LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. II. 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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

Holcroft was at Hamburg during the year 1800, turning over a variety of schemes in his busy brain, and carrying some of them into action—schemes of translations from foreign languages, of recasting travels in Russia for the English book market, of plays, novels, reviews, schemes also of buying pictures to re-sell, and of making art catalogues of the contents of various foreign galleries. But these and their results may best be told in selections from his own letters. Godwin’s replies are for the most part irrecoverable. He took copies of all by a machine, but the copying ink has faded, while the paper was so thin, that it falls to bits in the attempt to decipher the faint trace of writing left on it.

It is not now possible to discover what particular act of kindness on Godwin’s part led to the burst of gratitude in the following letter. It was either the unwearied sacrifice of his valuable time on his friend’s behalf, or some actual relief in money, sent at a period when he was himself sorely straitened in means, and was under considerable obligations to the Wedgwoods.

T. Holcroft to William Godwin.
Hamburg, January 24th, 1800.

“On the 20th instant yours of the 24th of December arrived, and this day I received those of December 10th, Decr. 31st, and
Jan. 14th. The mixed sensations they have excited in me are such as never can be forgotten. The ardour, firmness, and activity of your friendship, the true and simple dignity with which you feel and act, the embarrassment under which you are at this moment, and the relief which you find in the confidence that on the receipt of yours I shall immediately do my duty,—in short that delightful mingling of souls which is never so intimately felt as on such extraordinary occasions as these, are now all in full force, and producing such emotions in me as you yourself cannot but both have desired and expected. . . .

“The first volume of ‘St Leon’ has been sent to Berlin, and whether it may there have found a publisher I cannot yet say, but I shall write this evening, and if it be not already in train, send for it back that it may be translated here, and if possible still some emolument derived for you. You say you will act for me as you would for yourself, and you have so acted. I will endeavour not to be far behind you. I feel there is even more pleasure in receiving than in performing such acts of kindness.

“You blame me for not saying more of Arnot. I imagined he had written to you his whole history. He went to Vienna, where he has been ill, and recovered, and where, I suppose, he still is. While he was here, I gave him a little of the little I had in my pocket, and Mr Cole paid for his lodging and some other trifles. Sophy conceived some prejudice against him, for which I am sorry, and at which, it seems, he was more angry than gratified by the kindness testified to him by all the rest, particularly by my dear Louisa, who, with Fanny, feels toward you and for you almost as much as I do. Not knowing you quite so well, they are still more struck at the decisive friendship with which you act, and love you for it most affectionately. . . .


T. Holcroft.”

“My dearest father has done justice to the feelings your most excellent letter, and still more excellent—nay, noble—conduct, have excited. Yes, we love you most affectionately, and hope again to realise the exquisite pleasure of emulating while we witness the virtues and genius of yourself and those friends who
make truth so lovely. You have not mentioned your sister, the dear children, and
Louisa Jones. By that, we hope and infer they are all in health. Remember us all very affectionately to them, and tell Fanny and Mary that in two or three years we may perchance bring them a little visitor as amiable and lively as themselves. He really is a fine boy. I mean, my dear, dear brother, the infant of our dear, excellent Louisa, who, dear soul, has a bad cold, but in other respects she is very well. I hope you know me too well to doubt the sincerity of heart with which I sign myself—Your affectionate young friend,

Fanny Holcroft.”
The Same to the Same.
Hamburg, Feb. 11th, 1800.

“. . . The chief, though not the only purpose of this letter, is to inform you that Mr Villiaume has at last undertaken to have your book translated and a thousand copies printed, the profits of which, without risk, you are to share. But it is necessary to premise that these profits, if any, will not be paid till Easter, 1801, and that the agreement is verbal. I meet this Mr Villiaume at the house of a merchant. Delicacy would not permit me to ask for formal written documents, and I have no reason on earth to suspect him of dishonesty, with this only exception, that dishonesty is here practised beyond credibility. Such, at least, is the cry, which the anecdotes I have heard confirm. You may gain eighty pounds, you can lose nothing. . . .

“Has your Tragedy been performed? I think it would suit the German stage; but the German stage, honour excepted, is almost barren of emolument.

“Of my Comedy, according to your account, there is little hope. Mr Richardson’s improvements are some unintelligible, and others, in my opinion, of the Irish kind—they would improve it to its destruction. I approve my plan, and as a plan will not alter it; for that plan is its very soul, if any soul it has. Perhaps, from his suggestion, I may make my simple Lawyer a Judge. If that will satisfy him, it shall be done; if not, so be it.


“The incidents of the last six months have occasioned me to neglect my father’s widow, and I am fearful lest the kind little woman should be in distress. You delight in the charities of life. If money is advanced on my pictures, so that I can pay debts contracted for them here, and if as much as twelve pounds in addition be to be had from them, I entreat you to write, in my name, to the Rev. Mr G. Smith of Knotsford, in Cheshire, to state absence, distance, &c., as the reason of her not having heard sooner from me, and to say that on receiving a draft and line under her own hand, the said sum of twelve pounds shall be immediately paid, and annually continued as usual.

“Were a man to be made miserable by the sudden deprivation of conveniences to which he had long been accustomed, I should be sufficiently so; but you know either my heroism or my romance, for I am happy amidst cold, dirt, ignorance, selfishness, and a long et cetera. My dear Louisa is in excellent health, my kind-hearted and industrious Fanny is my active and very essential assistant, You do not forget me, Mr Marshal and others take pleasure in serving me,—and think you I can be miserable?

“We shall soon stand still for ‘St Leon.’ Two vols, must appear at the Leipsic Easter Fair.

T. Holcroft.”

Several letters follow from which no extract need be made. They are one wail of distress at the sale of the precious pictures having realised next to nothing, and at the failure of a journal which was “to make England acquainted with the literary merit of the North,” of which the sheets had been sent to Godwin and Marshal. The sale of this was under one hundred, instead of exceeding thousands, and the future publication was of course stopped. In regard to the pictures, it is simply wonderful that Holcroft, whether a judge of art or not, could have believed that the world was so rich in treasures as to enable him to gather at Hamburg pictures of great value, which he shipped to England in twenties and thirties at a time.
In calmer moments he speaks himself of “this picture-dealing insanity of mine;” but at other times he persisted in buying whatever came in his way, in spite of the warnings of
Opie the artist and Christie the dealer, both his friends, and both anxious to serve him.

Godwin’s reply, after telling him his firm conviction that friends and auctioneers had done their best, proceeds with this very plain-spoken advice:—

William Godwin to T. Holcroft.
[May 1800.]

“. . . I most earnestly wish, as you hint in your last letter, that you would come over and superintend the sale of these pictures yourself. I have a further and very strong reason for wishing it. If the consequence of your embarrassments should be your being thrown into prison, reflect on the difference between being a prisoner here and at Hamburg. Here you may be a prisoner in the rules of the King’s Bench, or the Fleet, which is almost nominal imprisonment. You may see booksellers and other persons with whom you wish to transact business, with whom, I fear, you will never make advantageous engagements without being on the spot. There—I turn away with horror from the supposition—there, imprisonment would be little less than a sentence of death, and starvation to your family. Reflect seriously on this.

“I will take every care in my power respecting the pictures, which, I suppose, are now on their voyage to England. I will see Opie, I will see Gillies; I will, if possible, clear them at the Custom House, and lodge them in a place of safety, to wait your further orders. Beyond this I cannot go.

“And now, to dismiss this subject, I say firmly, ‘Stop!’ Think how much anguish, how many sleepless nights you are preparing for yourself. Your life—as much of it as is spent in this pursuit—will be one series of corroding expectation and continual disappointment. Indeed, it is madness; for what is madness but a constant calculation of feelings and a sentiment in mankind—the
sentiment in this instance of bestowing a large price on your pictures—which is never realised. You give the greatest pain to all your friends here, who are anxious for your welfare. What can we think, when we see a catalogue of pictures, rated by you at so many thousand pounds, which no man here thinks will sell for as many hundreds? You will go near in the sequel to make us as mad as yourself. . . .”

T. Holcroft to William Godwin.
“Hamburg, May 27th, 1800.

“I cannot but suppose the letters I have written, from their tenor and the circumstances under which they were dictated, have been among the most disagreeable you have ever received. This will increase their number. On Friday evening, the 16th instant, as I was preparing to wash my feet, and had a half-pint vial of aqua fortis in my hand, after pouring in about a spoonful to the warm water—from which kind of bath my feet had found benefit—the vial suddenly burst in my hand, and the contents, partly flying up into my face, and the rest upon my hands, arms, and thighs, burned me in so dreadful a manner, that during two hours, till medical help could be procured, I was firmly persuaded my eyes had been destroyed. I thought I felt them run down my cheeks in water. The torture I suffered is indescribable. The places most burnt were my forehead, left eye and cheek, nose and chin, right hand and wrist, and the right thigh and knee; the forehead and wrist shockingly; though the left side was far from escaping. What degree of permanent injury may arise, I do not yet know; but it will be well if my eyes, especially the left, recover their former strength. In other respects, a few scars, I am told, are the only things to be feared, and these not of a hideous nature.

“Now to business. . . .

Fanny has been reading parts of “Fischer’s Travels in Russia” to me during my Jobation. I suppose Job had been burnt with aqua fortis, since I hear so much of his patience; and my opinion is still very favourable. It is a work to which I am
willing to attach my name, though not to all translations, e.g., ‘
Mirabeau’s Berlin Memoires de Voltaire, ecrits par lui même,’ &c.

“Perhaps it is impatience which is astonished, not reason, that you had heard nothing of the arrival of my pictures. My situation is so painful, that, damnable as the burning of aqua fortis is, I feel as if I could better endure it than this state of mind in which my moral character remains for a time degraded. . . .

T. Holcroft.”
The Same to the Same.
Altona, June 3rd, im Pflockschen Hause, bei Hamburg.

“. . . The first volume of the translation of ‘St Leon’ appeared at the Leipsic fair; but the number subscribed for was not quite a hundred copies, which the bookseller considers as rather unfavourable. You, however, can sustain no loss.”

The Same to the Same.
[In answer to Godwin’s letter of May.]
Altona, June 13th, 1800.

“Though the attacks I have lately received of body and mind have been extraordinary, yet surely I am not mad. Or if I were, it cannot be that I am surrounded by none but madmen. I have not depended merely upon my own judgment in the pictures I have sent to London. I consulted a variety of persons, and, among others the best artists and judges I could find, two of whom I may certainly affirm are competent to the task of giving an opinion. . . . I tremble lest the impressions under which Messrs Opie and Birch may have gone to examine the pictures should have led them to decline interference, and even suffer pictures which cost here between four and five hundred pounds to be sold at the Custom House to pay the duties. Surely this cannot have happened. I believe there is a plain way of proceeding. Christie is not the only auctioneer. Cox and Burrel are, or very lately were, men of enterprize. Phillips might do the business profitably, and he would undertake it with eagerness. . . .

“It is needless to add anything to impress you with a deep
feeling of my present situation. I refer you to my former letters. It is not a prison, it is disgrace, that I dread, and which, I own, I want the fortitude to meet with any degree of apathy. I therefore request you to proceed with the earnestness and expedition you have hitherto used, and to let me know the result as soon as possible; for if it should be that no man will advance money on these pictures, I must then try whether I have not a friend on earth who will on my own credit and for my own sake entrust me with such a sum till it can be repaid by the produce of my brain. I am proceeding with the ‘
Abbe de L’Epée.’ ‘The Lawyer’ shall likewise be altered and sent. I have written to Robinson, as you are doubtless informed by a note addressed to you and enclosed in his letter” [which contained proposals for a German-English Dictionary], “and I am in treaty with a German bookseller on the same subject. Were I a thousand pounds in debt at this moment, allow me only two years, and I have no doubt it would be paid. The fact, however, is, that unfortunate as my affairs have been, and gloomy as appearances are, I have pictures in my possession, unless sold at the Custom House, which, exclusive of duties, have cost me about six hundred pounds; I have ‘The Lawyer,’ which certainly will not take me a month to alter; I have the piece I am now employed upon, that will be finished in less than three weeks; and you have the trifle, which, if accepted, has a chance of concurring to raise supplies.

“The burns in my wrist and forehead reached almost to the bone and skull; consequently they are yet far from cured. The pain of them continues to be considerable, though such as may be supported with entire calmness. It was the accident of having my spectacles on that saved my eyes, and I feel rather as if I had obtained a blessing, than suffered agony and injury.

“We are all well, these burns of mine excepted, and the boy grows finely. No enquiries of mine can excite you to say a word of any being whom I love and esteem, not even of your children. I know you have enough to do with my damned affairs: however, notwithstanding their ill turn, you cannot but receive the applauses of your own heart, as you do most fervently of mine.

T. Holcroft.”
The Same to the Same.
Altona, August 15th, 1800.

“. . . At last we have received a letter from Mr William Nicholson, so circumstantially meagre and hide-bound. Damnation! His frost inflames my gall. He does not mean it thus; but experimental philosophy has rendered him most wise, and full of incoherency. I suppose he might be induced to walk as far as the end of the street to serve a friend, provided it was quite certain his wife would not want him to weigh ten grains of rhubarb in the interim. Good God! how nearly are greatness and littleness allied. And so it is with us all. I have not told you, nor can I at present tell, how nobly Clementi behaved to me; but you, and more than you, shall some day hear.”

The Same to the Same.
Altona. Sept. 9th, 1800.

“. . . I know not how to speak of ‘St Leon’ so as to do you justice. I always felt the insurmountable defect of the work, and the strained if not improbable incidents that must be invented to exhibit a miserable man who had every means of enjoyment in his power. You have repeated to me times almost innumerable the necessity of keeping characters in action, and never suffering them to sermonize, yet of this fault ‘St Leon’ is particularly found guilty by all whom I have heard speak of the work, with whom my feelings coincide. Is it then a weak and unworthy performance? Far indeed the reverse. Men must have arrived at an uncommon degree of general wisdom, when ‘St Leon’ shall no longer be read. Your Marguerite is inimitable. Knowing the model after which you drew, as often as I recollected it, my heart ached while I read. Your Bethlem Gabor is wonderfully drawn. It is like the figures of Michel Angelo, any section of an outline of which taken apart would be improbable and false, but which are so combined as to form a sublime whole. Having read I could coldly come back, and point to the caricature traits of the portrait, but while reading I could feel nothing but astonishment and admiration. Through the
whole work there is so much to censure, and so much to astonish, that in my opinion it is in every sense highly interesting. Its faults and its beauties are worthy the attention of the most acute critic. . . .

“Do you wilfully omit to sign your letters? No. The question is an outrage.

T. Holcroft.”

Before Holcroft wrote the last letter to be quoted in this year, he had heard that “Antonio” had been acted and had failed.

The Same to the Same.
Altona, Decr. 26th, 1800.

“. . . Enough of these paltry and repining thoughts. Would that [want of money] were the worst of evils. You have a grief upon your mind which requires all your fortitude to keep at bay. Do not imagine it is unfelt by me. Before your account reached me I read the malignant and despicable triumph of ‘The Times.’ It was not ‘Alonzo’ but William Godwin who was brought to the bar, and not to be tried, but to be condemned. It was in vain to croak, having seriously warned you as I did: you were of a different opinion; and to have been more urgent would only have produced disagreeable feelings, not conviction, but with me it was a moral certainty that if your name were only whispered, the condemnation of your tragedy was ensured. J. P. Kemble well knew this; and hence his refusals and forebodings. Yet it pleased me to see that malignity itself was obliged to own the play had beauties. It then asks, if it were any wonder? Good God! how disgusting is the naive and open impudence of such a question, when joined to the ribald abuse by which it was preceded. I cannot relieve you; that is—do not think the phrase too strong—that is my misery: yet I wish you would tell me what is the state of your money affairs? I am in great anxiety. I form a thousand pictures of hovering distress of the dear children, the house you have to support, and the thoughts that are perhaps silently corroding your heart. Do not subtract from the truth in
compassion to my feelings, strong as they are for myself and others, they always end in enquiring if there be any effectual remedy? Direct in future to me, at Mr Schuhmacher’s, New Burg, Hamburg: he is my friend, and will remit my letters safely, for I know not where I shall be.”

Besides Holcroft, Godwin’s other foreign correspondent was Arnot, whose letters begin again early in the year; he was as undaunted and as poor as ever, and suffering much in bodily health. The loss of the journal kept by him is greatly to be regretted, for, as will be seen, his travels extended to a part of Europe even now but little known to foreigners; and he had the great merit, still rare, of sympathy with those among whom he came.

J. Arnot to William Godwin.
[Vienna] “February 16, 1800.

“I have not yet received an answer to two letters which I wrote to you about the end of November.

“My friends would write to me more frequently, if they knew what a gratification to me a letter from them affords. It rouses me from my indifference, revives my affection for them, and imprints afresh their image upon my mind: and this is not a little necessary in a mode of life which, as Dyson, in his only letter to me, well observes, is so unfavourable to the growth of amicable attachments. When I read his letter first, I thought he might possibly be in the right in this, but I did not then so strongly feel its truth as I have done since.

“When I received my portmanteau, I began to write my journal of last year. When I had brought it up to my arrival in Riga, I read over all I had written, and was so little satisfied with it, that I lost all courage to proceed. I now think I shall scarcely have time to finish it till I return to England. . . .

“In one or other of the two letters I have mentioned, I told you I would go next summer to Hungary. I shall set out pro-
bably about the beginning of May. My route I have not yet determined. Upon looking at the map, I have been thinking to go from Opa and Pesth straight to Belgrade, or at least to Semlin, which is over against it, and from thence going through the Bannat, to travel over Transylvania and the North of Hungary toward the Carpathian Mountains. I need scarcely tell you, that every one here who has heard of my design, has advised me against it, as a thing highly dangerous, if not impracticable.

“When I left England I had no thoughts of going to Hungary. I meant to have gone from Germany immediately to France, on the supposition that peace would, ere this, have been established. In going to Hungary, I deviate from my first project; though it is a deviation which I hope will be rather an improvement. But I will deviate from it no further. Upon returning from Hungary, I intend to go directly to France, peace or not. If I can do so with safety to myself, I do not suppose that any disadvantage will thereby arise to others, and the consciousness of this makes me hesitate the less in following my own inclinations, without regarding any edicts that may have been made to the contrary in England. To what part of the world can a man go to avoid the encroachments and tyranny of his fellows? I must not go to France, it seems, because, if I do, a man called William Pitt will not let me return to England without molestation, but will endeavour to punish me by a law of his own making. What an impudent fellow he is!. . .

“My love to all my friends. I hope the children are well, and that they still continue to be the sources of much happiness to you. Long may they be so. I am, with great esteem, yours,

John Arnot.”
The Same to the Same.
[Vienna], “19th Feb. 1800.

“I am sorry you showed my brother my journal from Edinburgh to London. Although I do not think it contains anything, as far as I can now recollect, to entitle me to the abhorrence of those who shall peruse it, yet I am sensible that my mind, at the
time in which I wrote it, was in a very perturbed state; and I do not much wonder that my brother should not wish, as indeed I do not wish myself, that it should come before the public eye in its present form. I wish you had not showed it him. I know my family better than you. I cannot, indeed, bring myself to doubt my brother’s honour; but when you gave it him upon the two conditions, that he only should peruse it, and that he should return it as soon as read, why did he say you should have it in four days? why specify four days? and having specified four days, why keep it for a fortnight? Mr Sevright is in London.

“But why do I put these questions to you? Can you answer them any more than myself?

“Abhorrence! Do you abhor me, Godwin? I cannot recollect all that I wrote, but this I remember, that your sensations upon having read it seemed to me to be not those of abhorrence. My brother is a good young man, as men go; I do not doubt his honour, but I doubt very much if his sense of right and wrong is either more just or more acute than yours. . . .

“Man, as you justly observe, is the creature of success. If I finish my undertaking successfully, I shall ever acknowledge that the concern you had in it, though accidental, was far from trivial. I formed the design before I knew or had any hopes of knowing you; without you I would certainly have attempted it, but without the assistance which I have derived by your means, I should as certainly have sunk under the execution. When I consider the history of my own mind, I may almost say that to travel was my destiny. I was driven to it by an irresistible impulse; by an inextinguishable thirst of knowledge, which is probably inherent in every youthful uncorrupted mind. The dangers, and even the hardships which I have already overcome, although great, are not superior to those which, by all accounts, I shall still have to encounter. I may be cut off: such an event may well happen: but I see no reason that you should therefore have a portion of remorse, as if you had been my murderer. You know better than any others the motives by which you have been influenced in giving me the encouragement and assistance you have done; and the
consciousness of these, if good—why that if?—ought to inspire fortitude sufficient to suppress—I will not say regret, for that, if I may judge from my own feelings, it would be difficult to withhold from the memory of a friend—but certainly remorse. The risk I run is great. If I perish, I don’t know whether it were not better that my name and my actions should alike be buried in oblivion; since I am convinced that nothing that shall be found in my papers will do justice either to me, or the undertaking, or to the advantages to accrue from it, if completed. . . .

J. A.”
The Same to the Same.
[Presburg], “Sunday, 18 May 1800.

Dear Sir,—I write from Presburg. I have sent my manuscripts, &c., to the care of my sister, and have told her to deliver them unopened to you. . . .

“Upon recollection, I am much pleased with your last letter in which you say you feel yourself identified in some measure with me. Our acquaintance was but short, yet I feel as if our souls were nearly allied. But our situations are very different. You live in retirement. Although in the neighbourhood of a great city, you may be said to be widely removed from the influence of those violent passions which agitate in so extraordinary a degree the present generation. But I am tossed to and fro in a tempestuous world. I have hourly to encounter the passions and prejudices of men, and to suppress my own passions, naturally strong, on occasions eminently calculated to rouse them to the utmost. Wherever I have turned my steps I have met with obstacles; in almost every man I have found an opposer; disease, poverty, and persecution have united to afflict me. If, in such circumstances as these, you have supposed that I was at all times to preserve the same collected coolness which I might be able to do in maturer age, and in the quiet of retirement, you have expected from me what is probably more than will ever be performed by man. It is perhaps enough that I can recover myself, and collect my powers for new efforts; and that I never lose sight of the main object, but continue to pursue it with steadiness while it is possible to be pursued. . . .


“I am going to Pesth, Fünfkirchen, Semlin, Temeswar, Hermanstadt. I shall thence turn towards the north. I will visit Deehczin, Cashan, and Eperin, and cross the Carpathians into Poland. I have gotten an invitation from a Polish prince to visit him at his country seat, from whence, by the way of Cracow, we are to return together to Vienna.

“I shall write again from Pesth.

John Arnot.”

Two more letters, in October and November, containing Arnot’s thanks for £20 which Godwin had sent him from a “Mr Boswille or Borville,” who heard from Godwin of, and pitied his sad condition, speak, but very cursorily, of a lady of whom he thinks more than of his travels, and announce his intention of returning to England.

And in a third and final letter there are these lines of interest.

J. Arnot to William Godwin.
Vienna, 26 Decr. 1800.

. . . ” The enemy are within a few posts of this city. In the midst of winter, all strangers are ordered to depart. That need not hinder you to write if you intend to write.

John Arnot.”

It has seemed inexpedient to interrupt either series of the foregoing letters, to give those of Mrs Godwin which follow. They, however, and one from Mrs Robinson, fitly find place here, before those of Charles Lamb, so closely mixed up with the story of Godwin’s tragedy, “Antonio,” with which his brain had travailed during all the months of the spring and summer, which was produced, and failed at once with the failing year.

Mrs Godwin Sen. to William Godwin.
Feb. 6, 1800.

Dear Wm.,—I shoud be glad to hear a good account of Joseph. I doubt much his amendment it is not the first time he has overcome you with fine words. He seems according to what I can learn to be poorer for ye £44 I have given him than he was before he had it, he now can’t neither board nor cloth Harriot. I hear she is gone to service somewhere in the country. Well, she had better begin low than be puffd up with pride now and afterwards become low, for she had certainly no good exampels at home. I heard once she was in expectation of being sent to her Aunt Barker’s, but what barbarity is it not to let her have shoes to her feet when she came to your sister’s. I am glad she did not go where her education woud have been as bad as at home. London is the place where girls go too for Servises to get better wages than they can in the country, but I know the reason is he is given up to pride and sensuality and well know where yt will lead him to and all that tread in the same steps. I hoped, tho’ it was not likely, to have done him good and your Sister too but I find I am misstaken. We in the country deny ourselves because of ye dearness of provisions, make meal dumplings, meal crusts to pies mix’d with boil’d rice and a very little butter in them, our bread meal and rice which we have bout at twopence per pound, and very good it is, pancakes wth boil’d rice in water till tender and very little milk or egg with flower. we have had a very favourable winter hitherto, only one sharp frost one fortnight. Did you pay Mary Bailey £5 or not, has her father done anything for them, how do they go on, what is their direction? Is J. Jex steady and give content in his sittuation. I wish him to learn his business stay his time I hope he is bound till 21 years of age I hope yr brother John will take a prudent care. I cannot promise for Natty he wishes to be in business for himself and to marry. He has made one attempt but she was pre-ingaged and I don’t know another in the world I should like so well, so most likely he must remain a servant all his days. Providence ought
to be submited to, ’tis but a little while we have to live here in comparison of Eternity and wedlock is attended with many cares and fears. I am not well very few days together tho’ I keep about. My great complaint is a bad dejestion. I desire to resign myself to ye almighty will in every thing but life to me is now a burthen rather than a pleasure. I wish you the truest happiness I don’t mean what ye world calls happiness for that’s of short duration, but a prospect of that happiness that will never fade away—from your affectionate mother

A. Godwin.

“I have not written to yr sister now because I have written not long since and she seems to be in her old strain, the same note and I am afraid ever will be remember me to her and John Mrs Cooper and Wilcox.”

The Same to the Same.
March 28, 1800.

Dear Wm.—I have but just time to write three or four lines on a parcel to Mary Bailey. I hope you will write very soon. I wish to hear how you and Your dear children do and poor John Hanh Jax Godwin Mary Bailey goes on and poor Harriot, and if Mary Bailey have had the £5 I intended for her. Likewise if you recd Turkey and Saccages sent in a basket to Hanh about 2 of January. I understand Jo accepts an invitation from Hull of coming to Dalling the latter end of May or beginning of June. In his letter never mentioned wife or child. How shall I meet such a disgraceful wretch as He my god Sustain me if this be marrying may the others for ever keep single but what is men when left to their own unruly passions.
‘The highest Heaven of their Persuit
Is to live equal to the Brute
Hapy if they could die as well
Without a Judge, without a Hell.’

“Your affecate Mother,
A. G.”

“I am as well as I can expect to be and the rest of the family who with Nath desire respects to you and yours.”


The friendship which existed between Godwin and Mrs Robinson has been already noticed. The only letters which passed between them now remaining are a few from the lady, belonging to the year on which we are now engaged. They show a clever woman, unregulated and undisciplined, whose hold over Godwin was maintained, after the glamour of her exceeding beauty had ceased to charm, by unbounded flattery, to which he was only too accessible. And he had a sincere pity for her sorrows. She was at this time a martyr to rheumatism, and in great poverty, owing to the irregular payment of the annuity from the Prince of Wales. The present generation has nearly learned to estimate that person at his true value, yet an extract from the letters of his former mistress may help to show what were some of the qualities which went to “mould a George.”

The writer at the date of her letter was under arrest for debt.

Mrs Robinson to Godwin.
Friday, 30th May 1800.

“. . . .—The fact is simply this, were I to resist the action as a married woman, I might set it aside, and recover damages from my persecutor, because the arrest is for necessaries, and my husband is therefore by law obliged to pay the debt, there being no kind of legal separation between us. But then, I should involve that husband, and act, as I should feel, dishonestly towards my creditors. I therefore submit patiently. I have had various proposals from many friends to settle the business, but I am too proud to borrow, while the arrears now due on my annuity from the Prince of Wales would doubly pay the sum for which I am arrested. I have written to the Prince, and his answer is that there is no money at Carlton House—that he is very sorry for my situation, but that his own is equally distressing!! You will smile at such
paltry excuses, as I do. But I am determined to persist in my demand, half a year’s annuity being really due, which is two hundred and fifty pounds, and I am in custody for sixty-three pounds only! So circumstanced I will neither borrow, beg, nor steal. I owe very little in the world, and still less to the world,—and it is unimportant to me where I pass my days, if I possess the esteem and friendship of its best ornaments, among which I consider you,—Most sincerely, I am, dear sir, your obliged and humble servant,

M. Robinson.”

Mrs Robinson died on Dec. 26th, at her residence at Englefield Green, and on the last day of the year 1800. Godwin attended her funeral at Old Windsor.