INTRODUCTION: Hazlitt is a shining name in the history of English literature. He earned wide acclaim as an essayist. His contribution to the English essay is noteworthy.
HAZLITT'S STYLE: Hazlitt was a great prose writer and stylist. He wrote with convictions which were deep and firm. He wrote with an aim to communicate with his readers. Although he did not strain after any particular style, he had a style of his own. It is called the familiar style.
FAMILIAR STYLE: Hazlitt cultivated a personal style which is called personal style. Hazlitt himself describes the features of his style. This style is free from affectation or vulgarity. It rejects all that is loose and unconnected. It does not use the most fashionable word but the best word in common use. The words are not thrown together in any random combination. It has the essence of conversation. In short, Hazlitt's style is natural yet admirably calculated for effect and communication. It has precision and purity of expression.
THE USE OF WORDS : Hazlitt's style is characterised by clarity, vigour and force. In this context words play important role. Hazlitt had a rare command over words. He does not use archaic, irrelevant and superfluous words. According to him the words should be contextually meaningful. He is averse to pompous style. He used proper words at proper places.
FIGURES OF SPEECH, SENTENCE: Hazlitt frequently uses figures of speech to emphasize his point of view. These figures are well integrated with the over-all essay and add to the vividness and clarity of expression. His essays are replete with vivid descriptions. He even describes abstract ideas in concrete terms. Once he says 'The mind of a man is like a clock that is always running down, and requires to be as constantly wound up'. Hazlitt's sentences are brief and abrupt, vigoruos and direct. He often writes balanced, antithetical sentences to present the contrasting ideas.
APHORISM: According to Hugh Walker, 'Hazlitt is one of the masters of aphorism. Like Bacon he is aphoristic. His essays are remarkable for the pregnancy of expression, where a single sentence would bear expansion into an essay. When Hazlitt becomes violent in his prejudices, the force of his language is dominated by a hard tone. At that time his sentences fall like blows of the hammer on the anvile. Hazlitt is also praised for the use of epigrams and paradoxes. He can be copious but never verbose. Another distinctive feature of his style is the use of quotation. He often quotes excessively.
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ELEMENT: In the hands of Hazlitt, essay became a means of self-expression. He puts himself in the centre whatever be the topic of the essay. He often glides into the past. He weaves the texture of his essays by the threads of memory. He, thus, reveals his life and mind. He is passionately alive to men and matters around him in the present. If he finds foibles and frailties in them, he ridicules them. His writings are thus also employed for exposing the follies of the society and human life in general.
INFORMALITY: Hazlitt puts his ideas in an informal manner. In spite of this informality Hazlitt's essays are not light in nature. They are serious and thought provoking. It is said that Hazlitt is more interested in ideas than form. A leading ideas is talked about. Thus new ideas are brought forward. This essayist has conveyed his enjoyment and observation through his essays.
CONCLUSION: Hazlitt's style has certain flaws. Sometimes it becomes difficult to understand the meaning due to complex syntactical construction. He is frequently repetitive and digressive. But the qualities of vividness, vigour and directness of his style outshine these flaws. R. L. Stevenson says, 'Though we are mighty fine fellows now-a-days, we can't write like William Hazlitt.'