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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. VI. 1804-1806

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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The Diaries for 1804 show no fact of general or social interest, except the usual intercourse with the literary world of London, among whom is now found Miss Owenson (Lady Morgan), whose fame far exceeded her literary merits; and a renewal of relations with Everina Wollstonecraft, which were not, however, firm or abiding.

Some of Godwin’s own family who were in London grew less and less satisfactory, and his poor old mother at Dalling wrote pathetically that she feared the streets would be “full of begging Godwins.” William, for the position he filled, was perhaps in as great straits as any, but his purse, when there was anything in it, his house and all that it contained, were constantly at the service of one or the other relative. And when Godwin is seen deteriorating by slow but sure steps, asking for pecuniary assistance in words, and with subterfuges which fill those who read with a feeling akin to real pain, it must always be remembered that his needs were not selfish, and that the use of money to provide luxury or even comfort was the last of which he thought.

After the publication of Chaucer, the novel of “Fleetwood” occupied the greater portion of his time, but the play of “Faulkener” also was completed in this year. One of the many quarrels with Holcroft took place in regard to this play.
Holcroft was, it will be remembered, an accomplished and successful writer for the Theatre, he knew what would and would not succeed far better than did
Godwin, however superior were the literary powers of the latter. Hence when Godwin submitted his piece to Wroughton, then Manager of Drury Lane Theatre, it was not unnatural that while admitting the great ability of much in the play, the criticism on the whole was unfavourable. “Your character of Benedetto (to sport a vulgar phrase) dies Dunghill,” wrote Wroughton, “and Orsini might, I think, satisfactorily be kept alive.”

Thereupon Godwin sent the play to Holcroft to touch it up for the stage, who, acting on the instructions given, remodelled the whole, and re-wrote from Godwin’s materials a considerable portion. But “Faulkener” failed, and great was the wrath which fell on the devoted friend, whose forbearance under the storm was dignified and commendable.

The letters during this year, which are appended, need no explanation.

William Godwin to Thomas Wedgwood.
Polygon, April 14, 1804.

Dear Wedgwood,—It is with the utmost reluctance of feeling that I obtrude on you the following statement.

“I know not whether I am entitled to the possession of several opulent friends: this has been almost universally the lot of persons of as much literary publicity as myself: it has been my fortune never, except you, to have had one.

“Among the various measures which, since I have become the father of a family, I have had recourse to for their support, one which inevitably suggested itself was the theatre; a resource which is, if successful, I believe usually found more productive
than any other. I applied myself with great diligence to the experiment I made in that way four years ago: as has always been my habit, I proceeded not merely on my own judgment but consulted my friends. The production I ultimately brought forth, though perhaps in one or two points not sufficiently adapted for popularity on the stage, cost me more thought proportionally, and is perhaps more finished, than any other of my writings.

“It was however necessary that I and my family should subsist while I prepared the experiment. A young man not opulent, but who had then some money at his command, spontaneously lent me £100 for that purpose. My experiment was unsuccessful, and the money was never repaid. Mrs Godwin and myself will, I believe, not be found deficient in industry. I by original works, and she by translation, contrive fully, or nearly, to support a numerous family in decency, but this is all we can do.

“Unhappily the young man who so generously assisted me is since fallen into great embarrassments, and has become liable to arrests and the other difficulties arising from these embarrassments. He has never asked me for his money, he would never accept any memorandum or acknowledgment that it was due. Yet how can I bear to think that he wants money so cruelly, while I am in this manner his debtor? I hope I could almost perish, sooner than apply to you for further assistance for myself, but in this case, to use the ordinary phraseology, I would move heaven and earth to acquit myself. If I had any other resource that I could imagine or invent, you should not have been troubled with this ungracious intrusion.

“Yet my dear friend, consult your own convenience in this case. I am sure you would assist me if that would permit. But this is no claim upon you, whatever it is on me.

“Though it is now a very long time since I have heard from, or seen you, yet I have occasionally the satisfaction, I wish I could say the pleasure, of hearing concerning you from Tobin, Coleridge, and others. The last opportunity of this sort was a letter by you to Coleridge a short time before his departure, in which you spoke of your health as being a little better than it had been
some time before. What pleasure would it afford to me, and to every one that knows you, could we have a well-grounded prospect of its being ultimately restored. With sincere affection,

W. Godwin.”
Thomas Wedgwood to William Godwin.
Gunville, April 15, 1804.

Dear Godwin,—I am so unwilling to leave you in a moment’s suspense, for I give you full credit for the reluctant scruples you express—that I shall not defer a post to get a stamp for a draft but give you the trouble of calling personally on Mr Howslip in York Street on Wednesday next at 3, who will deliver you a note containing the £100. I have adopted this mode to prevent a personal application from you at the Bank, which I conceived might be disagreeable, and it also secures from danger of loss by post, and this same. Mr Howslip will not have the least idea of the nature of our transaction.

“And now let me beg of you to set your mind perfectly at ease. I will tell you honestly what I have felt, and always feel, on the occasion. I have no opinion of the good, upon the whole, resulting from great facility in the opulent, in yielding to requests of the needy. I have no doubt but that it is best that every one should anticipate with certainty the pinch and pressure of distress from indulging in indolence, or even from misfortune. It is this certainty which quickens the little wit that man is ordinarily endowed with, and calls out all his energies: and were it removed by the idea that the rich held funds for the distressed, I am convinced that not only half the industry of the country would be destroyed, but also that misfortune would be doubled in quantity. I confess to you then, that I have always a doubt of the value of any donation or loan. At the same time, I have the strongest desire to give relief to suffering, and an excessive repugnance to that hardness of heart, that vicious inclination to hoard,—to that depraved state of mind which enables me to view sufferings with calmness, if not with indifference, whilst I should never miss the sum that would instantly relieve them. In the case of the
applicant being a friend, you may imagine that the inclination to yield is doubled at least. In the present case, I was extremely moved at the fervour of your determination never again to apply to me for yourself, and in feeling swore a great oath that it should be your own fault if you did not. I could not bear the idea of your struggling day after day with new perplexities. I passed your life hastily in review, and renewed my assurance of the soundness of your principles. I am not speaking of your politics or philosophy: on these subjects I have no sentiments of any assurance, but I am speaking of the goodness of your moral feelings, your subjection to the dictates, erroneous or otherwise, of a moral conscience.

“And I do therefore invite you to still consider me as your friend in every honourable sense of the word. You have placed me in a most ambiguous capacity. I have an excellent friend in T. W., you say: he is the man I should rely upon in a moment of distress, only that I feel that I cannot ask him to make the smallest personal sacrifice for my advantage.

“I wish you may seize the spirit of my confessions, for I really cannot stay the process of writing one moment for a more explicit and luminous statement. I write in pain and great distraction of mind, knowing the injury I do myself. I feel most gratefully your kind wishes for my health. Without indulging an unmanly despondency, I may say after some years continued struggle, I see no prospect of permanent amendment. I left town a day or two after you saw me in Bedford Row. Let me have a line from you when you have received the £100.

“With the sincerest wishes for your happiness, I remain, dear Godwin, faithfully and cordially yours,

Thos. Wedgwood.”
Thomas Holcroft to William Godwin.
Sep. 25, 1804.

“I am sorry our feelings are not in unison. I am sorry that a work which cost me such deep thought, and was, in my own opinion, so happily executed, should excite in your mind nothing but the chaos of which you inform me. I came up to town with
a high hope of having rendered my friend an essential service, with which, when he saw it, he would be delighted, and would perfectly understand all the emotions which passed in my mind, while stimulated by such an endearing reflection. I must bear my disappointment as well as I can, and have only to request that, since you think all conference must produce painful sensations, you will either adopt the piece as I have sent it you (which I by no means wish, since you think as you do), or put the whole of it into your own language. I don’t in the least expect, after your long hesitation, that it corresponds with your ideas of good writing, for which I am sorry, but I hope that you will not think it unreasonable that I should object to that which your judgment shall direct, unless I could be made acquainted with it. I hope I have not spent my time wholly unprofitably, since you cannot be insensible that my zeal to serve you effectually has been great.

“Respecting the £20, we were much distressed last week, but shall not be this, or the next. The week after, I am afraid, it may still prove inconvenient to you, though I know we shall be very short. Louisa mends so slowly, that my mind is quite uneasy. I came up to town with high hopes of various kinds, but hope was always a sad deceiver, and the error of my life is that of being too sanguine. Forgive me that Fanny copies this. She copied the tragedy, and it was inevitable she should know the whole transaction. . . .

T. Holcroft.”
Mrs Godwin, sen., to William Godwin.
December, 1804.

Dear William and Mary,—You must excuse my incorrectness in writing. I can scarce write, my memory is so bad. I can say no more about Harriet than I have in a former letter. I am the unhappy grandmother of such naughty children, and must say that the parents are as much to blame as their children, for that they have set no better guard on them, and instructed them no better, have Idled away their own time on Sabbath days. . . . In answer to yours, relating to young John, I’m much obleged to you that you show such frendship to him. I purpose sending you and
his father and all of you equal alike, what I have scraped together with the utmost frugality, and if you please to lay out for the tooles he wants, I will keep it back out of his father’s and send it to you and am much obleged to your wife for the regard she professes for your brother John, but fear most, if not all, are so deep in debt as not to be the better for anything I can do for them, am affraid that London streets will be filled with begging Godwins when I am gone, but that’s not the worst. Idleness is the mother of all vice, forgers, pickpockets or Players, which I take to be very little better. Do you know of any of them that are following the precepts of the precious Redeemer who suffered the Ignominious deth of the Cross to save sinners from eternal death? I wish you to let me know if you will lay out what I mentioned for young John by a parcel we expect from
Hannah. I don’t know if it will be soon, but that’s no matter, if you set him in a way of geting his bread. I shall send a few things for his wife against she lies in, as a bed-gown, a decent shirt and shift. And if you can give 10s. for interist of the £10 you have in hand for 4 yards of strong cloth for a shirt, and get it made for him, there will be some left to mend it, and any little old things for the child. I am in hopes it will not be ill bestowed, and will be returned to you in better blessings than earth affords, for without the Lord bless, vain is the help of man. I hope Hannah will be wiseer than to make any entertainment this year, coles are 46s. the chaldron, and 15s. carriage to Dalling. Hully finds enough to do with all his industery. You will receive a turkey from me. Don’t once think of sending me the least thing. I shall be very angry if you do. I wish your happiness most sincearly. Hully, his wife, and children are well. Their little one just begins to go alone, a year and a quarter old. I would recommend you to get an oven to hang over the fire to bake pudding and meat upon it. If you can get smal wood to burn on the top, it takes very little fire under it. We bake most of our victuals so: it will save many steps for yr. servants. Young Mr Raven is not likely to live many days; no medican has been found successful. It would surprise you to know how greedyly he swallows physic, so
loth to die. They all think his mother will loose her sences for him, she is shrunk with grief and fiteague in a surprising manner, but, I am afraid, looks not up to the supreem being; reads the prayer-book to him, but that’s all.—Your affectionate mother,

A. Godwin.”

The year 1805 is the date of Godwin’s greatest and most disastrous venture. If he could but have let well alone, if Mrs Godwin had not been a speculative, and, as she calls herself, “a managing woman,” there was at the same moment a tide in his affairs which, had he taken it at the flood, would have led to a very different state of things.

The account had best be given in an autobiographical letter, of which the copy is unfinished and unaddressed.


“My manner of life for several years in respect of pecuniary matters, you, I daresay, are acquainted with. . . . As long as I remained alone, I neither asked nor would accept aid from any man. I even contrived to bring up by my own means, and to inform by my own instructions, the son of one of my poor relations, as well as frequently to afford assistance to others. I lived entirely as I listed.

“Since I have been a married man, the case has been otherwise. I never repented the connections of that sort I have formed; but the maintenance of a family and an establishment has been a heavy expense, and I have never been able, with all my industry, which has been very persevering, entirely to accomplish this object. . . . I have five children in my house. Fanny, the daughter of Mr Imlay, who bears my own name, Mary, my own daughter by the same mother, two children of my present wife by a former husband, and a son, the offspring of my present marriage.

“My temper is of a recluse and contemplative cast; had it been otherwise, I should, perhaps, on some former occasions, have entered into the active concerns of the world, and not have been connected with it merely as a writer of books. My present wife
is of a different complexion. She did her best for some years to assist our establishment by translations; but her health and strength have somewhat given way, I really believe, for want of those relaxations and excursions to sea-bathings and watering-places, which are the usual lot of women in the class of life in which she was born.

“Under these circumstances, and being by nature endowed with a mind of prudence and forecast, her thoughts forcibly turned towards some commercial undertaking. With united health and strength we could hope for no more, in the mode of selling MSS. to booksellers than making our yearly income equal our yearly expenditure. But the health of one or both of us might give way, the advance of age might diminish my powers of unintermitted exertion, or death might cut off one or the other of us; then, what was to become of the maintenance and education of our children? The commercial undertaking which most naturally offered itself was a magazine of books for the use and amusement of children, and my wife, with a sagacity commensurate to her forecast, pitched upon a person singularly well qualified to superintend the details of the concern. . . .

“On the 15th of March [1805] I concluded a contract with my bookseller for writing a History of England, of the same size with that of David Hume, which would of course be the occupation of years, and for which I was to receive £2000, besides a share of the copyright. . . . This contract secured me a provision in part for some years to come, and assigned me an employment to my heart’s content.

“While this negotiation was pending, my wife laid before me her plan, and I felt that the arguments by which it was recommended were such as I could not resist. As the discussion with my bookseller, previous to signing the contract, occupied some weeks, I employed that time in writing the chief of a work which was to be the first-born child of our new undertaking.

“Among many difficulties which were to be conquered in this enterprise, one arose from the absolute necessity there was that the public should entertain no suspicion that I was connected with
the concern. The popular cry for some years past on the topics of government and religion has been so opposite to the principles I am known to entertain as to fill the Reviews and other ordinary publications of the day with abuse against me of the most scurrilous cast. I had seen several things treated in this style, borrowed from the fish-market, for no other reason than that they were mine. I knew that I had nothing to do but to suppress my name, and I should immediately have all these gentlemen in my train. That I was not mistaken in this will appear in part from a paper I enclose containing their character of my first production under this plan, entitled ‘
Baldwin’s Fables,’ published in October last [1805].

* * * * *

“Thus prepared I placed my agent at Midsummer last in a little house in Hanway Street, Oxford Street, a small street, but of great thoroughfare and commerce. The rent of the house is £40 per annum (£35 of which are made by lodgers), and the coming in and fixtures were £60. I have a renewable agreement for the house for a term of years . . . [Unfinished]


The Fables of which Godwin speaks were begun on Feb. 22d, were rapidly written, and finished on March 26th. The books published by him under the name of Baldwin were:—

Fables Ancient and Modern.”

The Pantheon, or Ancient History of the Gods of Greece and Rome.”

The History of England.”

The History of Rome.”

The History of Greece.”

Many men of middle age must remember that their first introduction to History was through the medium of these little books, excellently printed and illustrated. Uncritical they necessarily were, in pre-Niebuhrian days, nor could they now be read with advantage by the young, in whom
we might wish to cultivate, if it might be, some historic sense.

But they may be turned over with interest, for they show how fresh and keen was the interest Godwin took in the young, how he, who evidently had some difficulty in placing himself at the standpoint of other men, could do so at that of a little child, and hence we grow more and more to understand the power and attraction he still had for the young.

The Prefaces are all worth reading now, and are couched in clear, vigorous English. One passage is so far reaching and pregnant that it may well bear quotation here. It is from the Preface to the History of Rome.


“It has been disputed whether Mucius ever thrust his hand into the fire, whether Curtius leaped into the gulf, or Regulus returned to Carthage, and some writers, following up this hint, have endeavoured, by sophistical reasonings and subtle distinctions, to set aside almost every example of Roman virtue on record. In answer to this I shall only say here that the stories were thus understood by the Romans themselves, who had the best means of information, and who felt in their own bosoms what a Roman was, and that the different parts of the Roman History, considered as the different stages of a particular scene of civilization, hang together with a consistency beyond all fiction, and even beyond the real history of any other country or people in the world. Youth is not the period of criticism and disquisition. If these narratives are to be destroyed, let that task be reserved for a riper age, when books of the plan and size of the present are no longer applicable; and in the meantime, let our children reap the benefit of such instructive and animating examples. If they are fables (which I hope no one of the juvenile readers of my work will at any time be induced to believe), they are at least more full of moral, and of encouragement to noble sentiments and actions than all the other narratives, fictitious or true, which mere man ever produced.”


The books were one and all admirably printed, and well illustrated, Godwin made no vain boast when, in the Preface to the “History of England, “he claims for his pages that “they are so printed as to be agreeable and refreshing to the eye of a child.” And though Godwin is in error in ascribing Montaigne’s practice to Moliere, the following autobiographical sentence, which takes us into the home circle at the Polygon, is worth retention:—


Moliere, when he wrote his admirable comedies, was accustomed to read them in manuscript to an old woman, his housekeeper, and he always found that when the old woman laughed or was out of humour, there the audience laughed or was out of humour also. In the same manner, I am accustomed to consult my children in this humble species of writing in which I have engaged. I put the two or three first sections into their hands as a specimen. Their remark was, ‘How easy this is! Why, we learn it by heart almost as fast as we read it!’ Their suffrage gave me courage, and I carried on my work to the end.”


The “Fables,” modernized and rewritten, are full of merit, excellently adapted for children, and well deserve the honour of a reprint, having gone, in their day, through more than a dozen editions, and having been translated into French.

Although the pseudonym of Baldwin was continued to the end for Godwin’s own productions, the business was, after a short time, carried on by Mrs Godwin, under the style of M. J. Godwin and Co. She translated several children’s books from the French, which were published by her with success; but, beyond all doubt, the work which will live, written at Godwin’s request and published by Mrs Godwin, is the “Tales from Shakespere,” by Mary and Charles Lamb. The latter also contributed his “Voyages of Ulysses,” to which a letter which will be quoted refers; the “Stories of Old Daniel,” delight of the past generation;
and, for its date, an excellent “
English Grammar,” by Hazlitt, also came from the busy Skinner Street house.

It was a meritorious attempt, but starting without capital, the twenty years during which the business was carried on, were one long struggle, a series of shifts and a series of failures.

The Diaries for this year give no new facts of importance, old friends and new came and went, Mrs Godwin fell out with them, and Godwin resented their resentment. Yet on the whole he had settled down, as so many men before and since, into an acquiescence with his lot; he grew to have some admiration and regard for his wife, though she irritated him at every turn. The letters, however, which passed between them, during a visit paid by Godwin to his relatives in Norfolk, in the autumn, show a painful effort at a profession of affection, as though to meet a certain exaction. Their ring is wholly different to those which disclosed his truer and deeper feelings in past years.

One only is given, describing the state in which he found his mother, whose letters of this year will be the last which we shall read. Her long and kindly life was setting in as much outward comfort as she needed or desired, though her health had been for some time indifferent, and her mental powers now in great measure failed her. The children who were nearest to her were well to do in their stations, were prosperous and affectionate, and at her age the misdoings of those at a distance moved, but did not deeply distress her. Age, if it brings loss and disappointment, deadens the mind against the poignant misery which the same accidents entail upon the younger; and the religion which had comforted Mrs Godwin’s earlier life supported her in her last years. To be absolutely certain of the divine favour, and of a happy immortality is a pleasant
anodyne during sickness and in the last agony, for such minds as are illogical enough to disregard the other side of Calvinism, and refuse to contemplate the condition of those who are not so favoured and not so confident.

Such soothing comfort her stern creed gave to the good old lady, whose shrewd worldly sense was in such remarkable, though not singular, contrast to the unreason of her belief.

Mrs Godwin, sen., to William Godwin.
May 1, 1805.

Dear William,—You and your wife have been exceeding kind to young John. I hear the youngest child is a fine boy, the eldest a poor little sickly girl. It was your kindness and good intention to set him to work for himself, but what does he do, or how is he to be employed? Is he industerous? He wrote me a very prity letter some time agoe to thank me. I hope your wife is better of her rhumatism, and the blister had a good effect. I prescribe it to everybody since you was advised to it, for our country doctors have not found out a cure for it. Miss Woodhouse have had it in her head all this winter very violently, but I have not got her in the mind to try a blister. . . . He has begun his shop, and has met with some incouragement, but when the weather is bad and nobody comes his spirits flag, and he says he don’t care what he doth if he could get a living. He wants a good wife to spend his vacant hours with, but they are hard to find and he fearfull to try. How doth John go on? I have heard he is out of Mr Wright’s place again: he talked of advertising for a place: he should not delay, but not quit his old one till he is sure of another, for half a lofe is better than no bread. . . . If you live to see me, I am brown, wrincled, week, my eyes rather dim, hands and head shake. . . . Give my kind love to your wife. I hope she will excuse me, I cannot write to her this time. If you and she can come to see me, set your time, for I live in a barren land, but the
best entertainment I can give you shall be welcome to. Has
Joseph chose a buisness for his son? I can’t write to him. Caushon him not to indulge him too much, nor give him money to spend as he please. Children cannot be fit to be masters. If he don’t employ him, he will run into vice immediately, and there is no staying in the down hill road. We are all tolerable. Accept my best wishes for time and eternity.

A. Godwin.

“Your brothers desire their best respects to you.”

Mrs Godwin, sen., to William Godwin.
Wood Dalling, July 9, 1805.

Dear Son William,—I have received your wife’s kind letter and your children’s. I think they have made great improvement. May they go on and prosper, and be bles’d of god, but that is impossable without prayer and watchfulness against their strong enemys, Satan, the world, and their own depraved hearts. There is much duty lies upon you as a parent. If it was but a few miles of, and I could visit them, and they me, one or two at a time, it would be a pleasure; but as it is, we must content ourselves with now and then hearing of one another. If I live till the time of your Tower into Norfolk, I need not tell you I shall be glad to see you and your wife; but why cannot you attend on Lord’s-day at Guestwick, on such a Judishous man as Mr Sykes. . . . We are all tolerable, Mrs G. in a family way again, your brother very industerous but not strong to labour, Natty much the same. He is unsuccessful in his business, and must seek a jorneyman’s place again. O my trials and difficulties increase! how heavy when so old. I wish Pheby not to come: I cannot help her, nor do I think her aunt Barker can. Young John is, I fear, next to starving; but who can help it? They are taught nothing but pride, so must fall into ruin. My kind love to Mrs Godwin and all your children, and to your sister.—Your ever affectionate mother,

A. Godwin.”
William Godwin to Mrs Godwin.
Norwich, Sep. 8, 1805.

My Dearest Love,—I am now again at Norwich. I arrived at Dalling between six and seven on Wednesday evening, and staid there till Friday morning at eleven. By the man who came with me to drive back the gig which I hired at Norwich, I despatched a line to you, scarcely less hasty than the one of yours which accompanied my ‘customary garb of solemn black.’ This I suppose you received on Friday.

“During the whole of my stay at Dalling I applied my attention principally, every time I saw my mother, to discover whether she knew me. I speedily found that she was lying under a stroke of palsy or apoplexy (the country apothecary decides for the latter), and that she would very probably continue in the same state for weeks, and perhaps for months. She was seized in the night of Wednesday, August 28th. The next morning she rose, seemingly unconscious that anything extraordinary had occurred, dressed herself, came downstairs and made her tea, though all these offices were performed by her with awkwardness and difficulty. She did not even go to bed that night before her usual hour. She spoke, however, very little all day, and seemed scarcely to know anybody. She has never risen since, except to have her bed made. For the first day or two she frequently fed herself, but since has constantly been fed by the maid, and drinks only from a teaspoon. Yet she feeds tolerably heartily, and looks well, fresh and plump in the face. No one of her limbs are affected, or features distorted, by the present attack, which is the circumstance that convinces the apothecary that her disorder is not palsy. She has been visited by Mr Sykes, the minister, to whom she was exceedingly partial, and by his wife, but seemed scarcely to take any notice of them, though I think she called Mr Sykes by his name: this happened before I came down. She takes no notice of my brothers. When spoken to, she scarcely ever answers to the purpose, except sometimes by ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ but goes off into a few incoherent words in the form of a prayer. She scarcely ever utters
these ejaculations, unless when roused by some question proposed to her. She is very positive and obstinate in anything she has determined to do, and will not suffer any one to feed her but her own maid.

“On Thursday morning I took down from my brother Hull’s dictating an inventory of her income. Afterwards I mounted on horseback, and rode over to Mr Sykes, who I found was principally trusted by her in her pecuniary affairs. His account agreed in all essential points with my brother’s. I then rode over to the apothecary’s, whom I did not find at home in the morning, but who called in the afternoon. I thought it necessary to learn from his own lips his ideas of my mother’s complaint, which were as above stated. My mother was exceedingly distressed, as she had been before, by his visit, and expressed the strongest aversion to all medical applications, whether external or internal. One incident, evidently marking the remains of recollection and understanding, amidst this general failure of faculties, occurred on Thursday night. When she had ordered the maid to go to bed, who had risen in the middle of the night to give her some assistance, she suddenly called to mind that she had a bolster of the maid’s bed, which had been put under her to raise her head in the middle of the day, and pulled it out and gave it her. She has hitherto had one person sit up with her every night, besides the attendance of the maid, who sleeps in the room.

“I thought, when I first saw her on Wednesday, that she knew me. But finding that every time she saw me on Thursday she took no notice of me, and that I could not excite her to acknowledge me, I doubted. ‘O Lord,’ ‘Spare me,’ ‘Pardon my sins,’ ‘Grace,’ and ‘Jesus,’ were all the answers I could obtain to everything I said. On Friday morning I took infinite pains to ascertain this point. I used every expression and gesture of taking leave, repeated my name, and ‘Do you know me?’ mentioned that I was going to London, and asked whether she had anything to say to her daughter, or anybody there. Frequently before she had pressed my hand, but with so vague an expression that I could not be sure of her meaning. At the last moment she re-
peated this action, and said with much emphasis, ‘My dear son, I love you dearly.’ Still, as she did not mention my name, it is not absolutely certain that she knew to whom she was speaking. I mentioned in my note of Wednesday, immediately after my arrival, that she said to me, ‘I have my senses.’ My brother, and my brother’s wife, when I mentioned this to them, would not believe that these were her words; and from what I myself observed afterwards, I am inclined to think that what she said was, ‘I have no sense,’ a phrase she often repeated. Her utterance was very indistinct, and it was considerably difficult to make out what she said. She lies, however, apparently free from pain of body, or disturbance of mind, except when she is thwarted, or when she sees the apothecary.

“The most material point, perhaps, that I have ascertained by this journey is that she is in excellent hands in her present situation. I learn from the most decisive testimony of Mr Sykes, and my brother, and my brother’s wife, that she is exceedingly attached to Molly, and that Molly is the pattern of integrity and tenderness towards her. Molly tells me that it was her mistress’s constant desire that she should continue with her as long as she lives, and go to my sister when she is no more. When we consider the helpless situation to which my poor mother is now reduced, nothing could be more deplorable than the idea of her being treated with harshness and neglect, and nothing can be more consoling than the recollection that she has a person about her who places her pleasure and her pride in serving and gratifying her. Molly’s integrity too, I am assured, is not less than her attachment. She has now the sole possession of my mother’s keys, and no idea is entertained by anyone that they could be in more trustworthy hands. . . .” [Unfinished.]

William Godwin to Hull Godwin.
Oct. 17, 1805.

Dear Brother,—I am exceedingly gratified by the information of your last letter, and hope you will continue the same kindness to me as long as circumstances shall remain the same. . . .


“You will of course favour me with a letter when you send the certificate I mentioned, and will write sooner if anything new occurs.

“I have consulted the most eminent man in the medical profession among all my acquaintance in London, and he says, from my description of the symptoms, that our mother’s complaint is apoplexy. He would not advise anything to be done, and further gives it as his opinion that she will not die till she has had a fresh attack of the complaint.

“Love to your wife and children. We are all well. How is poor Nat?—Your affectionate

W. Godwin.”
Harriet to Hull Godwin [on the same sheet!]

Dear Hull,—. . . I avail myself of this opportunity of writing a few lines, though I have but little to say, except to thank brother Nat for his letter, and that I will write to him when next I send a box or parcel. Yes, one thing I have thought several times I would say to you: which is, that I wish much before my busy time comes on again to read Henry’s Exposition of the Bible or Testament. If you can either borrow it for me, or are not using our mother’s yourself, will you send it to me? . . . If it is not extravagantly dear, I shall send you a bit of salmon next week, so you must send to the carrier’s on Saturday night that you may unpack it as soon as possible, for I am a little fearful about the keeping except I send it pickled, which I think will not be so well, as my dear mother cannot then have a hot dinner of it. . . . —Your affectionate sister,

H. Godwin.”
Harriet to William Godwin.

Dear William,—I had a letter from Hull yesterday. He says our dear mother has taken a little more notice of things lately, and seems to understand some things a little better, but speaks very imperfectly and looks thin. She is extremely anxious about their attending to religion. O that I had attended to her anxiety on this head always! O that all my dear brothers would, ere it be too late, that we might hereafter all meet together with her in that
state of happiness and perfection which she will assuredly ere long enjoy. How earnestly has she prayed, for how many years, that she might hereafter say to God Almighty, ‘Here am I, and the children that Thou hast given me.’ Molly told me that before she was deprived of her senses, she would sometimes scarcely speak for half a day, but sigh most deeply, and then break out in an agony, ‘O Molly, Molly, what will become of my children?’”

The letters from acquaintances during this year require little explanation. That from Thomas Wedgwood was written in answer to an application from Godwin for a further advance of £100 to enable him to carry out the Baldwin scheme. It seems to have been the last which passed between the friends. Thomas Wedgwood closed his kindly life on July 10, 1805, his kindness to Godwin was in a measure continued by Josiah Wedgwood; but the friend of so long standing could not be replaced.

Extract from Letter from Thomas Wedgwood to William Godwin.
March 28, 1805.

“I am sincerely glad you have made so promising an engagement, and that you are likely to have your mind undisturbed for so long a period by harassing negotiations with booksellers.

“My illness is of a nature absolutely to preclude writing, and I have no prospect of any change from constant and dreadful suffering.

“I honour exceedingly the perfect openness of the statement preceding the request in your letter. I allude particularly to the use you made of the probability of another advance from me, if necessity should urge you to apply again. Let there never be any false shame or concealment between us.—Farewell, and believe me ever your attached and faithful friend,

T. Wedgwood.”

After a separation of several years, Godwin and Mrs Inchbald again corresponded and met. But their inter-
course was a little stiff, and the lady’s sprightliness was gone. Few passages out of many letters deserve quotation. Godwin was looking over Mrs Inchbald’s MS., and objected to a sentence in which she had written “Osah is prettier than me.” She writes as follows:—

Mrs Inchbald to William Godwin.
Saturday Morning, 11th of May, 1805.

. . . ” Permit me here to make an observation, to which I will not give you the trouble to reply, because it is on a subject of which I myself am not the slightest judge—Grammar. I once thought that Grammar was a point established and immoveable by taste or custom. I have of late heard this contradicted, and have been shown precedents of the very best writers differing extremely in their modes of Grammar, and I am even told that correctness is often inelegant.

“If this be true, it is a fine thing for women, and for some men.

“But it seems that ‘Osah is prettier than I;’ has Godwin, Lowth, and Scripture on its side. Three high authorities.—Yours most truly,

E. Inchbald.”
The Same to the Same.

“. . . I am glad you are going to see my play again. . . .

“I am more proud to hear of Kemble’s praise in his character than of any other part of the play, because my whole aim was directed to represent him as a Lover, though I knew at the same time that it was not in his power to make love. So I left him to act, and not to speak the passion.

“Finely as he plays, he has hurt the part by his spruce manner of dressing. I wanted him to be clean, but not nice. To be somewhat rugged in appearance as well as in manners, to prove his fondness of books in his neglect of dress. The power of Love on such an object had been doubly comic, but when I saw how neat and smart he looked, I feared every effort for which I had laboured would be lost. . . .


The following letter from Phillips the publisher, or, since the business was then one, the bookseller, is interesting. It is evidence that the trade of mere book-making was as well known then as now, and of a very natural fear that Godwin might be suspected of the trade. He had offered to “compile” a History of England; as his letters recount he had written a prospectus for publication in which the word was used, and Phillips thus replies:—

R. Phillips to William Godwin.
Bridge Street, June 26, 1805.

Dear Sir,—I still object to the word compile—it indicates a work of shreds and patches, and the compiler is one of the lowest pioneers in Grub Street. The word is not susceptible of a good sense except when it is honestly meant to confess the author’s obligation to scissors and paste. If you will have a dissyllable, take compose, anything rather than compile. Don’t let it be said that ‘Mr Godwin is compiling a History of England.’ What will be said, if this passes, even by your friends, and by your enemies in the obnoxious sense to which the words are liable.

“Now, Sir, for another point, but I have a garrulous old gentleman at my elbow, while I write, who, I fear, may disturb my chain of argument.

“It appears to me that you have not made the best of your cause. It would not seem from the connection of your reasoning that you have as yet any new materials on which to found your ‘History,’ but that having ‘undertaken to compile’ such a work, you have begun to look about you for materials, and that the readiest way is to advertize for them. I could then most humbly suggest that some idea like the following should be introduced. That since the time when Mr Hume wrote his ‘History,’ or during some late years, much attention has been paid to our national records, and all descriptions of Literati have been labouring to collect materials for the illustration of our ‘History,’ that the collections of the British Museum have been formed or greatly
enlarged since that time, that many disputed points have been elaborately discussed by the most able men, that many curious tracts have been published, and that in the estimation of many persons, Mr Hume’s ‘History’ is deformed by obvious partialities, &c., that therefore the said
William Godwin is led to undertake to write a new History, &c., &c., &c.

“Treat all this as you will, believing me to be, Dear Sir, devotedly and truly yours, &c.

R. Phillips.”

Godwin’s novel of “Fleetwood; or, The New Man of Feeling,” was published by Phillips in the same year, but neither it, nor other later novels, had such distinguishing merit as saved them from the fate of all but the very highest works of prose fiction,—forgetfulness after the lapse of a few years. The beauty of style remained, but the power and originality which had marked “Caleb Williams” and “St Leon,” were wanting.

J. Horne Tooke to William Godwin.
Wimbledon, Oct. 22, 1805.

Dear Sir,—A letter from you, announcing a visit, is at all times pleasant to me; but the present is peculiarly so, because Mr Jer. Joyce gave me much sorrow on Sunday last by informing me that Mrs Godwin was ill.

“I shall therefore see you on Friday with more pleasure than usual, and you may depend upon it, that if I was half so good at a leap as I am persuaded Mrs Godwin is, I should often leap to Somers Town.

“Mind, I do not say at Somers Town; for I am very careful how I employ the English particles, and am besides your most obedient servant,

J. Horne Tooke.”

Mrs Knapp was the lady to whom the Somers’ Town House belonged. The letter subjoined is valuable as showing at once Godwin’s difficulties and the estimation in
which he was held, even by those who were the sufferers in consequence of his necessities.

Mrs Knapp to William Godwin.
Dec. 10, 1805.

Dear Sir,—On my return the other day from a five months’ excursion, I was gratified by a note from you, expressive of your esteem, and a present of two volumes of fables from the great and worthy Mr Baldwin, to whom I send my thanks, with the hope that he will continue the career he has begun, of writing books so well calculated to benefit the rising generation.

“With respect to your note of Sunday, I have only to observe that you are welcome to stay in the house till you have perfectly suited yourself with another, and when the golden cloud descends, that some drops of it would be very very acceptable at Kentish town.—With respects to Mrs Godwin, I remain, dear Sir, your much obliged,

Leonora Knapp.”

A vast mass of correspondence exists extending over 1806, and the following years, some of it interesting, but the events to which it relates are few.

Those in 1806 need no elucidation. The family letters show a pleasant calm after storm, and before storms which were to come in years when Mrs Godwin’s stepdaughters needed more and more, a tenderness which they did not find.

Extract from letter from William to Hull Godwin.
Jan. 16, 1806.

Dear Brother,—. . . I should take it as a very great favour if you would send me up the quarter of sheet of paper that my mother made you write on the first of January. Though you can make nothing of it, perhaps I should, or should fancy I did. It would be a gratification to me.


“I thank you very much for the turkeys. They contributed to our cheerfulness and enjoyments in this social season. Mat. brought his to our house, and we ate it together, with two or three friends. Joe should have been of the party, but was prevented by business.

“I approve by all means of continuing my mother’s subscription to the meeting, as long as she lives. Remember me respectfully to Mr Sykes.

“We are all well here. My wife desires to join in kind remembrances to all, with,—Yours very affectionately,

W. Godwin.”
Hull to William Godwin.
Feb. 9, 1806.

Dear Brother,—According to your request, I take the pleasure of letting you know that my wife was brought to bed Friday evening with a girl, and is finely, thank God. Our mother pays great attention to her: she’s very finely, have a good appetite, and looks healthy. My wife’s doctor say he thinks it possible she may live these seven years. Mother takes so much notice of her money I durst not think of removing it. I’ll order and send the certificate against the time. I suppose you are got through the stock business before now.

The other side is the copy of whatever mother said on New Year’s day, and insisted on me to write.

Hull Godwin.”

[This is a copy of quite incoherent rambling.]

William Godwin to Mrs Godwin [at Southend.]
June 2, 1806.

“Thank you a thousand times for what you call your dull letter. There are two or three words in it, which though of very plain stuff, without either edging or brocade, are worth more than the eight pence I gave for them.

“I can promise you an answer not inferior in dulness to your own. I have got one of my sick-headaches, which though in the way in which I have them, they are the pettiest and most despic-
able of all complaints, are death to poetry and sentiment, and every kind of refinement. I have been trying
Cowper’s Task, and many other approved medicines, but the intellectual shroud, the symbol of my disease, clings to my heart, and I may tear my heart out, but cannot separate it from the vile and loathsome covering that stifles it.

“Mr Burton and your letter knocked at the door together. The children say they were to have no lessons from him as long as Fanny was away. Mr Burton says they were to have half-hour lessons as usual. Neither to me, nor to Miss Smith, as she says, did you utter a word on the subject. So, till further orders, I yield to the authority of the adult party in the dispute.

“I have had specimens of colouring from Watts and Stodhart, as well as from Hardy, of the Gaffer Gray, and am so far satisfied, that I am the less solicitous for your return home on that account. I should have sent you a copy with this, as well as some letters that the children have written you, but Charles, whom I sent for a frank, has contrived to return without one.

“Do begin to talk in your next about the time and manner of your return. . . . .”

William Godwin to Mrs Godwin.
June 5, 1806.

“Yesterday (was that right or wrong?) we kept Charles’s birthday, though his mother was absent. . . . Charles has written an account of the day to Fanny; it passed pleasantly enough. . . .

“Do not imagine that I took Charles into my good graces the moment your back was turned. He indeed took care to prevent that if I had been inclined, by displeasing me the day I sent him for a frank, and on another errand. So that I had only just time to forgive him for his birthday.

“I wish to impress you with the persuasion that he is infinitely more of a child, and to be treated as a child, than you imagine. Monday I sent him for a frank, and set all the children to write letters, though by his awkwardness the occasion was lost. The
letter he then wrote, though I took some pains previously to work on his feelings, was the poorest and most soulless thing ever you saw. I then set him to learn the poem of “My Mother” in
Darton’s Original Poetry. Your letter to him came most opportunely to re-inforce the whole, and at last he has produced what I now send you. I went upstairs to his bedside the night before you left us, that I might impress upon him the importance of not suffering you to depart in anger: but instead of understanding me at first, he, like a child, thought I was come to whip him, and with great fervour and agitation, begged I would forgive him. He is very anxious that no one should see his letter but yourself, and I have promised to enforce his petition. . . .

“I shall be very happy to listen to you on that subject, on which so many poets have shone already, the praise of the country. But will you give me leave, my dearest love, to recall to your consideration the ties and bonds by which we are fettered? We cannot do as we would, and must be satisfied, for some time at least, if we can do at all. And do you really believe that ‘the sordid thoughts that in London make a necessary part of your daily existence’ could never find their way to Tilford? Alas, I am afraid that a narrow income, a numerous family, and many things to arrange and provide for, are the same everywhere. I am of my old friend Horace’s opinion, ‘that happiness may be found even in Rag fair (allow me the license of a translator) if we do but bring with us to the shed that covers us a well regulated mind.’ Yet I swear to you, I will with all pleasure retire with you to the country, the moment you shall yourself pronounce it to be practicable.

“Will you allow me to play with you the part of a monitor? or will you think that is incompatible with the feelings of a lover? You have effected, as you have repeatedly told me, one most excellent revolution in yourself since your marriage, that of taking many things quietly that were once torture, for example, money embarrassments and importunities. That you did not so from the first, was owing to your estrangement from the usages of the world, and to the want of that easily acquired tincture of philosophy, that
enables us to look at things as they will appear a week hence, or, for the most part, even to-morrow. That sorrow which will be no sorrow to-morrow, should not touch a wise woman’s heart. The offences of children should be taken as from that sort of beings that children always are, yourself in your early years only excepted; the offences of tradesmen as from tradesmen; and the nonsense of servants as from servants. Indeed, best beloved Mamma, if we do not learn this little lesson of prudence, it is not Tilford, no, nor Arno’s Vale, nor the Thessalian Tempe, that will make us happy. Our vexations will follow us everywhere with our family, and, if you will allow me once more to quote
Horace, when we mount our neighing steeds, Care will mount too, and cling close behind us. It is a sad thing, but such is the nature of human beings: we cannot have ‘the dear, beyond all words dear objects,’ as you so truly call them, that this roof covers, without having plenty of exercise for the sobriety and steadiness of our souls. Oh, that from this moment you would begin to attempt to cultivate that firmness and equanimity! You would then be everything that my fondest and warmest wishes could desire: you would be Tilford and Tuscany and Tempe all together, and you would carry them ever about in your heart. . . .

“The most extraordinary thing I send is William’s letter. Miss Smith, and all three children attest the fact. He asked Miss Smith to rule him some lines. When he began, she said to him, William, do not go out of the lines, and this was all the instruction he received.

“I think it is a little cruel of Fanny to have written to Charles and Jane, and not a line to her own sister.

“I called at Rowan’s on Monday evening. Not at home. I then passed on to Carlisle’s, and supped by accident on Carshalton fish. Tuesday I supped at Lamb’s, and they are engaged to be here on Sunday evening. G. M. C. dined with us last Sunday. This is all I have to tell you of that sort.

“My foot is nearly well. I could distinguish you in the coach as far as the corner of Chancery Lane. I thought you would have gone over Blackfriars’ Bridge: but, as you went my way, I deter-
mined to leave you, as a last legacy, my figure popping up and down in the act of running.—Ever your friend, brother, husband,

W. Godwin.

“Mrs Fraser called, Tuesday evening, to recommend a housemaid. I have seen and rather like her. I will swear she is sober and good-tempered. She is 21 years of age.”

William Godwin to Mrs Godwin.
June 11, 1806.

“Here is a sheet of paper that says, How do you do Mamma? Bless me! why, you have travelled almost forty miles to-day. Are you not very much fatigued? . . . .

“I am almost angry with Dr Wolcot for engaging me on Thursday, and have more than half a mind to break the engagement. I am afraid, however, that you will say, now, I should like to have this evening to myself with the family at Wimbledon, for, wicked wretch that you are! how often have you complained that my presence spoiled your pleasures. Not all your pleasures. . . . What a heavenly western breeze! It almost tears my paper from me as I write. God send you may have had that, or something as refreshing as that, on your Thursday’s ride!

“Remember how complete a Jesuit H[orne] T[ooke] is. Do not let him worm anything from you, to be employed in assailing your lord and master afterward. . . .

“Adieu. God bless you, as William says.”

The occasion of the letter from Lamb cannot now be discovered, but it is too characteristic of the writer to be omitted. The disposition shown in it, at once so genial and so humble, prevented his little tiffs with Godwin from assuming such serious proportions as did Godwin’s misunderstandings with other friends.

Charles Lamb to William Godwin.

“I repent. Can that God whom thy votaries say that thou hast demolished expect more? I did indite a splenetic letter, but did the black Hypocondria never gripe thy heart, till thou hast taken a friend for an enemy? The foul fiend Flibbertigibbet leads me over four inched bridges, to course my own shadow for a traitor. There are certain positions of the moon, under which I counsel thee not to take anything written from this domicile as serious.

I rank thee with Alves, Latinè, Helvetius, or any of his cursed crew? Thou art my friend, and henceforth my philosopher—thou shalt teach Distinction to the junior branches of my household, and Deception to the greyhaired Janitress at my door.

“What! Are these atonements? Can Arcadias be brought upon knees, creeping and crouching?

“Come, as Macbeth’s drunken porter says, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock—seven times in a day shalt thou batter at my peace, and if I shut aught against thee, save the Temple of Janus, may Briareus, with his hundred hands, in each a brass knocker, lead me such a life.

C. Lamb.”