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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. XII. 1799
William Godwin to Maria Reveley [Gisborne], [July 1799]

Contents Vol. I
Ch. I. 1756-1785
Ch. II. 1785-1788
Ch. III. 1788-1792
Ch. IV. 1793
Ch. V. 1783-1794
Ch. VI. 1794-1796
Ch. VII. 1759-1791
Ch. VII. 1791-1796
Ch. IX. 1797
Ch. X. 1797
Ch. XI. 1798
Ch. XII. 1799
Ch. XIII. 1800
Contents Vol. II
Ch. I. 1800
Ch. II. 1800
Ch. III. 1800
Ch. IV. 1801-1803
Ch. V. 1802-1803
Ch. VI. 1804-1806
Ch. VII. 1806-1811
Ch. VIII. 1811-1814
Ch. IX. 1812-1819
Ch. X. 1819-1824
Ch. XI. 1824-1832
Ch. XII. 1832-1836
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[July 1799].

“How my whole soul disdains and tramples upon these cowardly ceremonies! Is woman always to be a slave? Is she so wretched an animal that every breath can destroy her, and every
temptation, or more properly every possibility of an offence, is to be supposed to subdue her?

“This ceremony is to be observed for some time. What miserable, heartless words! What is some time? this phrase, upon which all feeling, all hope of anything reasonable is left to writhe, and to guess, as it can, when its sufferings shall have an end. You know in what light such ceremonies have been viewed by all the liberal and wise, both of my sex and yours.

“If you mean any more than ceremony, say so. You are free; with this stroke of my pen I sign your freedom. But think, what must be my sensations, and my tranquillity, while you leave me in doubt whether this freedom is or is not to be used against me.

“I am the furthest in this world from wishing to give you a moment’s pain. You, with your entrenchment of ceremony, have forced me, very, very contrary to my own inclination, to say thus much. I ask not a word of answer from you. I have no wish that you should know what it is you are doing, and what are the feelings which you are imposing, and are resolved, for some time, to impose upon me.

“The conduct which propriety and a generous confidence in the rectitude of our sentiments dictated to us both was too plain to be mistaken; to see each other freely and honestly as friends; to lay down no beggarly rules about married and unmarried men; and to say nothing, for some time, but what was the strict and accurate result of friendship. If you had that confidence in me which every sentiment of my heart proclaims to me I deserve, you would have felt no want of these ceremonies.

“I use no form of superscription, because I know of none that can at all represent the interest I take in your welfare.

W. Godwin.

“I give this to Mrs Fenwick to transmit to you, because whatever I think of your rules, I will not without your consent break through them in any point in which I can avoid it

“Do you think you can be more anxious about the propriety and rectitude of your conduct than I am?

“You cannot be displeased with the above. I do not pretend
to prescribe to you any article of your conduct. That I should take care to let you know what my feelings are can never be imputed to me as a crime.”