No better critic, no better intelligence, no better prose, no better pleasure in English literature is to be had from an essay than that which might be found on almost any page in the essays of William Hazlitt. He's had a better time of it of late than for a very long time, what with two recent biographies and what looks to be a renewed interest in at least his politics and his person. But this has not yet led to a decent and affordable selection of his essays being reissued. He deserves better than he's had.
Meanwhile, in reading just this one brief example, imagine how many he wrote with the same graceful style, essay after essay, on subjects across the full range of a wide experience, astonishing scholarship, and profound perception.
Why William Hazlitt? Because there is no greater essayist in English.