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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. IV. 1801-1803
William Godwin to Mary Jane Clairmont [Godwin], 9 October 1801

Contents Vol. I
Ch. I. 1756-1785
Ch. II. 1785-1788
Ch. III. 1788-1792
Ch. IV. 1793
Ch. V. 1783-1794
Ch. VI. 1794-1796
Ch. VII. 1759-1791
Ch. VII. 1791-1796
Ch. IX. 1797
Ch. X. 1797
Ch. XI. 1798
Ch. XII. 1799
Ch. XIII. 1800
Contents Vol. II
Ch. I. 1800
Ch. II. 1800
Ch. III. 1800
Ch. IV. 1801-1803
Ch. V. 1802-1803
Ch. VI. 1804-1806
Ch. VII. 1806-1811
Ch. VIII. 1811-1814
Ch. IX. 1812-1819
Ch. X. 1819-1824
Ch. XI. 1824-1832
Ch. XII. 1832-1836
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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.”