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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. X. 1819-1824
William Godwin to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 30 March 1820

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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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
Skinner Street, March 30, 1820.

“I consider the day on which I entered on this business as one of the fortunate days of my life. The faculty of invention and
intellectual exertion in the human mind has its limits. ‘
Political Justice’ was published in 1793, and ‘Caleb Williams’ in 1794. ‘St Leon’ did not come till 1799, ‘Chaucer’ in 1803, and ‘Fleetwood’ in 1805. My mind then felt exhausted; I could no longer pursue unintermittedly the same course; or if I had it would have been ineffectively and with aversion.

“Blessed, therefore, and thrice blessed was the interval which enabled me to renew my strength! I did not begin ‘Mandeville’ till 1816, and I have ever since felt that I have gained a new tenancy of my intellectual life. I write and I plan works, and I feel all the vigour of youth, that I shall never leave off writing again, till the infirmities of nature, or some terrible convulsion in my circumstances, shall perhaps put an end to my literary career for ever.

“You will know that I did not remain idle in this precious interval, to which I am indebted for everything I value in this present life. I manufactured the works of Baldwin! I digested a School Dictionary; I wrote the ‘Essay on Sepulchres,’ and the ‘Lives of the Nephews of Milton.’ But these were not me; I did not put forth the whole force of my faculties; the seed of what peculiarly constitutes my individual lay germinating in the earth, till in its own time it should produce its proper fruit. . . .

“Even the ‘Answer to Malthus’ could never have been produced without the business. I thought this ‘Answer’ might have been completed in six months; it is now more than two years since I undertook it. New views are perpetually opening upon me; new difficulties, with their solutions; and though I work upon it in every day of health, it is far from being finished. I have resolved not merely to attack Malthus in his remedies, his vice, and his misery; but to show that there is no need of any remedies, that the numbers of mankind never did and never can increase in the preposterous way he lays down; and though I shall be able perfectly to make out this, yet it is attended with a world of difficulties, and requires patience indescribable. While, then, I pursue this Herculean task, the inglorious transactions of the shop below-stairs furnish me with food, clothing, and habitation, and enable me to proceed . . .


“I have read the tragedy of ‘Cenci,’ and am glad to see Shelley at last descending to what really passes among human creatures. The story is certainly an unfortunate one, but the execution gives me a new idea of Shelley’s powers. There are passages of great strength, and the character of Beatrice is certainly excellent.—Ever most affectionately yours,

William Godwin.”