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Liber Amoris Or The New Pygmalion Paperback – May 9, 2002
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About the Author
English essayist and critic, William Hazlitt was a distinguish author of humanistic essays and literary criticism. His critical remarks on Shakespeare's plays and characters made him prominent among his contemporaries. His father was an Irish Unitarian clergyman. In 1783 his family moved to America where his father preached and founded the First Unitarian Church at Boston. In 1787 they returned to England where he was sent to Hackney College London to be trained for the Unitarian ministry. But after a few years he left it and decided to become a painter. His interest in writing led to the start of his literary career with the publication of On the Principles of Human Action in 1805. Hazlitt delivered various lectures on philosophy in London, the most famous of which are On the English Poets (1818), and On the English Comic Writers (1819). As an essayist he also contributed to the many journals. His most celebrated critical essays include The Round Table (1817), Characters of Shakespeare's Plays (1817), and The Spirit of the Age (1825). --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
'... Since I wrote to you about making a formal proposal, I have had her face constantly before me, looking so like some faultless marble statue, as cold, as fixed and graceful as ever statue did; the expression (nothing was ever like THAT!) seemed to say—"I wish I could love you better than I do, but still I will be yours." No, I'll never believe again that she will not be mine; for I think she was made on purpose for me.'
Etc, etc.- What young spooner has not thought "she ought to love me, because I love her SO much"? It is a pathetic fallacy in more than one sense of the term.
I enjoyed re-reading this, just as I enjoyed re-reading Werther, glad to be beyond such lunacy in my own life. For Hazlitt is remarkably honest here. And one can hardly blame 'the girl in the case,' Sarah L., at all:
I said, Whatever errors I had committed, arose from my anxiety to have everything explained to her honour: my conduct shewed that I had that at heart, and that I built on the purity of her character as on a rock. My esteem for her amounted to adoration. "She did not want adoration." It was only when any thing happened to imply that I had been mistaken, that I committed any extravagance, because I could not bear to think her short of perfection. "She was far from perfection," she replied, with an air and manner (oh, my God!) as near it as possible.
Why read a love story that sounds so grim? Hazlitt's contemporaries wondered the same thing, and were shocked by its publication in 1823, partially because, as Ronald Blythe put it in the introduction to my edition of _Liber Amoris_, "To write it, Hazlitt had to abandon the only thing which could have made it even remotely socially acceptable--dignity." The Victorians also hated the story because of Hazlitt's acknowledgment of a physical relationship between him and Sarah--there's nothing graphic by any stretch of the imagination in the book beyond a few kisses, but this was enough to offend delicate 19th century sensibilities.
But from a twenty-first century vantage point, most of these concerns have fallen away. We live in a confessional age where memoirists put their most tortured secrets on paper for public consumption; the idea of sexuality outside the bonds of marriage no longer has the power to make most of us faint dead away; and Hazlitt's method of composition seems as contemporary and up-to-the-minute as when it was written, a collage of dialogue, letters real and imaginary, and short, almost aphoristic musings on the nature of love and loss. Unobscured by shock and scandal, today _Liber Amoris_ bears incredible emotional force, because it shows without any attempt at prettification or prevarication a man in the throws of a doomed, obsessive, and largely unrequited love. The vast portion of the human race has felt what Hazlitt feels here: pathetic, dejected, undesired, aware of all that, and yet filled with an inexplicable longing, the sense that only one other person's nature fully appreciates his own. The reason to read and to admire _Liber Amoris_ is its unparalleled courage in committing to paper something that, whether it reflects well or ill on the teller of the tale, resonates with every human's experience.