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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. I. 1800
Samuel Taylor Coleridge to William Godwin, 9 December 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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Produced by CATH
Saturday night, [Dec. 9th, 1800.]

Dear Godwin.—The cause of my not giving you that immediate explanation which you requested, was merely your own intimation that you could attend to nothing until the fate of your ‘Melpomene,’ was decided. The plan was this: a system of Geography, taught by a re-writing of the most celebrated Travels into the different climates of the world, choosing for each climate one Traveller, but interspersing among his adventures all that was interesting in incident or observation from all former or after travellers or voyagers: annexing to each travel a short essay, pointing out what facts in it illustrate what laws of mind, &c. If a bookseller of spirit would undertake this work, I have no doubt of its being a standard school-book. It should be as large
as the last edition of
Guthrie—12 or 1400 pages. I mentioned it to you because I thought this sort of reading would be serviceable to your mind: but if you reject the offer, mention it to no one, for in that case I will myself undertake it. The ‘Life of Bolingbroke’ will never do in my opinion, unless you have many original unpublished papers, &c. The good people will cry it down as a Satan’s Hell-broth, warmed up a-new by Beelzebub. Besides, entre nous, my Lord Bolingbroke was but a very shallow gentleman. He had great, indeed amazing, living talents, but there is absolutely nothing in his writings, his philosophical writings to wit, which had not been more accurately developed before him. All this, you will understand, goes on the supposition of your being possessed of no number of original letters. If you are, and if they enable you to explain the junction of intellectual power and depraved appetites, for heaven’s sake go on boldly, and dedicate the work to your friend Sheridan. For myself, I would rather have written the ‘Mad Mother’ than all the works of all the Bolingbrokes and Sheridans, those brother meteors, that have been exhaled from the morasses of human depravity since the loss of Paradise. But this, my contempt of their intellectual powers as worthless, does not prevent me from feeling an interest and a curiosity in their moral temperament, and I am not weak enough to hope or wish that you should think or feel as I think or feel.

“One phrase in your letter distressed me. You say that much of your tranquillity depends on the coming hour. I hope that this does not allude to any immediate embarrassment. If not, I should cry out against you loudly. The motto which I prefixed to my tragedy when I sent it to the manager, I felt, and I continue to feel.
“‘Valeat res scenica, si me
‘Palma negata mærum, donata reducit opimum.’

“The success of a tragedy in the present size of the theatres (‘Pizarro’ is a pantomime) is in my humble opinion rather improbable than probable. What tragedy has succeeded for the last 15 years? You will probably answer the question by
another. What tragedy has deserved to succeed? and to that I can give no answer. Be my thoughts therefore sacred to hope. If every wish of mine had a pair of hands, your play should be clapped through 160 successive nights, and I would reconcile it to my conscience (in part) by two thoughts: first, that you are a good man; and secondly, that the divinity of
Shakespere would remain all that while unblasphemed by the applauses of a rabble, who, if he were now for the first time to present his pieces, would tear them into infamy. Κόυρον γτορ εχει τό πλειστον άνθρώτων. The mass of mankind are blind in heart, and I have been almost blind in my eyes. For the last five weeks I have been tormented by a series of bodily grievances, and for great part of the time deprived of the use of my poor eyes by inflammation, and at present I have six excruciating boils behind my right ear, the largest of which I have christened Captain Robert, in honour of De Foe’s ‘Captain Robert Boyle.’ Eke, I have the rheumatism in my hand. If therefore there be anything fitful and splenetic in this letter, you know where to lay the fault, only do not cease to believe that I am interested in all that relates to you and your comforts. God grant I may receive your tragedy with the πότνια νίχη in the title page!

“My darling Hartley has been ill, but is now better. My youngest is a fat little creature, not unlike your Mary. God love you and

S. T. Coleridge.

P.S.—Do you continue to see dear Charles Lamb often? Talking of tragedies, at every perusal my love and admiration of his play rises a peg. C. Lloyd is settled at Ambleside, but I have not seen him. I have no wish to see him, and likewise no wish not to see him.”