William Hazlitt is one of the greatest English essayists. He is classified as a romantic essayist. He was a prolific writer. He was eager to inquire into human life with all its variety. He wrote of a vast range of topics. He was keenly interested in a vast variety of things-books of all kinds, politics, sports, stage etc. He conveyed his enjoyment and observation to the readers through his essays.
Hazlitt's essays are grave in nature. They are very serious and thought provoking. They show his philosophic bent of mind. A large number of his essays are on abstract ideas such as Egotism, Reason, Imagination, and the fear of Death etc. He is more interested in the idea than in the essay as a form. He does not indulge in moralizing. In his hands essay became a means of self-expression. His essays are autobiographical in nature. He puts himself as the centre of his 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.
Hazlitt is a keen observer of life. Whatever the theme of his essays, each of them is a reflection on human nature. They are the reflections of a man who lived and loved life. He observes life with penetrating sympathy and feelings. He wrote with convictions that were deep and firm. He gave more attention to the idea than to the expression. He wrote with a spontaneity and involvement that verged on frenzy. He wrote with an aim to communicate with his readers.
Hazlitt's "On Actors and Acting-I" is a beautiful essay. It is in praise of actors and acting. Here the essayist is highly allusive. His mood is philosophic and nostalgic.
Hazlitt has a style of his own. It has been titled as the familiar style. It is natural. It has precision and purity of expression. He does not use archaic, irrelevant and superfluous words. He frequently uses figures of speech to emphasize his point of view. His essays are replete with vivid descriptions. His sentences are brief and abrupt, vigorous and direct. He often writes balanced, antithetical sentences to present the contrasting ideas. He is also praised for the use of epigrams and paradoxes.
Thus Hazlitt is really one of the greatest essayists. Geoffrey Leynes is of the view that Hazlitt is not out of date and does not become state.