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The Plain Speaker was the last great original work of William Hazlitt (1778-1830), the finest prose writer of the romantic period. It is written with characteristic passion, and displays his erudition and wit to fine effect in some of his most important essays: "On the Prose-Style of Poets", "On the Conversation of Authors", "On Reason and Imagination", and "On Envy", to name a few.In this selection from the two-volume Plain Speaker, Tom Paulin and Duncan Wu have given priority to essays that address key critical issues both in romantic studies today and the poetics of prose. The volume contains a brilliant introduction to the central themes of the volume by Tom Paulin who reads Hazlitt's improvisatory, intensely physical and tactile prose, along a dazzling line of critical discourse that ranges from Burke to Barthes and Derrida, embracing en route, Lawrence and Hughes, Picasso and Pollock, and Stravinsky.Appended are: the "Advertisement" to the Paris edition of Table Talk in which Hazlitt speaks of combining literary and conversational styles; "A Half-length" portrait by Hazlitt of the Tory politician and reviewer John Wilson Croker, an impassioned piece of writing revealed here to have been of demonstrable importance to Charles Dickens; and another portrait in words, this time of Hazlitt, by John Hamilton Reynolds, the friend of Keats.
Duncan Wu is Reader in English Literature at the Universityof Glasgow. He is the editor of Romanticism: An Anthology, WomenRomantic Poets: An Anthology, Romanticism: A Critical reader, ACompanion to Romanticism, and Wordsworth's Five-BookPrelude, all published by Blackwell. He also edits theCharles Lamb Bulletin, and is currently preparing a 9-volumeedition of Hazlitt's selected works for publication in 1998. Tom Paulin is G.M. Young Lecturer in English Literatureat Hertford College, Oxford University. His major study of WilliamHazlitt, The Day-Star of Liberty: William Hazlitt's RadicalStyle, was published in 1998 by Faber and Faber, publishers ofhis several volumes of poetry, including Selected Poems1972-1990, and of the critical collections Minotaur: Poetryand the Nation State (1992) and Writing to the Moment: Selected Critical Essays 1980-1996.