William Hazlitt was 'one of the great masters of English prose style', writes Tom Paulin in his Introduction, the writer who 'makes criticism into an art form'. He leapt to fame in 1814 with his review of Edmund Kean as Shylock, and throughout his life he was fascinated by powerful performances - whether by boxers, rope-dancers or Shakespearean actors. Deeply knowledgeable about painting, thrilled by dioramas, magic lantern shows and other precursors of the cinema, he had a film director's eye for the individual gesture. This selection contains the celebrated pen-portraits of Bentham, Coleridge and Wordsworth, as well pieces on Poussin, genius, the pleasure of hating and the Elgin Marbles. All are full of imaginative insight and sharp, sensory detail, blending a patchwork of phrases from Burke, Shakespeare and Milton into something totally fresh and self-revealing.