WILLIAM HAZLITT was born in Maidstone, Kent in 1778, the son of a Unitarian minister. After a short period in America, the family settled in the village of Wem, Shropshire. Hazlitt was educated at the Unitarian College in Hackney from 1793 to 1795, although he decided against the religious life, and began to move in the political and literary circles of Coleridge, Wordsworth, Lamb and Godwin. He wrote on philosophy and politics before becoming increasingly involved in literature and journalism. In 1814 he became the Morning Chronicle parliamentary reporter and theatre critic, while also writing essays for journals, including the Edinburgh Review and Leigh Hunt’s Examiner. His works on literature include the Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays (1817), dedicated to Lamb and admired by Keats; Lectures on the English Poets (1818); The Round Table, in collaboration with Leigh Hunt (1818); and Lectures on the English Comic Writers (1819). His Political Essays were also published in 1819, and Table Talk in 1821–2. In 1825 and 1826 much of his best work was collected in two volumes of essays, The Spirit of the Age and The Plain Speaker. In the last ten years of his life Hazlitt experienced emotional turmoil and poverty, although he continued to publish until his death in 1830.
GREGORY DART was educated at Clare College, Cambridge, between 1986 and 1993. He taught English Literature at the University of York from 1993 to 2000, and is now teaching the same subject at University College London. He also writes for the TLS and contributes programme notes for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He has published two books, Rousseau, Robespierre and English Romanticism (Cambridge, 1999) and Unrequited Love: On Stalking and Being Stalked (Short Books, 2003).