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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. II. 1800
John Arnot to William Godwin, 19 February 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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[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.”