LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. IV. 1801-1803

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

The failure of Antonio was a very serious matter to Godwin. His pecuniary circumstances had long been increasingly unsatisfactory, and he was of all men least fitted to manage such a household as his own, the expenses of two little girls and their attendants lying quite outside his experience. In play-writing he had found, as he considered, an occupation peculiarly suited to his genius, one, moreover, which could more quickly yield definite results, and bring at once fame and money. The disappointment of his hope brought matters to a crisis, and many letters of this year, not interesting in their details, exhibit him in the position, so sad for any man, saddest of all for a man of great ability and lofty aims, of applying to one friend after another for money aid, of making excuses for non-payment, and neither in applications or refusals, was he, or could he perhaps be quite straightforward. Who ever was or is so under similar circumstances?

The need of writing for bread, though this of course had been one element in all his former work, had grown so imperative that it over-mastered his deeper interest in his occupations, and a tendency becomes manifest in him to sink from author into mere bookmaker. “Political Justice,” the novels, and the play had sprung from his conviction and his fancy,—were parts of his very self. The same
cannot be said of many of his later works. They were undertaken as commercial speculations, whereas for prose writers as well as poets, the saying of
Goethe’s “Minstrel,” “Ich singe wie der Vogel singt,” is that which should be the inmost thought of their heart, even if they be not like him, independent of the reward.

It must not, however, be considered that all Godwin’s work was perfunctory, or his whole life absorbed in sordid money cares; nor would it be advantageous to follow the details of his struggles or of his literary experiments. But it would not be honest to conceal the fact that here were the elements of a deterioration which more or less affected his character through many remaining years of his life.

The care also of the children became an increasing anxiety. The person in whose charge they were was in an ill-defined position, scarcely a companion, yet not quite a servant, sensitive and exacting, but without real authority; willing to accept the attentions of the wayward Arnot, between whom and herself some indefinite engagement seems to have existed, yet so jealous in regard to Godwin as to give rise to the opinion that she was not indisposed to become his wife if he asked her. His sister Hannah seemed willing to further the idea; but Godwin himself, aware of the half-developed intention, had no desire that it should be carried out.

The women whom Godwin had thought it possible he could really love after his wife’s death had both rejected his advances, yet his marriage was becoming each day more necessary to the daily life of his household and to his own comfort. In the case of the lady whom he made his wife, no wooing was needed, for all the advances came from her side. This was a Mrs Clairmont, a widow, with a son then at school, and one little daughter somewhat older than
Fanny, who came to occupy the next house to Godwin in the Polygon. She was clever, enthusiastic and handsome, yet not a person in any measure fitted for the task of managing such a household, and supplying the place of a mother to the children—whom she did not like. But she fell in love with Godwin even before she had spoken to him; and as he made no steps towards the cultivation of an acquaintance, Mrs Clairmont herself took the initiative. Godwin sometimes sat in the little balcony at his window; and here, one evening, Mrs Clairmont addressed him from her own—“Is it possible that I behold the immortal Godwin?” To swallow flattery, however coarsely served, was always one of his weaknesses—nor did even this repel him. Under date of May 5th, when hard at work on his Life of Chaucer, the entry is underlined, “Meet Mrs Clairmont”—after which her name constantly appears. The acquaintance rapidly developed, intercourse between the houses became very frequent, ending in marriage before the close of the year.

It was not a happy one. Mrs Clairmont was a querulous though always admiring wife, but she was a harsh and unsympathetic stepmother; and Jane Clairmont, her daughter, became the cause in after-years of much sorrow to Godwin’s own daughter Mary, afterwards Mrs Shelley. But of this in its own place.

The diaries for this year show no variety in Godwin’s regular life. His brothers find record at intervals. They were usually in want of money, and always were relieved from his own slender purse. The Wollstonecrafts renewed with him a somewhat fitful intercourse; the old friends whom he visited, and who visited him, remained almost unchanged; a few more acquaintances disappear, a few new ones are added.


Not all Mrs Godwin senr.’s letters are given. But a large portion is presented because, spite of the aberrations in spelling, in a day when many ladies of her age spelt still worse, the sound common sense displayed is wholly independent of the accuracy of the language. And that Godwin could have such letters written to him places him in an amiable light. He was content to be a child still to his mother, to be lectured at her will.

Mrs Godwin, sen., to William Godwin.
Jan. 1, 1801” [First written 18001.]

Dear Son William,—I do purpose in a few weeks to send the remaining part of Joe’s Share to you, which is about £25 (now Wright’s bond is paid), for you to take the managment of it for the benefit of his children, to put out. I think Mary and John have had all that can be expected of it, as I cannot give them anything by will, and whatever he may have promissed to do for them is all a hazard, as he may think he wants it for his own use. I think he can make a good shift without it. Suppose he has wholy cast of Mary, now she has a husband, though an Indolent one. I have not certainly heard William is got into the bluecoat School. Doth he do credit to it by improvment? I will give you notice when I send the money, and hope you will write also. Tell me what Harriot and Pheby are doing, and how John goes on. I hope he will stay his time, and behave so as to be respected by his master, and how your children do. I did not mean the snuffbox for a plaything for Mary. It is of value, but for you to take care of till she knows its value, and is told it was her grandfather’s present to her grandmother. I hope for some good account of John, that he has not wasted his little. As to Hannah, she complains much; her expenses must be great, besides her lodgings being unoccupy’d half the year. She tells me Mr Hague, her good friend, is failed again: sure he must have missmanaged very greatly. I shall send you a Turkey this week, hope it
will prove good. What do you think of the war? O what scarcity of bread and all kinds of provision. Malt 44s. per coomb; and the poor, some starving, some stealing, though wages increes’d, and parish allowance. Sin is certainly the cause of calamity. We have every need to look into our own hearts and repent and turn unto the Lord with Supplication and prayer that he would avert his Judgments. I’m not justifieing myself. I am full of sin, and need forgiveness and acceptance through Christ.— Yr. ever affectionate mother,

A. Godwin.

“Do you think a smal matter would do your sister good? I have sent her about £2, 10s. Do you think that as much more would enable her to go on?

“I hope I can send the £25 I mentioned above without expence by Mr Munton’s order to Messrs Wood, Bishopgate St. If you call too soon, it’s but little to call again, for letters cost something. But it will be necessary to live a memorandum or acknolegement of it with Mr Wood, with a date on plain paper, no stamp, for Mr Munton’s and my sattisfaction. Likewise give me a proper acknowledgement of it by a post letter when you have received it.

“Your brother Hully is going to send you a turkey. I am, through mercy, better.

“I have enclosed the money above mentioned, to save expences and trouble.”

The correspondence with Ritson is preserved as a specimen of similar letters which took place in this year with him, and with others, especially Wedgwood, whose patience and purse were alike exhausted in regard to Godwin. It is satisfactory to know that the anger expressed on both sides was often merely amantium iræ. Those who know the character of Ritson the Antiquary and Vegetarian will easily understand that his mode of spelling the personal pronoun proceeds from whim, and not from want of education, or from humility.

J. Ritson to William Godwin.
Gray’s Inn, Jan. 16, 1801.

Dear Godwin,—I wish you would make it convenient to return me the thirty pounds i lent you. My circumstances are by no means what they were at the time i advanced it:—nor did i, in fact, imagine you would have detained it for so long. The readyness with which i assisted you may serve as a proof that I should not have had recourse to the present application without a real necessity.—I am very sincerely yours,

J. Ritson.”
The Same to the Same.
Gray’s Inn, March 7, 1801.

“Though you have not ability to repay the money i lent, you might have integrity enough to return the books you borrowed. I do not wish to bring against you a railing accusation, but am compelled, nevertheless, to feel that you have not acted the part of an honest man, and, consequently, to decline all further communication.

“I never received a copy of your unfortunate tragedy: nor, from the fate it experienced, and the character i have red and heard of it, can i profess myself very anxious for its perusal.

“The offer you make of a security, with interest, seems merely a piece of pleasantry, but, however serious, i have no desire to accept it; for, though you have urged me to it, and my temper is somewhat irritable, i do not mean to persecute you: but shall, nevertheless, reserve to myself the liberty of speaking to your conduct according to its merit.—Yours,

J. Ritson.”
The Same to the Same.
Gray’s Inn, March 10, 1801.

“A very slight degree of candour and confidence could not have misbecome you, and would have prevented these disagreeable consequences. The business, however, has proceeded so far, and i have already spoken of it with such acrimony, as a person of
conscious integrity cannot be safely expected either to forget or forgive. I could only judge of your sentiments by your actions, and your never having taken the least notice of my little loan in the course of two years, until you had occasion to apply for further assistance, was in itself, in my mind, a very suspicious circumstance. You had no reason to conclude me affluent, though i am willing to put myself to some inconvenience in order to oblige a friend; nor does it seem either prudent or considerate that you should, in such circumstances, put yourself to the expense of a journey to Ireland, when those, perhaps, who had enabled you to perform it were on that very account obliged to stay at home. The style of your former letter also seemed too easy and flippant for the occasion; and, in fact, the irritation of my mind had been provoked or increased about the very same time by a swindling trick of the
editor of the Albion, who obtained 5 guineas from me on a false pretence and promise of punctual payment, but of which i have been able by threats to extort no more than a couple of pounds, which i presume is the whole i shal ever get. These transactions, hapening together, brooded in my mind, and made me regard every one as a confederated conspirator, being, peradventure, like Iago—
‘vicious in my guess,
As i confess it is my nature’s plague
To spy into abuses, and oft my jealousy
Shapes faults that are not.’
I am much obliged by the handsome and friendly manner in which you profess yourself to have regarded me: though i confess i had no idea of standing so fair in your good graces. This is all i can bring myself to say, except that i am

“An admirer of your talents, and
A sincere wel-wisher of your success.
J. Ritson.”
The Same to the Same.
Gray’s Inn, Aug. 25 [1801.]

“I flatter myself the publication of your book will enable you to repay me the ten pounds that remains due, and which I should not have mentioned, if a considerable loss i have lately sustained in the funds (which i was obliged, for the most part, to defray with borrowed money, and which makes the whole much more than a thousand pounds) had not been peculiarly embarrassing and distressful.—Yours sincerely,

J. Ritson.

P.S.—My book is begun; and i am happy to have become acquainted with so affable and intelligent a printer as mister Taylor, whom you doubtless know: we, in conjunction, ejected the dangerous passages to mister Philipses satisfaction.”

William Godwin to Joseph Ritson.
[Polygon, 10th March 1801.]?

Dear Ritson,—I should be sorry to interrupt your business or occupations one moment unnecessarily by this correspondence. Give me leave, however, to say,

“‘I can easily and entirely forgive the acrimony (if that is what you allude to) of your note of the date of Saturday. We have all of us too many frailties not to make it the duty of every man to forgive the precipitation of his neighbour; and the unfortunate state of your health and spirits which often painfully recurs to my mind, gives this duty a double portion of obligation in the present case. I think a person of conscious integrity may be expected more easily to forget a reflection cast on his character than one of a different description.

“But I am still further incited to forgive your misconstruction in this instance, because I am conscious of the blameableness of my conduct. I have, perhaps, a peculiar sentiment in this case: I feel as if it would be a sort of insult to ask the patience of a friend to whom I was in debt, unless I came to him with the
money in my hand; and this in a full and entire sense I was unable to do. But I perceive I owed you an explanation. I might easily have said to you, as I said to myself, ‘I believe I shall not spend more in my journey to Ireland (my residence there being entirely without expense) than I shall save in my housekeeping in England during my absence.’ The journey had an appearance of extravagance. I might also have told you that my
tragedy was accepted by Mr Sheridan as long ago as April 1799, and that the unexpected delays of the theatre were the direct causes of the delays that occurred as to your payment. I never failed before in any literary effort, and I had not the slightest apprehension of the misfortune that awaited me. Let me add that, instigated by Mr Sheridan’s approbation, I applied a great [part] of the year 1800 to the rendering my play as perfect as the plan upon which it was constructed and the abilities I possessed would allow.

“Restore me entirely to your good opinion. The letter I have just received from you manifests an inclination to do so. Let the consequences be only temporary and transient, which flowed from a transient misapprehension. I have some idea of engaging in a literary work, the nature of which will render your advice singularly interesting to me. Suffer me, when the time comes, to apply to you for that advice. Your silence in answer to what I have written shall be construed into a sufficient permission.”

The literary work in which Ritson’s aid would be of use was the “Life of Chaucer,” which, with little intermission, occupied Godwin during the whole of this and the next years. The preparation of his “Remarks to Dr Parr’s Spital Sermon” can hardly be called an exception, since in this he scarcely did more than re-cast the letters he had already written to the preacher.

Early in September Godwin finished another tragedy, which was to vindicate his fame as a dramatic author, and retrieve his fallen fortunes. Convinced as he was that per-
sonal reasons had in great measure influenced the fate of
Antonio, this was to be anonymously presented; for though this had been intended before, the secret had been scarcely kept, and, distrusting the fairness of the professional reader, he applied once more to head quarters. The following correspondence needs no elucidation. Of the first letter two copies are extant, one in Godwin’s own writing, the other in that of Mrs Clairmont. She wrote an excellent and legible hand, and as an amanuensis was scarce less useful than Marshal.

William Godwin to Mr Sheridan.
Polygon, Somers Town, Sept. 10, 1801.

Dear Sir,—I enclose to you the copy of an Historical Tragedy, entitled ‘Abbas, King of Persia.’ You will immediately perceive the necessity, if you should think it might be of use to your Theatre, and the justice to me on every supposition, which require the not publishing my name.

“I need not tell you, after the approbation you were pleased to express of my last piece when put into your hands, that I suffered a very severe disappointment in the total miscarriage and defeat it sustained. My first impulse, however, upon that event was to sit down and write another, in which I should carefully avoid all the errors, which contributed, with certain external causes, to decide the fate of my piece of last year. The present performance is not so complete as I could wish: it is too long, but such as it is, it will be easy to perceive whether it is radically what it ought to be; and I really want encouragement to make those lesser improvements which, with encouragement, I could effect with great expedition.

“I cheerfully commit the piece to your disposal. What I most earnestly request is, that I may not be exposed to unnecessary delays and uncertainty. After the misfortune I have sustained, I know enough of the generosity of your nature to be confident that you
would, with the utmost promptness, embrace any opportunity of indemnifying and reinstating me.

“I would not have troubled you personally on this occasion, but for the sort of dilemma into which some statements of last year from Mr Kemble have thrown me. He said that he had no concern with the reading and accepting of pieces, but that they were entirely referred to two nameless gentlemen (two men in buckram) who perused and decided. How was I to conduct myself in this case? Were these unknown gentlemen to be the depositaries of the secret I deem it necessary to preserve? I think it too much that my tragedy should come before them absolutely fatherless, as a mere waif or a stray, and to be exposed to the same inattention as, perhaps, five hundred others. I think myself entitled to the casual advantage which may arise from my being the author of one or two well known novels and other pieces, not that I desire by this means in the least to influence their judgment, but to rouse their perspicacity and excite their attention.—I am dear sir, with the highest regard, yours,

W. Godwin.”

On second thoughts, however, an almost duplicate letter was despatched also to Kemble, leaving it to him to decide on the momentous question whether the author’s name should or should not be communicated to the reader.

J. P. Kemble to William Godwin.
Sept. 16, 1801.

Dear Sir,—Your directions shall be punctually observed. The Buckram Men shall not know that the Play comes from you, and I will let you know their answer as soon as they give it me, which I will endeavour shall be at furthest within this fortnight.—I am, Sir, your obedient Servant,

J. P. Kemble.

“I send this by the post, that nobody may observe any communication between us.”

The Play was declined on Sep. 23d, in a civil note signed
Wm. Powell, Prompter,” and addressed merely to “The Author.” Godwin sent a note to Kemble, asking if his directions had been observed, whether it would be accepted if curtailed, &c.

The Same to the Same.
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Sep. 26, 1801.

My Dear Sir,—When you have made such alterations in your Tragedy as you judge proper, it will give me great pleasure to present it for a Re-perusal. You must have the goodness not to press me further, for this is all I can honestly promise,—I am, my dear sir, your obedient Servant,

J. P. Kemble.”
William Godwin to J. P. Kemble.
Sep. 28, 1801.

Dear Sir,—The sole object of the note with which I troubled you on Friday last, was to ascertain whether the piece I had written had received that vigilant and attentive perusal which I conceive to be due to the production of a person already in the possession of some sort of literary character. There are I should suppose from fifty to a hundred manuscripts of all sizes and denominations handed to your theatre every season; a great majority of them the production of sempstresses, hair dressers, and taylors, without a glimmering of sense from one end to the other. It is impossible that these should be bona fide read through by your committee of censors, three or four pages will often be enough in conscience. The drift of my enquiry was, was my piece or was it not put into the heap?

“Your answer, without applying exactly to this point, opens a new question. You hint at alterations to be made by me. Indeed, sir, standing as the affair does, it is impossible that I should make alterations.

“My piece is promising, or it is not. If it is radically bad, can my efforts be worse employed than in attempting alterations? If it is worthy of encouragement your readers are bound by every
sentiment of honour and justice to say, ‘In these respects we approve of the piece, in these other respects we lament that the subject has not been otherwise treated.’ It would be lunacy to attempt to alter it to please I know not whom, who object to I know not what, but who simply communicate to me their disapproval in toto.

“The principal alteration I have myself meditated, consists in elevating the principal character, the exhibiting in every scene in which he appears (which I perceive I have not properly done) sensitive, jealous, the slave of passion, bursting out on the most trifling occasions into uncontrollable fits of violence, at the same time that his intentions are eminently virtuous. But I have no doubt that other alterations might be suggested to me by men of sense and experience, which reflection would lead me to approve and enable me to execute.”

Godwin has here touched on a question which must ever be of great importance to all literary men, and on which they are always sufficiently sensitive. His position is, however, as it seems, an essentially false one, built on the fallacy that literary wares offered for sale are to be treated in quite another way to that in which all other wares are treated, and that those who buy ought also to be able to produce. Literary goods are offered for sale, much as in the old days when shops were fewer, and communication difficult, the weaver would bring his web to the houses of his customers. The thrifty housewife oftentimes knew at once, and always after a close examination, whether the stuff would suit her, and often whether it was well or ill made, it was not her business, however, in the latter case to suggest possible improvements, nor was she to be denounced as incompetent if she were thoroughly unable to do so.

Kemble’s answer would have been convincing to any other than Godwin.

J. P. Kemble to William Godwin.
No. 89 Great Russel Street, Bloomsbury Square.
Sep. 28, 1801.

My Dear Sir,—If it could be supposed that a Play of your writing resembled the Production of those unfortunate ‘Sempstresses, Hairdressers and Taylors’ you condescend to waste your contempt on, I should not wonder if after a reading of ‘three or four pages of it,’ it had been thrown aside out of despair of finding in it ‘a glimmering of Common Sense from one end to the other,’ and I fancy too that under such a Supposition there would be nothing outrageously reprehensible in the matter. If instead of ‘fifty or a hundred Manuscripts’ you talked of five or six hundred, you would go nearer the Truth, I assure you, and he must be prodigal of Patience indeed, who would persevere through a toil, when the mere entering on it had at once convinced him that it would be fruitless.

“Your Play, there is no room to doubt, has been read with the attention due to it, and I have all the reason in the world to believe that the answer you have received was dictated by an upright regard to the Interests of the Proprietors of the Theatre and yours.

“You love Frankness:—now give me leave to ask you whether or not it is quite fair to seem to draw me into a difference with you, by telling me that ‘I hint at alterations.’ If I do, which is more than I own, you will be so good as to remember that I only take a hint of your own offering. In the Letter, which I had the honour of receiving with your Manuscript, you say, ‘The Play is too long, then are parts which ought to be omitted, and Parts which might be improved’ Shorten it, exchange what you think objectionable, amend what seems to you imperfect, if there are any ‘men whose Sense and Experience’ you can rely on, take their opinions. In the very note I have this moment opened from you you allow that your ‘principal Character’ is unfinished. When you have completed it, I shall have the Honour of presenting your Piece for a Re-perusal, and be assured that the Theatre will
be as well pleased to receive a good Tragedy, as you to be the Authour of it. I am, very dear Sir, your very obedient Servant,

J. P. Kemble.”

Two more letters on Godwin’s side remain, and one curt and final on Kemble’s, but they only repeat, and in much the same words, the statements of those already presented.

Closely connected with the question of the rejection of Manuscripts is that of how far an Editor or Publisher is justified in altering that which he undertakes to place before the world. It is one which can scarcely be answered categorically, but Godwin’s position in the following letter is undoubtedly far stronger than it was in his controversy with Kemble.

It is not clear to what “papers” it refers; there is no entry in the Diary which throws light on it, the MS. is the rough draft unaddressed. But it was evidently written to Phillips—his publisher since Robinson’s death, which had taken place on May 6th—and personally has reference to a prospectus circulated in regard to the forthcoming life of Chaucer.

It is here given, not in strict date, as connected with what has gone before.

William Godwin to Mr Phillips.

Dear Sir,—I thank you for your attention to the paper I sent you, and for the civility of enclosing me one of the printed copies.

“Here, however, my gratitude stops. I never did, and I never will thank any man for altering any one word of my compositions without my privity. I do not admit that there is anything indecorous or unbecoming in the statement which you have omitted. But that is not material. I stand upon the principle, not upon the detail. If the part omitted had been to the last degree solecistical and
absurd, my doctrine is the same. ‘No syllable to be altered, without the author’s privity and approbation.’ It is highly necessary, my dear Sir, that I should be explicit on this point. I am now writing a book, of which you are to be the publisher. It is to be “
Godwin’s Life of Chaucer,” and no other person’s. My reputation and my fame are at stake upon it. The moment therefore, I find you alter a word of that book (and you cannot do it without my finding it) that instant the copy stops, and I hold our contract dissolved, though the consequence should be my dying in a jail. I know you have contracted that worst habit of the worst booksellers (the itch of altering) and I give you this fair and timely warning. Yours truly,

W. Godwin.

“In glancing over the Prospectus you have sent me, I find (in the 4th line from the end of the paragraph in the middle of page 2, the word untried for untired, which makes nonsense.”

The following Memorandum is connected with the subject of the above letter, and was also addressed to his Publisher.


“It is my will that in any future Editions of Enquiry concerning Political Justice, my pamphlet in answer to Dr Parr be annexed to the work, in Place immediately following the prefaces to the different Editions, not so much to perpetuate the fugitive and obscure controversies which have been excited on the subject, as because it contains certain essential explanations and elucidations with respect to the work itself. Let the title then stand, “Defence of the Enquiry concerning Political Justice.” The index, in consequence of this arrangement, should be removed from the place it at present occupies, and thrown to the end of the work.”


The only other matter of literary interest, and that not directly connected with Godwin himself, yet deserves record.

Holcroft had completed a translation of Goethe’s Hermann and Dorothea. The price which Messrs Longman
offered, though less than that expected by the sanguine author and his friend, shows the solid fame which Goethe had acquired even at a time when we have been taught to believe that he was scarcely known in England.

William Godwin to Holcroft.
March 6, 1801.

. . . “The purpose of my writing now is simply to inform you of my having put the manuscript of Hermann and Dorothea into the hands of Messrs Longman and Rees, and of their answer. They say they cannot think of giving more than sixty guineas, but it seems to me not impossible that they may be prevailed on to give an hundred.”

The following draft of a Letter (in Marshal’s hand) has no address, but it is important as indicating Godwin’s mind at this period, and it is, in fact, a fragment of autobiography:—

William Godwin to ——
Aug. 29, 1801.

Dear Sir,—I thank you most sincerely for the kindness of your letter. Human creatures, living in the circle of their intimates and friends, are too apt to remain in ignorance of the comments and instructions which may be made of what they say and do in the world at large. I entertain a great horror of this ignorance. I do not love to be deceived, and to spend my days in a scene of delusions and chimera. I feel it is an act of unequivocal friendship that you have thus communicated to me a fact in which I must hold myself interested, though you deemed the communication to be ungracious.

“Good God! and so you heard me gravely represented in a large company yesterday as an advocate of infanticide. I have been so much accustomed to be the object of misrepresentation
in all its forms, that I did not think I could be surprised with anything of that sort. The advocates of those abuses and that oppression against which I have declared myself, have chosen it as their favourite revenge to distort every word I have ever written, and every proposition I have ever maintained. But there is a malignity in this accusation which, I confess, exceeds all my former calculations of human perverseness.

“They build the accusation, it seems, upon a few pages in my ‘Reply to Dr Parr,’ where I am considering the hypothesis of the author of the Essay on Population. They eagerly confound two things so utterly dissimilar as hypothetical reasoning upon a state of society never yet realized, and the sentiments and feelings which I, and every one whom it is possible for me to love or respect, must carry with us into the society and the transactions in which we are personally engaged. Because I have spoken of a certain practice, prevailing in distant ages and countries, which I deprecate, and respecting which I aver my entire persuasion, that in no improved state of society will it ever be necessary to have recourse to it, they represent me as the recommender and admirer of this practice: as a man who is eager to persuade every woman who, under unfortunate and opprobrious circumstances, becomes a mother, to be the murderer of her own child.

“Really, my friend, I am somewhat at a loss whether to laugh at the impudence of this accusation, or to be indignant at the brutal atrocity and the eager sentiment of persecution it argues in the man who uttered it. I see that there is a settled and systematical plan in certain persons to render me an object of horror and aversion to my fellow-men: they think that when they have done this they will have sufficiently overthrown my arguments. Their project excites in me no horror. As the attack is a personal one, it is only by a retrospect to my individual self it can be answered.

“I say then to my own heart, and I will resolve to say to you, that in spite of the machinations of these persons, there will always remain some man in the world who will read my writings, as long as my writings shall be thought worthy of curiosity or dis-
cussion, with sufficient impartiality to discern in them a spirit of humanity in the author. To you, and to every man who knows me, I appeal, without the slightest apprehension, to my present habits. Am I a man likely to be inattentive to the feelings, the pleasures, or the interests of those about me? Do I dwell in that sublime and impassive sphere of philosophy that should teach me to look down with contempt upon the sentiments of man, or the little individual concerns of the meanest creature I behold? To come immediately to the point in question: Am I, or am I not, a lover of children? My own domestic scene is planned and conducted solely with a view to the gratification and improvement of children. Does my character as a Father merit reprehension? Are not my children my favourite companions and most chosen friends?

“This, I think, is all the answer to which such an accusation as the one you mention is entitled. It is too monstrous to suppose that a man of my turn of mind can be the advocate of an unnatural disposition, the inciter and persuader of acts of horrible enormity. I would cherish and encourage in the minds of every father and every mother the sentiment of that relation, as the most sacred band of human society. I would not willingly disturb or diminish, by one single atom, those impulses which so irresistibly and imperiously guide every well constituted mind under the circumstance of this relation. My literary labours for ten years have been solely directed to the melioration of human society, and prompted by an anxiety for human happiness. Let, then, these men go on in their despicable task of misrepresentation and calumny. Let them endeavour to represent me as the advocate of everything cruel, assassinating, and inhuman. You and I, my friend, I firmly persuade myself, shall yet live to see whether their malignant artifice, or the simple and unalterable truth, shall prove triumphant.

But one letter remains addressed to Mrs Clairmont. It had been well for Godwin had he reflected that one who before marriage needed advice to “manage and economize
her temper” might prove somewhat difficult to live with when the tie was binding, and the promise irrevocable. It may be doubted whether after marriage Godwin would have addressed to his wife the exhortations which he ventured to write her from a distance.

The journey to Woodstock was undertaken mainly with a view of seeing a spot with which Chaucer’s name was so closely connected. They stayed at the Wheatsheaf Inn for four days, visiting Oxford twice during the time.

William Godwin to Mrs Clairmont.
Friday, Oct. 9, 1801.

Chère amie. I begin my letter now before breakfast, apprehensive that something or other may occur, if it is delayed, to prevent its being written at all. Yesterday I did not feel that I could write, and to-morrow is no post-day. It may possibly happen, but I think it shall not, that I may be obliged to commit my scroll to the post before it is finished. If I do, you will understand my situation, recognise my motive, and excuse it.

“You cannot imagine how dull it is to travel with such a man as Phillips. I thought I understood him before, but, as I am always apprehensive of mistakes, and fearful to be unjust, I suspended my judgment. One day’s tête-a-tête instructs one, I believe, beyond the possibility of error. Such a snail in his discourse, so pompous, so empty, so fifty other things that are most adverse to my nature, I think I never encountered. My old bookseller Robinson, was a god to him. Though, to confess the truth, I never spent a day alone with Robinson; and if I had, I do not doubt I should have found him equally gross and worldly-minded, but not equally dull.

“A thousand times, as we passed along, I wished myself at home. I cursed my own folly in ever having consented to such a journey. To me, who had just left so different a scene, where we understood each other by looks, where we needed but few words, and words were often volumes, could anything be more humiliat-
ing? A post-chaise had generally been to me, by some accident or other, a scene of festivity, of lightness of heart, and a sensitive tranquillity of temper. I wondered what, in the name of heaven, was come to me. I reached my journey’s end fatigued beyond all measure of fatigue.

“Yesterday I suffered the effects of it, and was in a continual fever. Yet yesterday insensibility did me good, and by night I was a great deal better. Yesterday was principally spent in the park and castle of Blenheim. The park is a fine scene by nature, which not all the puppy experiments of that mountebank Brown could entirely spoil. The castle is a magnificent pile of building, and contains many excellent pictures. Everything on a grand and lofty scale, most especially the grandeur of nature, seems to me in proportion to enlarge and elevate my existence. Yet here is even an uncommon mixture of genuine simple greatness with the poor stretchings and strainings of impotent pride, chiefly introduced by the stupid attempts of the famous Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough,—a pillar inscribed with the eulogies of her husband’s campaign, and crowded with Acts of Parliament in his praise,—and a most amazing funereal monument in the chapel. By the way, I am not sure I should like to have all my dead family repose under the same room with me. But what I principally like in the scene is its antiquity, not that it sheltered the sordid Duke of Marlborough, but that this was the favourite residence of our Henrys and Edwards, that it was crowded with knights in armour and a splendid train of ladies, that it was the seat of honour, and a generous thirst for glory, that all among them was decorous and all was picturesque, and that it is still haunted by the departed ghost of chivalry. My own Chaucer, too, adds glory to the object with the recollection of the simple square house that he inhabited just on the outside of the gate of the park. Poets then were loved by princes: they were so rare, and by their appearance such a novelty in the world, that the greatest and proudest of the species never thought they could pay them sufficient honour and attention.

“My dear love, take care of yourself. Manage and economize your temper. It is at bottom most excellent: do not let it be
soured and spoiled. It is capable of being recovered to its primaeval goodness, and even raised to something better. Do not however get rid of all your faults. I love some of them. I love what is human, what gives softness, and an agreeable air of frailty and pliability to the whole. Farewell a thousand times. I shall be at home on Monday evening: are not you sorry? Kiss
Fanny and Mary. Help them to remember me, and to love me. Farewell.”

The letters which follow, from Mrs Inchbald, from Coleridge, and from C. Lamb, need few remarks. Those of each writer are arranged by themselves in chronological order, since there was no reason to break the sequence by the introduction of others.

Mrs Inchbald certainly excelled most of her sex in the power of saying a disagreeable thing in the most irritating manner.

Mrs Inchbald to William Godwin.
Leinster Square, 5th of Jan. 1801.

Dear Sir,—I thank you for the play of Antonio, as I feel myself flattered by your remembrance of me; and I most sincerely wish you joy of having produced a work which will protect you from being classed with the successful dramatists of the present day, but which will hand you down to posterity among the honoured few who, during the past century, have totally failed in writing for the stage.—Your very humble Servant,

E. Inchbald.”
S. T. Coleridge to William Godwin.
Greta Hall, Keswick, March 25, 1801.

Dear Godwin,—I fear your tragedy will find me in a very unfit state of mind to sit in judgment on it. I have been, during the last three months, undergoing a process of intellectual exsiccation. In my long illness I had compelled into hours of delight many a sleepless, painful hour of darkness by chasing down metaphysical game—and since then I have continued the hunt, till I found myself unaware at the root of Pure Mathematics—and up that tall, smooth tree, whose few poor branches are all at its very summit, am I climbing by pure adhesive strength of arms and thighs, still slipping down, still renewing my ascent. You would not know me! all sounds of similitude keep at such a distance from each other in my mind that I have forgotten how to make a rhyme. I look at the mountains (that visible God Almighty that looks in at all my windows), I look at the mountains only for the curves of their outlines; the stars, as I behold them, form themselves into triangles; and my hands are scarred with scratches from a cat, whose back I was rubbing in the dark in order to see whether the sparks in it were refrangible by a prism. The Poet is dead in me. My imagination (or rather the Somewhat that had been imaginative) lies like a cold snuff on the circular rim of a brass candlestick, without even a stink of tallow to remind you that it was once clothed and mitred with flame. That is past by! I was once a volume of gold leaf, rising and riding on every breath of Fancy, but I have beaten myself back into weight and density, and now I sink in quicksilver, yea, remain squat and square on the earth, amid the hurricane that makes oaks and straws join in one dance, fifty yards high in the element.

“However I will do what I can. Taste and feeling have I none, but what I have give I unto thee. But I repeat that I am unfit to decide on any but works of severe logic. I write now to beg, that if you have not sent your tragedy, you may remember to send Antonio with it, which I have not yet seen, and likewise my Campbell’sPleasures of Hope,’ which Wordsworth wishes to see.

“Have you seen the second volume of the ‘Lyrical Ballads,’ and the preface prefixed to the first? I should judge of a man’s heart and intellect, precisely according to the degree and intensity of the admiration with which he read these poems. Perhaps instead of heart, I should have said Taste, but when I think of the Brother, of Ruth, and of Michael, I recur to the expression, and am enforced to say heart. If I die, and the booksellers will give
you anything for my life, be sure to say; ‘
Wordsworth descended on him like the Γνωθι σεαυτόν from heaven, by showing to him what true poetry was, he made him know that he himself was no Poet.”

“In your next letter you will perhaps give me some hints respecting your prose plans. God bless you,—

S. T. Coleridge.

“I have inoculated my youngest child, Derwent, with the cowpox. He passed through it without any sickness. I myself am the slave of rheumatism—indeed, though in a certain sense I am recovered from my sickness, yet I have by no means recovered it. I congratulate you on the settlement of Davy in London. I hope that his enchanting manners will not draw too many idlers round him, to harass and vex his mornings.”

The Same to the Same.
Keswick, July 8, 1801.

My dear Godwin,—I have this evening sent your tragedy (directed to you) to Penrith to go from thence to London by the mail. You will probably receive it on Saturday. . . . It would be needless to recount the pains and evils that prevented me from sending it on the day I meant to do. Your letter of this morning has given me some reason to be glad that I was prevented. My criticisms were written in a style, and with a boyish freedom of censure and ridicule, that would have given you pain and perhaps offence. I will re-write them, abridge, or rather extract from them their absolute meaning, and send them in the way of a letter. In the tragedy I have frequently used the following marks: *, T, I, ‡. Of these, the first calls your attention to my suspicions that your language is false or intolerable English. The second marks the passages which struck me as flat or mean. The third is a note of reprobation, levelled at these sentences in which you have adopted that worst sort of vulgar language, common-place book language: such as ‘Difficulties that mock narration,’ ‘met my view,’ ‘bred in the lap of luxury.’ The last mark implies bad metre. I was much interested by the last three acts, indeed, I greatly admire
your management of the story. The two first acts, I am convinced, you must entirely re-write. I would indeed open the play with the conspirators in Ispahan, confident of their success. . . . In this way you might with great dramatic animation explain to the audience all you wish, and give likewise palpable motives of despair and revenge to Bulac’s after conduct. But this I will write to you—the papers in which I have detailed what I think might be substituted, I really do not dare send.

“You must have been in an odd mood when you could write to a poor fellow with a sick stomach, a giddy head, and swoln and limping limbs, to a man on whom the dews of heaven cannot fall without diseasing him, ‘You want, or at least you think you want, neither accommodation nor society as ministerial to your happiness,’ and strangely credulous too, when you could gravely repeat that in the island of St Michael’s, the chief town of which contains 14,000 inhabitants, no other residence was procurable than ‘an unwindowed cavern scooped in the rock.’ I must have been an idle fool indeed to have resolved so deeply without having made enquiries how I was to be housed and fed. Accommodations are necessary to my life, and society to my happiness, though I can find that society very interesting and good which you perhaps would find dull and uninstructive. One word more. You say I do not tolerate you in the degree of partiality you feel for Mrs I., and will not allow your admiration of Hume, and the pleasure you derive from Virgil, from Dryden, even in a certain degree from Rowe. Hume and Rowe I for myself hold very cheap, and have never feared to say so, but never had any objection to any one’s differing from me. I have received, and I hope still shall, great delight from Virgil, whose versification I admire beyond measure, and very frequently his language. Of Dryden I am, and always have been, a passionate admirer. I have always placed him among our greatest men. You must have misunderstood me, and considered me as detracting when I considered myself only as discriminating. But were my opinions otherwise, I should fear that others would not tolerate me in holding opinions different from those of people in general, than feel any difficulty in tolerating
others in their conformity with the general sentiment. Of Mrs I. I once, I believe, wrote a very foolish sentence or two to you. And now for ‘my late acquisitions of friends.’ Aye, friends!
Stoddart indeed, if he were nearer to us, and more among us, I should really number among such. He is a man of uncorrupted integrity, and of very very kind heart; his talents are respectable, and his information such, that while he was with me I derived much instruction from his conversation. Sharpe and Rogers had an introductory note from Mr Wedgwood; as to Mr Rogers, even if I wished it, and were in London the next week, I should never dream that any acquaintance I have with him would entitle me to call on him at his own house.

S. T. Coleridge.”
The Same to the Same.
Greta Hall, Keswick, Sep. 22, 1801.

My dear Godwin,—When once a correspondence has intermitted, from whatever cause, it scarcely ever recommences without some impulse ab extra. After my last letter, I went rambling after health, or at least, alleviation of sickness. My Azores scheme I was obliged to give up, as well, I am afraid, as that of going abroad at all, from want of money. Latterly I have had additional source of disquietude—so that altogether I have, I confess, felt little inclination to write to you, who have not known me long enough, nor associated enough of that esteem which you entertain for the qualities you attribute to me, with me myself me, to be much interested about the carcase Coleridge. So, of Carcase Coleridge no more.

“At Middleham, near Durham, I accidentally met your pamphlet and read it—and only by accident was prevented from immediately writing to you. For I read it with unmingled delight and admiration, with the exception of that one hateful paragraph, for the insertion of which I can account only on a superstitious hypothesis, that, when all the gods and goddesses gave you each a good gift, Nemesis counterbalanced them all with the destiny, that, in whatever you published, there should be some one outrageously imprudent suicidal passage. But you have had enough
of this. With the exception of this passage, I never remember to have read a pamphlet with warmer feelings of sympathy and respect. Had I read it en masse when I wrote to you, I should certes have made none of the remarks I once made in the first letter on the subject, but as certainly should have done so in my second. On the most deliberate reflection, I do think the introduction clumsily worded, and (what is of more importance) I do think your retractations always imprudent, and not always just. But it is painful to me to say this to you. I know not what effect it may have on your mind, for I have found that I cannot judge of other men by myself. I am myself dead indifferent as to censures of any kind. Praise even from fools has sometimes given me a momentary pleasure, and what I could not but despise as opinion, I have taken up with some satisfaction as sympathy. But the censure or dislike of my dearest Friend, even of him whom I think the wisest man I know, does not give me the slightest pain. It is ten to one but I agree with him, and if I do, then I am glad. If I differ from him, the pleasure which I feel in developing the sources of our disagreement entirely swallows up all consideration of the disagreement itself. But then I confess that I have written nothing that I value myself at all, and that constitutes a prodigious difference between us—and still more than this, that no man’s opinion, merely as opinion, operates in any other way than to make me review my own side of the question. All this looks very much like self-panegyric. I cannot help it. It is the truth, and I find it to hold good of no other person; i.e. to the extent of the indifference which I feel. And therefore I am without any criterion, by which I can determine what I can say, and how much without wounding or irritating. I will never therefore willingly criticise any manuscript composition, unless the author and I are together, for then I know that, say what I will, he cannot be wounded, because my voice, my looks, my whole manners must convince any good man that all I said was accompanied with sincere good-will and genuine kindness. Besides, I seldom fear to say anything when I can develope my reasons, but this is seldom possible in a letter. It is not improbable, that is, not very im-
probable that, if I am absolutely unable to go abroad (and I am now making a last effort by an application to
Mr John King respecting his house at S. Lewis, and the means of living there), I may perhaps come up to London and maintain myself as before by writing for the Morning Post. Here it will be imprudent for me to stay, from the wet and the cold. My darling Hartley has this evening had an attack of fever, but my medical man thinks it will pass off. I think of your children not unfrequently. God love them. He has been on the Scotch hills with Montagu and his new father, William Lush,—Yours,

S. T. Coleridge.”
The Same to the Same.
“25 Bridge Street, Westminster, Nov. 19, 1801.

My dear Godwin,—I arrived here late on Sunday evening, and how long I shall stay depends much on my health. If I were to judge from my feelings of yesterday and to-day, it will be a very short time indeed, for I am miserably uncomfortable. By your letter to Southey, I understand that you are particularly anxious to see me. To-day I am engaged for two hours in the morning with a person in the city, after which I shall be at Lamb’s till past seven at least. I had assuredly planned a walk to Somerstown, but I saw so many people on Monday, and walked to and fro so much, that I have ever since been like a Fish in air, who, as perhaps you know, lies pantingly dying from excess of oxygen. A great change from the society of W. and his sister—for though we were three persons, there was but one God—whereas I have the excited feelings of a polytheist, meeting Lords many and Gods many—some of them very Egyptian physiognomies, dog-faced gentry, crocodiles, ibises, &c., though more odd fish than rare ones. However, as to the business of seeing you, it is possible that you may meet me this evening. If not, and if I am well enough, I will call on you; and if you breakfast at ten, breakfast with you to-morrow morning. It will be hard indeed if I cannot afford a half-crown coach fare to annihilate the sense at least of
the space. I write like a valetudinarian: but I assure you that this morning I feel it still more.—Yours, &c.,

S. T. Coleridge.”

Lamb’s letters are so like himself that it were sin to omit any of those which follow, though they have lost much of their point, since it is now impossible to discover the work of which Godwin had sent him a plan. It is only mentioned in the diary as “Sketch,” and no draft of any work which corresponds to the expressions in the letters is to be found among the papers.

C. Lamb to William Godwin.
June 29, 1801.

“Dear Sir,—Doctor Christy’s Brother and Sister are come to town, and have shown me great civilities. I in return wish to requite them, having, by God’s grace, principles of generosity implanted (as the moralists say) in my nature, which have been duly cultivated and watered by good and religious friends, and a pious education. They have picked up in the northern parts of the island an astonishing admiration of the great author of the New Philosophy in England, and I have ventured to promise their taste an evening’s gratification by seeing Mr Godwin face to face!!!!! Will you do them and me in them the pleasure of drinking tea and supping with me at the old number 16 on Friday or Saturday next? An early nomination of the day will very much oblige yours sincerely,

Ch. Lamb.”
The Same to the Same.
Sep. 9, 1801.

Dear Sir,—Nothing runs in my head when I think of your story, but that you should make it as like the life of Savage as possible. That is a known and familiar tale, and its effect on the public mind has been very great. Many of the incidents in the true history are readily made dramatical. For instance, Savage
used to walk backwards and forwards o’ nights to his mother’s window, to catch a glimpse of her, as she passed with a candle. With some such situation the play might happily open. I would plunge my Hero, exactly like Savage, into difficulties and embarrassments, the consequences of an unsettled mind: out of which he may be extricated by the unknown interference of his mother. He should be attended from the beginning by a friend, who should stand in much the same relation towards him as Horatio to Altamont in the play of the
Fair Penitent. A character of this sort seems indispensable. This friend might gain interviews with the mother, when the son was refused sight of her. Like Horatio with Calista, he might wring his soul. Like Horatio, he might learn the secret first. He might be exactly in the same perplexing situation, when he had learned it, whether to tell it or conceal it from the Ton (I have still Savage in my head) might kill a man (as he did) in an affray—he should receive a pardon, as Savage did—and the mother might interfere to have him banished. This should provoke the Friend to demand an interview with her husband, and disclose the whole secret. The husband, refusing to believe anything to her dishonour, should fight with him. The husband repents before he dies. The mother explains and confesses everything in his presence. The son is admitted to an interview with his now acknowledged mother. Instead of embraces, she resolves to abstract herself from all pleasure, even from his sight, in voluntary penance all her days after. This is crude indeed!! but I am totally unable to suggest a better. I am the worst hand in the world at a plot. But I understand enough of passion to predict that your story, with some of Savage’s, which has no repugnance, but a natural alliance with it, cannot fail. The mystery of the suspected relationship—the suspicion, generated from slight and forgotten circumstances, coming at last to act as Instinct, and so to be mistaken for Instinct—the son’s unceasing pursuit and throwing of himself in his mother’s way, something like Falkland’s eternal persecution of Williams—the high and intricate passion in the mother, the being obliged to shun and keep at a distance the thing nearest to her heart—to be cruel, where
her heart yearns to be kind, without a possibility of explanation. You have the power of life and death and the hearts of your auditors in your hands—still
Harris will want a skeleton, and he must have it. I can only put in some sorry hints. The discovery to the son’s friend may take place not before the 3d act—in some such way as this. The mother may cross the street—he may point her out to some gay companion of his as the Beauty of Leghorn—the pattern for wives, &c. &c. His companion, who is an Englishman, laughs at his mistake, and knows her to have been the famous Nancy Dawson, or any one else, who captivated the English king. Some such way seems dramatic, and speaks to the Eye. The audience will enter into the Friend’s surprise, and into the perplexity of his situation. These Ocular Scenes are so many great landmarks, rememberable headlands and lighthouses in the voyage. Macbeth’s witch has a good advice to a magic writer, what to do with his spectator.
Show his eyes, and grieve his heart.’
The most difficult thing seems to be, What to do with the husband? You will not make him jealous of his own son? that is a stale and an unpleasant trick in
Douglas, &c. Can’t you keep him out of the way till you want him, as the husband of Isabella is conveniently sent off till his cue comes? There will be story enough without him, and he will only puzzle all. Catastrophes are worst of all. Mine is most stupid. I only propose it to fulfil my engagement, not in hopes to convert you.

“It is always difficult to get rid of a woman at the end of a tragedy. Men may fight and die. A woman must either take poison, which is a nasty trick, or go mad, which is not fit to be shown, or retire, which is poor, only retiring is most reputable.

“I am sorry I can furnish you no better: but I find it extremely difficult to settle my thoughts upon anything but the scene before me, when I am from home, I am from home so seldom. If any, the least hint crosses me, I will write again, and I very much wish to read your plan, if you could abridge and send it. In this little scrawl you must take the will for the deed, for I most sincerely wish success to your play.—Farewell,

C. L.”
Fragment of letter from the Same to the Same. [The second sheet, endorsed by C. Lamb himself on the address as “only double”]
Margate, Sept. 17, 1801.

“I shall be glad to come home and talk these matters with you. I have read your scheme very attentively. That Arabella has been mistress to King Charles, is sufficient to all the purposes of the story. It can only diminish that respect we feel for her to make her turn whore to one of the Lords of his Bedchamber. Her son must not know that she has been a whore: it matters not that she has been whore to a King: equally in both cases, it is against decorum and against the delicacy of a son’s respect that he should be privy to it. No doubt, many sons might feel a wayward pleasure in the honourable guilt of their mothers, but is it a true feeling? Is it the best sort of feeling? Is it a feeling to be exposed on theatres to mothers and daughters? Your conclusion (or rather Defoe’s) comes far short of the tragic ending, which is always expected, and it is not safe to disappoint. A tragic auditory wants blood. They care but little about a man and his wife parting. Besides, what will you do with the son, after all his pursuits and adventures? Even quietly leave him to take guinea-and-a-half lodgings with mama in Leghorn! O impotent and pacific measures! . . . I am certain that you must mix up some strong ingredients of distress to give a savour to your pottage. I still think that you may, and must, graft the story of Savage upon Defoe. Your hero must kill a man or do some thing. Can’t you bring him to the gallows or some great mischief, out of which she must have recourse to an explanation with her husband to save him. Think on this. The husband, for instance, has great friends in Court at Leghorn. The son is condemned to death. She cannot teaze him for a stranger. She must tell the whole truth. Or she may teaze him, as for a stranger, till (like Othello in Cassio’s case) he begins to suspect her for her importunity. Or, being pardoned, can she not teaze her husband to get him banished? Something of this I suggested before. Both is best. The murder and the pardon will make business for the fourth act, and
the banishment and explanation (by means of the Friend I want you to draw) the fifth. You must not open any of the truth to Dawley by means of a letter. A letter is a feeble messenger on the stage. Somebody, the son or his friend, must, as a coup de main, be exasperated, and obliged to tell the husband. Damn the husband and his ‘gentlemanlike qualities.’ Keep him out of sight, or he will trouble all. Let him be in England on trade, and come home as Biron does in Isabella, in the fourth act, when he is wanted. I am for introducing situations, sort of counterparts to situations, which have been tried in other plays—like but not the same. On this principle I recommended a friend like Horatio in the ‘
Fair Penitent,’ and on this principle I recommend a situation like Othello, with relation to Desdemona’s intercession for Cassio. By-scenes may likewise receive hints. The son may see his mother at a mask or feast, as Romeo, Juliet. The festivity of the company contrasts with the strong perturbations of the individuals. Dawley may be told his wife’s past unchastity at a mask by some witch-character—as Macbeth upon the heath, in dark sentences. This may stir his brain, and be forgot, but come in aid of stronger proof hereafter. From this, what you will perhaps call whimsical way of counterparting, this honest stealing, and original mode of plagiarism, much yet, I think, remains to be sucked. Excuse these abortions. I thought you would want the draught soon again, and I would not send it empty away.—Yours truly,

Somers Town, 17th Sept. 1801.”

In November of this year Godwin had intended making a trip to Paris. He was, it may be presumed, still considered politically dangerous, for permission was refused, as appears by the following note:—

Mr Flint to William Godwin.
Alien Office, 3d Nov. 1801.

Mr Flint presents his compliments to Mr Godwin, and is desired by Lord Pelham to acquaint him that he is extremely sorry he cannot at the present moment grant the passport Mr Godwin requests to enable him to go to Paris.”


Towards the end of December Godwin married Mrs Clairmont, at Shoreditch Church, the lady having probably taken lodgings in that parish to enable the marriage to be there solemnized. It was kept a profound secret; no one was told till it was over, and this was probably one reason for the selection of a distant church. Perhaps, however, St Pancras’ Church was still too full of memories of Mary Wollstonecraft to make it a suitable spot in which her husband should put another wife in her place.

Of this marriage, as of the former, the faithful Marshal was the only witness besides the parish clerk. An extract from the Diary briefly tells the story.

“1801. Decr. 20.—Su: write to David Webster. Tobin and Fenwick call: M[arshall] and C[lairmon]ts dine: call on Philips adv[ens], Surrs, and Fenwick.

“21. M. Shoreditch Church, &c., with C[lairmon]t and Marshall]: dine at Snaresbrook: sleep.

“22. Call at the Red Cow: adv[enæ] farmers, K of Bohemia’s table: dine chez moi: Tuthil calls.”

The entries for the next few days show that a vast number of letters were despatched and calls made to tell friends of the event, and then are recorded calls on their part to make the acquaintance of Mrs Godwin. Then from these diaries vanishes all record of the romance—if indeed it can be called so. The writer was not quite so much his own master as before. Mrs Godwin was a determined and imperious woman, who ruled her house, who did not like all Godwin’s friends, and occasionally adopted devices more ingenious than honest for keeping them at a distance. One such, recorded by Miss Baxter, the daughter of one of Godwin’s oldest friends, may fitly be recorded here, though the precise date is unknown. It was not, however, long after the marriage.


Mr Baxter called to see Godwin, and on admittance to the house Mrs Godwin met him with the news that the kettle had fallen from the hob, and scalded Godwin’s legs badly, as he sat by his fireside, that in drawing off his stockings much of the skin had come off with them, so that the poor man was in a state of terrible suffering, quite unable to see any one. Next day Mr Baxter and his daughter set out, as was natural, to enquire after their friend, having already told the tale to a circle of sympathising acquaintances. “But wha d’ ye think we should meet coming down the street,” said Miss Baxter, “on his ain twa legs but Maister Godwin himsel’, and it was a’ a lee from beginning to end.”

In 1803 Mrs Godwin gave birth to a son, William. The event made no difference in Godwin’s placid and invariable routine. The Diary thus records it:—

March 28th, M.—Birth of William, 10 minutes before 11 a.m. Call on Lamb; adv. Coleridge, Museum. M[arshal] dines. Call on M., on L. Ht. [Louisa Holcroft] and Nicholson. Condé calls.”

Certain entries in the Diary have a pathos from their extreme brevity. Their very baldness shows concentrated feeling in the determination not to show it. They are those of the deaths of friends, which begin to occur frequently. They are in the fewest possible words, as—

Feb. 21, Su.—Jewish History. Sup. w. Miss at Fells. Dr Moore dies.”

The first letter of the year which has been preserved is from Mrs Godwin, sen., accepting a visit proposed for the following autumn.

Mrs Godwin, sen., to William Godwin.
Ap. 27, 1803.

My dear William,—Doubtless I should be glad to see you and your wife, as she is part of yourself, or any of your children, but the distance is so great, and the expence of the journey, that we cannot expect it. The youngest of us cannot assure ourselves of a day, especialy I, that am advanced so far beyond the common age of life. Each of us ought to prepare for the approach of death, as this is the only time we shall ever have. When death comes, it will be two late. Now is the accepted time, now is the day of Salvation. The Lord affect our hearts with solemn truth. May we be washed and made accepted of god through the sacrifice which Christ has wrought out for such guilty depraved siners as we all are.

“I hearwith send a doll for one of your daughters and a testement that was yours for yours. I hope you will promote the knowledge of the undoubted truths in it. Your sister loves you two well to speak slighting of you or yours. I put in a Shirt you can put on and off at pleasure: it is made of old [linen], and will therefore last but a little while. I fear Harriet is thro pride and indulgence going the high way to ruin herself, if not her father two. She had learned a business by which many young people get their living, Mr Sam Lewel’s daughter for one. You woud be kind to talk to them and see if you can perswade them to brake of the acquantance and apply to work, till she gets the offer of an honest man to marry. I hope Mary Bailey follows it. I have never heard of her since she was at her father’s last Autumn, but think to write to her very soon by post, and send her a guinea by Hannah, as I did this time twelvemonth. I hope she will never leave her husband so long again: it is the way to make a good husband bad. If he is bad, she may thank herself.

“If you do come into Norfolk, perswade yourself to hear the worthy Mr Sykes on Lord’s Day. Present my kind respects to your wife, whom I wish to be a helpmeet to you in spiritual things, and instruct your dear children in the same. It’s a duty incumbent on parants: we may see every day their proneness to evil and
backwardness to that which is good. You cannot be insencable of that. I cannot write otherwise, so you must not be offended.

“I am as well as most old people, can just creep about the house, had pain about me, and a cold in my head for a fortnight, but am better now. My maid a poor weak constitution, could not go through hard work; the children well, except colds and coughs. It is a very sickly time, very few houses escape the Influensy. Mr Sykes have had it six weeks, is very much Shrunk, but hope he will recover. Wish to hear of you as often as you can, or your wife, if she has more time. You did not say she suckled. That is the likeliest way to its thriving.

“Conclude, your ever affectionate mother,

A. Godwin.

“Your brothers and Mrs G. send their kind respects to you and Mrs Godwin. I wish to know what Joe’s son is doing, whether industerous or lazy, and sucking the blood of others. That trick of going to Plays is the ruin of young people.”

It is not now possible to find any trace of the work sketched by Coleridge in the following letter, which is certainly not to be identified with any actually published. Were it not that he says he is “ready to go to press,” it might be supposed to have had existence only in his teeming brain. Yet a MS. so remarkable and so valuable, if it really existed, can scarcely have been lost or destroyed. Search’s “Light of Nature,” of which Coleridge speaks as valuable and scarce, was published originally in seven volumes in 1768, and went through several editions. Search was a fictitious name, the author being Abraham Tacher, born 1705, died 1774.

S. T. Coleridge to William Godwin.
Greta Hall, Keswick, June 4, 1803.

My Dear Godwin,—I trust that my dear friend C. Lamb will have informed you how seriously ill I have been. I arrived
at Keswick on Good Friday, caught the influenza, have struggled on in a series of convalescence and relapse, the disease still assuming new shapes and symptoms; and though I am certainly better than at any former period of the disease, and more steadily convalescent, yet it is not mere low spirits that makes me doubt whether I shall ever wholly surmount the effects of it. I owe this explanation to you. I quitted town with strong feelings of affectionate esteem towards you, and a firm resolution to write to you within a short time after my arrival at my home. During my illness, I was exceedingly affected by the thought that month had glided away after month, year after year, and still had found and left me only preparing for the experiments which are to ascertain whether the hopes of those who have hoped proudly of me have been auspicious omens, or mere delusions—and the anxiety to realise something and finish something, has, no doubt, in some measure retarded my recovery. I am now, however, ready to go to press with a work which I consider as introductory to a System, though to the public it will appear altogether a thing by itself. I write now to ask your advice respecting the time and manner of its publication, and the choice of a publisher. I entitle it ‘Organum verè Organum, or an Instrument of Practical Reasoning in the Business of Real Life; to which will be prefixed, i, a familiar introduction to the common system of Logic, namely that by
Aristotle and the schools; 2, a concise and simple yet full statement of the Aristotelian Logic, with references annexed to the authors, and the name and page of the work, to which each part may be traced, so that it may be seen what is Aristotle’s, what Porphyry, what the addition of the Greek commentators, and what of the Schoolmen; 3, of the Platonic Logic; 4, of Aristotle, containing a fair account of the ”Οργανόν, of which Dr Reid, in ‘KaimesSketches of Man,’ has given a false, and not only erroneous but calumnious statement—as far as the account had not been anticipated in the second part of my work—namely, the concise and simple, yet full,&c.,&c.; 5, a philosophical examination of the Truth and of the Value of the Aristotelian System of Logic, including all the after additions to A. C. on the characteristic merits and demerits of Aristotle and Plato as philosophers in
general, and an attempt to explain the vast influence of the former during so many ages; and of the influence of Plato’s works on the restoration of the belles lettres, and on the Reformation; 7,
Raymond Lully; 8, Peter Ramus; 9, Lord Bacon, or the Verulamian Logic; 10, Examination of the same, and comparison of it with the logic of Plato (in which I attempt to make it probable that, though considered by Bacon himself as the antithesis and antidote of Plato, it is bonâ fide the same, and that Plato has been grossly misunderstood); 10, Descartes; 11, Condillac, and a philosophical examination of his logic, i.e. the logic which he basely purloined from Hartley. Then follows my own ‘Organum vere Organum,’ which consists of a Σύστημα of all possible modes of true, probable, and false reasoning, arranged philosophically, i.e. on a strict analysis of those operations and passions of the mind in which they originate, and by which they act, with one or more striking instances annexed to each, from authors of high estimation, and to each instance of false reasoning, the manner in which the sophistry is to be detected, and the words in which it may be exposed. The whole will conclude with considerations of the value of the work and its practical utility in scientific investigations, especially the first part, which contains the strictly demonstrative reasonings, and the analysis of all the acts and passions of the mind which may be employed in the discovery of truth:—in the arts of healing, especially in those parts that contain a catalogue, &c., of probable reasoning. Lastly, in the senate, the pulpit, and our law courts, to whom the whole, but especially the latter, three-fourths of the work,—namely, the probable and the false, will be useful. And, finally, instructions how to form a common-place book by the aid of this Instrument, so as to read with practical advantage, and (supposing average talents) to ensure a facility in proving and in confuting.

“I have thus amply detailed the contents of my work, which has not been the work of one year or two, but the result of many years’ meditations, and of very various reading. The size of the work will, printed at 30 lines a page, form one volume octavo, 600 pages to the volume, and I shall be ready with the first half of the work for the printer at a fortnight’s notice. Now, my dear friend,
give me your thoughts on the subject. Would you have me offer it to the booksellers, or, by the assistance of my friends, print and publish it on my own account? If the former, would you advise me to sell the copyright at once, or only one or more editions? Can you give me a general notion what terms I have a right to insist on in either case? And lastly, to whom would you advise me to apply?
Longman and Rees are very civil, but they are not liberal, and they have no notion of me except as a Poet, nor any sprinklings of philosophical knowledge that could in the least enable them to judge of the value or probable success of such a work. Phillips is a pushing man, and a book is sure to have fair play if it is his property, and it could not be other than pleasant to me to have the same publisher with yourself—but—Now, if there be anything of importance that with truth and justice ought to follow that ‘but,’ you will inform me. It is not my habit to go to work so seriously about matters of pecuniary business, but my ill health makes my health more than ordinarily uncertain, and I have a wife and three little ones. If your judgment led you to advise me to offer it to Phillips, would you take the trouble of talking with him on the subject? and give him your real opinion, whatever it may be, of the work, and of the power of the author?

“When this book is fairly off my hands, I shall, if I live and have sufficient health, set seriously to work in arranging what I have already written, and in pushing forward my studies and my investigations relative to the omne scibile of human nature, what we are, and how we become what we are: so as to solve the two grand problems, how, being acted upon, we shall act. But between me and this work there may be Death.

“I hope that your wife and little ones are well. I have had a sick family, at one time every individual, master, mistress, children, and servants were all laid up in bed, and we were waited on by persons hired from the town by the week. But now all are well, I only excepted. If you find my paper smell, or my style savour, of scholastic quiddity, you must attribute it to the infectious quality of the folio on which I am writing, namely, ‘Joh. Scotus
Erigena De Divisione Nature,’ the forerunner by some centuries of the schoolmen.

“I cherish all kind and honourable feelings towards you, and am, dear Godwin, yours most sincerely,

S. T. Coleridge.

“You know the high character and present scarcity of ‘Search’s Light of Nature.’ ‘I have found in this writer,’ says Paley in his preface, ‘more original thinking and observation upon the several subjects he has taken in hand than in any other, not to say in all others put together. His talent also for illustration is unrivalled. But his thoughts are diffused through a long, various, and irregular work,” &c. A friend of mine, every way calculated by his tack and prior studies for such a work, is willing to abridge and systematize that work from eight to two volumes,—in the words of Paley, ‘to dispose into method, to collect into heads and articles, and to exhibit in more compact and tangible masses what, in that otherwise excellent performance, is spread over too much surface.’ I would prefix to it an Essay, containing the whole substance of the first volume of Hartley, entirely defecated from all the corpuscular hypotheses, with more illustrations. Likewise I will revise every sheet of the abridgement. I should think the character of the work, and the above quotation from so high an authority (with the present public I mean) as Paley, would ensure its success. If you will read, or transcribe and send this to Mr Phillips, or to any other publisher (Longman and Rees excepted), you would greatly oblige me—that is to say, my dear Godwin, you would essentially serve a young man of profound genius and original mind, who wishes to get his Sabine subsistence by some employment from the booksellers, while he is employing the remainder of his time in nursing up his genius for the destiny he believes appurtenant to it. Impose any task on me in return. Qui cito facit, bis facit.”

The “Chaucer” demanded incessant labour, and it is interesting to find how thoroughly, according to the scholarship and the facilities for work existing at that time, the
work was done.
Godwin worked almost daily at the British Museum, and corresponded with the Librarian of the Bodleian Library at Oxford, with the Keeper of the Records in the Exchequer Office, with the Clerk of the Bills, with the Record Office of the Chapter at Westminster, and with the Heralds’ College. There are also many letters showing that he had consulted Horne Tooke and others on philological questions; in fact, it is plain that, what had begun as task-work, became a labour of love. Two volumes of the work were published on Oct 13, the last sheets having been revised on Sep. 23d, the day before he left London for the country.

The price paid by Phillips appears to have been £300, and as much more for two succeeding volumes. This, however, Godwin calls “extremely penurious.”

Godwin’s health had been very indifferent during the summer. There are frequent notices of fainting fits and vomiting, for which the treatment was of the kind termed “heroic.” It was probably from a feeling that he needed more than the annual excursion of less than a week, his usual holiday, as well as the desire to introduce Mrs Godwin to his mother, that they left London in October for a tour of three weeks among his old friends in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire. They went to Stowmarket, the first time since he had been there as a minister, spent two days with his mother at Dalling, and he renewed the old intimacy with the Aldersons, Opies, Rigbys, and other families prominent among the Norwich society of those days, who are not even now forgotten.

Godwin returned with Mrs Godwin to London Oct. 11, 1803, and the Diary again becomes a bare record of his reading and of visits paid to and by him. But towards
the end of the month are no less than four notices of dinners to friends, and on each of them are the words, “
Curran expected.” How the mistake arose cannot now be known, but out of it arose a misunderstanding between Godwin and his wife, which led to the following letter. It may well be supposed that a serious threat of separation did not take place on the first occasion that disagreements had arisen. The time at which Mrs Godwin kept her temper may refer to that of his serious indisposition and frequent fainting-fits in July.

William Godwin to Mrs Godwin.
October 28, 1803.

“In our conversation this morning you expressed a wish to separate. All I have to say on the subject is, that I have no obstacle to oppose to it, and that if it is to take place I hope it will not be long in hand. It is not my wish; because I know that here you have every ingredient of happiness in your possession, and that in order to be happy, you have nothing to do but to suppress in part the excesses of that baby-sullenness for every trifle, and to be brought out every day (the attribute of the mother of Jane), which I saw you suppress with great ease, and in repeated instances, in the months of July and August last. The separation will be a source of great misery to me; but I can make up my resolution to encounter it, and I cannot but wish that you should have the opportunity of comparing it with the happiness which is completely within your reach, but which you are eager to throw away.

“As to the ground of your resentment, I owe it to myself to re-state it, with all the additions with which you in your remarks have furnished me. Mr Curran promised to dine with me on Tuesday, the 18th inst., and again on Wednesday the 26th. Yesterday he promised to come to me at twelve o’clock and spend the day with me. On each of the two first days I provided a dinner for him and was disappointed. Yesterday you provided a
dinner, contrary to my order to the servant, since his promise, which I gave you in writing, showed that if I did not see him by twelve or one (coming from breakfast at
Lord Hutchinson’s), I had no right to expect him at four. A woman of any humanity would have endeavoured to console me under these repeated disappointments. If we part, you will have the consolation to reflect that we part ‘because I did not exact from a friend (who till within these ten days never disappointed me) something more than a promise that he would keep his engagements.

“I earnestly wish, however, though I cannot say I hope, that wherever you go, you may find reason to be satisfied with the choice you have made.

“You part from the best of husbands, the most anxious to console you, the best qualified to bear and be patient towards one of the worst of tempers. I have every qualification and every wish to make you happy, but cannot without your own” [incomplete].

Old Mrs Godwin had only seen the better side of her daughter-in-law, who could be, no doubt, as pleasant for a short time as she was clever.

Mrs Godwin, Sen., to William Godwin.
Nov. 15, 1803.

My Dear William,—Whose Countenance gave me the highest delight to see with your wife, whom I also respect for her many amiable qualities. I wish you had paid so much respect to good Mr Sykes as to have heard him preach one Lord’s Day in your good father’s Pulpit. Think with yourself, if you were in his place, and your mother’s that loves you, and at the same time highly values Mr Sykes, who in many respects is the very Image of your dear father, for friendliness and wish to do everybody good. A man of unblemished carrector and serious godliness. He told me he was ingaged before he received my invitation to spend the afternoon, which I was sorry for, for he is so sensible a man, that you could not but been pleased with his company. It now remains to tell you and Mrs Godwin I have done the best I ever
could about the sheets, and think them a very great pennyworth. I desired
Hannah to cut off lines of her letter, and send them to you to inform you how to remit the money—£4, 4s.—for the sheets, and one shilling for the pack-cloth, which makes £4, 5s. Pay it into Barklay’s bank, taking his recipt on your letter for Ann Godwin sen.’s account at Guirney’s bank, Norwich. They will do it without puting you to the expence of a stamp. Leave room to cut it of, that I may send it.

Mrs Godwin’s kind letter I rec’d; was rejoiced you got safe home, and met your dear children in good helth, and the particulars of your journey. The time we spent together was to me very pleasing, to see you both in such helth and so happy in consulting to make each other so, which is beutiful in a married state, and, as far as I am able to judge, appears husifly which is a high recommendation in a wife: give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own hands praise her. I might go back to the 10th verse. But will conclude with, ‘favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the lord, she shall be praised.’

“I wish your brother John had ever so mean a place where he had his board found, if it were Mr Finche’s footman’s, for he must actualy starve on half a guinea a week. If his master will give him a carrector. I have sent him 7 lb. of butter, but that can’t last long, and I am in earnest. If he don’t seek a place while he has deasent clothes on his back, nobody will take him in. I cannot, nor I will not, support him. I shall not be ashamed to own him, let him be in ever so low a station, if he have an honest carrector. He is two old to go to sea, but may do for such a place if his pride will let him: its better than a jale, and I can’t pretend to keep him out. Now I have another meloncholy story to tell you. Your dear brother Natty, I fear, is declining apace. He is still at Mr Murton’s, but I have invited him home to do what I can for him. If my maid cannot nurss him, he must have one. Tell Hannah Mrs Hull’s brother Raven seems declining too, may perhaps live the winter out, but has no appitite, nor keep out of bed half the day. You see Deth is taking his
rounds, and the young as well as the old are not sure of a day. The Lord grant that we may finish our warfare so as not to be afraid to die.

“Now I will tell you Mr Sykes’s text last Lord’s Day,—Isaiah liv., ‘O thou afflicted and tossed with tempests, behold I will lay thy stones with fare coulars, and lay thy foundations with sapphires’—one of the finest sermons I ever heard. I wish you to read Henery’s exposition on that chapter.

“I am unwell with a cold. I’ve not been so well since you left us. I believe I did myself no good with such long walks, but have not missed the meeting since. Mr and Mrs G. send their respects to you, and so do their children, and my maid Molly.

“I would advise you to let your children learn to knit little worsted short stockens, just above their shoes, to keep their feet from chilblains this winter. We cannot but be anxious about this war. It was pride that begun it, and will most likely ruin it. Cursed pride, that creeps securely in, and swels a haughty worm. It was the sin that cast the divils out of heaven, and our first parents out of Paradise.—I am, with real affection, your loving mother,

Ann Godwin.

“I have sent your two pocket handkerchifs, a pair course stockens for your brother, the rest for my Grandson John.”

The change in temper which has been already noticed led to a distinct breach between Godwin and Holcroft,—the letters in reference to this misunderstanding are not in themselves of any interest—as well as between Godwin and Lamb, and contributed in some degree to the production of an acrimonious letter to Horne Tooke, which is given below. It is true that Godwin was always extremely sensitive to anything which looked like, or could be tortured into looking like, a slight; yet such an outburst is an exaggeration of his usual feeling. In the other cases, Lamb, as will be seen, hints that Mrs Godwin was guilty of at least a
suppressio veri, while Holcroft still more decidedly charges her with being the cause of estrangement.

These quarrels were of course healed; but none the less did they tend towards a more restrained and less affectionate tone between the old friends, though the regard which had been felt could never wholly cease, and Godwin had arrived at a time of life in which a man seldom makes new friends. The few real friendships made at such an age are indeed sometimes as warm as those of youth, but the opportunities are rarer; and a man looks that conjugal passion and filial obedience should each gradually pass, if it be possible, into friendship and equality. But for this to take place, a wife must make her husband’s friends her own; and Godwin, more than many men, kept that youth of heart which clave to old friends with enthusiasm, and still attracted the young.

With these few words of explanation, the following letters speak for themselves. If Lamb’s review of “Chaucer” was written and published after all, it is not now discoverable.

Charles Lamb to William Godwin.
Nov. 8, 1803.

My dear Sir,—I have been sitting down for three or four days successively to the review, which I so much wished to do well, and to your satisfaction. But I can produce nothing but absolute flatness and nonsense. My health and spirits are so bad, and my nerves so irritable, that I am sure, if I persist, I shall teaze myself into a fever. You do not know how sore and weak a brain I have, or you would allow for many things in me which you set down for whims. I solemnly assure you that I never more wished to prove to you the value which I have for you than at this moment; but although in so seemingly trifling a service I cannot get through with it, I pray you to impute it to this one sole
cause, ill health. I hope I am above subterfuge, and that you will do me this justice to think so.

“You will give me great satisfaction by sealing my pardon and oblivion in a line or two, before I come to see you, or I shall be ashamed to come.—Yours, with great truth,

C. Lamb.”
The Same to the Same.
Nov. 10, 1803.

Dear Godwin,—You never made a more unlucky and perverse mistake than to suppose that the reason of my not writing that cursed thing was to be found in your book. I assure you most sincerely that I have been greatly delighted with Chaucer. I may be wrong, but I think there is one considerable error runs through it, which is a conjecturing spirit, a fondness for filling out the picture by supposing what Chaucer did and how he felt, where the materials are scanty. So far from meaning to withhold from you (out of mistaken tenderness) this opinion of mine, I plainly told Mrs Godwin that I did find a fault, which I should reserve naming until I should see you and talk it over. This she may very well remember, and also that I declined naming this fault until she drew it from me by asking me if there was not too much fancy in the work. I then confessed generally what I felt, but refused to go into particulars until I had seen you. I am never very fond of saying things before third persons, because in the relation (such is human nature) something is sure to be dropped. If Mrs Godwin has been the cause of your misconstruction, I am very angry, tell her; yet it is not an anger unto death. I remember also telling Mrs G. (which she may have dropt) that I was by turns considerably more delighted than I expected. But I wished to reserve all this until I saw you. I even had conceived an expression to meet you with, which was thanking you for some of the most exquisite pieces of criticism I had ever read in my life. In particular, I should have brought forward that on ‘Troilus and Cressida’ and Shakespear, which, it is little to say, delighted me, and instructed me (if not absolutely instructed me, yet put into
full-grown sense many conceptions which had arisen in me before in my most discriminating moods.) All these things I was preparing to say, and bottling them up till I came, thinking to please my friend and host, the author! when lo! this deadly blight intervened.

“I certainly ought to make great allowances for your misundering me. You, by long habits of composition and a greater command gained over your own powers, cannot conceive of the desultory and uncertain way in which I (an author by fits) sometimes cannot put the thoughts of a common letter into sane prose. Any work which I take upon myself as an engagement will act upon me to torment, e.g., when I have undertaken, as three or four times I have, a school-boy copy of verses for Merchant Taylor’s boys, at a guinea a copy, I have fretted over them, in perfect inability to do them, and have made my sister wretched with my wretchedness for a week together. The same, till by habit I have acquired a mechanical command, I have felt in making paragraphs. As to reviewing, in particular, my head is so whimsical a head, that I cannot, after reading another man’s book, let it have been never so pleasing, give any account of it in any methodical way. I cannot follow his train. Something like this you must have perceived of me in conversation. Ten thousand times I have confessed to you, talking of my talents, my utter inability to remember in any comprehensive way what I read. I can vehemently applaud, or perversely stickle, at parts; but I cannot grasp at a whole. This infirmity (which is nothing to brag of) may be seen in my two little compositions, the tale and my play, in both which no reader, however partial, can find any story. I wrote such stuff about Chaucer, and got into such digressions, quite irreducible into column of a paper, that I was perfectly ashamed to shew it you. However, it is become a serious matter that I should convince you I neither slunk from the task through a wilful deserting neglect, or through any (most imaginary on your part) distaste of Chaucer; and I will try my hand again, I hope with better luck. My health is bad and my time taken up, but all I can spare between this and Sunday shall be employed
for you, since you desire it: and if I bring you a crude, wretched paper on Sunday, you must burn it, and forgive me; if it proves anything better than I predict, may it be a peace-offering of sweet incense between us.

C. Lamb.”
J. Horne Tooke to William Godwin.
Wimbledon, Dec. 6, 1803.

My Dear Sir,—I this moment received your letter, and return an immediate answer, that you may not have an uneasy feeling one moment by my fault. What happened on Sunday to you may happen, and does happen to every one of my friends and acquaintance every day of my life. Bosville, his three friends, and Mr Wood, came first, spoke to me in my study a very few minutes, and went away, leaving me to shift myself. W. Scott should have walked with them, but I called him back, having particular and important business to converse upon. Whilst we were importantly engaged, you arrived and sent up your name: to avoid interruption, I answered that I would come down speedily. I intended to finish my conversation, to dress myself, and then to ask you upstairs, or myself to go down. I had not finished my business with W. Scott when the others returned; and they had not been in my room many minutes when they mentioned your being in the garden. I immediately begged them to call to you out of the window, at the same time telling them (what was very true) that I had quite forgot that you were there. You have the whole history, and ought to be ashamed of such womanish jealousy. You will consult your own happiness by driving such stuff from your thoughts. I know you do sometimes ask explanations from other persons, supposing that they fail in etiquette towards you: all compliments and explanations of the kind appear to me feeble and ridiculous. Every man can soon find out who is glad to see him or not, without compelling his friends to account for accidents of this kind, which must happen to every mortal.

“Your jealousy, like all other jealousy, is its own punishment. I wish you punished a little for compelling me to write this letter,
which is a great punishment to me; but I do not wish you to be tormented so much as this fractious habit will torment you if you indulge it. And besides, I should be very sorry that you missed any friends or valuable acquaintance by the apprehensions persons might entertain of your taking offence at trifles. You say
Mr Ward was a stranger. He is no stranger. He is Bosville’s nephew, and a frequent visitor of mine. He did not act like a stranger: he went away in the middle of dinner; but I was not displeased at the liberty, but wish all my friends to accommodate themselves; and if I shall ever suspect (which I am not likely to do) that any of them slight me, I shall never seek an explanation, but leave it to time, and a repetition of slights, to discover it to me.

“Hang you and your weakness, or rather Hang your weakness for making me write this stuff to you, upon such a foolish business.—I am, with great compassion for your nerves, very truly yours,

J. Horne Tooke.”

Some curious letters remain for this year which testify to the great attraction Godwin’s society still possessed for those much younger than himself. To him, as to their confessor, young men brought their difficulties, intellectual and social, and confided to him their sorrows and their sins, with their aspirations after a higher life. Some of these, which Godwin must have forgotten to destroy, it is only now no violation of confidence in an Editor to read, because the names are so impossible to identify. Nor would it be well to print them, but it is desirable to notice the fact that such outpourings of spirit were made to Godwin, if we would understand what he really was who seemed to some only the unimpassioned philosopher, but who yet was to those who could get beyond his shell the eager, sympathetic man, who had not forgotten the days of his own youth.