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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. X. 1819-1824
William Godwin to John Lens, 24 September 1823

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
Sep. 24, 1823.

Sir,—It is a thousand to one whether you recollect a little boy to whom you did a kind action between 50 and 60 years ago, and
who has never seen you since. You, I daresay, have done so many kind actions since, that this may well be obliterated from your mind.

“We met at Mr Christian’s dancing-school at Norwich. You were almost a man grown, and I was perhaps about twelve years of age. You and your sister and a Miss Carter were, I believe, at the head of the school. Miss Carter was a very plain girl, but a good dancer. I was in reality no dancer at all. It so happened that one day in your hearing I said, thinking perhaps of nothing, I should like for once to dance with Miss Carter. You immediately answered, I will take care that you shall, and accordingly you brought it about. This is altogether a trifle, but it has a hundred times recurred to my memory.

“We have since run a different career. I have written ‘Caleb Williams’ and ‘St Leon,’ and a number of other books. Did you ever hear of those books? And if you did, did your quondam school-fellow at the dancing-school ever occur to your mind? You have been perhaps more usefully employed in an honourable profession. The consequence is, you are rich, and I am—something else.

“I have been twice married: my first wife was Mary Wollstonecraft. My present wife, fifteen years ago, looked with anxiety to the precariousness of our situation: my resources were those I derived from my pen: and persuaded me to engage in a commercial undertaking as a bookseller. We were neither of us fit for business, and we made no great things of it, but we subsisted. Till at length I was inevitably engaged in a lawsuit which, after being several times given in my favour, was at length last year decided against me.

“The consequence was heavy losses: costs of suit, the purchasing the lease of a new house, the fitting it up, and many more. These I have encountered, and I am doing tolerably well. But there is an arrear due on the lawsuit (which was respecting the title to a house), under the name of damages, &c., to the amount of £500, which will come against me in the most injurious form the law can give it, in the beginning of November.


“Several noblemen and gentlemen a few months ago formed themselves into a committee for the purpose of collecting this sum. . . . But many delays occurred in forming this committee, and it was not completed till July last. . . . My subscription falls short. This is principally owing to the time of year. My friends tell me that if I could keep it open till the meeting of Parliament it would still answer. But the beginning of November must decide my good or ill fortune. In this emergency I am reduced to think of persons whom I suppose to be in opulent circumstances, and respecting whom I can imagine they may be kindly disposed towards me, to fill up the subscription. It is by a very slender, and almost invisible thread that I can hope to have any hold upon you, but I am resolved not to desert myself. The subscription has gone about half way.

“Thus, Sir, I have put you in possession of my story; and begging pardon for having intruded it on your attention, I remain, not without hope of a favourable issue to my impertinence,—Your most obedient servant,

W. Godwin.”