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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. IV. 1793
Samuel Newton to William Godwin, 4 December 1793

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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Produced by CATH
Thorpe next Norwich, Dec. 4th, 1793.

Dear Sir,—I naturally contract a friendship, feel an attachment, and interest myself in the welfare of those who have for any time lived with me, though their sentiments and habits may be different from mine. Sincerely can I say that I have been very solicitous for your reputation and welfare; and when I saw your publication advertised, I told several gentlemen of my acquaintance of different persuasions, that from what I knew of your abilities and application, I presumed it was a production that merited attention. When I was lately at my son’s at Witham, I was determined, as he had procured it for a book-club there, I believe on my recommendation, to read it attentively through, though it was in a library at Norwich some time before, to which I belonged, but I had not time then to investigate its contents. In the perusal I was charmed with your language, with many of your sentiments, and with your general idea of political justice and liberty. I said that there were some descriptions, reasonings, and ideas, that for simplicity, elegance, force, and utility, seemed to me to surpass all that I had ever read in Tacitus, Polybius, Montesquieu, Barbeyrac, Grotius, Robertson, Price, or Priestley.

“But I will ingenuously confess to you (and I have, you know, a right to think for myself) that there were several things that you advanced concerning moral obligation, gratitude, any public test of marriage, Christianity, and one or two more subjects, that very much disgusted me. My indignation was raised, not so much that you differed from me, but because I considered it would damn the book, which contained in it so many useful and interesting sentiments. Towards the close, or about the middle of the second volume, I found something of this kind, and I did throw by the book, with some such sentence as you have heard, but it was from an impulse, I can assure you, arising from the preceding views. Truth I revere, though it condemns my own conduct.

“I believe Christianity, you may not; but as I am convinced that it is the most friendly system to the equality and liberty of
mankind that ever was published, I think justice requires me to resent a person’s suggesting that I am not as strongly attached to the rights of man as any one who does not believe it.

“In short, Sir, permit me to intimate that when you publish another edition, I think you can better the arrangement, and make the general method more perspicuous; and if you should think proper to change your expressions, and leave out certain sentences on some subjects, which are, as I conceive, no ways essential to your general system, your performance will be more extensively perused, and it will wonderfully add, I doubt not, to that torrent of political light which is pouring in upon an oppressed world.

“Thus much I thought it my duty to suggest to you, but whether you think it worthy your attention or not, I shall think I am bound by immutable justice to wish you well, and really to esteem you without giving way to the least degree of base servility.

S. Newton.”