NEW MAN OF FEELING.
by WILLIAM GODWIN.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
PRINTED FOR I. RILEY & Co.
BOOK-SELLERS, NO. I, CITY HOTEL.
YET another novel from the same pen, which has twice before claimed the patience in this form. The unequivocal indulgence which has been extended to my two former attempts, renders me doubly solicitous not to forfeit the kindness I have experienced.
One caution I have particularly sought to exercise: "not to repeat, myself." Caleb Williams was a story of very surprising and uncomnmon events, but which were supposed to be entirely within the laws and established course of nature, as she operates in the planet we inhabit. The story of St. Leon is of the miraculous class; and its design to "mix human feelings and passions with incredible situations, and thus render them impressive and interesting." Some of those fastidious readers--they may be classed among the best friends and author has, if their admonistions are judiciously considered--who are willing to discover thos faults which do not offer temselves to very eye, have remarked, that both these tales are in a vicius style of writing; that Harace has long ago decided**, that the story we cannot believe, we are by all the laws of criticism called upon to hate; and that even the adventures of the honest secretary, who was first heard of ten years ago, are so much out of the usual road, that not one reader in a million can ever fear they will happen to himself. Gentlemen critics, I thank you. In the present volumes I have served you with a dish agreeable to your own receipt, though I cannot say with any sanguine hope of obtaining our approbation. The following story consists of such adventures, as for the most part have occurred to at least one half of the Englishmen now existing, who are of the same rank of life as my hero. Most of them have been at college, and shared in college excesses; most of them have afterward run a certain gauntlet of dissipation; most have married; and, I am afraid, there are few of the married tribe, who have not at some time or other had certain small misunderstandings with their wives**;--to be sure, they have not all of them felt and acted under these trite adventures as my hero does. In this little work the reader will scarely find any thing to "elevate and surprise;" and, if it has any merit, it must consist in the liveliness with which it brings things home to the imagination, and the reality it gives to the scenes it pourtrays.
Yet, even in the present narrative, I have aimed at a certain kind of novelty; a novelty, which may be aptly expressed by a parody on a well known line of Pope; it relates
Things often done, but never yet describ'd.
In selecting among common and ordinary adventures, I have endeavored to avoid such as a thousand novels before mine have undertaken to develope. Multitudes of readers have themselves passed through the very incidents I relate; but, for the most part, no work has hitherto recorded them. If I have told them truly, I have added somewhat to the stock of books which should enable a recluse shut up in his closet, to form an idea of what is passing in the world. It is inconceivable meanwhie, how much by this choice of a subject, I increased the arduousness of my task. It is also so easy to do, a little better, or a little worse, what twenty authors have done before! If I had foreseen from the first all the difficultly of my project, my courage would have failed me to undertake the execution of it.
Certain persons, who condescend to make my supposed inconsistencies the favorite object of their research , will perhaps remark with exultation on the respect expressed in this work for marriage; and exclaim, It was not always thus! referring to the pages in which this subject is treated in the Enquiry concerning Political Justice for the proof of their assertion. The answer to this remark is exceedingly simple. The production referred to in it, the first foundation of its author's claim to public distinction and favour, was a treatise, aiming to ascertain what new institutions in political society might be found more conducive to general happiness than those which at present prevail. In the course of this disquisition it was enquired, whether marriage, as it stands described and supported in the laws of England, might not with advantage admit of certain modifications? Can any thing be more disinct, than such a proposition on the one hand, and a recommendation on the other that each man for himself should supersede and trample upon the institutions of the country in which would in some cases appear ridiculous, and in others be attended with tragical consequences, if prematurely acted upon by a solitary individual. The author of Political Justice, as appears again and again in the pages of that work, is the last man in the world to recommend pitiful attempt, by scattered examples to renovate the face of society, instead of endeavouring by discussion and reasoning, to effect a grand and comprehensive improvement in the sentiments of its members.
Feb. 14, 1805
I WAS the only son of my father. I was very young at the period of the death of my mother, and have retained scarcely any recollection of her. My father was so much affected by the loss of the amiable and affectionate partner of his days, that he resolved to withdraw forever from those scenes, where every object he saw was ssociated with the ideas of her kindness, her accomplishments, and her virtues: and, being habitually a lover of the sublime and romantic features of nature, he fixed upon a spot in Merionethshire, near the foot of Cader Idris, for the habitation of his declining life.
Here I was educated. And he settled melancholy of my father's mind, and the wild and magnificent scenery by which I was surrounded, had an eminent share in deciding upon the fortunes of my future life. My father loved me extremely; his actions toward me were tender and indulgent; he recognized in me all that remained of the individual he had loved more than all the other persons in the world. But he was as enamoured of solitude; he spent whole days and nights in study and contemplation. Even when he went into company, or received visitors in his own house, he judged too truly of the temper and propensities of boyish years, to put much restraint upon me, or to require that I should either render myself subservient to the habits of my elders, or, by a ridiculous exhibition of artificial talents, endeavor to extract from their politeness nourishment for his paternal vanity or pride.
I had few companions. They very situation which gave us a fell enjoyment of the beauties of nature, inevitably narrowed both the extent and variety of our intercourse with our own species. My earliest years were spent among mountains and precipices, amidst the roaring of the ocean and the dashing of waterfalls. A constant familiarity with these objects gave a wildness to my ideas, and an uncommon seriousness to my temper. My curiosity was ardent, and my disposition persevering. Often have I climbed the misty mountain's top, to hail the first beams of the orb of day, or to watch his refulgent glories as he sunk beneath the western ocean. There was no neighbouring summit that I did not ascend, anxious to see what mountains, vallies, river and cities were placed beyond. I gazed upon the populous haunts of men as objects that pleasingly diversified my landscape; but without the desire to behold them in a nearer view. I had a presentiment that the crowded streets and the nosy mart contained larger materials for constituting my pain than pleasure. The jarring passions of men, their loud contentions, their gross pursuits, their crafty delusions, their boisterous mirth, were objects which, even in idea, my mind shrunk from with horror. I was a spoiled child. I had been little used to contradiction, and felt like a tender flower of the garden, which the blast of the east wind nips, and impresses with the token of a sure decay.
With such a tone of mind the great features of nature are particularly in accord. In her chosen retreats every thing is busy and alive; nothing is in full repose. All is diversity and change. The mysterious power of vegetation continually proceeds; the trees unfold their verdure, and the fields are clothed with grass and flowers. Life is every where around the solitary wanderer; all is health and bloom; the sap circulates, and the leaves expand. the stalk of the flower, the trunk of the tree, and the limbs of animals dilate, and assume larger dimensions. The cattle breathe, and the vegetable kingdom consumes the vital air; the herds resort to the flowing stream and the grass drinks the moisture of the earth and the dew of heaven. Even the clouds, the winds, and the streams present us with the image of life, and talk to us of that venerable power, which is operating every where, and never sleeps. But their speech is dumb; their eloquence is unobtrusive; if they tear s from ourselves, it is with a gentle and a kindly violence, which, while we submit to, we bless.
Here begins the contrast and disparity between youth and age. My father was a lover of nature; but he was not the companion of my studies in the scenes of nature. He views her from his window, or from the terrace of earth he had raised at the extremity of his garden; he mounted his horse for a tranquil excursion, and kept along the road which was sedulously formed for the use of travellers. His limbs were stiffened with age; and the was held in awe by the periodical intrusions of an unwelcome visitor, the gout. My limbs on the contrary were full of the springiness which characterizes the morning of life. I bounded along the plains, and climbed the highest eminences' I descended the most frightful declivities, and often penetrated into recesses which had perhaps never before felt the presence of a human creature. I rivalled the goat, the native of the mountains, in agility and daring. My only companion was a dog, who by familiarity had acquired habits similar to mine. In our solitary rambles we seemed to have a certain sympathy with each other; and, when I rested occasionally from the weariness of my exertions, he came and lay down at my feet, and I often found relief in dalliance with this humble companion amidst the uninhabited wilds which received me. Sometimes, when I foresaw an excursion of more than usual daring, I confined him at home; but then he would generally break loose in my absence, seek me among the mountains, and frequently meet me in my return. Sometimes I would tie him to a tree or a shrub, an leave him for hours: in theses cases he seemed to become a party in the implied compact between us, and waited in mute resignation till he saw me again.
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