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Table Talk Essays on Men and Manners   By: (1778-1830)

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TABLE TALK

ESSAYS ON MEN AND MANNERS

By William Hazlitt

CONTENTS

VOLUME I

1. On the Pleasure of Painting 2. The Same Subject Continued 3. On the Past and Future 4. On Genius and Common Sense 5. The Same Subject Continued 6. Character of Cobbett 7. On People With One Idea 8. On the Ignorance of the Learned 9. The Indian Jugglers 10. On Living To One's Self 11. On Thought and Action 12. On Will Making 13. On Certain Inconsistencies In Sir Joshua Reynolds's Discourses 14. The Same Subject Continued 15. On Paradox and Common Place 16. On Vulgarity and Affectation

VOLUME II

1. On a Landscape of Nicholas Poussin 2. On Milton's Sonnets 3. On Going a Journey 4. On Coffee House Politicians 5. On the Aristocracy of Letters 6. On Criticism 7. On Great and Little Things 8. On Familiar Style 9. On Effeminacy of Character 10. Why Distant Objects Please 11. On Corporate Bodies 12. Whether Actors Ought To Sit in the Boxes 13. On the Disadvantages of Intellectual Superiority 14. On Patronage and Puffing 15. On the Knowledge of Character 16. On the Picturesque and Ideal 17. On the Fear of Death

VOLUME I

ESSAY I. ON THE PLEASURE OF PAINTING

'There is a pleasure in painting which none but painters know.' In writing, you have to contend with the world; in painting, you have only to carry on a friendly strife with Nature. You sit down to your task, and are happy. From the moment that you take up the pencil, and look Nature in the face, you are at peace with your own heart. No angry passions rise to disturb the silent progress of the work, to shake the hand, or dim the brow: no irritable humours are set afloat: you have no absurd opinions to combat, no point to strain, no adversary to crush, no fool to annoy you are actuated by fear or favour to no man. There is 'no juggling here,' no sophistry, no intrigue, no tampering with the evidence, no attempt to make black white, or white black: but you resign yourself into the hands of a greater power, that of Nature, with the simplicity of a child, and the devotion of an enthusiast 'study with joy her manner, and with rapture taste her style.' The mind is calm, and full at the same time. The hand and eye are equally employed. In tracing the commonest object, a plant or the stump of a tree, you learn something every moment. You perceive unexpected differences, and discover likenesses where you looked for no such thing. You try to set down what you see find out your error, and correct it. You need not play tricks, or purposely mistake: with all your pains, you are still far short of the mark. Patience grows out of the endless pursuit, and turns it into a luxury. A streak in a flower, a wrinkle in a leaf, a tinge in a cloud, a stain in an old wall or ruin grey, are seized with avidity as the spolia opima of this sort of mental warfare, and furnish out labour for another half day. The hours pass away untold, without chagrin, and without weariness; nor would you ever wish to pass them otherwise. Innocence is joined with industry, pleasure with business; and the mind is satisfied, though it is not engaged in thinking or in doing any mischief.(1)

I have not much pleasure in writing these Essays , or in reading them afterwards; though I own I now and then meet with a phrase that I like, or a thought that strikes me as a true one. But after I begin them, I am only anxious to get to the end of them, which I am not sure I shall do, for I seldom see my way a page or even a sentence beforehand; and when I have as by a miracle escaped, I trouble myself little more about them. I sometimes have to write them twice over: then it is necessary to read the proof , to prevent mistakes by the printer; so that by the time they appear in a tangible shape, and one can con them over with a conscious, sidelong glance to the public approbation, they have lost their gloss and relish, and become 'more tedious than a twice told tale... Continue reading book >>




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