William Hazlitt was born in Maidstone in 1778. His mother, Grace Loftus, was from a Dissenting family in Cambridgeshire, and his father, the Reverend William Hazlitt, was an Irish Unitarian minister from Co. Tipperary.
Hazlitt was educated at the Unitarian New College in Hackney, then studied art and tried to earn a living as a portrait painter.
He was also keenly interested in philosophy and published his first book, An Essay on the Principles of Human Action, in 1805.
He later became a journalist and theatre critic, the first major drama critic in English, as well as the first major art critic, and one of the most gifted literary and general essayists in English. He is one of the greatest political journalists and one of the finest prose stylists in the language.
Unlike his contemporaries, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey, he remained a lifelong radical, and this led to quarrels with friends, though his deep friendship with Charles Lamb and Leigh Hunt endured.
He is a master of the essay form. His books include Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, The Round Table, Table-Talk, Political Essays, The Plain Speaker, Liber Amoris, The Spirt of the Age and a long Life of Napoleon which he published towards the end of his life.
He died in 1830 in a rooming-house in Soho and is buried in St. Anne's Churchyard nearby.