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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. IX. 1797
William Godwin to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, 7 June 1797

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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Etruria, June 7, 1797.

“More adventures. There are scenes, Sterne says, that only a sentimental traveller is born to be present at. I sealed my last
letter at Hampton Lucy, and set off for Mr Boot’s, farmer at Atherston, where I expected to meet
Dr Parr to dinner. Our way lay through Stratford-upon-Avon, where, after having paid our respects to the house, now inhabited by a butcher, in which Shakespeare is said to have been born, I put your letter in the post

“But before we entered Stratford we overtook Dr Parr. After a very cordial salutation, he told us that we saw him in the deepest affliction, and forbad our visit at present to his house, though he pressed us to wait upon him upon our return from Etruria. He, however, went on with us upon his trot to the dinner at Atherston. His affliction was for the elopement of his daughter with a Mr Wynn, a young man of eighteen, a pupil of the Doctor’s, son to a member of Parliament, and who will probably inherit a considerable fortune. They set off for Gretna Green on the night of Sunday the 4th. To do the Doctor justice, though in the deepest, affliction, he was not inconsolable. He had said to the young man the Friday before: Sir, it is necessary we should come to an issue. You must either quit my house, or relinquish your addresses to Miss Parr; if, after having ceased to live with me, you choose to continue your addresses, I shall have no objection to you; but I will have no Gretna Green work. I allow you till Monday to give in your answer. I cannot help, however, believing that the Doctor is not very inconsolable for the match. What do you think of it? I certainly regard Miss Parr as a seducer, and have scarcely any doubt that the young man will repent, and that they will be unhappy. It was her, and her mother’s maxim that the wisest thing a young woman of sense could do was to marry a fool, and they illustrated their maxim from their domestic scene. Miss Parr has now, it seems, got her fool, and will therefore learn by experiment the justice of her maxim.

“I expected to have been rallied by the Doctor upon my marriage. He was in high spirits, but abstained from the subject. I at length reminded him of his message by the Wedgwoods. I mentioned it with the utmost humour, but desired an explanation, as I was really incapable of understanding it. He appeared con-
fused, said he had been in high good humour the evening he supped with the Wedgwoods, and had talked away at a great rate. He could not exactly say how he had expressed himself, but was sure he did not use the word mean. We had a good deal of raillery. I told him that he understood everything except my system of ‘
Political Justice;’ and he replied that was exactly the case with me. Montagu afterwards told me that Dr Parr had formerly assured him that I was more skilful in moral science than any man now living. I am not, however, absolutely sure of the accuracy of Montagu’s comprehension.

“We left the Doctor at the farmer’s house, and came on on Monday evening to within ten miles of Birmingham and fifty miles of Etruria. (I forgot to say in the right place that Miss Parr vowed, upon hearing of my expedition, that she would give me the most complete roasting she ever gave to any man in her life, upon my marriage. She, however, has got her husband, and I have probably lost my roasting. Though I think it not improbable that we shall find Mr and Mrs Wynn at Dr Parr’s on our return.)

“Every night we have ceased to travel at eleven; every morning we have risen at four, so that you see we have not been idle. We breakfasted on Tuesday at Birmingham, where we spent two hours, surveyed the town, and saw the ruins of two large houses, which had been demolished in the Birmingham riots. I amused myself with enquiring the meaning of a handbill respecting a waxwork exhibition, containing, among others, lively and accurate likenesses of the Prince and Princess of Wirtemberg, and Poet Fruth. As I had never heard of Poet Fruth, my curiosity was excited. We found that he was an ale-house keeper of Birmingham, the author of a considerable number of democratical squibs. If we return by Birmingham, I promise myself to pay him a visit

“From Birmingham, we passed through Walsall, a large and handsome town of this county, 8 miles. We went forward, however, and came at 12 o’clock to Cannock, a pretty little town. Here we proposed to give our horse some water, and a mouthful of corn.
Montagu had repeatedly regretted the hardship imposed upon the horse of eating his hay with a large bit of iron in his mouth, and here, therefore, he thought proper to take off his bridle at the inn door. The horse, finding himself at liberty, immediately pranced off, overturned the chaise, dashed it against a post, and broke it in twenty places. It was a formidable sight, and the horse was with great difficulty stopped. We, however, are philosophers, so, after having amused ourselves for some time with laughing at our misadventure, we sent for a smith to splinter our carriage. By two we had eaten our dinner, the chaise was hammered together. We paid the smith his demand of 2s., and bid adieu to Cannock, the scene of this memorable adventure.

“Our next town was Stafford, which I viewed with unfeigned complacence, as having had the honour of being represented in four successive Parliaments by Richard Sheridan. We did not, however, stop here (8 miles), but proceeded to Stone (7 more), and nine short of Etruria. Here we took tea, and here I wrote the first 18 lines of this letter. You cannot imagine the state of intoxication of poor Montagu as he approached the place of our destination. It was little less than madness, but the most kind-hearted madness imaginable. He confessed to me that he had set out from London in extreme ill-humour, from preceding fatigue, and from doubts of the capacity of the horse to perform the journey, in which, however, he was agreeably disappointed. He added that it was infinitely the most delightful journey he had ever made.

“We reached Etruria without further accident, a little after eight. Our reception appears to be cordial. Farewell, my love. I think of you with tenderness, and shall see you again with redoubled kindness (if you will let me) for this short absence. Kiss Fanny for me, remember William, but, most of all, take care of yourself. Tell Fanny I am safely arrived in the land of mugs.

“Your sister would not come down to see me last night at supper, but we met at breakfast this morning. I have nothing to say about her.”