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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. XIII. 1800
William Godwin to James Marshal, 14 August 1800

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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[Ireland] “Aug. 14, 1800.

“I see by my memoranda that it is now near a fortnight since I wrote to you last. On that day I wrote to you two letters, both of which, I take it for granted, you have long before this received. What I said in them I cannot now with exactness recollect. I had, however, by that time made my contract with Mr Curran to go to the assizes at Carlow, for which place we set out, Sunday, Aug. 3, the day after I closed these letters. On our road, we called on Mr Geo. Ponsonby. . . . We, however, only spent an hour or an hour and a half at his house, and I saw no more of him. At Carlow I was introduced to my Lord Judge, Michael Kelly, Esq., eighty years of age, and by his invitation had the honour to sit on the bench with him. Here we hanged a postmaster, worth by his own evidence £1000 a year, for opening letters and robbing the mail (he was appointed for execution this morning), and procured an estate for a friend of Mr Curran, by setting aside a last will in favour of the testator’s relations, or a last will but one, in behalf of their friend, who was no relation at all. Poor old Kelly made a grand speech in summing up, the most ex parte pleading I ever heard, the famousness and effort of which, as I was assured, was all prepared for the ears of the author of ‘St Leon.’ (N.B.—‘St Leon’ is a much greater favourite everywhere in Ireland than ‘Caleb Williams.’) These trials last two days. Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 5, 6, at Carlow I also made acquaintance with Mr Whaly, commonly called Buck (in the Irish idiom Book) Whaly, who made himself famous, a few years ago, by undertaking for a wager, to go to Jerusalem and return in the space of 2 years. This man, as a traveller, is really a curiosity:
he affirmed that Georgia was the capital of Circassia, and that Mocsia (a province) was the original name of the ancient Byzantium (a city). We returned by a famous old monastic ruin called the Seven Churches, and slept on Wednesday night at Rackets’ Town, lately distinguished for its flourishing streets, but of which every house but two, including the church and the barracks, was reduced to a heap of ruins by the late rebellion. We arrived at the Seven Churches about 5 o’clock Thursday afternoon, when we found neither inn, nor even alehouse, but a camp, the officers of which, generously spying our distress, and hearing the name of Counsellor Curran, supplied us, starving as we were, with dinner, tea, supper, and bed. Friday, Aug. 8, we called for the last time on
Grattan, and arrived in Dublin to dinner. Saturday, I proposed starting for England, but the wind was contrary, and I was prevailed on to stay till Monday (Sunday there is no packet), by which I gained two days in Ireland, and lost but one day in England: for if I had sailed on Saturday, I could only have left Holyhead by the Tuesday morning’s mail-coach, so tedious was their passage: and, sailing on Monday I was in time, though the passage was 24 hours, for the Wednesday morning’s mail. Wednesday, therefore, Aug. 13, at 4 a.m., I once more landed on my beloved native isle. At 6 a.m. I got into the mail-coach, and dined with the passengers at Conway at 1 p.m. There I left them, being determined, as I told you before, to penetrate on foot through some of the most delightful scenery of N. Wales. I slept last night at Llanrwst (the w is pronounced like oo), and breakfasted this morning, by the most purely accidental recommendation, at the house of a most stupid dog, Mr Edwards, a brewer, whose town house is in Portman Square, and who has built himself a mansion in the vale of Llanrwst, because in this valley he passed the most pleasing years of his childhood. Llanrwst is 12 miles from Conway, this place 10 miles more, where I am just sitting downto dinner, and Corwen, where I propose to sleep, is 13 miles further. Llangollen, to which I purpose to proceed to-morrow, is 14 miles beyond Corwen. . . . Whether I shall leave Llangollen Friday or Saturday will depend pretty much on
these ladies [
Lady Eliza Butler and Miss Ponsonby], but I think I will contrive to be in town so as to be able to give you an accurate previous notice of the time, for the sake of the dear little girls and the trunks of the trees: perhaps you may have a letter by Monday’s post, to tell you exactly of the final particulars of my arrival the day after.

“Tell Fanny and Mary I have brought each of them a present from Aunt Bishop and Aunt Everina. I love Aunt Bishop as much as I hate (you must not read that word) Aunt Everina: and therefore Fanny, as the eldest, must, I believe, have the privilege of choosing Mrs Bishop’s present, if she prefers it. Will not Fanny be glad to see papa next Tuesday? It will then be more than seven weeks since papa was at Polygon: I hope it will be a long, long while before papa goes away again for so much as seven weeks. What do you think, F.? But he had to come over the sea, and the sea would not let him come when he liked. Look at it in the map. . . .

“A further object of curiosity with which I have been gratified was, that Mr Grattan introduced me to a poor man who had been twice half-hanged by the King’s troops in the rebellion. I had, therefore, the account of the transaction from the fellow’s own mouth. The first time, seven cars were brought, and set on end, that seven villagers might be suspended from the tops of their shafts, to extort a confession of arms from them. The second time, the poor fellow’s wife, who was on her death-bed, crawled to the threshold to entreat for mercy for him in vain. She survived the scene, of which she thus became the spectator, exactly ten days. God save the king!”

[Enclosed in letter.]—“I have just closed the week with a very interesting conversation with Curran, upon the charge I had heard alleged against him of insincerity and prostitution of friendship. I am convinced it has no shadow of foundation to lean upon. I like him a thousand times better than ever.

“We are now going to set out for Carlow, and shall spend an hour or two this morning with Geo. Ponsonby, who is by most persons pronounced the third orator in Ireland, and by the devo-
tees of chaste and level declamation, is affirmed to be the first. I have never yet seen him, except for a few minutes, in England.

“Ah, poor Fanny! here is another letter from papa, and what do you think he says about the little girls in it? Let me see. Would pretty little Mary have apprehension enough to be angry if I did not put in her name? Look at the map. This is Sunday that I am now writing. Before next Sunday I shall have crossed that place there, that you see marked as sea, between Ireland and England, and shall hope, indeed, to be half way home. That is not a very long while now, is it? My visit to Ireland is almost done. Perhaps I shall be on the sea in a ship, the very moment Marshall is reading this letter to you. There is about going in a ship in Mrs Barbauld’s book. But I shall write another letter, that will come two or three days after this, and then I shall be in England. And in a day or two after that, I shall hope to see Fanny and Mary and Marshall, sitting on the trunks of the trees. . . .”