical harm which he received in Ireland, led him to emigrate to America in April 1783, sailing on the first ship which departed following the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. He lived first at Philadelphia and then in Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

. During this time Hazlitt delivered lectures on the evidences of Christianity, and published popular sermons and tracts, in addition to writing for several local periodicals. He also edited a collection of three pamphlets by Priestley, which was issued by Robert Bell, the publisher of Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

's Common Sense
Common Sense (pamphlet)
Common Sense is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine. It was first published anonymously on January 10, 1776, during the American Revolution. Common Sense, signed "Written by an Englishman", became an immediate success. In relation to the population of the Colonies at that time, it had the largest...

. Indeed, the publication of Hazlitt's edition of Priestley's writings was motivated by the need to publish a profitable work, which would make up for the losses that Common Sense incurred. In Boston, Hazlitt had an important influence on James Freeman
James Freeman (clergyman)
James Freeman was the minister of King's Chapel in Boston for 43 years and the first preacher in America to call himself a Unitarian...

's conversion of the King's Chapel
King's Chapel
King's Chapel is "an independent Christian unitarian congregation affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association" that is "unitarian Christian in theology, Anglican in worship, and congregational in governance." It is housed in what was formerly called "Stone Chapel", an 18th century...

 into America's first Unitarian congregation.

Despite the achievement of some success as a writer, Hazlitt was unable to secure a permanent post, and in 1786 he returned to England, settling at Wem
Wem is a small market town in Shropshire, England. It is the administrative centre for the northern area committee of Shropshire Council, which has its headquarters at Edinburgh House in the centre of Wem. Wem railway station is on the Shrewsbury to Crewe railway line...

 in Shropshire
Shropshire is a county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. It borders Wales to the west...

. In his retirement, he lived at Addlestone
Addlestone is a town in the borough of Runnymede in the county of Surrey, England.Immediate surrounding towns and villages include Weybridge, Ottershaw, Chertsey, and New Haw. It is near Junction 11 of the M25 motorway and is served by Addlestone railway station on the Chertsey Branch Line. It also...

 in Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

, at Bath in Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

, and at Crediton
Crediton is a town and civil parish in the Mid Devon district of Devon in England. It stands on the A377 Exeter to Barnstaple road at the junction with the A3072 road to Tiverton, about north west of Exeter. It has a population of 6,837...

 in Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...


Further reading

  • Burley, Stephen (2010). "'In this Intolerence I Glory': William Hazlitt (1737-1820) and the Dissenting Periodical", The Hazlitt Review (3).
  • Burley, Stephen. Hazlitt the Dissenter: Religion, Philosophy, and Politics, 1766-1816, PhD thesis (Queen Mary, University of London
    Queen Mary, University of London
    Queen Mary, University of London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London...

    , 2011).
  • Wu, Duncan (2000). "'Polemical divinity': William Hazlitt at the University of Glasgow", Romanticism (6), 163–77

External links

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