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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. VI. 1804-1806
William Godwin to Mary Jane Godwin, 8 September 1805

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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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.]