We don’t for a moment believe that Hazlitt is inept, or unattractive, or capable of behaving like a lunatic. You can’t write well and behave badly.
But, of course, you can, and Hazlitt did. He cheated on his wife, alienated friends, and when Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo he stayed drunk for weeks. For all the insouciance of his prose, Hazlitt could be a social disaster. His friend said that he entered a room “as if he had been brought back to it in custody.” Coleridge famously described him as “brow hanging, shoe contemplative, strange.” He was obviously combative, but he was afraid of his housekeeper. He could stare down publishers but was reluctant on a cold night to ask a stranger to shut the window of a coach. Perhaps that’s one reason bookish people are drawn to Hazlitt: he’s terribly self-conscious in public and acutely conscious of the self in private; like them, he gets buffeted by fate or by people with more power, but unlike them, he buffets back, which makes him, well, heroic.