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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. V. 1802-1803
Thomas Holcroft to William Godwin, 17 February 1802

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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Paris, Feb. 17, 1802.

“The devil of misfortune is everlastingly at my heels. I wrote to you on the 2d, informing you of having sent an opera already performed. This was severe enough, but it was little to the present. Doubtless you have read or heard of a paragraph in the Times, Jan. 26th, warning Englishmen in Paris against me as a spy. A few days ago, being at Lord Mountcashel’s on one of his public nights, Lady Mountcashel, after great civility, and placing my daughter at the pianoforte to play and sing, with praises, compliments, and every apparent satisfaction, put a letter into my hand at going away, to inform me that Lord Mountcashel, having been so repeatedly warned against me as a democrat tried for high treason, domestic peace required her to part with my daughter. I immediately sent for Fanny home; and these circumstances have been followed by several letters and one conversation. The first I wrote is the enclosed, which it appears to be necessary you should read. You will then send it to its address, that it may immediately be published, unless, which I think impossible, you see it to be unjust. Lady Mountcashel is averse to the publication, for Lord M. (and perhaps even she herself) is averse to see his name joined to mine. She first argued; and since, in order to deter me, has been guilty of unpardonable injustice, that of threatening to publish to the world that my being a democrat was not the only reason, but that she was obliged to part with Fanny because of “an uncultivation of understanding, a want of polish of mind, and (observe the phrase) an entire absence of those numerous little delicacies easier to be imagined than expressed.” Lady M. is a woman of great understanding: she never once spoke to Fanny during her residence with dissatisfaction or blame,
but with repeated praise, to herself, to me, and others: she never thought proper to warn her, or give her any serious advice, yet suddenly at this critical moment she makes a charge as unqualified as it is exaggerated. I have written proper answers to her, as I hope, should she publish her letters, mine will also appear, and it will be seen whether the Peeress or the Poet are the most noble. If I do her wrong, it will be unintentional; but her threats have only fortified me in what I think the just resolution to publish the enclosed. I must write to
Foulkes to commence an action against the Times, if an action will lie, as I have little doubt that it will, though my name is not mentioned.

“During summer the Loir is easily found, but not in winter, when it burrows and hides: various unsuccessful efforts have been made, but I still hope to procure one soon. The vile marmotte has scratched half through, and in part spoiled Fanny’s favourite symphonies by Haydn; besides disturbing us at night, and again unbottoming and spoiling chairs. It almost excites the unfeeling wish of seeing it under the knife of Carlisle.

“Have you received the books? Will they answer the purpose? This I ought to know.

“I lost nearly a fortnight on the opera; and before my mind was again thoroughly in train for my Travels, this second wretched interruption came. With my young children round me, a mind thus distracted, and spirits thus worn and preyed upon, should you wonder if I felt moments of despair? I am indeed of iron, for they come but seldom. Every blessing on you and Mrs Godwin. Shall we see her? Louisa and Fanny will treat her very kindly. Mr Manning called yesterday, and desired the following message to be sent to you: ‘Mr Manning is desired by Mr Cunningham to request Mr Godwin to return the books he has from Caius College Library as soon as possible.’

Tuthil and Maclean, the only persons consulted, are both of opinion that what I send should be published. I have shewn Tuthil the whole correspondence, and his feelings coincide with mine: he thinks the attack on Fanny a mean artifice, to say the least.

T. Holcroft.

“I wish you to recollect that my intercourse with the family of Mountcashel was courted; that I was pressed to suffer Fanny to undertake this charge; that there is nothing in the letter I send for publication that ought to wound the feelings of the family, after I had been so courted and pressed, unless it be the reason given by them for breaking off intercourse; and that it is absolutely necessary I should defend myself, as well against the attempts to exclude me from society, as the wicked charge of being a spy. Your conviction, therefore, must certainly be very strong, if it should induce you to suspend the publication.”