Hazlitt, Hunt, and Cockney Conversability
This chapter examines the conversable world of the ‘Cockney’ writers associated with Leigh Hunt and, particularly, William Hazlitt. It discusses both Cockney sociability and the ideas of conversation developed in their writing. Hunt’s construction of a conversational persona in The Examiner is explored and ‘the Round Table’ metaphor discussed. Hunt persona develops a chatty and often domestic idea of conversation, sometimes blended with a yearning for a richly imagined chivalric past. Hazlitt’s understanding of ‘the Round Table’ calls taproom conversation more into view. His essays develop the idea of conversation as a form of collision, structured around opposition as a structural principle in politics and in style. These ideas are related to Hazlitt’s background in Rational Dissent, which often appears in his essays as a lost world. The final section addresses Liber Amoris and Hazlitt’s anxieties about the feminization of culture, suggesting they represent a betrayal of his openness to the hazard of conversation elsewhere in his writing.
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