This text was taken from William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries, Vol. 1 by C. Kegan Paul. Henry S. King and Co., London, 1876.
ST LEON-MRS REVELEY. 1799.
THE year 1799 began with a breach with Mackintosh, which afterwards grew wider. Mackintosh delivered early in that year, in the hall of Lincoln's Inn, a course of lectures on the Law of Nature and Nations. To some expressions in the first of these Godwin objected, as unfairly directed against himself. His letter is not preserved, but its purport can be in great measure divined from the following reply:-
My, afterwards Sir, James Mackintosh to William Godwin.
"SERLE STREET, LINCOLN'S INN, 30th Jany. 1799.
"DEAR SIR, -- I read your very candid and good-tempered letter with real pleasure. I owe you an honest answer. I think I am disposed to make it a perfectly good-natured one. The strongest expression you quote, 'Savage Desolators,' you will find on reperusal to be a half-pleasantry directed against metaphysicians in general, amongst whom I have sometimes the vanity to number myself. 'Those who disguise commonplace in the shape of paradox' is most certainly not an allusion to you. The thing is so common as an art of literary empiricism that I rather think no particular writer was present to my mind when I wrote the passage. Your opinions do not stand in need of any contrivances to make them appear more singular than they are. As to Turgot, Rousseau, and Condorcet, I have the highest reverence for the first of these writers. The second I have long considered as the most eloquent and delightful madman that ever existed. The third I always thought a cold and obscure writer; I never could think very highly of his talents, partly perhaps because I am no great judge of his mathematical eminence, which is, I believe, the principal part of his reputation. His conduct did not appear to me to have been that of a good man. But in none of the phrases which you have selected have I even so much as insinuated that he or any other mistaken speculator was influenced by bad motives. A man may be 'mischievous' with the best' motives J in the world. In all discussions of 'Speculative Principles' it is always a most unfair act of controversy to load the author whom we oppose with the 'immoral consequences' which we suppose likely to flow from his opinion, not to mention that it is a sorry and impertinent sophism to urge such consequences as an argument against the truth of a speculative proposition. But the case is very different in moral and practical disputes. There the consequences are everything, and must be constantly appealed to, especially by those who, like you and myself, hold utility to be the standard of morals. To apply this to the present subject. With respect to you personally, I could never mean to say anything unkind or disrespectful. I had always highly, esteemed both your acuteness and benevolence. You published opinions which you believed to be true and most salutary, but which I had from the first thought mistakes of a most dangerous tendency. You did your duty in making public your opinions. I do mine by attempting to refute them; and one of my chief means of confutation is the display of those bad consequences which I think likely to flow from them. I, however, allow that I should have confined those epithets, which I apply to denote pernicious consequences, merely to doctrines. Though these epithets, when they are applied by men to me, are never intended to convey -any aspersion upon the moral or intellectual character of individuals, but merely to describe them as the promulgators of opinions which I think false and pernicious, yet I admit that I should not in any way have applied the epithets to men. I feel gratitude to you for having recalled my attention :.a this great distinction which I shall observe in my proposed lectures, and in the work which may one day be the fruit of them, with a caution which is prescribed equally by a regard to my own character, and to the interests of science. I assure you that I" never felt any desire that our intercourse should be lessened j having never experienced anything but pleasure from it. Distance, accident, occupation, and laziness have contributed to make it less; inclination has had no share. I, on the contrary, hope that we shall continue to exhibit the example, which is but too rare, of men who are literary antagonists but personal friends. -- I am, with great regard, yours, JAMES MACKINTOSH.
Godwin's Diary for the year exhibits him engaged in the same, or even greater intellectual labour than before. The conscientious accuracy which impels him to state the fact when a book was read only superficially, ca et la," serves to bring into greater prominence the number of books of all kinds, and in many languages, which were read thoroughly. He wrote in this year his novel of "St Leon," on which he bestowed extreme pains, a tragedy, and many Essays and Articles. Caleb Williams had proved so great a success that he had been much urged to write a second novel, but he hesitated; he "despaired of finding again a topic so rich of interest and passion." At length, however, he thought that if he could "mix human passions and feelings with incredible situations," he might conciliate even the severest judges. The situations of "St Leon: a Tale of the Sixteenth Century," are indeed sufficiently incredible, since the hero, St Leon, has the secrets of the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir Vitae ; and Godwin took as his motto to the work a quotation from Congreve, Ferdinand Mendez Pinto was but a type of thee, thou liar of the first magnitude." The aim of the tale is to show that boundless wrath, freedom from disease, weakness and death, are as nothing in the scale against domestic affection, and "the charities of private life." For more than four years he had desired to modify what had been said under that head in " Political Justice," while he reasserted his conviction of the general truth of his system.
Though it had a considerable reputation, and went through many editions, it never had the popularity of Caleb Williams; its even greater improbability removed it still more from the region of human sympathies. But the description of Marguerite, drawn from the character of Mary Wollstonecraft, and of St Leon's married life with her, idealized from that which Godwin had himself enjoyed, are among the most beautiful passages in English fiction, while the portrait of Charles, St Leon's son, stands alone. No such picture has elsewhere been drawn of a perfectly noble, self-sacrificing boy.
It does not appear that the tragedy was ever published, nor is any trace of it now to be discovered.
When his books were laid aside for the day, he entered into society, and very few days indeed are now mentioned as spent at home. There is little mention of the children, who, indeed, are a great and increasing embarrassment to him, but such allusions as there are in the Diary and Letters, show great tenderness and affection. He took Fanny out with him to the houses of his intimate friends, and there are two or three entries of "Astley's with Fanny." While his chosen friends and most constant companions remained the same as in former years, he was attracting to himself many literary men-Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Lamb, -- though the intimacy with these scarcely ripened till the following Tear. Frequent visits also to Sheridan and other political men show a great revival of the old political interests, though the questions were not so burning nor were men's minds so keenly exercised about them, as had been the case a few years before.
But neither literary work, politics, nor society, welcome as Godwin was to all his friends, could make up for the want of the home-life which he had so greatly enjoyed, even when from his dislike of constant" co-habitation," he had striven to minimize the time he gave to it. The correspondence with Miss Lee has shown that he was anxious to contract another marriage, and in this year it seemed possible, at least it seemed so to him, that the way was open to such a marriage, in which his feelings no less than his reason might be once more deeply engaged. Mrs Shelley's note will explain the circumstances.
"An event happened during this year which gave a new turn to Mr Godwin's feelings: this was the death of Mr Reveley, which occurred suddenly from the breaking of a blood-vessel on the brain, on the 6th of July '799,
" His widow has often described to me her horror at this event. He did not die at the moment of breaking the vessel; he became gradually stupefied, and his senses, one by one-first his taste, then his sight-failed him. He was unaware of his danger in the first instance, and as the thought that he was really dying flashed across his wife's mind, her terror became ungovernable. Mrs Fenwick, the ever kind, cordial, womanly friend, had called in the morning, and finding Mr Reveley indisposed, remained to assist in waiting on him. At this moment of horror she looked out of the window, and saw Marshal passing up the street on horseback. She called to him, and he was in an instant with the frightened women, ready to devote his whole time to their assistance. A physician was called in, but it was a case past all medical aid from the moment the vessel broke. He died in a few hours.
From the chamber of death his widow rushed to a remote and desolate room at the top of the house, in a state bordering on frenzy, -- for a week she remained in the same place, in the same state. She and her husband had at times disagreed, and believed themselves unsuited to each other. But he was the husband of her early youth, the father of her adored son, the friend and companion of nearly fifteen years. She was endowed 'with the keenest sensibility, and her heart received a shock from 'which she could with difficulty recover.
Mr Godwin heard of Mr Reveley's death at the house where he dined on the same day. [This is a mistake of Mrs Shelley's, as it appears from the Diary that on Saturday, July 6, Godwin did not dine out, and he went to the theatre in the evening. But on the next day, Sunday, he dined with his sister, Harriet Godwin, to meet Mr and Mrs Fenwick, and there probably heard of what had occurred on the previous evening.] "He became thoughtful and entirely silent -- he already revolved the future in his mind. Maria Reveley had been a favourite pupil, a dear friend, a woman whose beauty and manners he ardently admired. After his wife's death, his visits and attentions had excited Mr Reveley's jealousy, and they became to a great degree discontinued. His uprightness and candour of character made him disdain the suspicion, but he withdrew, unwilling to be the cause of domestic feud. It was, however, his plan to yield but little to form and etiquette, and before Mr Reveley had been dead a month, he did not scruple to ask to see his widowed friend, and to make her understand the feelings and prospects with which her visits would be paid. She at first refused to see him, and several letters passed between them."
Mrs RevcIey's letters have not been preserved, but copies of those which Godwin sent to her still remain.
William Godwin to Mrs Reveley.
" How my whole soul disdains and tramples upon these cow~d1y ceremonies! Is woman always to be a slave? Is she so wretched an animal that every breath can destroy her, and every temptation, or more properly every possibility of an offence, is to be supposed to subdue her?
" This ceremony is to be observed for some time. What miserable, heartless words! What is some time? this phrase, upon which all feeling, all hope of anything reasonable is left to writhe, and to guess, as it can, when its sufferings shall have an end. You know in what light such ceremonies have been viewed by all the liberal and wise, both of my sex and yours.
If you mean any more than ceremony, say so. You are free; with this stroke of my pen I sign your freedom. But think, what must be my sensations, and my tranquillity, while you leave me in doubt whether this freedom is or is not to be used against me.
" I am the furthest in this world from wishing to give you a moment's pain. You, with your entrenchment of ceremony, have forced me, very, very contrary to my own inclination, to say thus much. I ask not a ''lord of answer from you. I have no wish that you should know what it is you are doing, and what are the feelings which you are imposing, and are resolved, for some time, to impose upon me.
The conduct which propriety and a generous confidence in the rectitude of our sentiments dictated to us both was too plain to be mistaken j to see each other freely and honestly as friends; to lay down no beggarly rules about married and unmarried men; and to say nothing for some time, but what was the strict and accurate result of friendship. If you had that confidence in me which every sentiment of my heart proclaims to me I deserve, you would have felt no want of these ceremonies.
I use no form of superscription, because I know of none that can at all represent the interest I take in your welfare.
" I give this to Mrs Fenwick to transmit to you, because whatever I think of your rules, I will not without your consent break through them in any point in which I can avoid it.
" Do you think you can be more anxious about the propriety and rectitude of your conduct than I am?
"You cannot be displeased with· the above. I do not pretend to prescribe to you any article of your conduct. That I should take care to let you know what my feelings are can never be imputed to me as a crime."
The Same to the Same.
" I think you have the courage to excuse the plainness with which I am going to speak. The game for which we play, the stake that may eventually be lost is my happiness and perhaps your own.
" You have it in your power to give me new life, a new interest in existence, to raise me from the grave in which my heart lies buried. You are invited to form the sole happiness of one of the most known men of the age, of one whose principles, whose temper, whose thoughts, you have been long acquainted with, and will, I believe, confess their universal constancy. This connection, I should think, would restore you to self-respect, would give security to your future peace, and insure for you no mean degree of respectability. What you propose to choose in opposition to this I hardly know how to describe to you. You have said you cannot live without a passion; yet you prefer a mere abstraction, the unknown ticket you may draw in the lottery of men, to the attachment of a man of some virtues, a man whom you once, whom you long believed you loved. Your temper is so gentle and yielding, in those moments in which your heart is moved, that you indeed want a protector and an amulet. I cannot bear to think of what, but for the sake of warning you, I would not suffer to remain a moment in my thoughts, the new difficulties, embarrassments, and repentance in which this amiable softness of your character will, too probably, involve you. I offer you a harbour, once your favourite thought; you prefer to launch away into the tempestuous treacherous ocean. I should not forgive myself in case of any new misfortune to you, if I had not ventured to say thus much.
How singularly perverse and painful is my fate. When all obstacles interposed between us, when I had a wife, when you had a husband, you said you loved me, for years loved me! Could you for years be deceived? Now that calamity on the one hand, and no unpropitious fortune on the other, have removed these obstacles, it seems your thoughts are changed, you have entered into new thoughts and reasonings." ... [The end of the letter is lost.]
The Same to the Same
" I am surprised, and will you forgive me if I add, pleased, at Mrs Fenwick's intelligence, that your objection to what you once desired is wholly grounded upon your opinion of my understanding. I cannot persuade myself to regard this as an invincible objection. If Mrs Fenwick has misunderstood you, if your objection have any other basis beside this, I think you owe it to me to correct my mistake.
And so you would really demand in a partner an understanding too little comprehensive to see into many things, and a heart, for these are wholly or nearly inseparable, of too little sensibility to feel many things? Surely to state such a requisition is sufficiently to display the misapprehension on which it is founded. I should have thought experience would have shown you how little is to be hoped from characters of this kind. Make one generous experiment upon a man of a different sort. Can you fail to be aware that the man of real powers will infallibly, at least when he loves, be affectionate, attentive, familiar, and totally incapable of all questions of competition or ideas of superiority; while the man of meaner or middling understanding may almost always be expected to be jealous of rivalship, obstinate, self-willed, and puffed up with the imaginary superiority he ascribes to himself? Can you fail to be aware of the inferences which you ought to draw from the respective characters of the two sexes? 'We are different in our structure; we are perhaps still more different in our education. Woman stands in need of the courage of man to defend her, of his constancy to inspire her with firmness, and, at present at least, of his science and information to furnish to her resources of amusement, and materials for studying. Women richly repay us for all that we can bring into the common stock, by the softness of their natures, the delicacy of their sentiments, and that peculiar and instantaneous sensibility by which they are qualified to guide our tastes and to correct our scepticism. For my part I am incapable of conceiving how domestic happiness could be so well generated without this disparity of character. I would not, if I could, marry a man in female form, though that form were the form of a Venus.
" You say you are incapable of reasoning with me. Believe me, there is no good to myself I would not cheerfully sacrifice, rather than consciously be guilty of an atom of sophistry. Ask yourself whether any word I have put down on this subject be not unquestionable truth, and I might almost say put down dispassionately. This, as I have just said, is the privilege of our sex, from superiority of education, to collect the materials of decision: your sex, though feeling both exquisitely and admirably, are often in danger of deciding from a partial view of the subject.
" But what I have just said was not the purpose for which I sat down to write, though I could not prevail on myself to omit it. I am willing to leave this question to time. There is no character I have so much repugnance to act as that of a tormentor. The point I have principally to press is one which, so far as I at present sec, tends to decide whether you have a heart or have no heart; I mean the point of the continuance of our acquaintance.
" We have now lived on terms of the most cordial and unresented friendship for six years. For more than four of those six years I suffered no thoughts respecting you, but those of single and unmixed friendship, to find harbour in my heart. You showed, in a thousand instances, that you valued my friendship, as I hope it deserved to be valued. On my part, at a moment when what should have happened without my interference I regarded as your ruin I spared no exertion of my faculties or my industry, I defied misrepresentation and obloquy in every shape they might assume, so I might rescue you. Esteeming me probably more than you ever esteemed any other man, you, with a resolution that does you be highest honour, preserved my acquaintance, often in spite of Mr Reveley, once in spite of myself. Again and again, when he was unwilling to receive my visits, by your perseverance you conquered his inflexibility: at another time, when I was no longer willing to pay them to him, you conquered me. If, the moment all these complicated obstacles are removed, you of your own accord cease from all further intercourse with me, what, I beseech you, would you have me think of you? You always professed the highest regard for Mrs Godwin; naturally it would be expected you should feel some interest in her children and mine: are these motives all at once become nothing to you?
You cannot form so despicable an opinion of me as to suppose that I can view you with no eyes but those of a lover. You saw the contrary for years; and believe me, I know what I say; I can conquer myself again and again, as often as the conquest shall be necessary. There is nothing upon earth that I desire so ardently, so fervently, so much with every sentiment and every pulse of my heart, as to call you mine. . But dispose of that point as you please, I am too vigorous and robust of soul ever to be made the suicide of my body or the suicide of my mind. No objection to our intercourse can therefore arise from that point.
" If you are all at once become so thoroughly the slave of a miserable etiquette that you must not even risk the seeing me alone, you may dine here with my sister; she comes to me every other Sunday through the year: next Sunday is her day: or order mc to invite Mrs Fenwick: when the heart is willing, such trifles arc easily adjusted.
" It is, however, more than probable that in all I have said respecting our intercourse, I have been fighting a shadow. In one of your first intimations to me since your ·widowhood, you said you could not see me, or any unmarried man, for some time: that did net sound as if our intercourse was to be closed forever. I think, however, you pay too little attention to my feelings. Two months of etiquette have now nearly elapsed, and no elucidation of this some time has yet reached my ears. You ought perhaps to have known that respecting persons in whom I feel myself interested, uncertainty fills my soul with tumults, and tortures my fancy with a thousand painful and monstrous images."
Whatever answer Mrs Reveley returned to this was probably accepted as conclusive, and Godwin no longer prosecuted a suit which was unwelcome, or strove to anticipate the date at which it would be possible that those between whom so strange a correspondence had passed should meet on the old terms of intimacy. They did not in fact meet till December 3d, as it appears from the Diary, and then Mrs Reveley was in the company of Mr Gisborne, whom she afterwards married. And thus ended a curious wooing.
A considerable number of letters from Arnot to Godwin were written during this year. He was in Dresden after his tour from Vienna, often in great poverty, during which he had seriously thought of hiring himself out as a footman to obtain the very necessaries of life. But his desire of writing his travels, and making, as he believed, a very important book, was never laid aside, in spite of much discouragement from those who encountered him, Tuthil, Godwin's friend, now residing at Dresden, among the number. From Hamburg his journals were despatched to England, with the intention that they should be simultaneously published in English, French, and German. There is, however, no trace of such a work discoverable, his family strongly opposed the publication, and it is probable that their objections prevailed. The letters written to Godwin arc less full than those presented already of his personal experiences of travel, because these were recorded in the now missing journal, but some shrewd observations arc worthy of extraction as showing what subjects he knew would interest Godwin, while they are moreover striking in themselves, because, though coming from a young man at such a time, they breathe such an essentially modern spirit.
John Arnot to Godwin.
HAMBURG, Sunday, 4th. August 1799.
. . . Having first delineated the character of the [Russian] people, I meant then to have pointed out to the English, and to every civilised nation, how much they had to dread if ever such a people, or rather if such machines should be put in motion against them as enemies, and to have called their attention to the prodigious extent of the Russian Empire, and the gradual encroachment of its Sovereign, first in Asia from south to north, and now in Europe from north to south. After a due consideration of these facts, I flattered myself that I might be able perhaps to persuade the English to dissolve their present alliance with Russia. In this I now think I was too sanguine, but it is not improbable that my representations might in time have produced a good effect. ...
Another project soon occurred, which would not have been difficult to execute. I had not pored long over my books before I was struck with the difference in the combination of the words in the German and in the English languages; the one the language of imagination, yet minutely accurate and metaphysical in its distinctions; the other the language of reflection, simple and philosophical, for such do these languages appear to me to be. When I shall have considered them better, it may be that I shall find myself mistaken. As I proceeded with my reading, this difference of arrangement became to me still more remarkable, and at length suggested the idea of attempting an analysis of the Gem1an language, and a comparison of it with the English. With the minutiae of the grammar of both I had no concern I that would have been more than I could have grasped; I meant only, from several well chosen sentences in both languages, to select of each that sentence which should seem to me most complete for my purpose, to analyse them both, tracing the order of ideas, and placing them in various points of view, and then to compare them together. The study of philosophical grammar is generally sup~ posed to be a very dry study. I had long been of opinion that no study was dry if it 'were pursued in a proper manner; I thought I had now an opportunity of making the experiment, and for two months I continued collecting remarks and preparing materials, all of which were to me agreeable and entertaining, and, as I hoped, would have proved so to others."
In the winter Arnot was again at Vienna, where Godwin sent him money, and though the amount is not stated, it was clearly no inconsiderable sum. It came when he was in great poverty, in want of food, and with scanty clothing, one pupil, a Polish Count, to whom he taught English, his only means of livelihood, but with still undaunted purpose of writing a great book of travel, which should supersede all existing books on the subjects treated, and come as a very revelation to his countrymen. What might be done by a determined walker appears in the following extract:-
The Same to the Same.
VIENNA, 26th Novr. 1799.
. . . I left Hamburgh with a few shillings in my pocket, but instead of taking the straight road to Vienna, or even to Frankfort-on-the-Main, where I had addressed my portmanteau, I turned aside to Bremen. I then went to Ferden, Hanover, Hildesheim, Gottingen, Cassel. From Cassel I turned to the left to Thliilhauser, and from thence to Gotha, Erfurt, Weimar, Jena. At Weimar I saw Wieland and Heider; I called also upon Goethe, but "was not admitted. At Jena, where I saw Tuthil, I staid a few days, and then travelled over Coburg, Schweinfurt and Wurtzburg to Frankfurt; from Frankfurt I returned to Wurtzburg, and went to Bamberg, Numberg, and Ratisbon. Ratisbon is said to be about 270 or 280 English miles from Vienna, which, however, I might have reached in four days by sailing down the Danube, at the expense of perhaps six shillings, but instead of doing that I turned to the north, and, travelling through the Upper Palatine, and crossing those mountains of Bohemia covered with Wood that go by the name of the Bohemian Forest, I arrived towards the end of October at Prague. Here I wished to have staid for a short time, but being in great want, I was obliged to depart in three or four days for Vienna.
The weather during the summer was as extraordinary as during the winter. The long continuance of the rain was equally astonishing, vexatious, and ruinous. Having no change of clothes, and being amongst a most unfeeling and inhospitable people, and frequently without a penny, you may conceive that I endured many hardships, and that my health was not thereby improved. Yet whatever effect this may have had upon me at the time, it has upon the whole acted differently upon me from what might naturally have been expected,-instead of disheartening me it has increased my ardour, and rendered me doubly sanguine in my hopes of favourable weather for my travels through Hungary. Having endured so much, I wish to have now some compensation. . . .
" Perhaps I shall pay a visit to the Black Sea. But I don't know if this would be advisable, and I confess I am not fond of venturing into the Turkish dominions. -- I am, with much esteem, &c., JOHN ARNOT."
On the receipt of Arnot's MSS. towards the end of this year, Godwin lent them to Arnot's brother, from whom remains an angry letter in regard to them, protesting against their publication. According to this gentleman, "the ingenuity and knowledge which he may have evinced is prostituted in the support of sentiments which are visionary, and subversive of all social order, and yet (thank God) totally irreducible to practice." He requires Godwin" in the most particular manner not to publish these MSS.," or if it be not in his power to withhold them from the press, he desires that the publication may be an anonymous one.
Of Godwin's friends on the Continent, Arnot had met not only Tuthil, but Holcroft also) who was residing for a considerable part of this year at Hamburgh. His reasons and plans appear in the correspondence, where also appears a renewal of the squabbles which had from time to time interrupted the usual cordiality between the friends, but with this difference that the "little rift" which now was made was never again completely closed, as it had been on former occasions.
Thomas Holcroft to William Godwin.
HAMBURG, July 19th, 1799.
At Wm. Coles, No. 100 Cathermen Strasse.
" We have been in this place eight days, and, had I time, the description of what I have already seen would be certainly more than sufficient to fill eight pages. But it is not my present intention to say anything on this subject, except to remark that though there may be few essential differences in the morals, or great outlines of behaviour in two nations, yet the numberless little particulars produce so striking an effect upon the eye and imagination, and we are so apt to wonder and laugh at what we are not accustomed to, that for some few days young and unpracticed persons might imagine themselves suddenly transported to another, and, certainly not in their opinion, to a better world.
" I received your second volume, and made enquiries immediately after my arrival, but have not yet met with any person who could give me sufficient information relative to the translating and publishing it in the German language. I think it right to tell you that Louisa and Fanny have read the two volumes, and are both of opinion that Leon is a second Falkland, but much his inferior. I was present when Louisa several times laid down the book to exclaim against his feeble and absurd conduct, to which I made no reply whatever. But it was a consolation to me to find they were both delighted with Marguerite. They think, however, there is by no means the same degree of interest created as that which they felt in reading 'Caleb Williams.' I inform you of this because you have always wished to enquire into the feelings of your readers, and because I consider such experiments as beneficial.
" I was somewhat moved, and rather surprized at the note included in the parcel. You reproach me for not having consulted you on my travelling plan, which you say you have always disapproved and loathed. I have been frequently amazed at your forgetfulness, but never more than in the present instance. It is full two years, I believe indeed much more, since I first conceived the project. I spoke of it frequently, and I dare affirm oftener to you than to any other person. I cannot recollect whether you then made any objections, out had they been very serious and pointed they would surely have been attended to, and not forgotten. My reasons, however, I think you have already heard, and when again brought to your recollection will scarcely be thought feeble. 1 had a house and establishment, which, my family being dispersed, were a heavy and unnecessary expense; my debts were great, and several of them of so long standing that I remembered them with a poignant anxiety, neither were my creditors, however they might forbear to dun me, entirely satisfied. These debts could only be discharged by the sale of my effects, and the breaking up of what was become in my opinion an immoral establishment, to support which I subjected myself to unnecessary labours, turmoils, and obligations. Persecuted at the Theatre as 1 continually have been from the appearance of 'Love's Frailties', whenever a piece was known to be mine, what could I do better than disappear from the scene, and no longer excite malice or anger, call it which you will, that I could not appease? This was my train of thoughts, this train of thinking you have often witnessed, and in it, in my apprehension, you have acquiesced. That I was the first to recommend, both in language and practice, an unreserved communication, I well remember, and though certainly it has not existed between us of late in the same high and unspeakably gratifying degree it once did, its decline as far as I am a judge did not begin with me. This decline had I think two marked and decisive periods. The first was that which immediately preceded your marriage, and the second the lamentable event by which it was terminated. The anguish of heart I felt, first from the event itself, and afterwards from circumstances which I cannot endure to repeat, was such as never can be for~ gotten. You will not, I am sure, wound me by saying I do want or ever have wanted, since I have known your worth, confidence in you. Question me on any possible subject, any act or thought of my life, and I will answer you with the openness due to the honesty of your intentions, and the sincerity exacted by truth. No one, however, better understands than you do how impossible it is to be totally unreserved on one side, where there is a conviction of reserve being practised on the other. Of this you have given a fine picture between your St. Leon and Marguerite. That I shall never cease to have an unequivocal and active friendship for you I am certain, and what I have said has been accidentally drawn from me. . . . T. HOLCROFT,"
William Godwin to Thomas Holcroft.
"POLYGON, SOMERS TOWN, NEAR LONDON,
September 13th, 1799.
" DEAR HOLCROFT. -- I know I have been guilty of what the world calls a crime, in suffering your letter to be so long by me unanswered. But for this you were prepared: you' knew there were few offices I loathed more than that of sitting down to write, without having my mind previously filled with some subject on which to discourse. I come to the employment with the utmost repugnance; and I hate myself, and for the moment half hate my correspondent, all the time I am engaged in it. I believe this is a defect; but there are some propensities in the mind; whether taking their date from before or after the period of birth, that to say the least, almost surpass a11 human force to conquer. Supply me with a subject, and I will discourse upon it most eloquently; believe that scarcely a day passes without your being in my mind, but do not expect me to amend.
" What could I have said? 'I bear you in the highest regard; I think of you continually; I felt the loss of you an irreparable one.'
This and no more, however honest and cordial, discovering itself in the folds of a letter, would have looked dry and repulsive. It would have been still worse, if I had made you pay postage for it a second time. I did not like to enter on the point which makes the principal topic of your letter. If I had I could have shewn, demonstratively to my apprehension, that the breach of confidence and reserve came first on your part. This I might perhaps never have known, but for Mrs lnchbald. I afterwards discovered it in other instances. This was the true St Leon and Marguerite point between us; you date it too low.
" I should have been much mortified if my friend Arnot had taken your advice and returned to England. It would have snapped the series, and broken the goodly harmony of his undertaking. I always thought, and his manuscript confirms me in the opinion, that he was happily formed for a traveller, and I have never been able to repent that I encouraged his purpose. There is nothing relative to the publication of his remarks that may not be managed full as well in his absence; wherever he was, he must have subsisted in the meantime, and subsistence, as I take it, is as cheap on the continent as here.
" I am glad that you treated him kindly; I can perceive that it had a good effect on him. In some things indeed you failed; in your marginal annotations you were too rude and harsh, especially to a stranger. In one place you say 'This is the knave's morality.' This he, took considerably in dudgeon; you had not been long enough acquainted with him to be able to form a regard for the author, distinct from his work. Mrs Cole, he says, treated him with the most supercilious neglect; in that case I am more sorry for her than for him. Observe, neither of these things were mentioned in his letter to me, but arc merely noted in his private journal put down every night which he has sent me. I know that according to the maxims of the world, I am guilty of a breach of decorum in mentioning them to you. But I think one of the crying sins of society is that we do not sufficiently explain our feelings to one another, and I am willing to make this solitary experiment whether it will not do more good than harm.
No alteration, so far as I have, observed, has taken place in the politics or tone of this island, since you left it. If there had, 1 should be almost afraid to state it. Parliament is to meet on the 24th instant, a period uncommonly early.
" Nicholson, Col. Barry, and Opie (your friend, no friend of mine) are well. I have seen the two latter once, the former several times, since your absence. I am unable to say whether his school will succeed; it goes on, like its master, at a slow and German-sort of a pace, but he appears sanguine. . . .
" You say nothing in this new communication by means of Arnot respecting my novel. I could send you another volume: there will be four.
" You are so anxious with your machine to get a legible copy of your letter, that you make a very devil of the original, and one has scarcely courage to attempt to decipher it. You water it too copiously.
" The above letter is to Mr Holcroft; but as he may not be at Hamburgh, and I would not willingly lose a moment in transmit· ting the enclosed £ 20 to Mr Arnot, I have addressed it so that Mr Cole may open it, who, I am happy to hear by Mr A., is well.
Advise me of the receipt. W. GODWIN."
The letter is addressed, "Mr Cole, 100 Catherinen Strasse, Harnburgh."
Thomas Holcroft to William Godwin.
HAMBURG, CATHERINEN STRASSE, 100, Nov. 22nd, 1799.
". . . Do not imagine you have been long out of my thoughts. Your novel, your tragedy, your well-being and happiness in every sense, are the frequent and serious subjects of recollection. Having made four at least fruitless attempts in Hamburg to make the first productive of some small gain to you, I hoped to have been more successful at Berlin, where I am told the booksellers are more liberal and enterprising. Two men of considerable literary merit here have read it, and, after considerable praise of the style, have pronounced it cold and uninteresting; at least they plead, when I endeavour to controvert them, as far as they are judges of the taste of readers in Germany. I have not read it since I left England, but the impression it then made cannot have been so entirely false as for their decision to be entirely true, though I never felt satisfied with your choice of a subject. In your last I learned with pleasure you have extended it to four volumes, for I suppose you would not have done this, had you not found incidents and passion grow upon you, and where these are, success must be.
" For your Tragedy I am still more, I may say, irritably anxious. I saw it only in its half-finished state. Give me the history of its theatrical progress. When is it to be performed? What are your feelings? Do you remain thoroughly concealed? Are you yet thoroughly under the scourge of Managerial tyranny? I am very desirous to hear this, and anything else you can tell me on the subject.
" ... Let me know if Opie has received my pictures, what you think of them, and what he and others say. In my opinion, the' Guide' is a masterpiece, though it will not appear so, perhaps, till it has been deeply considered. . . . Care has been taken of young Arnot. T. HOLCROFT."
The expressions about the pictures refer to a scheme of Holcroft's of buying art treasures at a cheap rate abroad, and sending them home for sale. It is scarcely necessary to say that he was about as successful as amateur buyers usually are when in competition with professional dealers.
The Same to the Same.
"HAMBURG; December 13th, 1799.
". . . My second motive for writing relates to yourself. I became acquainted here with a man of letters who wished to trans~ late your novel, but who could not find a bookseller that approved the undertaking. This gentleman, whose name is Bulow, is now at Berlin, and I have received a letter from him to-day, to inform me that a publisher of that city, named Unger, will give ten guineas if I will send him the sheets I have, and the remainder as soon as possible. The novel being now published, I made no difficulty of answering by to-day's post that I would accept the terms; and I hope I have acted as you would have advised. Bulow himself is a man of indifferent character; I therefore wrote that the copy should be delivered on payment of the money, of which, the moment it is received, you shall have notice, and either a draft on London, or payment by some other means. Do not, therefore, neglect to send me the remaining sheets, with a copy inclosed for myself
Being at this distance, my heart revolts at concluding without signing myself-Ever and ever affectionately yours,
" T. HOLCROFT."
The following extract, which ends for the year the correspondence between the friends, is interesting for the mention of an almost forgotten book and its translator, but which once produced a profound sensation. It is curious, too, as sharing the extreme difficulty of holding any communication between England and France:-
William Godwin to Thomas Holcroft.
December 31, 1799.
. . . Mr Marshal desires me to add that he has conceived the intention of writing to Volney, who is now at Paris, and printing, as we understand, his travels in America, to request him, upon the strength of having been the translator of his ' Ruins of Empires ' -- a translation which has been very successful and much praised here -- to send him, if he felt no impropriety in it, the sheets of his present work before publication. But our laws:-relative to corresponding with an enemy are so complicated and severe, that Mr Marshal, upon trial, has found it impracticable to send his letter. He thinks it not impracticable that, through Pougens, you might effect his object for him. He observes that the reputation of Volney as a traveller has been so puffed by Gibbon and others, and is consequently so unprecedentedly high, that, if he could obtain the work in time, he would think of publishing the translation on his own account."
Godwin was still extremely anxious to make up his quarrel with Mrs Inchbald. He sent her a copy of his novel, " St Leon," with a letter requesting a renewal of the old friendly intercourse. After giving her reasons for delay in reading it, the seeing a new play through the press, and other engagements, and after a promise to give her sincere opinion on his work, she continues --
Mrs Inchbald to William Godwin
"LEICESTER SQUARE, Wednesday morning, 4th Dec. 1799.
". . . In respect to the other subject, you judged perfectly right that I could not have expressed any resentment against you, for I have long ago felt none. I also assure you that it will always give me great pleasure to meet you in company with others, but to receive satisfaction in your society as a familiar visitor at my own house I never can.
" Impressions made on me are lasting. Your conversation and manners were once agreeable to me, and will ever be so. But while I retain the memory of all your good qualities, I trust you will allow me Dot to forget your bad ones; but warily to guard against those painful and humiliating effects, which the event of my singular circumstances might once again produce. -- Your admirer and friend, E. INCH BALD."
Three weeks later she sent an elaborate and very clever critique on fl St Leon," written with some bitterness, but it dwells too much on details to be interesting to the general reader, who has not the work in his mind.
That Godwin, in spite of his own difficulties, had sent £. 20 to Arnot has been already recorded in his own letter. There are other indications of large and self-denying charity, extending to most distant and unexpected quarters. One such is a letter from Mrs Agnes HalI, of Jedburgh, acknowledging the receipt of £10 for some poor lady whose name is not mentioned, in which Mrs Hall says that, " though grief like my friend's can admit of no remedy, yet your judicious bounty was a means, by enabling her to procure the necessary comforts to her dying children, of preventing that grief from becoming absolute despair."
The name of James Ballantyne, the Edinburgh printer, needs no note. The Dr Bell whom he introduces to Godwin was probably Dr James Bell of Edinburgh, who died in Jamaica in 180r, and is still remembered by his writings on professional subjects.
James Ballantyne to William Godwin
"KELSO, Nov. 14, 1799.
" SIR, -- About three years ago there dined in your company at Mr Holcroft's, introduced by the late Mr Armstrong, a young man from Scotland, on whose mind your wisdom and benevolent condescension have left impressions of affection and gratitude, which no time will efface. The writer of this letter is the person so delightfully distinguished; but as he is sensible that an interview which constituted so prominent a period of his life may long ere this have melted into the common mass of uninteresting events which consume your time without attracting your attention, he begs leave to mention a circumstance which may recall him to your memory. He promised to send up to London a distinguished portrait, which promise remains to this day unfulfilled. He was not to blame that on enquiry he found every impression of that portrait was sold off; but he severely condemns the mingled indolence and timidity which prevented him from stating that circumstance to account for apparent neglect.
" The customs which fetter man in his intercourse with his fellows do not justify this tardy intrusion on your leisure; but these customs Mr Godwin will disregard when they interfere with his power of communicating instruction and extending happiness. The gentleman who will deliver this letter is Doctor Bell, an amiable and accomplished physician, whose mind since his earliest perusal of your writings, has been filled with the most exalted respect for your talents, and affection for your heart.
The Jamaica fleet which sails in a few days, conveys him from his country, perhaps for ever. His situation will be one of high influence and authority, and I know be will exert his power to lighten the woes and diminish the horrors of slavery. Once only will he be able to avail himself of this introduction, but to see and converse, for however short a time, with 1h Godwin, will prove a source of pleasure, both in enjoyment and reflection, which he cannot leave his native soil without endeavouring to attain. It is no common motive which would incline me to trespass thus on your leisure.
I beg to be I considered, my dear sir, with the utmost respect and affection, your obliged friend,
" One line from you to say you forgive what the world would term my presumption would give me supreme pleasure. I confess I would rather be assured of this by yourself, than by the report of my friend."
A few lines from the good old lady at West Dalling contain the only domestic facts worth recording.
Mrs Godwin sen. To William Godwin
[WOOD DALLING], Sep. 21st, 99
DEAR Wm. -- I hope yo recd. a letter from me dated 5 July by ye hand of yr. sister. I wish you happy. If you be not I shall have ye satisfaction in my own mind that I have tryed to make yo so.
" Terms are agreed upon to sell Dalling Estate to yr. brother Hull, that he may not be thrown out of business when I die with his young family which he must mortgage. What will be yr. shares I don't know yet the notes each have given will be considered as past and disstroyed. Is all I can say at present. I have wrote a few lines to John yo may show yours to him if yo please. Have not wrote to Jo. or Rauh. because ye affair is not finish'd.
"Yr. affec. Mother,
" A. GODWIN."
" Im sorry to put yo to this expense, however its not necessary yo should write till yo hear from me again.
" MY DEAR Wm. -- Since the above rye recieved yr. very kind letter of ye 16 Sep. The little dear boy Johny's arm was not out, and was quite well in a day or two. Your bro. Nath came home ye 7 of July, very poorly indeed, went to Norwich next day for advice of Dr. Alderson, whose prescription with the blessing of God was of service. He returned in 3 weeks to his place again, repeated the physick several times, is better, but fear he will never get clear of his laxating dissorder, but like John wishes to be in buissness for himself but fear he will not be a good ecconomist, especially without a good wife, and they are as hard to be met with as farms. However its the last I can do for him in my life time. Your share and John's will fall short of a Hundred, Natt's and Hull's a little more, Hanh.'s least of all, because she have had most. I purpose clearing of that I gave to Wright, on Jo's account I should have said, and White the former is dead a year or two agoe insolvent, the latter broke lately. I'm not sure I shall not send this in a parcel to Hanh. If I do I shall write a few lines to her. I do put much trust in your advice and management for John and your sister, who has always told me you was a father to her.'
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