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Whatever my ambition, it is not my present purpose to offer to the reader either a history of my father's mind, or a critical analysis of his works. I have too much respect for the name he has transmitted me to throw any gratuitous discredit upon it by attempting a task which, looking to the very high power essential to its due fulfilment, I fairly confess myself unequal to. So far, however, as the reader is concerned, I need not regret my inability. Some of those fine spirits with whom my father was associated in life have sanctioned my attempt by gracing it with the expression of their opinions of him, and these, with the eloquent tribute to his genius and character, which the youngest but one of the most estimated of his contemporaries, Mr Bulwer, has done me the kindness of sketching out, render all apology to the readers of the present paper
All that I propose to do is briefly to state the few and slightly diversified circumstances of my
father's passage through his “brief mortality,” which, like that of most literary men, was made up of what is much less strange than fiction. From early youth his mind was so intently occupied in the search after abstract moral and political truth, and in the endeavour by its enunciation to raise the character and better the condition of his fellow-creatures, that little time remained to him for that various communication with the outer world which is generally understood as constituting the interesting 'matter of man's life.
My father, who was born April 10, 1778, at Maidstone, in Kent, was the youngest son of the Rev. William Hazlitt, a Dissenting Minister of the Unitarian persuasion : a man who throughout the course of a life of eighty-four years merited and enjoyed a degree of respect which few men obtain, and fewer still deserve. The following sketch of his life from Murch's very interesting History of the Presbyterian Ministers,' will, I think, be considered quite relevant to my subject, as giving some account of the man under whose instruction and example my father's mind was formed in the love of freedom and honesty.
“ The Rev. William Hazlitt, M.A., was born at Shann Hill, near Tipperary, 1737. At about
the age of nineteen he went to Glasgow University, where he remained five years, and obtained the degree of Master of Arts. Though brought up in orthodox principles, at the time of his quitting the University he was an Unitarian. His first settlement was with the Presbyterian congregation at Wisbeach, in 1764, where he remained two years. Here he married Miss Loftus, of that town, by whom he had seven children, three of whom with their mother survived him. From Wisbeach he removed to Marshfield, and thence to Maidstone, where he remained nearly ten years, during which time he enjoyed the acquaintance of several eminent men, and frequently met Dr Franklin. From Maidstone, he removed, in 1780, to the charge
a congregation at Bandon, in the county of Cork, where he continued three years. In this place he exerted himself in behalf of the American prisoners confined at Kinsale, and his manly exposure, in the public prints, of the cruelties exercised towards them by the soldiery, considerably improved their condition. On the close of the war with America, he removed from Bandon to New York with his wife and family, where he arrived in May 1783, and shortly after proceeded to Philadelphia. On his way to that city, the Assembly of the States General for
New Jersey, then sitting at Burlington, sent a deputation to invite him to preach before them, which he did. At Philadelphia he stayed fifteen months, and besides preaching occasionally at various places of worship there, he delivered during the winter, in the college, a course of lectures on the evidences of Christianity, which were exceedingly well received. From Philadelphia he went to preach, by invitation, to a congregation at Boston; but a report of his heterodox principles arriving before him, prevented a settlement amongst them. Mr Hazlitt's visit to this town was not however in vain ; for in a short time he was chiefly instrumental in forming the first Unitarian church at Boston. Here the University offered to confer on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity, which he declined. He also published various tracts in support of Unitarian principles; and having remained in America two years, preparing the way for the subsequent exertions of Dr Priestley, whose acquaintance he enjoyed, he returned with his family to England, and became pastor of the Presbyterian congregation at Wem, in Shropshire. In this place he resided upwards of twenty-six years, and published three volumes of sermons, which had a rapid and extensive sale. In 1813 he retired from the Ministry,