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Have I not reason to hate and to despise myself? Indeed I do; and chiefly for not having hated and despised the world enough.

—William Hazlitt, "On the Pleasure of Hating"

Hazlitt, “the first modern man,”* would not kill

a spider. “A child, a woman, a clown,”

even he himself a century before,

“would have crushed the little reptile to death

—my philosophy has got beyond that—

I bear the creature no ill-will, but still

I hate the very sight of it,” he says.

“It will ask another hundred years

of fine writing and hard thinking to

cure us of the prejudice.Ӡ Alas, no.

That was almost two centuries ago.

A prejudice takes long to cure in clowns

and moralizers. Spiders are good beasts.

But—it's Hazlitt's shtick—haters love hating.

*Duncan Wu, William Hazlitt: The First Modern Man (Oxford: Oxford University Press,  2008).

†Hazlitt, “On the Pleasure of Hating,” in The Plain Speaker (1826). The term "clown," as used by Hazlitt here, signifies a yokel or country bumpkin, a corruption of Middle English colonie, Latin colonus, farmer, colonist, from the verb colere, to cultivate, inhabit.


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