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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. IX. 1812-1819

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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After the subscription which had been made for the payment of his debts, which left him a considerable sum in hand, Godwin’s circumstances were fairly comfortable for some years. They were not indeed wholly so, since having begun business without capital, the heavy payments required by that business at times, which did not always correspond with his receipts, necessitated frequent raising of money on bills, and some consequent anxiety. Yet, on the whole, there was no serious difficulty, and the daily life at Skinner Street was undisturbed. Godwin’s reading became more and more devoted to past literature, the diaries from 1812 onwards make almost exclusive mention of old writers—Shakespeare, Bacon, Montaigne, &c. His mornings were given to study, his afternoons to writing, his evenings to society or the theatre; the old names occur, which have appeared in the Diaries for years—Mackintosh, Basil Montagu, the Lambs, but few new names—in fact old age was creeping on Godwin, though his powers of mind were quite undimmed. Charles Clairmont had found occupation for himself, but still lived mainly with the Godwins; Jane was with the Shelleys abroad, or afterwards at Binfield; Fanny had more and more taken her place as a daughter at home, and, as she wrote to Mrs Shelley, “got on very well with Mamma, whose merits she could see, though she could not really like her.”


Two only, among the domestic letters of these years, possess any interest.

William Godwin to Mrs Godwin.
Skinner St., July 10, 1815.

“——I had a disagreeable dinner yesterday at Alexander’s with a parcel of miserables, who seemed, so far as I could collect, to know nothing of the stranger who sat down with them, and to have no desire to hear anything from him: but I had a very pleasant walk home across the fields, to White’s Conduit House.

“How happy should I be, if I could persuade you to look at human life through different optics! There are persons, perhaps, so constituted that they must see all creation in sables: there is, too, a sort of refinement in regarding all the world with loathing and aversion, in which a sickly temper is too apt to indulge. But, separately from these two causes, almost all the lives of individuals are made up of a dark and a bright side; and yours is not, in itself considered, the worst. We ought all to consider that we have but one life to make the best or the worst of, as imagination shall prompt us. But all prudence and all wisdom bids us make the best of it. You are surrounded with many comforts, you have a boy that you love, you have not the worst of husbands; our principal embarrassments are on the point of being cleared off, and we must then be very unlucky if we are not able to continue to supply our wants . . . .

“. . . . Tell Fanny I am very well, and have found no want as yet of her kind cares. Charles has taken the cook’s account, and performed the offices of an able housekeeper and superintendent.”

The Same to the Same.”
Aug. 3, 1815.

Miss Lamb has just called in to ask me to sup with them on Saturday evening at Mr Alsager’s in the Borough, a clever man, she says, a bachelor, a whist player, and a new acquaintance
of theirs. She says they were within an ace of embarking in the “Friendship” on Saturday last for Southend, agreeably to your invitation. . . . .

“Adieu! Oh, be well, be cheerful! Banish depressing recollections. Look on me and Lovewell, the two great pillars of the establishment in Skinner Street, with approving and hopeful sensations. Take care of fatigue, take care of the cold. Feel some love, some lingering of the heart for the corner house with the Æsop over the door.—Ever, with unalterable affection, yours,

William Godwin.”

It was characteristic of Godwin, and was indeed one of the best parts of his character, that he always considered that principles were to be carried out at any cost. That the Allies were guided by immediate and pressing political needs to do all that in them lay to prevent the possibility of another Buonapartist rule, would have seemed to him no reason at all. To destroy individualism in the name of liberty seems to him the great and inexpiable crime against liberty. Individualism was to be asserted at whatever immediate cost.

In political matters, the only document of interest is the following letter:—

William Godwin to the Editor of —— Paper.
April 18, 1815.

Sir,—I observe in your paper of yesterday a statement that the Allied Sovereigns are to issue from Frankfort a declaration ‘that the people of France are at perfect liberty to judge for themselves, that their territory shall be unviolated, and their public institutions held sacred, and hostilities only to ensue if they shall determine to submit to the authority of one individual.’ (Buonaparte, whom these sovereigns think proper to proscribe.) And this seems to be regarded as a safe and happy expedient, by
which the Allies are to get rid of the odium of interfering in the internal affairs of an independent nation.

“Now, sir, I beg to suggest, through the medium of your paper, that this is a refinement, rendering the interference of foreign powers in the internal affairs of a nation ten thousand times more intolerable and odious than if it were brought forward in any other form. They might issue a declaration in which they should state, beside the hereditary indefeasible right of the family of the Bourbons, that they are the choice of the whole French nation—that they have been expelled by an insignificant faction with arms in their hands, and that the Allies march accordingly to rescue thirty millions of men from an ignominious yoke, and to preserve them from being dragooned by a military despotism into subjection to a tyrant who is detestable in their eyes: and such a declaration, though containing many falsehoods, would be to a certain degree according to rule, and would undoubtedly be infinitely less insulting than the declaration your paragraph announces . . . .

“Why is this man selected as the individual they may not choose? The selection is not made at random: the name is not brought forward because the person is indifferent. He is named because the Allies find the greatest reason to fear that he will be the man of their choice, and that an infinite majority of the French people are eager to adhere to him. Never did a sovereign ascend the throne of any nation under such astonishing instances of general favour, as Buonaparte has just now ascended the throne of France. The Allies therefore say to the French people, Take any course you please, we promise not to interfere: only there is one course upon which your hearts appear to be set, and that we interdict you.

“Is it possible that such a declaration should not render Buonaparte infinitely more dear to the people of France than he ever could be before? Does it not show them their honour as bound up with him, and their independence and character as a nation, as invaded by a pretended attack upon him.

“How will the Allies say that the French shall rid themselves
Buonaparte? His return among them has re-animated them as a nation; they fear no longer those principles of counter-revolution and disturbance of the established system of property which they saw secretly at work among them; they have restored him to the throne on the most auspicious conditions for general benefit; they have obtained for themselves a sovereign whose energy of character is capable of rendering them suspected among foreign powers. But the Allies are regardless of all this. They say, We come to confer on you the blessings of a civil war; form yourselves into knots and cabals, try secretly to gather a strength that shall overcome the power that now reigns over you, and amidst plots and cabals, and conspiracies and treasons, every man arming himself against his neighbour, we will come with our Uhlans and Cossacks and freebooters, and bless you with our presence.”

To return to Godwin’s home-life. After the Shelleys returned from France, bringing Miss Clairmont with them, the latter was after a time received in Skinner Street as an occasional visitor, and in March 1816, the Shelleys being then at Binfield, Godwin paid a visit to Bracknell, and thence walked over to see his daughter. From that time there was fairly frequent intercourse established between himself and Shelley, both by letter and by visits from Shelley when in town.

On April 7, 1816, Godwin started on a tour to Scotland; his business relations with Fairley and Constable had become somewhat complicated, and the hope of making personally some satisfactory arrangement led him to undertake this long journey. The diary will give in his own words a condensed but interesting account of his fellow travellers, associates, and reading during this time.

April 7, Su. Call on Lambert. Mail for York; Adey from Ware.


April 8, M. Breakfast at Huntingdon, smuggling old woman: dine at Newark: tea Doncaster, ex-captain of Militia: sleep, Tavern, York.

“9, Tu. Call on Wolstenholme, Todd and Nicol: walk w. Nicol on the walls (Clifford’s Tower and Jail), Minster and St Mary’s Abbey: Paterson dines. Write to M. J., Fanny, Davison, and Fairley.

“10, W. Dine at Darlington: pass Durham: sleep at Newcastle, intelligent bailiff, pleasing gentleman, Cumberland farmer.

“11, Th. Miss Farkison fr. Mrs Waters: Morpeth: breakfast at Alnwick: dine at Berwick: Pease Bridge: Dunglas: Dunbar: Edinburgh: Fairley sups.

“12, F. Call on Constable; adv. Leslie, Napier, Evanses, Cadel: Castle Hill, Writers’ Library: dinner Mathews, R. Miller, Wrench, Ballantine, Downie, Playfair, Wilson, Buchanan, Thomson, Cadel, and Russell, player.

“13, Sa. Explanation; write to M. J. Shop adv. Forster (clouds), Jeffrey, &c.: walk w. Leslie, Calton Hill and Holyrood House: dinner Matthews, Wrench, Evanses, Leslie, Peter Hill, and G. H. Walker: Buchan’s card.

“14, Su. Write to M. J. Jeffrey and Boswell call: meet Ballantine: Matthews, Wench, Foster, Willison and 2 Cadels dine. Invited by Buchan.

“15, M. Call on Buchan, Fletchers and Murray (w. Fairley), Ferguson, Macdonald, Nairn and Cadel: Holyrood House and Hume w. Mathews: shop, Dalzel, Duncan and Yaniewiczes: dine at Napier’s w. Bruntons, Playfair, Leslie, Pellings.

“16, Tu. Write to M. J. Shop, Morrit, and Boswell: chaise to Kinneal w. Constable and Dr Miller: visit Linlithgow: adv. Miss Cruickshank; sleep.


April 17, W. Ferrier, on Apparitions, pp. 139. Parisina: Knox v. Crosraguel ça la. Sleep.

“18, Th. Return; see Hopetoun House, Roseberry and Barnton Parks: dine at Ballantine’s w. Belcours, Douglases, Leslie, Fraser, and Constable: adv. Ainslie. Deep snow.

“19, F. Write to M. J. Shop, Hepburn and Crawford: call on Raeburn w. R. Miller and Yaniewicz (W. C.): dine at Boswell’s w. Mackenzie and fille, Jeffrey, Brewster, Coventry, L. and C.: invite Cranston.

“20, Sa. Breakfast at Murray’s w. Dewar, Ritchie, Fairley, &c., sit: Heriot’s Hospital: dine at Fletcher’s w. Brown, Craigs, Mr Miller, Miss Miller, and Miss Wilks.

“21, Su. Call on Jeffrey: Playfair calls n. Nicholsons and Jas. Ballantine’s w. Ballantine: Hugh Murray, Jamieson, Willison, and G. H. Walker dine.

“22, M. Breakfast at Ainslie’s w. Dr Ainslie and wife, Mr and Mrs Gray, Clarinda, Constable, &c.: meet Mrs Fletcher: call on Playfair and Dewar: sit: Yaniewiczes, Duncans, Ainslies and Leslie dine.

“23, Tu. Dine at Hepburn’s, Barfoot, w. Macallum, Walker, Hope, Inglis and family: sleep at Oman’s.

“24. W. Breakfast, Yaniewicz’s: shop, Dr Jamieson: Advocates’ Library: meet W. Erskine and R. Miller: call with Mrs Y. on Sir W. D. Gray, Campbell, Dewar, Ritchie, Fairley, &c., dine: Theatre w. Y’s, Duncan, Gordon, &c., sup: sleep at Oman’s, call on Gregoryn.

“25. Th. Breakfast at Brodies, w. Moore and Hepburn: call on Forster: meet Fleming: chaise w. Constable and Ballantine: dine at Abbotsford: sleep.

“26. F. Constable and Ballantine depart: Melrose w. Scott; adv. Buchann. Chas. Erskine and wife dine: take coach at Selkirk.


April 27. Sa. Breakfast at Carlisle: coach to Penrith: chaise along Ulswater: dine at Wordsworth’s: call w. him on Jackson; adv. Wakefield: circuit of Grasmere: Derwent Coleridge dines: write to M. J. and Thos. Moore.

“28. Su. Derwent dines: horse to Kendal: sleep.

“29. M. Coach: breakfast at Lancaster: dine at Preston with Dilworth and Latham: sleep at Manchester.

“30. Tu. Call on Reddish, Dean and Jackson; adv. Kershaw: chaise w. Jackson and Kershaw: dine at Walker’s, Longford, w. do., Mrs Walker, Charles and 2 sisters.

May 1. W. Call on Jackson and Dean, and (w. Kershaw) at Church, College and Hawkes. Coach evening; Stockport, Macclesfield; tea at Leek: sleep at Ashbourne.

“2. Th. Call on Mooren. seek Boothby. Coach: dine at Derby: sleep at Leicester. Write to M. J. grocer from Perth, settled in Leicestershire. Coburg Marriage.

“3. F. Coach: dine at Woburn, w. squirrel-hunt: sleep in Skinner St. H. Robinson calls.”

The following extracts from letters refer to the same tour, though they are unfortunately in scarcely greater detail than the Diary:—

William Godwin to Mrs Godwin.
Edinburgh, April 12, 1816.

. . .” I write these lines on Mr Constable’s own desk. I did not meet with him till twelve at noon, and it is now half after one. He insists on my making his house at Craigleith my home, and we are going there to-day; to dine with Mr Matthews, the player, and a small party. Not a word with him of business yet. A prologue of unbounded good humour will, I hope, happily intro-
duce the five-act play of the Man of Business. . . . If he will help me to meet my bills, I shall stay the longer: if he is not kind, I shall set on my return in two or three days.”

The Same to the Same.
April 13, 1816.

. . . “I have had an explanation with Constable this morning, in our walk from Craigleith to town. All is well. All will be done. I must be content with bills, however, and with such as I can get. But this is better than nothing. . . . Do tell me what is going on about Shelley? Has Hume been to David? Must I hasten back immediately, to prevent that affair from going wrong?”

The Same to the Same.
Craigleith, April 14, 1816.

. . . “I am glad now, as things have turned out, that you did not send me £10. I knew you could only do it by having recourse to Lamb. But if I had failed in my main negociation I should probably have left Edinburgh this very day, the moment I received your dispatch, at farthest.

“My reception at Edinburgh has been, as I knew it would be, kind and flattering in the extreme. I have already been introduced to one-half of the literati of their city. Yesterday I was introduced to Jeffrey, the formidable editor and proprietor of the Edinburgh Review. I am going on Tuesday with Constable, to spend two days with Dugald Stewart, the crack metaphysician of Great Britain, nine miles from this town. To-day I received an invitation to dine with the Earl of Buchan, the elder brother to Lord Erskine, which Constable made me refuse, because he, who was also invited, could not go with me. I did not like to refuse, and I do not like the persons who are to dine here to-day, but what could I do? I could not disoblige Constable. He therefore made me write that, next Sunday were equally convenient, I would stay one day longer in Edinburgh than I had proposed, to have the honour of dining with his lordship. . . . Under the circumstances, I cannot well disap-
point all the good people that have a desire to see the monster. And I firmly believe the connection will do me a world of good.” . . .

The Same to the Same.
“Edinburgh, April 19, 1816.

. . . “I think I told you in my last, that I was going on Tuesday to pay a visit of twice twenty-four hours to the celebrated Dugald Stewart. My reception was truly kind and unaffected. He lives in a palace, formerly inhabited by the Dukes of Hamilton, of which he occupies not more than a third part, the rest of the house being left to fall into ruin, a fit scene for the imagination of Mrs Radclyffe to people with wonders. It stands on the banks of the Frith of Forth, and opposite, on the other side of the water, is a vast ridge of mountains with their tops covered with snow. On our road we visited the ruins of Linlithgow, one of the most splendid of the habitations of the ancient kings of Scotland, in which Mary Queen of Scots was born.” . . .

The Same to the Same.
Abbotsford, April 26, 1816.

. . .” The place from which I now date is the residence of the author of ‘The Lady of the Lake,’ etc. Constable and another friend brought me hither yesterday. We arrived to a six o’clock dinner, and all slept here. In the morning, Constable and his friend set off on their return for Edinburgh, and Mr Scott and myself for the ruins of Melrose Abbey, which makes so distinguished a figure in the Lay of the Last Minstrel, and from which we are this moment returned. After dinner I shall proceed to Selkirk, and in the evening take the mail for Carlisle.”

The Same to the Same.
Manchester, April 30, 1816.

“I received your letter, directed to me at Rydal Mount, the moment I was going to set off for Kendal. . . . I am all on fire
to resume my
novel. Would you have the indulgence for me to have the first volume of ‘Guy Mannering’ in the house against my return, to serve me, if God so pleases, in the nature of a muse.

“I stopped at Manchester Monday night at the joint request of Constable and Mr George Walker, a barrister whom I met at his house, to visit Thomas Walker, the father of George, a famous republican of the times of Gerrald, whom I had encountered two or three times at the house of Horne Tooke about twenty years ago. This venerable old gentleman lives at Longford, four miles from Manchester, and I spent a delightful day with him. His wife is not less intelligent, and was not a less ardent patriot than himself. He was, at the time I refer to, I believe, the first manufacturer in Manchester, but was ruined in his business by the party spirit of the period; and Felix Vaughan, a relation I think of Horne Tooke, bequeathed him a property, which has improved since so as to render him in his latter days an independent country gentleman.”

Having arranged his business satisfactorily, and seeing his way to meet some outstanding business debts, Godwin returned to London in the enjoyment of comparative ease. He found his old friend, who had so patiently and so often aided his labours, in difficulties, from which his extreme frugality had for many years preserved him. Godwin returned the kindness which Marshal had done him in his embarrassments, and drew up an appeal to friends for aid. Kindness of heart, egotism, and a half communistic belief that the rich are bound to support literary paupers, are strongly displayed in a letter to Josiah Wedgwood, which is copied in Marshal’s own hand. It is impossible not to feel glad, to know that a man so worthy and so loveable, was placed beyond the reach of want, in spite of a strong opinion that whether in Godwin’s case or Marshal’s the kind of appeal thus made is one which cannot be too much
discouraged or too severely criticised. Distress is of course always pitiable, nor will there ever come a time when the rich may not find room for the exercise of charity, and the poor be thankful to receive; but, save in the rarest instances, it is well that the feeling of shame in receiving should not be absent. The literary man who has failed in literature is no more entitled to demand help from his neighbours than the grocer who has failed to sell his figs; the cases are in fact the same.

William Godwin to Josiah Wedgwood (Copy in Marshal’s own hand)

“The person whose interests are at this moment the subject of my thoughts is a person nearly of the same age as myself, whom I first became acquainted with when I was seventeen, and whom from that time I have never lost sight of. His career in the world has been similar to my own, except that he wanted that originality of talent that the world has been good-natured enough to impute to me. In my own outset in literature I was engaged with the booksellers in obscure labours, reviews, compilations, translations, etc., and during that time this gentleman was for several years my coadjutor. Afterwards, when I engaged in writings of a superior cast, he set up for himself; and now for twenty-five years he has subsisted respectably by the compilation of indexes, the correction of English in works written by foreigners in our language, translations, and the superintendence of works in their passage through the press; and in these useful labours he has been at all times indefatigable. But . . . owing to various circumstances, he finds himself for the first time oppressed with debts which he is unable to discharge. . . .

“I have yet, however, but mentioned half the claims I conceive him to have upon the kindness of others. Mr Marshal (that is his name) has spent the greater part of his life in the disinterested service of others. By his indefatigable exertions, principally in going from friend to friend, and from house to house, £1000
were collected a few years ago for the widow and six young children of
Mr Holcroft, who by his death were left pennyless in the world; and I could fill a sheet of paper with the bare list of his kindnesses of a similar nature. It is therefore particularly painful to me to think that he who has in a multitude of instances been the means of relief to others should be without relief himself. What I am anxious to do is to raise for him £200 or £300, by a proper application of which he might be set free from the world.”

Through the summer of 1816 the Diary is thickly strewn with the entries of deaths. Mrs Jordan, the Bishop of Llandaff, who had been Godwin’s earliest literary patron, and Sheridan died within the same fortnight, June-July, the last especially being a loss which was sensibly felt by one who had ever admired his political career. Day after day which succeeded the funeral saw Godwin standing by Sheridan’s grave; the poetry in the man’s nature, which refused to exhibit itself in his tragedies, was wont to exhibit itself unconsciously in these pilgrimages to what became to him sacred shrines, and a walk to a dead man’s grave was the kind of hero worship which was with him a favourite form of devotion.

But a domestic sorrow which was to touch him far more nearly came with the autumn days. Fanny Godwin, as she was always called, the daughter of Gilbert and Mary Wollstonecraft, is, after her mother, the most attractive character with whom we meet in the whole enormous mass of Godwin’s MSS. Little mention is made of Mary Shelley, she was but a child when she left her father’s roof, and her maturer nature expanded under Shelley’s influence—not Godwin’s. But Fanny, in 1816 aged 22, was a young woman of marked individuality, and most lovable nature. She was
full of what was termed in the language of that day “sensibility,” a word which has fallen out of use, and for which there is no precise equivalent. Well educated, sprightly, clever, a good letter-writer, and an excellent domestic manager, she had become not only a dear child, but a favourite companion to Godwin, was useful to, and not unkindly treated by
Mrs Godwin. She saw the better side of all who surrounded her, and in writing to Mary Shelley made excuses for all the little jarrings of the household at home, and for Mrs Godwin’s tempers. The difficulties of business were confided first to her, and her ready sympathy stood in the place of more active help, which then she could not give. Altogether a bright, attractive girl. Had she been at home when Shelley’s attachment to Mary began, it is possible that her strong common sense might have prevented the elopement which took place, though we cannot pretend to regret that two such natures as the Shelley’s should each have found their complement in the other. Yet, however this may be, there can be no doubt that had Fanny Godwin instead of Jane Clairmont been the guest of the Shelleys, a far more wholesome, a far less disastrous influence would have been brought to bear upon their lives.

Yet there was a reverse to this picture. The extreme depression to which her mother had been subject, and which marked other members of the Wollstonecraft family, seized hold of Fanny Godwin also from time to time; the outward circumstances of her life cannot be called happy, and though she put the best face on them to others, she was, to herself, often disposed to dwell on them and intensify them in a way which may fairly be called morbid. She made at times a luxury of her sorrows.


In September 1816 Mrs Bishop and Everina Wollstonecraft were in London, and saw a good deal of Godwin and his family. They left London on September 24th, and it was arranged that Fanny should follow her aunts early in October, and spend some time with the relatives of whom she had seen so little. It is not quite clear where she was to join her aunts, who had been long in Ireland, but, as far as can be gathered from the slight indications in the Diaries and letters, it would seem that the sisters had gone into South Wales, where some of the family still resided, that Fanny was to join them there, and cross with them to Ireland from Bristol or Haverfordwest.

Before leaving London she wrote a cheerful letter to Mary Shelley, then at Bath, and on the 7th of October she started to join her aunts. But she never reached them. On her arrival at Bristol, she wrote, what Mrs Shelley calls in her Diary, “a very alarming letter,” and Shelley started at once for Bristol. He returned that night, hoping that these fears were vain, as Fanny had pursued her journey. At Swansea she put an end to herself, without having written any further letter either to Godwin, her sister, or her aunts, who were expecting her arrival, except a few lines without address.

The Cambrian newspaper for Saturday, Oct. 12, 1812, has an account of the tragedy:—

From the “Cambrian.”
Swansea, Sat. Oct. 12, 1816.

“A melancholy discovery was made in Swansea yesterday. A most respectable looking female arrived at the Mackworth Arms Inn on Wednesday night by the Cambrian Coach from Bristol; she took tea and retired to rest, telling the chambermaid she was exceedingly fatigued, and would take care of the candle herself. Much agitation was created in the house by her non-appearance yesterday morning, and in forcing her chamber door, she was found a corpse, with the remains of a bottle of laudanum on the table, and a note, of which the following is a copy:—

“‘I have long determined that the best thing I could do was to put an end to the existence of a being whose birth was unfortunate, and whose life has only been a series of pain to those persons who have hurt their health in endeavouring to promote her welfare. Perhaps to hear of my death will give you pain, but you will soon have the blessing of forgetting that such a creature ever existed as * * *’

“The name appears to have been torn off and burnt, but her stockings are marked with the letter ‘G.,’ and on her stays the letters ‘M. W.’ are visible. She was dressed in a blue-striped skirt with a white body, and a brown pelisse, with a fur trimming of a lighter colour, lined with white silk, and a hat of the same. She had a small French gold watch, and appears about 23 years of age, with long brown hair, dark complexion, and had a reticule containing a red silk pocket handkerchief, a brown berry necklace, and a small leather clasped purse, containing a 3s. and 5s. 6d: piece. She told a fellow-passenger that she came to Bath by the mail from London on Tuesday morning, from whence she proceeded to Bristol, and from thence to Swansea by the Cambrian coach, intending to go to Ireland. We hope the description we have given of this unhappy catastrophe, will lead to the discovery of the wretched object, who has thus prematurely closed her existence.”

From the “Cambrian” of Saturday, October 19th, 1816.

“On Friday last an inquest was held on the body of the young lady, the melancholy termination of whose existence we mentioned last week, verdict—found dead.”

Here is the account, if such it may be called, in Mrs Shelley’s Diary:—


“[Bath] Thursday, 8th October, 1815. Letter from Fanny. . . . . .

“Wednesday 9th. . . . . In the evening a very alarming letter comes from Fanny. Shelley goes immediately to Bristol. We sit up for him until two in the morning when he returns, but brings no particular news.

“[Written later, and in different ink,] Fanny died this night.

“Thursday 10th. Shelley goes again to Bristol, and obtains more certain trace. Work and read. He returns at 11 o’clock.

“Friday 11th. He sets off to Swansea. Work and read.

“Saturday 12th. He returns with the worst account; a miserable day. Two letters from papa. Buy mourning, and work in the evening.”

Godwin’s record is still more brief. On the 9th, below the account of the reading and visits of the day, is the one word “Swansea,” and next day, no doubt in consequence of a similar letter from Bristol to that received by Mrs Shelley, he started by the Bristol coach. From Bristol he went back to Bath, finding that all was over, and that Shelley had gone to Swansea, and the next day he returned to London. For some unexplained reason he did not visit his daughter at Bath. He wrote to Shelley at Swansea, and to Jane Clairmont, who was with his daughter in her lodgings, not a quarter of a mile from the York House Hotel, where he slept.

There is nothing whatever in the Godwin or Shelley papers which throws even the smallest ray of light on Fanny’s death, and conjecture is idle, even if inevitable. There is no trace of disappointed love, no sign of any exceeding weariness of life, except in moments of occasional despondency, which were constitutional. It may be that alone, and possibly, with the full particulars of her own birth, and her mother’s story, but lately known to her through her recent intercourse with her aunts, the morbid
feelings to which she was occasionally subject gained the mastery over her reason, usually so sound, and led her to seek a lasting rest.

The theory, which owes its origin to Miss Clairmont, that Fanny was in love with Shelley, and that his flight with her sister prompted self-destruction, is one above all others absolutely groundless. To Shelley, as to Mary, she was an attached sister; she was never in love with him, either before or after her sister’s flight.

One month after this occurrence to the very day, another suicide, for which unhappily it is all too easy to account, finds entry in Godwin’s Diary. On Saturday, Nov. 9th, Harriet Shelley drowned herself in the Serpentine. The body was not found till Dec. 10th, and on the 16th Godwin received a letter on the subject from Shelley. It is not the object or the duty of this work to discuss the relations between Shelley and poor Harriet, and so much as is necessary has been already said, but it is impossible to pass over this tragical event without one remark. Whatever view may be taken of the breach between husband and wife, it is absolutely certain that Harriet’s suicide was not directly caused by her husband’s treatment. However his desertion of her contributed or did not contribute to the life she afterwards led, the immediate cause of her death was that her father’s door was shut against her, though he had at first sheltered her and her children. This was done by order of her sister, who would not allow Harriet access to the bed-side of her dying father.

A frequent correspondence followed between Godwin and Shelley, and on December 24th the former wrote a letter to his daughter, the first which had passed between them
since she left her home. She is carefully described in the diary as
M. W. G. Shelley’s second marriage took place on Monday, December 30; the entries relating to it in Godwin’s diary are extremely curious, as though intended to mislead any one who might, without sufficient information, glance at his book. It is probable that the diary in use during the year always lay on his desk, obvious to prying eyes, while those not in use were locked away. However this may be, the entries are as follows:—

Decr. 29, Su. Mandeville ça la. P. B. S. and M. W. G. dine and sup.

“30, M. Write to Hume. Call on Mildred w. P. B. S., M. W. G., and M. J.; they dine and sup; tea Constable’s w. Wells, Wallace, Patrick, and Miss C.
See No. XVIII. infra pag ult.

“31, Tu. They breakfast, dine, and sup. Holinshead, Ric. iii.”

On turning to the last page of Diary, vol. xviii., the last but one used, and containing entries of two years before the present date, the words “Call on Mildred” are explained. On the blank page at the end of that volume is written:—

Percy Bysshe Shelley married to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin at St Mildred’s Church, Bread Street, Dec. 30, 1816.
“Haydon, Curate.
“Spire, Clerk.
“Present—William Godwin.
Mary Jane Godwin.”

The record of this event may fittingly close with an extremely characteristic letter to Hull Godwin, written early in the following year. If there be no suppressio veri beyond what may be considered justified by the occasion, there is at any rate a needless suggestio falsi.

William Godwin to Hull Godwin.
Skinner St., Feb. 21, 1817.

Dear Brother,—I have not written to you for a great while, but now I have a piece of news to tell you that will give you pleasure, I will not refuse myself the satisfaction of being the vehicle of that pleasure.

“I do not know whether you recollect the miscellaneous way in which my family is composed, but at least you perhaps remember that I have but two children of my own: a daughter by my late wife and a son by my present. Were it not that you have a family of your own, and can see by them how little shrubs grow up into tall trees, you would hardly imagine that my boy, born the other day, is now fourteen, and that my daughter is between nineteen and twenty. The piece of news I have to tell, however, is that I went to church with this tall girl some little time ago to be married. Her husband is the eldest son of Sir Timothy Shelley, of Field Place, in the county of Sussex, Baronet. So that, according to the vulgar ideas of the world, she is well married, and I have great hopes the young man will make her a good husband. You will wonder, I daresay, how a girl without a penny of fortune should meet with so good a match. But such are the ups and downs of this world. For my part I care but little, comparatively, about wealth, so that it should be her destiny in life to be respectable, virtuous, and contented.

“It will always give me the greatest pleasure to hear how you and your family are going on. We have been in the habit of sending you little presents of books, but Mrs Godwin says that she feels a little puzzled on the subject, and doubtful, now that your children are grown up, whether books are acceptable. We will therefore endeavour to think of something else. I have to thank you this Christmas for a ham and a turkey, which, exclusive of their intrinsic value, gave me much satisfaction as marks of your remembrance.—Very affectionately yours,

William Godwin.”

The intercourse now resumed between the father and daughter was again cordial and constant. Godwin frequently visited the Shelleys at Marlow, and the diary for 1817 records excursions by water with Peacock and his son-in-law to row the boat, Mrs Godwin, Mrs Shelley, and Jane as the other sitters. They went to Medmenham and Hurley, when the talk was “of novels and perfectibility.” There were other days when Godwin and his daughter drove in a gig, and Peacock and Shelley walked to meet them at a given point, Bisham or Hampden, in the bright October weather, the last autumn of Shelley’s stay in England.

In March 1818 the Shelleys went to Italy. The immediate cause of the journey was a demand from Byron, then at Venice, for Allegra, his natural daughter, who had been under Mrs Shelley’s care from the time of her birth—about a year and a quarter before. Though Mrs Shelley had given the child all a mother’s care, and had accepted the charge ungrudgingly, there was every reason that Byron should have the superintendence of Allegra’s education, and that she should be removed from her mother’s influence, less likely now to reach her under Byron’s roof than anywhere else. But there was so much reason to fear that Byron might change his mind, that when once the summons came, scarcely a moment was lost in preparing to carry it out; and the Shelleys, with Miss Clairmont, took the child as far as Milan or Leghorn, whence it was sent to Byron at Venice, with its nurse.

Moore’s note in Byron’s life is as follows:—“This little child had been sent to him by its mother about four or five months before, under the care of a Swiss nurse, a young girl not above nineteen or twenty years of age, and in every respect unfit to have the charge of such an infant, without the superintendence of some more experienced person.”
This is not quite correct.
Byron had himself sent for the child, and the nurse had never been intended by Mrs Shelley to do more without superintendence than to take the child the short journey in Italy to her father’s home. Lord Byron, no doubt, found himself somewhat embarrassed by the difficulties of his charge, and the child was unintentionally neglected. But no blame whatever attached to Mrs Shelley for the selection of the nurse, and she felt as strongly as Byron, that Allegra’s mother was the worst person possible to train the child.

Godwin kept up a constant correspondence with the Shelley’s, but the letters which passed are in great measure lost, and those that remain belong rather to a complete life of Shelley, which yet has to be written.

After the troubles of the past year or two, Godwin began a late summer of literary activity. His novel Mandeville was written in 1817, and the important Essay in answer to Malthus in 1818. In these years also were written many detached Essays, some of which were published in his lifetime under the title “Thoughts on Man,” and others have been only recently collected and edited, when their value has become rather antiquarian than literary. Old friends, too, from whom he had kept somewhat aloof, were resought; Basil Montagu, Mrs Inchbald, and other names unseen for some years, appear again in the Diaries; the routine of work and reading was resumed for each day, and society and the theatre again occupied many evenings. There was little pecuniary pressure, life on the whole was easy, and domestic troubles few. Mrs Godwin was able to visit some friends in France, with whom she had been intimate before her marriage, and a few extracts from her husband’s letters furnish some particulars of the family.

William Godwin to Mrs Godwin. [Paris.]
Skinner Street, May 14, 1817.

. . . “I did not intend to write till in answer to your first letter from France. But, now that it is so long in coming, I begin to fear that if I wait for that no letter will reach you during your stay at Paris. I have, however, little to communicate: everything thus far goes with a tolerable degree of tranquillity. On Friday, the day after you left me, I wrote to Shelley, and introduced in my letter the story I had learned from Hill at the Exhibition the Monday before, which had so much disturbed me. I wrote on Friday, because to a Friday’s letter I could have no answer till Monday, and therefore I calculated on two days’ repose. But my calculation was a bad one. I knew that Shelley’s temper was occasionally fiery, resentful, and indignant, and I passed this interval in no very enviable state. I thought perhaps I might have tried his temper too far. By the post-time on Monday my nerves were in a degree of flutter that I have very seldom experienced. But the letter came, and there was no harm: it was good-humoured. As to Hill’s story (I took care not to name my authority), he only said in a vague way that it was ‘much exaggerated, and that for the present explanation was superfluous.’”

The Same to the Same.
May 22, 1817.

. . . “Your silence of ten days (ten days it was to me) after you quitted the Terra Firma of England, filled me with a thousand anxieties. I thought you were drowned:
‘Though not a blast from Œol’s cave had strayed:
The air was calm, and on the level brine
Sleek Panope, with all her sisters, played.’
I did not know even the name of the vessel that had conveyed you, nor scarcely how to enquire about it. Then I imagined that you had left me with the intention that I should see and hear from you no more. You cannot conceive, therefore, how pleasantly your letters came on Saturday last to dispel all these surmises. . . .


“I have hardly any news. While you wander from province to province, and every day see wonders that you never saw before, we barely vegetate. . . . This tremendous fit of wet weather totally deprives me of my understanding. It feels as if it turned all my brain into a soft pulp, where no conceptions would stay, and all the traces ran into each other.”

The Same to the Same.
June 2, 1817.

. . .” And so I am now to suppose that, at the receipt of this, you are actually at St Etienne. And how, poor creature! have you borne the fatigue of so many wearisome leagues? To you the immense journey from Paris to the department de la Loire must be like the circumnavigation of the globe. But I hope that some of the good family of the Grand Magasin des Armes met you at least at Lyons. And now you are seated in the midst of them, and are happy, endeavouring to compare present things with the recollection of twenty-five years past. Does not all this make you utterly forget the fusty old fellow in Skinner Street, in his black morning coat, shivering over the half-extinguished embers of a June fire. How can he stand the comparison with the beautiful Sophia, the all-amiable Charlotte, and the animated Perico? . . .

Mary has just been spending a few days here: Shelley brought her up, and left her with us. On Friday last (the day before she returned to Marlow) we went together to Lamb’s in the evening, and had the pleasure to find Miss Lamb, who had returned home the Saturday before.

“You will, I believe, be pleased to hear that Jane is taking to new habits: she wears stays, and dresses herself every day becomingly and with care: this at the entreaty of Shelley and Mary.”

The Same to the Same.
June 17, 1817.

. . . ” This is a very busy week in our town. The trials of Watson senior, Thistlewood, &c., began June 9. After a sitting of seven complete days, Watson was acquitted at half after six yester-
day evening. To-morrow, Wednesday, a grand ceremony is to take place at the opening of the Waterloo Bridge. The
Prince Regent is to be there in state: and the Duke of Wellington, together with the charger he rode in the battle, is come over from Paris, on purpose to do honour to the solemnity. On Thursday, Talma and Mademoiselle George are to make their first appearance at the Opera House, in an appropriate exhibition of select scenes from the French drama.”

The Same to the Same.
Skinner Street, July 9, 1817.

“——You arrived at St. Etienne on the 11th of June, and on the 3rd inst., only three weeks after, according to your last letter, you have the resolution to leave it, and they allow you to depart. I cannot but feel some compunction from the fear that by abridging, you have poisoned all the pleasure you went so far to seek.

“Then, what a contrast will your sober and sombre home afford! No adulation, no worship, no multitudes waiting on your steps! I can send out no procession on horse and foot to meet you at Streatham and Croydon. It is all prose here: life stripped of its romance, its fringe and its gilding, and not unmixed with sad realities. Examine yourself, how far you shall be able to bear it

William, I think, is decidedly improved. Mr Burney writes this concerning him, ‘My pupil left me in good looks, and with an excellent character. I am not, I believe, extremely prone to bestowing praise, and shall therefore deserve to be believed when I assure you, with real pleasure, that I think your boy very essentially improved. This amendment you cannot, I think, but see yourself, and you will, I know, on such a point not be very unwilling to trust my judgment.’”

The Same to the Same.
July 16, 1817.

“And so this letter will actually find you on English ground! . . . . News when we meet. We are all well. William has been uncommonly well. Two or three times we have been threatened with a storm since you left us, but all is tranquil now.

“I forgot to tell you in my last that Mr and Miss Lamb set out for Brighton on the 26th ult., to pass a month of holiday-making. Mrs Morgan went in their company

“Come, then, my love! We are trying to get everything ready, so that your nice eye may find nothing to be offended with. This week was our wash. Esther is all on the qui vive, saying, What will my mistress expect me to have done? The cook preserves her composure, and thinks it would be unbecoming her station to betray the symptoms of a perturbed mind.”

The following letter to Jeffrey is in answer to one which, as it appears, was written on Oct. 15th in reference to Mandeville, then just completed. Godwin’s letter is not to be found, but its contents are plain from the answer to it. A more excellent editorial letter was seldom written, and if reprinted, with the necessary alterations, it might serve as a useful circular, to be used by modern editors in answer to similar applications.

Francis Jeffrey to William Godwin.
Edinburgh, Oct. 30, 1817.

My Dear Sir,—It is impossible that I can be offended with the frankness of a man of honour, or insensible to the natural anxieties of an author. At present, however, I can only say that I am every way disposed to oblige or to serve you, but that I have a duty to discharge from which I am sure you have no disposition to divert me. I know nothing whatever of any arrangement for
committing your work, which I am very impatient to see, either into the hands of
Mr Hazlitt or of Sir James Mackintosh; and as it is generally my office to offer or propose these tasks to my several contributors, I rather imagine it will be left for me to undertake the determination in this case also. Now, before deciding such a matter, I really must first see the book myself. I really do not quite agree with you in the opinions you seem to hold as to the critical qualifications of the two gentlemen you have alluded to. If the one is somewhat too cautious and discursive, and afraid of offending, the other is far too rash and exaggerated, and too exclusively studious of effect to be a safe, exemplary reviewer. Will you permit me to add that if there be any particular intimacy between Mr. Hazlitt and you, or if you have communicated together on the project of his being your reviewer, I must certainly consider that as a serious objection to his being intrusted with the task. I have no doubt of his fairness and impartiality, so far as intention is concerned, but he seems to be a person whose judgment is somewhat at the mercy of partialities and prejudices—and, besides, the thing is of ill example, and affects the purity of our tribunal. Nothing of the kind has ever been done before among us to my knowledge, and I cannot give my consent to it now. I think it extremely probable that the thing will end by my taking you into my own hands, but I cannot now pledge myself to anything, and am not sure that I ought to encourage any further communication on the subject. On a little reflection, I am persuaded you will be satisfied of the propriety of all I have now said.—I am, &c.,

F. Jeffrey.

“I have burned your letter, and shall not speak of it to anybody.”

Hannah Godwin died on Dec. 27th, 1817, and her death and funeral are duly recorded in the Diary, as are from time to time visits from, and the deaths of, members of his family. But except the interchange of kindly intercourse occasionally, intimacy of thought and feeling had long
ceased between
Godwin and his family. Save perhaps in early youth, there can be no cordial pleasure in family gatherings, when the relatives live in different intellectual worlds, and Godwin’s sympathies were at all times called out rather by community of mind than community of blood. Consanguinity is a fetish, to which even those whose faith in it is on the wane, find it difficult to pay only the legitimate respect.

A few letters to Mrs Godwin for 1818 may carry on the family history, and, though the events are few, they show Godwin in his lighter and pleasanter moods. Comparative freedom from care had softened Mrs Godwin’s temper, and the absence of her step-children and her own contributed to the same result. Charles Clairmont had found his way to Vienna, where he was engaged as tutor to the Imperial Princes, married a German lady, and made his home permanently on the continent. His sister, when not with the Shelleys, occasionally lived with him, and also became at one time governess in the family of Lady Mountcashel, who had, by a second marriage, become Mrs Mason, and was resident in Italy.

William Godwin to Mrs Godwin. [Southend.]
Skinner St., Sep. 10, 1818.

“Of all the cursed inventions that the devil has entailed upon mankind, since the establishment of posts by Cyrus, King of Persia, it has ever been my opinion that the sending of letters by a private hand is the worst. I am now arrived at the middle of the fourth day, since I have known nothing of your feelings, or even if you exist. It appears that on Sunday morning last you were alive, and able to hold a pen; but whether you lived to eat your duck I am still ignorant. I cannot come to you, for Mrs Lacey may have cried out, and you may have run away, at least six hours before my arrival.


Kenny seems to be entirely off from the idea of coming to Southend, so I shall not come with him, according to my project. In fact he is such a shilly-shally know-me-nothing fellow, that he was never worth your thought.

“They dined with me yesterday, and brought Tom with them, whom I have always taken notice of, and I like; the nurse and baby also. William Curran called in about half-an-hour before dinner, and I served him up to table. Mrs Giles provided so economically that by twelve at night there was not a morsel left; in other respects we did very well. The Lambs came in the evening, and I am sorry to say he went away high drunk.

“I cannot conceive for what reason, except to increase my perplexities, you have kept back the newspapers. The post would bring them, ten every day if you chose it, for nothing. Coleridge says that in his part of the country the poor people were very desirous to hear from their kindred at a distance, and could not afford the postage. They were therefore in the habit of going to the post office and saying, Is there a letter for me? which, when they looked at the direction of, they laid down again and went away, satisfied from having seen the handwriting of their relatives, of their locality at least, and that they lived. The Morning Chronicle would have served if you chose it, for that sort of economical daily communication between us, when you were indisposed to anything else. But you are indeed a niggard.

“I have kept this open to the latest hour of the post on Thursday. Still no intelligence. Seas roll to part us. Alps arise to intercept our intelligence, and all that is left me is to hope that we shall meet ‘in another, a better world.’

“Ever affectionately yours,

William Godwin.”
The Same to the Same.
Sep. 18, 1818.

“On Thursday last I had a visit from Mr R—— of Barbadoes, who drank three glasses of wine, and I began to be afraid would want thirteen more. He is a sort of greasy, dingy, short and thick player-looking man. He enquired about the three
pounds we have been overpaid, in rather an equivocal way; but I have seen no more of him. He says
Mrs Fenwick is very well, and that Eliza was expected to lie down in two days after he sailed. He has taken up his abode for the present at Thomas Fenwick’s.”

The Same to the Same.
Sep. 21, 1818.

“I have not had a line from William since my letter of remonstrance. I certainly cannot feel towards him exactly as I could wish to feel towards a son, till he puts an end to this gloomy silence and expresses some sentiments on the subject. . . .

“I went to Drury Lane Theatre on Tuesday last, and to my mortification found my name blotted out of the ‘Book of Life.’ I wrote, however, a letter of remonstrance, and on Friday received an answer of restoration from the constituted authorities. I am afraid I shall always be a little chagrined when, anywhere or for any purpose, I am put on the superannuated list.

“We had a very fine day yesterday, save and except two very short showers. Two days ago I put away my nankeens, as I thought, for the season; but the soft and genial air of yesterday brought them out again. . . . Would it not be worth while, in the way of commercial speculation, to bring a Southend fowl or two with you when you return?

“Most affectionately yours,

W. Godwin.

“I miss my pocket comb! likewise two stomacher pins, stuck in a play-bill. If the comb is at Southend, that must be owing to the notable contrivance of Mrs Susan.”

The Same to the Same.
Skinner St., Sep. 26, 1818.

“I tremble for your journey home. The mornings here are the loveliest possible; but before four o’clock the day is overcast, and the evening brings with it torrents of rain. Twice I have purposed
to go out at nine o’clock to a new farce, in which
Liston is the principal figure, and twice I have suffered disappointment from this cause. If you come by the packet you will in all probability be driven below, and how you will be able to bear that, if there are many passengers, I cannot guess. For God’s sake, cheer your heart with some of Mrs Snow’s excellent boiled beef. . . .

“I am getting a little intimate with Tom Holcroft, and I like him. I have lent him the first volume of ‘Plutarch’s Lives,’ at his own choice; for, poor fellow, he is sadly at a loss for useful occupation. He says he wishes Mrs Godwin were come home. . . .

“Most affectionately yours,

William Godwin.

“The wood frame which supported two of the three arches of Southwark Bridge has been removed, and you cannot imagine how light and enchanting it looks.”

The remaining letter for the year, which seems worth preservation, relates to William Godwin, junior. The father’s matured and completed estimate of his son will appear in a later year; but though here the trouble that William had given at home is not unnaturally concealed, the close analysis of character, which was always a favourite pursuit of Godwin, is not abandoned, even when his interests and feelings might alike incline him to be less minute.

William Godwin to ——
Nov. 21, 1818.

“The application I desired to make to you related to my only son, who is now sixteen years of age. He does not feel a vocation to literature as a profession, and I am glad of it; for though I do not think so ill of the literary character as Mr D’Israeli would persuade his readers to think, yet I know that it is a very arduous, and a very precarious destination. I propose therefore to place him in commerce. Till his character became decided in this respect, I kept him at Dr Burney’s school at Greenwich, which I need
not tell you has a high reputation for classical learning. A year ago I removed him to Mr Jay’s commercial establishment at Bedford. He has therefore had nearly every advantage of education. His proficiency in the Latin, Greek, and French languages is considerable. He has been initiated in algebra, geometry, chemistry, etc. He has begun Spanish. My own opinion of his intellectual abilities is, that he is not an original thinker; but he has a remarkably clear head, and retentive memory. He is the only person with whom I have been any way concerned in the course of education, who is distinguished from all others by the circumstance of always returning a just answer to the questions I proposed to him, so that I could always lead him to understand the thing before him, by calling in the stock of his own mind. He is besides of a very affectionate disposition. . . .

“I have sometimes been idle enough to think that the only son of William Godwin could not want friends if he deserved them. What I ask in the present case, is not money out of any man’s pocket, but to accept a servant, who in all probability would prove a most valuable acquisition to his employer. My vanity may nevertheless have misled me on this point. There are many men who think of an author and his works, just as a child thinks of a plaything, and who do not conceive they owe any kindness to him who has occupied all his days for the public benefit and instruction.” . . .

Apart from the family history, and the usual details of daily life, study, and relaxation, there is but little in the diaries which calls for notice, nothing which demands quotation. More political events are recorded than for some time previously, though in the briefest way, indicating that the writer’s mind was freer from cares which concentrated the attention on self. And in the year 1818 Godwin again flung himself into politico-social controversy, by devoting a very large share of his time and study to the refutation of Malthus’s Essay on Population. It would appear that to
no other of his works, except perhaps ‘
Political Justice,’ did he give himself up so thoroughly. Not a day passes without a record of pages written and rewritten, with minute and scrupulous care.

It was by no means the last of his works, but those which followed were written with diminished power. For while writing it, came the first warning of seriously failing health. On 25th Nov. 1818 he had a slight stroke of paralysis, so slight that it in no degree interfered with his usual course of life, and he dined out the very next day, But there are records afterwards of numbness, now in this, now in that limb, and from time to time the significant entry, that he felt quite well for so many days, showing clearly that the prevailing sensation was one of somewhat failing bodily powers.

The following letter to Mrs Godwin reflects his state of mind with great vividness, and shows the store he set by this work:—

William Godwin to Mrs Godwin [at Southend],
Aug. 31, 1819.

. . . “I never was so deep in anything as I am now in Malthus, and it is curious to see how my spirits fluctuate accordingly. When I engage in a calculation, I cannot pursue it for an hour without being sick to the lowest ebb. I told you in my last that I have employed William and Rosser. I wrote to Booth for a calculation early on Tuesday last, entreating him to let me have it by the first post on Wednesday, that I might not be prevented from getting on. As usual, I heard nothing of him on Wednesday, nor till Thursday dinner, when he dropped in to my mutton. I was, therefore, miserable. On Friday I made an important discovery and I was happy. The weather has since changed, and you know how that affects me. I was nervous and peevish on Saturday to a degree that almost alarmed me. On Sunday I was in heaven. I think I
shall make a chapter expressly on the geometrical ratio that will delight my friends and astonish the foe. To-day I woke as usual between five and six, and my mind necessarily turned on my work. It was so fruitful that I felt compelled to come down stairs for pen and ink, which I made use of in bed. I invented what I believe are two fine passages, and minuted them down. But the consequence is, there my day’s work ends. I rose in a little fever.

“I did not intend to tell you all this, and I am afraid of your not reading it in the spirit of sympathy. But this way of life is my destination, and I must pursue it. I think it will preserve my faculties and lengthen my existence. But if it does exactly the contrary, I care not. What matters what becomes of this miserable carcase, if I can live for ever in true usefulness? And this must be the case in the present instance: for whatever becomes of my individual book, if I am right the system of Malthus can never rise again, and the world is delivered for ever from this accursed apology in favour of vice and misery, of hard-heartedness and oppression.

“Why, to borrow your own words, do I talk so much of myself? Because I have nothing else to think about?”

The answer to Malthus was published by Longmans, on Nov. 25th, 1820. But it was published for the author, and as will be seen by a subsequent letter to Mrs Shelley, failed to realize in any degree the sum on which the writer had counted.