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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. IX. 1797
Thomas Holcroft to William Godwin, 26 July 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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Produced by CATH
Wood Norton, July 26, 1797.

“It was my intention to write, for I feel a kind of vacuity of heart when I am deprived of the intercourse of my accustomed friends. But as I cannot write to them all, and as we have many friends in common, I think there are few whom you may not safely assure on my part that they have their turn in my thoughts. I deferred this pleasant duty however till I had seen your mother, whom I thought it right and respectful to visit. My coming occasioned some little alarm. The Major, Mrs Harwood, and Fanny accompanied me. We were seen from the windows as we came up to the gate. I had my spectacles on, and your sister-in-law ran to inform your mother that yourself and Mrs Godwin were arrived. The old lady stood in the portico; the young ones advanced. There was an anxious curiosity in their countenances, and your sister, addressing herself to me, said, ‘I think I know you, sir.’ I scarcely knew what to reply. Imagination had winged her and myself to London, where I supposed that some years ago I might have seen her at your lodgings, taking it for granted that she was a relation. But as I did not answer, Major Harwood relieved our embarrassment by announcing my name. The change of countenance that took place was visible, for though your sister could not perhaps have fully persuaded herself that my face was actually yours, yet she seemed rather to trust to her hopes than to her recollection; and these being disappointed, an immediate blank took possession of her
features, and the rising joy was damped. Your mother, however, very kindly invited us in, and gave us all the good things she had that could administer to our immediate pleasures. The expectations which Major H. had raised by his description of your mother was not entirely answered. She was neither so alert, so commanding, nor so animated as he and Anne had described; but as they both are apt to deal in the superlative, I make some deductions from their previous description and after remarks, according to which she is very rapidly on the decline. Having quitted her farming business, I have no doubt myself but that her faculties will be impaired much faster than they would have been had she continued to exert them; yet I strongly doubt of the very rapid decline which the Major supposes. Her memory is good, her conceptions, speaking comparatively, are clear, and her strength considerable.

“I have seen more of the County of Norfolk than of its inhabitants; of which county I remark that to the best of my recollection it contains more flint, more turkies, more turnips, more wheat, more cultivation, more commons, more cross-roads, and, from that token, probably more inhabitants, than any county I ever visited. It has another distinguishing and paradoxical feature, if what I hear be true. It is said to be more illiterate than other parts of England, and yet I doubt if any county of like extent have produced an equal number of famous men. This, however, is merely a conjecture, made not from examination, but from memory.

“As it is necessary for me to bathe, I shall immediately depart for Yarmouth, and pass through Norwich, which I have not yet seen. If you or Mrs Godwin, or both, can but prevail on yourself or selves to endure the fatigue of writing to me, I hope I need not use many words to convince you of the pleasure it will give me. And be it understood that this letter is addressed to you both, whatever the direction on the back may affirm to the contrary. Professions are almost impertinent, and yet I am almost tempted to profess to you how sincerely and seriously I am interested in your happiness. But as I am sure my words would ill describe my thoughts, I shall forbear. Pray inform me,
sweet lady, in what state is your
novel? And on what, courteous sir, are you employed? Though I am idle myself, I cannot endure that any one else should be so. Direct to me at the post-office, Yarmouth. Pray do me the favour to call occasionally and look into the house and library.

T. Holcroft.”