This text was taken from William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries, Vol. 1 by C. Kegan Paul. Henry S. King and Co., London, 1876.
VISIT TO IRELAND-LITERARY SQUABBLES. 1S00.
GODWIN'S acquaintance with Coleridge rapidly increased, and had now developed into a most cordial and confidential friendship. It will be remembered that Coleridge was the fourth and last of those persons whom Godwin names as having made on him a profound intellectual impression. The change of thought and view which he attributed to Coleridge coincided, however, with that which was brought about also by other causes. He had recommenced the habit, now for some time laid aside, of placing on paper the results of his constant self-introspection. He examined the state of his belief, and the causes of his mental change, and then are recorded, truly enough as it would seem, other influences contemporaneous with that of Coleridge. The extract which immediately follows was written indeed some years later, though it chronicles the reading which mainly occupied him about this time.
"A great epocha, or division in my life, 'which may as well deserve to be recorded as almost any other event, is that at which I began to read the old English authors. This was in 1799-1800, when I had completed my forty-third year.
During the term of my college life, from 1773 to 1778, I endeavoured to take a survey of the world of knowledge, and to select the branches to which in preference I should devote my attention, I was deeply impressed with the maxim that art is long, and life is short. My judgment dictated to me that it would be best to read few things but to read them well. In fact life is to a young man entering on the era of manhood, a term of ten or twenty years; to look further than that 'with any certainty, and as to a period in which given things are to be done, seems deviating into the visionary and romantic.
"I resolved to read the classics; but I purposed to confine myself to a few of the greater classics, Virgil, Horace, Cicero, Livy, Sallust, and Tacitus, among the Romans, and Homer, Sophocles, Xenopholl, Herodotus and Thucydides among the Greeks. I considered this list as admitting of enlargement, but such was the general outline.
"It is surprising how much men are guided in their whole plan of life by a few external circumstances-the creatures of accident. I was brought up to a profession, that of a preacher among the dissenters. This I was very likely to exercise, at least at first, in a rural situation. My pecuniary means were much confined; my income was likely to be small; I should have few books. On this account I was well pleased with this plan of classical reading, in which, as my education in this branch of knowledge had been a very imperfect one, one author might last me for six months.
"The same principle that guided me in the field of classical reading, was of still more obvious and necessary application in the literature of my own country. Contemplating the immense library that might be filled with our vernacular authors, I resolved that my reading should be select; and one of the first rules I was induced to adopt was, that I would, for the most part, confine my reading to our modern authors. History was a study to which I felt a particular vocation; and I should say now what I thought then, that the modern writers of history in English are eminently superior to their predecessors. Their narrative is more free and unincumbered; they have more taste; their views are more extensive; they philosophise better on the principles of evidence and the progress and vicissitudes of human society. One of the first trials of comparison I was prompted to make, was between Hume and the English translation of Rapin; and, to be sure, there can scarcely be a comparison in which all the advantage is more clearly on one side. I believe I should hardly have found the superiority of the moderns to the ancients so decisive in any other department as in this of history. The result of my feelings and habits in this kind is strikingly exhibited in the Essay on English Style, at the close of the Enquirer, written when I was forty.
"A rule of study which I adopted at College, and adhered to with exceptions and interruptions for many years, was to divide my day into several parts, adapting a particular species of study to each part. Thus there was not a day passed in which I did not read a portion, first of the Greek, and then of the Roman classics, another part of the day was appropriated to metaphysics, theology, and books of reasoning, a third to history, and so forward. This habit was very beneficial in giving system to my mind and clearness to my reasonings.
"It was not till 1799 that I broke in upon my rule of confining my English reading principally to the moderns. The only considerable exception to this rule was Shakespeare. That was an exception hardly to be avoided by a native of this island. At the period I have mentioned, and often before, my thoughts were turned to the Drama, and I had designed, if my talents had been found sufficient for the undertaking, to look to it as one of my sources of subsistence. About this time I got possession of a copy of Beaumont and Fletcher; and looking into them at first with reference to the object I had in view', I found in them a source of sentiment and delight of which I had not before had the smallest conception. This opened upon me a new field of improvement and pleasure, and engaged me in a course of reading which, from that hour [to 18131, I have never deserted.
"I soon felt that I had gained an uncommon advantage from this discovery made at this time. While I was at College, I had thought that art is long and life is short. In the course of years that had elapsed since, I had sometimes felt inclined to alter my mind: in other words, I had felt that the scheme of reading I had prescribed to myself .vas rather too narrow. I remember, when I was a very little boy, saying to myself, What shall I do, when I have read through all the books that there are in the world? ' and my sensation in this limited application of the question ·was now somewhat similar. I had gradually a little enlarged my plan in the matter of classical reading.
"But on the present occasion a new world was opened to me. lt was as if a mighty river had changed its course to water the garden of my mind. I was like a person who, for many years, had subsisted on a slender annuity, and had now an immense magazine of wealth bequeathed to him. I looked over the inventory of my fortune, and felt that these treasures would never be exhausted. This illustration docs not come up to the idea I felt, that everything enumerated in this inventory was new, and that I was, therefore, suddenly put in possession of a museum of untried delights. What a blessing for a man at forty-three years of age, a period at which we are threatened with the blunting of some of the senses from the monotonous repetition of their gratifications, to enter into the lease of a new life, where everything would be fresh, and everything would be young!"
Such were his recollections of this time some thirteen years later, but they have about them a ring of truth, which shows they were as 'genuine as unforgotten. Here is also another note, undated, but probably somewhat earlier than the last, which records the change in his religious creed.
"In my thirty-first year I became acquainted with Mr Thomas Holcroft, and it was probably in consequence of our mutual conversations that I became two years after an unbeliever, and in my thirty-sixth year an atheist.
"In my forty-fourth year I ceased to regard the name of Atheist with the same complacency I had done for several preceding "ears, at the same time retaining the' utmost repugnance of understanding for the idea of an intelligent Creator and Governor of the universe, which strikes my mind as the most irrational and ridiculous anthropomorphism. My theism, if such I may be permitted to call it, consists in a reverent and soothing contemplation of all that is beautiful, grand, or mysterious in the system of the universe, and in a certain conscious intercourse and correspondence with the principles of these attributes, without attempting the idle task of developing and defining it--into this train of thinking I was first led by the conversations of S. T. Coleridge."
A fragment of an analysis of his own character, not merely looking back upon, but actually written about this time, will serve to give other indications of what Godwin now was, subject, however, to the unavoidable drawback, that no man, however desirous of truth, is a fair judge of himself.
"Why does a man feel any degree of eagerness to expose his character to the world? For the most part it is a disclosure made to enemies, who will study it for purposes of degradation, and to find, if the writer acquired any degree of applause, that it was impossible he should have owed it to his merit. Such a disclosure is, however, of high value; it adds to the science of the human mind, and, by the operation of comparison, enables each reader to make an estimate of himself.
"A timorous advocate, both of men and opinions, on individual occasions-afraid to advance opinions lest I should be unable to support them-always beginning with a kind of skirmishing war. This owing to frequent miscarriage, and experience of my own inaccuracy.
Too sceptical, too rational, to be uniformly zealous. Nervous of frame, mutable of opinion, yet in some things courageous and inflexible.
So fond of disinterestedness and generosity that everything in which these are not has always been insipid to me-inextinguishably loving admiration and fame, yet scarcely in any case envious. Habitually disposed to do justice to the merits of others; never depreciating an excellence I felt, and eager for the discovery of excellence, yet in some cases too languid an assertor of it-ever addicted to reflection and reasoning, frequently to ardour.
"I am extremely modest. What is modesty? First, I am tormented about the opinions others may entertain of me; fearful of intruding myself, and of co-operating to my own humiliation. For this reason I have been, in a certain sense, unfortunate through life, making few acquaintances, losing them in limine, and by my fear producing the thing I fear. I am bold and adventurous in opinions, not in life; it is impossible that a man with my diffidence and embarrassment should be. This, and perhaps only this, renders me often cold, uninviting, and unconciliating in society. Past doubt, if I were less solicitous for the kindness of others, I should have oftener obtained it.
"I am anxious to avoid giving pain, yet, when I have undesignedly given it, I am sometimes drawn on, from the painful sensation that the having done what we did not intend occasions, to give more.
My nervous character -- to give it a name, if not accurate, well understood-often deprives me of self-possession, when I would repel injury or correct what I disapprove. Experience of this renders me, in the first case, a frightened fool, and in the last, a passionate ass; in both my heart palpitates and my fibres tremble; the spring of mental action is suspended; I cannot deliberate or take new ground; and all my sensations are pain and aversion -- aversion to the party, impatience with myself. This refers merely to active scenes, not to colloquial disquisition; in the latter my temper is one of the soundest and most commendable I ever knew.
"Perhaps one of the sources of my love of admiration and fame has been my timidity and embarrassment. I am unfit to be alone in a crowd, in a circle of strangers, in an inn, almost in a shop. I hate universally to speak to the man that is not previously desirous to hear me. I carry feelers before me, and am often hindered from giving an opinion, by the man who spoke before giving one wholly adverse to mine.
"I am subject to sensations of fainting, particularly at the sight of wounds, bodily infliction, and pain: perhaps this may have some connection with my intellectual character.
"I am feeble of tact, and occasionally liable to the grossest mistakes respecting theory, taste, and character; the latter experience corrects the former consideration; but this defect has made me too liable to have my judgment modified by the judgment of others; not instantaneously perhaps, but by successive impulses. I am extremely irresolute in matters apparently trivial, which occassionally leads to inactivity, or subjects me to the being guided by others.
"I have a singular want of foresight on some occasions as to the effect what I shall say will have on the person to whom it is addressed. I therefore often appear rude, though no man can be freer from rudeness of intention, and often get a character for harshness that my heart disowns.
"I can scarcely ever begin a conversation where I have no preconceived subject to talk of; in these cases I have recourse to topics the most trite and barren, and my memory often refuses to furnish even these. I have met a man in the street who was liable to the same infirmity; we have stood looking at each other for the space of a minute, each listening for what the other would say, and have parted without either uttering a word.
"There are many persons that have gone out of life without enjoying it -- that is not my case. I have enjoyed most of the pleasures it affords. I know that at death there is an end 'of all, but I have not lived in vain for myself; I hope not for others.
"There is an evenness of temper in me that greatly contributes to my cheerfulness and happiness; whatever sources of pleasure I encounter, I bring a great part of the entertainment along with me; I spread upon them the hue of my own mind, and am satisfied. Yet I am subject to long fits of dissatisfaction and discouragement; this also seems to be constitutional. At all times agreeable company has an omnipotent effect upon me, and raises me from the worst tone of mind to the best.
"No domestic connection is fit for me but that of a person who should habitually study my gratification and happiness; in that case I should certainly not yield the palm of affectionate attentions to my companion. In the only intimate connection of that kind I ever had, the partner of my life was too quick in conceiving resentments; but they were dignified and restrained; they left no hateful and humiliating remembrances behind them, and we were as happy as is permitted to human beings. It must be remembered, however, that I honoured her intellectual powers, and the nobleness and generosity of her propensities; mere tenderness would not have been adequate to produce the happiness 'we experienced.
If it is curious to observe those propensities of the mind which appear so early that philosophers dispute whether they date their origin from before or after the period of birth, it is no less curious to remark how much is indisputably to be attributed to the empire of circumstances. I had an early passion for literary distinction, but an extreme uncertainty as to the species of literature by which it was to be attained. Poetry may be said to have been my first, my boyish passion. Afterwards, abandoning poetry, I hesitated between history and moral philosophy, dreading that I had not enough of elaborate exactness for the former, or of original conception for the latter. My first attempt, in 1782, a very wretched attempt, was history. To this I was immediately, and at the time reluctantly, spurred by the want of money. In 1790 I wrote a tragedy on the story of St Dunstan, which has since been laid aside. In 1791 I planned and begun my 'Political Justice.' In 1793 I commenced my 'Caleb Williams,' with no further design than that of a slight composition; to produce a small supply of money, but never to be acknowledged: it improved and acquired weight in the manufacture. To the choice of each of these kinds of composition I was more or less determined by mercantile considerations. If I had been perfectly at my ease in this respect, I cannot tell when I should have - gravely attempted original composition, and in what species of literature.
"My mind, though fraught with sensibility, and occasionally ardent and enthusiastic, is perhaps in its genuine habits too tranquil and unimpassioned for successful composition, and stands greatly in need of stimulus and excitement. I am deeply indebted in this point to Holcroft.
These observations are but fragmentary, and the remainder is lost. In some points Godwin's knowledge of self is remarkable; in others it may be doubted whether his extreme minuteness of detail did not lead him astray in regard to the whole truth of his picture.
The Diary for this year throws some light on a portion of the above. His tendency to faintness seems to have increased about this time to a somewhat alarming extent, and there are frequent notices of "deliquium" as having taken place when he was in society as well as when alone. I n the early part of the year Coleridge was in London, and the intercourse between the two friends was constant, while during the rest of the time it was maintained by very frequent letters. 'With Lamb also Godwin became now intimate j and there are many notes of suppers at Lamb's and at the Polygon, where are also to be found the names of all that circle of friends known to the readers of "Lamb's Life and Letters." There was indeed scarcely a name of any literary, artistic, or theatrical eminence, that does not appear in these brief notes as among Godwin's circle.
In May 1800 Mrs Reveley married Mr Gisborne. The engagement was kept a profound secret from all but the family of the gentleman, and from Mr and Mrs Fenwick, Did friends both of Mrs Reveley and of the Godwins. It was not only a severe blow to Godwin, who had never abandoned the hope that he might overcome the lady's objections to a marriage with him, but he was greatly wounded .at having been kept in the dark. What he felt, however, can only be gathered, not from any words of his own, but from Mr Fenwick's manly and sensible letters to him, excusing himself from any unfriendliness in having kept a secret which Mrs Reveley had a right to require him to keep. Friendly relations were afterwards renewed, but Godwin was not sorry to make a longer tour than usual during this year-to accept Curran's invitation to Ireland, in the hope of driving from his thoughts a sentiment which was probably much deeper than any he had ever felt, except his love for Mary WolIstonecraft.
J. P. Currall to William Godwin.
"DUBLIN, June 8th, 1800.
" . . . I have yet two months to remain here. I am too much of a slave to have as much of your company as I would wish, but I will treat you with perfect can dour, and promise you that I win act as your host as I would as your guest. I have an house in town and a cottage in the country within three miles of it; a spare bed in each, books in each, and a bottle of wine in each, and in each you will find the most absolute power of doing what you please as to idling, working, walking, eating, sleeping, &c. There are many here that know you in print, and are much pleased with the hope I have given them of knowing you in person. One of them, Lady Mountcashel, who is now settled in Dublin for the summer, speaks of you with peculiar regard, mixed with a tender and regretful retrospect to past times and to past events with which you have yourself been connected.
"Let me add, this is the pleasantest time of the year. The journey is but little: a sit down in a mail-coach and a ferry brings a philosopher, six shirts, his genius and his hat upon it from London to Dublin, et vice versa, in fifty-four hours. I think, too, you would feel a curiosity to see a nation in its last moments. You would think that slavery is no such fearful thing as you have supposed in theory. I assure you our trees and our fields are as green as ever. Thus have I stated the pro and con with as much fairness as can be expected from a person so much interested in your decision. If, therefore, it does not interfere with some material object or engagement, in the name of God, even trust yourself to the hospitality of these Irish barbarians, with whom your nation is about to communicate her freedom and her wealth. One word or two more on this subject, which, as an old traveller, I may speak with some authority. There arc only two things th.1.t make a journey a grievance, preparation and luggage. During the former, a man travels it over a thousand times, instead of once; and travelling in idea is a thousand times more tiresome than travelling in fact. Say to me, then, by a line, that I may put your sheets to the fire. If you land here in the night, you will find your bed ready at No. 12 Ely Place at any hour ....
"WiII you give my very kind respects to Mrs Inchbald, if you should see her?-Yours truly, JOHN P. CURRAN."
He also visited Skeys and Lady Mountcashel, by both of whom he was cordially welcomed; and at the house of the first he again met the sisters of his wife, Everina Wollstonecraft and Mrs Bishop, on amicable if not wholly cordial terms. He did not, however, go beyond the immediate neighbourhood of Dublin, and was absent from London less than six weeks, the last week or ten days having been spent in a homeward tour in North Wales.
His own record of the tour is contained in letters to Marshal, which follow without break, as they all relate to the same subject.
William Godwin to J. Marshal.
[DUBLIN, July 11, 1800.]
"I received your letter this morning, four days from its date. I forget now what I said in my last letter about the poor little girls, but in this letter I will begin with them. Their talking about me, as you say they do, makes me wish to be with them, and will probably have some effect in inducing me to shorten my visit. It is the first time I have been seriously separated from them since they lost their mother, and I feel as if it was very naughty in me to have come away so far, and to have put so much land, and a river sixty miles broad, between us, though, as you know, I had very strong' reasons for coming. I hope you have got Fanny a proper spelling -- book. Have you examined her at all, and discovered what improvement she has made in her reading? You do not tell me whether they have paid and received any visits. If it does not take much room in your next letter, I should be very glad to hear of that. Tell Mary I will not give her away, and she shall be nobody's little girl but papa's. Papa is gone away, but papa will very soon come back again, and see the Polygon across two fields from the trunks of the trees at Camden Town. Will Mary and Fanny come to meet me? I will write them word, if I can, in my next letter or the letter after that, ·when and how it shall be. Next Sunday, it will be a fortnight since I left them, and I should like if possible to see them on the Sunday after Sunday 20th July. . . . .
William Godwin to F. Marshal.
[DUBLIN, Aug. 2, 1800.J
"Mrs Elwes tells me in her letter that I shall be at home on the 3d of August. Probably she had the intelligence from you. From what premisses the conclusion was drawn I know not, but I am apprehensive it will prove in some measure erroneous. My original purpose was to have quitted Dublin the 27th of July, last Saturday, and exactly four weeks from the day I quitted London. I am now writing on Saturday, the 2d of August, one week later, and am seated quietly in Mr Currans bookroom, in his rural retreat he visits from Dublin. It was originally proposed between him and me that the week now concluding should be spent in an excursion to Wexford, whither he expected to be called for the assizes. That expectation has been, frustrated, and he has now prevailed on me to attend him to the assizes at Carlow, and has promised that I shall be on board the packet for England on Thursday evening, the 7th inst. That Thursday, however, will probably be Friday. I then propose, as I believe I had told you already, to walk three days amidst the natural and almost unrivalled beauties of N. Wales, and have a letter of introduction from Mr Grattan to Lady Harriet Butler and Miss Di Ponsonby, two old maids in the vale of Llangollen, with whom I propose to spend a couple of hours. I shall, however, certainly endeavour to give you precise notice of the time of my arrival at the trunks of the trees, which I can at any time by despatching a line from any part of N. Wales, twenty-four hours before I quit it in person. . . .
"I wish also that you would write to Arnot immediately, poste-restante, at Funfkirchen, if there is any chance of your letter reaching its destination in time to cheer the beloved wanderer. Tell him of my absence from London, tell him of my increasing affection and anxiety for his welfare, tell him of my increasing admiration and respect for his narrative. Beg him to give me under his hand an explicit permission to publish his journal in case of any unhappy accident to himself, and an approbation beforehand of my conduct, whatever it shall happen to be. Keep a copy of your letter.
"I have kept pretty good company here. Last Wednesday I dined with three countesses-Countess-dowager Moira (it was at her house), Earl and Countess Granard, and Countess Mountcashel, and on Sunday I am to dine at Lady Mountcashel's. I mean to call on Lady Moira the moment I have quitted this letter. But I have not yet seen either Grattan or Ponsonby. They are however, I believe, to dine with us at Mr Curran's barn (as he calls it) to-morrow. He wishes me to go with him to the assizes at Wexford, but that I believe I must decline. They are in the beginning of August. Hitherto there have been daily sittings of the courts of law, and I see nothing of him from breakfast till five o'clock. This will last ten days longer, and I wish much to spend one week with this charming creature when he is at full leisure. On that computation I shall not cross the channel till about the 28th inst.
"I am fully sensible to your care of my children and my establishment. Every minute particular that you will be so good as to write to me respecting them will be highly gratifying. . . . .
"I depute to Fanny and Mr Collins, the gardener, the care of the garden. Tell her I wish to find it spruce, cropped, weeded, and mowed at my return; and if she can save me a few strawberries and a few beans without spoiling, I will give her six kisses for them. But then Mary must have six kisses too, because Fanny has six.
"It would be highly gratifying if on my return I could find the elaborate repairs and papering of my house finished, the garden-door erected, and the household linen ready for use. Do not forget the directions of this or my preceding letter, though they should not be repeated in any of my subsequent ones.
The Same to the Same.
DUBLIN, Aug. 2, 1800.
"I begin another letter immediately on despatching its predecessor, as much, I believe, by way of recording my own feelings and adventures, as with a view to any amusement you may derive from the narration. Two persons, as you know, exclusive of Mr Curran, I was particularly desirous of seeing in Ireland, Mr Grattan and the Countess of Mountcashel. This desire I have had a reasonable opportunity of gratifying; and, in addition to this, have been a spectator of a considerable portion of most interesting scenery, which was not in my contemplation when I left England. I saw Mr Grattan, for the first time in Ireland, at Mr Curran's country house, on Saturday the 12th of July, ten days after my arrival at Dublin. He then dined with us, but it was a numerous company, that afforded me very little opportunity of diving into his characteristic qualities. The next day, however, we went over to Grattan's own house, where we arrived in the evening, and slept that and the succeeding night. Mr Curran was obliged on Monday morning to go to Dublin to attend the courts, in consequence of which I had Grattan almost, though not entirely, to myself till dinner-time, when Curran and another person, his companion, returned from Dublin, about 15 English miles. The Sunday of this week I had dined at Lady Mountcashel's, about the same distance from Dublin, and 4 miles from Grattan, in company with Mr Curran. These two days, July 13, 14, were the first time in which I saw any of the beautiful scenery with which Ireland, and especially the county of Wicklow, abounds. I was particularly struck with a scene they call the Scalp, which has, I think, a finer effect than Pemnanmawr in N. Wales, as in this latter instance you pass between two vast acclivities of rocks, with immense fragments broken off, and tumbled round you to the right and the left.
"With this quantity of gratification I might have rested satisfied. No more than this obtruded itself on my acceptance. But I invited myself to a second and a third dinner "with Lady Mountcashel, July 2I and 28, and a second at Grattan's, July 29 On the 28th, Lady Mountcashel conducted me in her cabriole to the Devil's Glen, 20 or 30 miles from Dublin, and infinite1y the most stupendous scene I ever saw. You travel for at least a mile and a half surrounded by rocks and mountains, varied and magnificent in their form beyond all imagination, and with a current all the way at the bottom, encumbered with stones of astonishing dimensions, and terminating at the further end in a grand waterfall, which changes its direction two or three times in the descent. You are not here, as in a similar scene nearer Dublin, fettered and hemmed in by the too great nearness of the opposing rocks, but, while cut off, on the one hand, from the whole world, your soul has room to expand in its desert, and savour its divinity. My visit at Grattan's, July 29, was peculiarly fortunate. I spent two mornings with him alone.
"And now let me recollect with what degree of kindness and cordiality I have been received in this country. No one has been ignorant who I was; to no one in that sense have I needed an introduction; and by none, so far as I know, have I been received with an unfavourable prepossession. Yet, believe me, I feel no atom intoxicated by the kindness of this people. I am not aware that I have been received with distinguishing or inordinate favour, except by a few. The good opinion of Joseph Cooper Walker an Irish antiquarian, seems to have been marked with sufficient explicitness. Hugh Hamilton, whom I conceive to be the most eminent painter in Dublin, has shown himself enthusiastically partial to me. Mr Curran's kindness has been satisfactory, cordial, animated and unceasing. Grattan conversed with me with perfect familiarity, and answered me on all subjects without reserve, but not one word of personal kindness and esteem towards me ever escaped his lips. Let me observe by the way, that the characters of the two most eminent personages of this country, though sincere and affectionate friends to each other, are strongly contrasted. They are both somewhat limited in their information, and are deficient in a profound and philosophical faculty of thinking. They have both much genius. Grattan, I believe, is generally admitted to be the first orator in the British dominions; and variety and richness of picturesque delineation perpetually mask the slightest sallies of Curran's conversation. But Grattan is mild, gentle, polished, and urbane on every occasion on which I have seen him; Curran is wild, ferocious, jocular, humorous, mimetic and kittenish; a true Irishman, only in the vast portion of soul that informs him, which of course a very ordinary Irishman must be content to want. He is declamatory, and his declamation is apt to grow monotonous, so that I have once or twice on such an occasion, felt inclined to question the basis of my admiration for him, till a moment after a vein of genuine imagination and sentiment burst upon me, and threw contempt and disgrace on my scepticism. I have had the good fortune to hear from him a speech of two hours, in the cause of Latten versus the publisher of a pamphlet by Dr Duigenan, which was tried a little before in England, Erskine being advocate for the plaintiff. Erskine got £ 500 damages and Curran 6d.; so disgracefully high does the spirit of party, even in courts of law, run on this side the water.
"Lady Mountcashel is a singular character: a democrat and a republican in all their sternness, yet with no ordinary portion either of understanding or good nature. If any of our comic writers were to fall in her company, the infallible consequence would be her being gibbettcd in a play. She is uncommonly tall and brawny, with bad teeth, white eyes, and a handsome countenance. She commonly dresses, as I have seen Mrs Fenwick dressed out of poverty, with a grey gown, and no linen visible; but with gigantic arms, which she commonly folds, naked and exposed almost up to the shoulders.
"Monday, July I4, was rendered memorable here by the execution of Jemmy O'Brien, a notorious informer, for murder. He had been accustomed, I am told, to sell warrants of imprisonment on suspicion of treasonable practices for 2s. 6d. a-piece. Persons came out of the country 30 and 40 miles barefoot to enjoy the spectacle of his exit. One exclaimed, he was the death of my husband, and another, my two brothers were brought to the gallows by his instrumentality. An individual stationed himself on the highest pinnacle in the neighbourhood that the whole population, however remote, might join in one shout of deafening and unbounded rapture the moment the scaffold sunk from under him. For the rapture, however, you will observe that they were partially indebted to the apprehension which both he and they entertained to the last moment, that the government would interfere with a pardon. When his execution was completed, his body was for a few moments in the hands of the populace, and they tore away fingers and toes with the utmost greediness, to preserve as precious relics of their antipathy and revenge.
I am exceedingly offended with Mrs Elwes for her fiction, equally wilful and malicious, of a quarrel between me and Mrs Robinson. There is not a shadow of foundation for it. I was somewhat displeased with her (Mrs R.) the last time I saw her for her copious vein of vulgar abuse against a quondam, most despicable friend of hers, and endeavoured in vain to stop it, but I scarcely imagined she was even sensible of the degree of pain and displeasure she inspired.
"And now what shall I say for my poor little girls? I hope they have not forgot me. I think of them every day, and should he glad, if the wind was more favourable, to blow them a kiss a-piece from Dublin to the Polygon. I have seen Mr Grattan's little girls and Lady Mountcashel's little girls, and they are very nice children, but I have seen none that I love half so well or think half so good as my own. I thank you a thousand times for your care of them. I hope next summer, if I should ever again be obliged to leave them for a week or two, that I shall write long letters to Fanny in a fine print hand, and that Fanny will be able to read them to herself from one end to the other. That will be the summer 1801'''
The Same to the Same.
[IRELAND] Aug. 14, 1800.
"I see by my memoranda that it is now near a fortnight since I wrote to you last. On that day I wrote to you two letters, both of which, I take it for granted, you have long before this received. That I said in them I cannot now with exactness recollect. I had, however, by that time made my contract with Mr Curran to go to the assizes at Carlow, for which place we set out, Sunday, Aug. 3, the day after I closed these letters. On our road, we called on Mr Geo. Ponsonby. . . . We, however, only spent an hour or an hour and a half at his house, and I saw no more of him. At Carlow I was introduced to .my Lord Judge, Michael Kelly, Esq., eighty years of age, and by his invitation had the honour to sit on the bench with him. Here we hanged a postmaster, worth by his own evidence £ I 000 a year, for opening letters and robbing the mail (he was appointed for execution this morning), and procured an estate for a friend of Mr Curran, by setting aside a last will in favour of the testator's relations, or a last will but one, in behalf of their friend, who was no relation at all. Poor old Kelly made a grand speech in summing up, the most ex parte pleading I ever heard, the famousness and effort of which, as I was assured, was all prepared for the ears of the author of St Leon.' (N.B. St Leon ' is a much greater favourite everywhere in Ireland than Caleb Williams.') These trials last two days. Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 5, 6, at Carlow I also made acquaintance with Mr Whaly, commonly called Buck (in the Irish idiom Book) Whaly, who made himself famous, a few years ago, by undertaking for a wager, to go to Jerusalem and return in the space of 2 years. This man, as a traveller, is really a curiosity: he affirmed that Georgia was the capital of Circassia, and that Mocsia (a province) was the original name of the ancient Byzantium (a city). We returned by a famous old monastic ruin called the Seven Churches, and slept on Wednesday night at Rackets' Town, lately distinguished for its flourishing streets, but of which every house but two, including the church and the barracks, was reduced to a heap of ruins by the late rebellion. We arrived at the Seven Churches about 5 o'clock Thursday afternoon, when we found neither inn, nor even alehouse, but a camp, the officers of which, generously spying our distress, and hearing the name of Counsellor Curran, supplied us, starving as we were, with dinner, tea, supper, and bed. Friday, Aug. 8, we called for the last time on Grattan, and arrived in Dublin to dinner. Saturday, I proposed starting for England, but the'\vind was contrary, and I was prevailed on to stay till Monday (Sunday there is no packet), by which I gained two days in Ireland, and lost but one day in England: for if I had sailed on Saturday, I could only have left Holyhead by the Tuesday morning's mail-coach, so tedious was their passage: and, sailing on Monday I was in time, though the passage was 24 hours, for the Wednesday morning's mail. Wednesday, therefore, Aug. 13, at 4 A.M., lance more landed on my beloved native isle. At 6 A.M. I got into the mail-coach, and dined with the passengers at Conway at I P.M. There I left them, being determined, as I told you before, to penetrate on foot through some of the most delightful scenery of N. Wales. I slept last night at Llanrwst (the w is pronounced like oo), and breakfasted this morning, by the most purely accidental recommendation, at the house of a most stupid dog, Mr Edwards, a brewer, whose town house is in Portman Square, and who has built himself a mansion in the vale of Llanrwst, because in this valley he passed the most pleasing years of his childhood. Llanrwst is 12 miles from Conway, this place 10 miles more, where I am just sitting down to dinner, and Corwen, where I propose to sleep, is 13 miles further. Llangollen, to which I purpose to proceed to-morrow, is 14 miles beyond Corwen. . . . Whether I shall leave Llangollen Friday or Saturday will depend pretty much on these ladies [Lady Eliza Butler and Miss Ponsonby], but I think I will contrive to be in town so as to be able to give you an accurate previous notice of the time, for the sake of the dear little girls and the trunks of the trees: perhaps you may have a letter by Monday's post, to tell you exactly of the final particulars of my arrival the day after.
"Tell Fanny and Mary I have brought each of them a present from Aunt Bishop and Aunt Everina. I love Aunt Bishop as much as I hate (you must not read that word) Aunt Everina: and therefore Fanny, as the eldest, must, I believe, have the privilege of choosing Mrs Bishop's present, if she prefers it. WiII not Fanny be glad to see papa next Tuesday? It will then be more than seven weeks since papa was at Polygon: I hope it will be a long, long while before papa goes away again for so much as seven weeks. What do you think, F.? But he had to come over the sea, and the sea would not let him come when he liked Look at it in the map. . . .
"A further object of curiosity ·with which I have been gratified was, that Mr Grattan introduced me to a poor man who had been twice half-hanged by the King's troops in the rebeIlion. I had, therefore, the account of the transaction from the fellow's own mouth. The first time, seven cars were brought, and set on end, that seven villagers might be suspended from the tops of their shafts, to extort a confession of arms from them. The second time, the poor fellow's wife, who was on her death-bed, crawled to the threshold to entreat for mercy for him in vain. She survived the scene, of which she thus became the spectator, exactly ten days. God save the king! "
[Enclosed in letter.] -- " I have just closed the week with a very interesting conversation with Curran, upon the charge I had heard alleged against him of insincerity and prostitution of friendship. I am convinced it has no shadow of foundation to lean upon. I like him a thousand times better than ever.
"We are now going to set out for Carlow, and shall spend an hour or two this morning with Geo. Ponsonby, who is by most persons pronounced the third orator in Ireland, and by the devotees of chaste and level declamation, is affirmed to be the first 1 have never yet seen him, except for a few minutes, in England.
"Ah, poor Fanny! here is another letter from papa, and what do you think he says about the little girls in it? Let me see. Would pretty little Mary have apprehension enough to be angry if I did not put in her name? Look at the map. This is Sunday that I am now writing. Before next Sunday I shall have crossed that place there, that you see marked as sea, between Ireland and England, and shall hope, indeed, to be half way home. That is not a very long while now, is it? My visit to Ireland is almost done. Perhaps I shall be on the sea in a ship, the very moment 1farshall is reading this letter to you. There is about going in a ship in Mrs Barbauld's book. But I shall write another letter, that will come two or three days after this, and then I shall be in England. And in a day or two after that, I shall hope to see Fanny and Mary and Marshall, sitting on the trunks of the trees. . . ."
The tender domestic tone of these letters is in strong contrast to the acrimony which now began to mark Godwin's intercourse with Dr Parr. According to Godwin's own testimony at a later date, the Doctor had always been an advocate of old establishments, and even of old abuses." But his heart had always seemed better than his logic," he had a ready sympathy for those with whom his reason did not wholly agree, as was shown in his letter to Godwin at the time of the political trials, he could take Godwin with all his heresies as a chosen friend.
But his opinions, in common with those of many others, had insensibly become more reactionary. The French Revolution had proved a test which few could bear. Mackintosh became, according to Godwin, an apostate," and though Godwin could not apply the term to Dr Parr, he had soon to find that the division was no longer only of creed but of sympathy, and that the friendship was fading away.
He sent a copy of " St Leon " to Hatton, but heard nothing of its reception, and after waiting more than a reasonable time, wrote to his friend.
William Godwin to Rev. Dr Parr.
POLYGON, SOMERS TOWN, Jan. 3, 1800.
"DEAR SIR., -- I received a visit more than twelve months ago from Mr Morley of Hampton Lucy, the express purpose of which was to vindicate himself from any supposed concern in a foolish story that was propagated of my having been, through the influence of a certain melancholy event, converted to Christianity. This was the first time I had ever heard his name joined with that story. His vindication with me waS therefore easy. From all that I know of Mr Morley, I should feel great difficulty in persuading myself that a conduct pitiful and unmanly could justly be imputed to him, and I had no hesitation in completely acquitting him.
"I felt some inclination on that occasion to have written to you for the purpose of removing any unpleasant impression that might remain on your mind in connexion with that story. This inclination, after an interval, was renewed in my mind with still greater force, in consequence of my being told, though I cannot now recollect by whom, that you had been heard to do me the honour to express your regret at some unfortunate misunderstanding that had arisen between us. But procrastination is of very fatal influence. I deferred my explanation; I reserved it for the occasion that now presents itself, which I calculated would have occurred much sooner than it has done. I said, I will request Dr Parr's acceptance of a copy of my second attempt in the way of a novel, and will then write to him on the subject at large.
"The story was first brought to me by a very amusing and good-natured young man, Mr Basil Montagu.. He represented you as the assiduous propagator of the tale. If his representation had been true, I should have regretted the circumstance, but I should have looked upon it as a ground of misunderstanding with a man I so profoundly value and esteem as Dr Parr. I saw you soon after in town (June 1798), and with my customary frankness related to you what I had heard. You instantly assured me that you had heard the tale, only to contradict it. No answer could be more satisfactory. From that moment the circumstance ceased to give me the slightest uneasiness, and, but for the incidents related in the preceding page, would, I am satisfied, long since have vanished from my mind. I hope this explanation will be received by you as complete. There are few things I regret so much as that petty considerations of miles and hours should now for a year and a half have withheld from me the improving conversation, and the cordial assurances and encouragements I might otherwise have held with and received from Dr Parr.
I ordered my bookseller to send you a copy of my new novel. I hope you received it in due course. It would give me great pleasure if you did not hold it lost time to communicate to me, with your usual manliness, your sentiments respecting it: if you would give yourself the trouble, in case of your discovering in it any fundamental mistake, to set up a beacon to direct me better in my future efforts, and in case you thought it did not disgrace me, to cheer me with one breath of your applause, that I might proceed with greater confidence and strength to future exertions.
"You made a long visit at Norwich last summer. If I had heard of it in time, I should, perhaps, have been tempted to review the scene of my boyish years. You saw, I am told, a good deal of Mackintosh; you therefore, no doubt, settled accounts with him as to your opinion of his political lectures. I am, myself, exceedingly disgusted with some of their leading features. Sheltering himself under, what I think, a frivolous apology of naming nobody, he loads indiscriminately the writers of the new philosophy with every epithet of contempt, -- absurdity, frenzy, idiotism, deceit, ambition, and every murderous propensity dance through the mazes of his glittering periods: nor has this mighty dispenser of honour and disgrace ever deigned to concede to anyone of them the least particle of understanding, talent, or taste. He has to the utmost of his power contributed to raise a cry against them, as hollow, treacherous, noxious, and detestable, and to procure them either to be torn in pieces by the mob, or hanged up by the government. There is a warmth in this style of speculation, that does not well accord, either with the conclusions of my understanding, or the sentiments of my heart. I have noticed it accordingly, en passant, in the third volume, p. 247, of my novel.
-I remain, with sentiments of much regard, dear sir, yours, "W. GODWIN."
To this letter Dr Parr returned no answer by way of letter, but he replied to it with a vengeance on the following Easter Tuesday, April 15, 1800. He was selected to preach the annual " Spital Sermon " before the Lord Mayor, and delivered a great manifesto on "the new philosophy" with direct and unmistakeable reference to Godwin and Political Justice."
The remaining letters may speak for themselves, with the remark only that Godwin's "notes" to Dr Parr's letter of April 29 form the first draft of a pamphlet published by him in the following year, called Thoughts occasioned by the Perusal of Dr Parr's Spital Sermon." He complained in this with considerable vigour of the treatment he had received from Parr and Mackintosh, and of the "flood of ribaldry, invective, and intolerance 'which had been poured against him and his writings." So ended a friendship which once had been close and cordial.
William Godwin to Rev. Dr Parr.
POLYGON, SOMERS TOWN, April 24, 1800.
"DEAR SIR, -- I was very desirous to see you. I have called twice for that purpose. Saturday, unfortunately, you were on the point of going out: to-day you slept in the country.
"If I had seen you, I designed to ask whether you had received a letter from me, written in December [January] last. I meant to have listened, to know whether intention or simple forgetfulness had caused it to remain unanswered. It did not appear to me an ordinary letter, but one the author of which was entitled to a reply.
"This subject dismissed, I should then have mentioned your sermon of Easter Tuesday. I spoke in that letter of Mackintosh's letters, in which that gentleman, without the manliness of mentioning me, takes occasion three times a week to represent me to an audience of a hundred persons; as a wretch unworthy to live. Your sermon, I learn from all hands, was on the same subject, handled, I take it for granted, from what I know of your character, in a very different spirit. I am sorry for this. Since Mackintosh's Lectures, it has become a sort of fashion with a large party to join in the cry against me. It is the part, I conceive, of original genius, to give the tone to others, rather than to join a pack, after it has already become loud and numerous.
"These subjects were better adapted for a conversation than a letter, and I much wish they had been so treated. Every difference of judgment is not the topic for a grave complaint.
"If, however, both my letter and my visit, would have passed unnoticed, I am entitled to conclude that you have altered your mind respecting me. In that case I should be glad you would answer to your own satisfaction, what crimes I am chargeable with now in 1800, of which I had not been guilty in 1794, when with so much kindness and zeal you sought my acquaintance. -- I am, dear sir, yours, with the warmest regard,
Rev. Dr Parr to William Godwin
38 CAREY STREET, April 29, 1800.
"SIR, -- I have read your letter attentively, and I believe that you know enough of my serious and importunate avocations in London to consider them as a sufficient excuse for the delay of my answer.
You designed,' it seems, I to ask me whether I had received a letter from you written in December last.' You meant,' also, to have listened to know whether intention or simple forgetfulness had caused it to remain unanswered.' You further represent it, as appearing to yourself not an ordinary letter, but one, the author of which was entitled to a reply. If you had seen me and spoken what you thus wrote, I should not have given you the trouble of listening to hear my answer. Without professing to adopt your system about the undistinguishing disclosure of truth, I shall follow my own, which appears to me equally sound and salutary.
"A parcel came to my house in December last, when I was absent. Upon my return I opened it, and found four volumes, together with a letter, which from the direction I knew to be from you. I read only the preface to your novel, and afterwards, having heard from Mrs Parr some account of its contents, I felt no anxiety at the time to look into them. I happened to be then very busy upon subjects which were far more interesting to me; and perhaps, if I had been more at leisure, yet I might not have found myself disposed to read your book till I knew the opinion entertained of it by the very sagacious person, whom I had desired to peruse it. Certainly, sir, I was not for one moment insensible of your civility in sending it to me. But I had determined to return it to you; and the reluctance I felt to do what might seem to you ungracious, made me put off from day to day the execution of what I intended. I now thank you, sir, for sending me the book. I also apologise to you for not having made my acknowledgments sooner, and after my arrival at Hatton I will take the earliest opportunity of can of conveying back to you the volumes which for obvious reasons I cannot keep without impropriety.
"Your letter I laid aside, and as I did not expect to find the contents of it agreeable to me, I laid it aside unopened. With some uncertainty whether I should or should not venture to read it, I afterwards looked for it in my library and could not find it. But my search was not very diligent, and I suppose that some day or other it will fall into my hands. I cannot, however, pledge myself, either upon finding to read, or upon reading, to answer it.
I have told you, sir, with all possible plainness, every circumstance I remember about your letter and in the books: and In consequence of what you wrote to me the other day, I think myself justified in confessing that I am now not disposed towards you entirely as I once was.
"Your letter of April 24th goes on thus: ' This subject dismissed, I should then have mentioned your sermon of Easter Tuesday. I spoke in the letter above referred to of Mackintoshs Lectures, in which that gentleman, without the manliness of mentioning me, takes occasion three times a week to represent me to an audience of an hundred persons as a, wretch unworthy to live. Indeed, sir, I must congratulate myself upon not opening a letter containing a passage so offensive to me as this misrepresentation of Mr Mackintosh, be it accidental or voluntary. From various quarters I had heard of the ability and success with which Mr Mackintosh had combated opinions, which you are supposed to hold, and of which I am accustomed to disapprove. But I never was told by other men that he had been guilty of any unbecoming personalities towards you; and by Mr Mackintosh himself I have been informed that he never insulted your character, never pronounced your name, never even opposed your tenets, as holden by yourself exclusively. You will therefore permit me to express my fixed belief, that what you wrote in your former letter, and have repeated in your last, is utterly unwarranted by the conduct of Mr Mackintosh in his lectures. Of his genius, his judgment his erudition, and his taste, I have always thought and spoken with high admiration. From the doubts which I may now and then have entertained of his firmness, I am happily relieved. By experience I am convinced of his sincerity in friendship, and for the important services which he is now rendering to a cause which is most dear to my heart, I gladly give him the tribute of my thanks and my praise.
"I return to your letter, in which you say, ' Your sermon I learn from all hands, was on the same subject, handled, I take it for granted, from what I know of your character, in a very different spirit. I am sorry for this.'
"Be assurred, sir, that you have done me no more than justice, when you acquit me of describing you as a wretch unworthy to live.' I hope, sir, you are not sorry for this.
"For the principles which I defend from the pulpit, I am conscious of an awful responsibility, not only to society, but to Almighty God, and it is at my own peril that, in speaking of my fellow-creatures, I forget the obligations which lie upon me to preserve the candour of a gentleman, and the charity of a Christian. Let me hope, that for this also you are not sorry.
"In your letter you thus proceed: 'Since Mackintosh's lectures, it has become a sort of fashion with a large party to join in the cry against me. It is the part, I conceive, of original genius to give the tone to others, rather than to join a pack, after it has already become loud and numerous.'
"So far as the foregoing passage contains a statement of facts relating to other men, it mayor may not be just. So far as it contains your general opinion upon the duty of men who are endowed with original genius, I am inclined rather to admit than to contradict it. But if it be meant in any degree whatsoever to contain a particular accusation against me, I must lament the want of precision, and the want of fairness in the writer. Sir, I lay no claim to that original genius which is to give the tone to others.' But I have too delicate a sense of decorum to join a pack because it is loud and numerous, or to act with a party because it is large, or to repeat any cry against you because it is fashionable. I trust, sir, that, upon reconsidering what you have thus written, you will be very sorry for it, and, let your motives be what they may, when you wrote the passage above mentioned, and let your feelings be what they may, when you have reconsidered it, I have no hesitation in pronouncing it quite unauthorised, either by what you know of my general character, or from what you can have heard from any man of sense about my sermon at Christ Church.
These subjects,' you proceed to say, ' were better adapted for a conversation than a letter; and I much wish they had been so treated. Every difference of judgment is not the proper topic for a grave complaint.'
"Confessing myself at a lots to find any close connection between the beginning and the conclusion of the foregoing paragraph, I am under the necessity of replying to them separately. If the subjects upon which you meant to speak to me were those upon which you actually have written to me, I think that they may he discussed more temperately and more correctly by letter than by conversation; and, of course, I very much rejoice that they have not been treated in the manner you say you very much wish to treat them. True it is, that every difference of judgment is not the proper topic for a grave complaint. But if I had joined a pack against you, there would have been reason for very loud complaint on your part; and if you in conversation had accused me, as you seem to accuse me in writing, of having acted thus unbecoming, I should have complained of you, not for weakness in judgment, but for rashness in reproach, not for differing from me on a point of opinion, but for calumniating me as a point of fact.
"I now· quote your concluding paragraph: -- If, however, both my letters and my visits would have passed unnoticed, I am entitled to conclude that you have altered your mind respecting me. In that case I should be glad you would answer to your own satisfaction what crime I am chargeable with now in 1800, of which I had not been guilty in 1794, when with so much kindness and zeal you sought my acquaintance.'
"The letter you wrote to me on the 24th of April does not unnoticed. Your visits entitled you to civility, and yet I am under the painful necessity of acknowledging that I do not wish you in the future to give yourself the trouble of writing to me any more letters, or favouring me with any more visits. Upon the alteration of my mind towards you, I can speak entirely to my own satisfaction, though not without some doubts upon the degree in which you will be glad to find I am satisfied.
"I never sought your acquaintance, sir, with any zeal. I received you with kindness when you were introduced to me by Mr Mackintosh. I have treated you with the respect that is due to your talents and attainments. But before the year 1800, I had ceased to think of you so favourably as I thought of you in 1794. I had not in 1794 read in your Enquirer the passage where you speak so irreverently and unfavourably about the Founder of that religion of which you know that I am a teacher, and of which you can have no reason for doubting but that I am a sincere believer. And in truth, sir, though I found in that book many judicious observations upon life, and many pleasing instances of your improvement in style, still your mis-statement of Christ's meaning, and your insinuations against his benevolence, have occurred to me again and again, and from the resemblance they bear to the impious effusions of Mr Voltaire, which I have lately read, they have displeased, and ever will displease me more and more.
"I had not in 1794 been shocked, in common with all wise and good men, by a work which you entitle Memoirs of the Author of the Rights of Women.'
"I had not then discovered the dreadful effects of your opinions upon the conduct, the peace, and the welfare of two or three young men, whose talents I esteemed, and whose virtues I loved.
"I had not then seen your eagerness and perseverance in employing every kind of vehicle to convey to every class of readers those principles which, so long as they appeared only in the form of a metaphysical treatise, might have done less extensive mischief.
"Above all, sir, I had not considered the dangerous tendency of your tenets with the seriousness which the situation of the moral and political world has lately produced in my mind upon subjects most interesting to the happiness of society, and to the presentation of that influence which virtue and religion ought to have upon the sentiments and the happiness of mankind.-I am, Sir, very sincerely your well-wisher and obedient servant, S. PARR."
Notes on Dr Parr's Letter.
I As I did not expect to find the contents of it agreeable to me, &c. This is a very curious remark. What disagreeable contents did the Doctor divine he should find in my letter? There was not the shadow of a misunderstanding between us. The most obvious interpretation is, that the Doctor expected to find in my letter expressions of consideration, kindness, and friendship, and that these expressions, under the circumstance of the secret alienation of mind he had harboured against me, would have been disagreeable to him.
" Misrepresentation of Mr Mackintosh.' This remark is sufficiently answered in my " Thoughts occasioned by Dr Parr's Sermon."
"'Never pronounced your name,' ditto. Here Dr Parr converts, with what propriety I will not decide, my allegation against Mr Mackintosh in a defence of his conduct.
I hope, sir, you are not sorry for this.' Be it recollected that my letter was written instantly upon my return home, with the suspicion upon my mind of Dr Parr's desertion of his former friendship for me. The instances I had repeatedly observed of warm and affectionate temper in Dr Parr had produced in me a considerable attachment to him. I beg pardon for this, as well as for having been so far disturbed at the moment by the first apprehension of his unkindness as to have fallen into the inaccuracy of making the pronoun the Doctor amuses himself with, refer in strict construction to the latter member of my sentence, while in spirit and intention it refers to the former.
"' I never sought your acquaintance, sir, with any zeal.' In August I793 the unfortunate and illustrious Mr Gerrald, whom I then saw for the first time, communicated to me the favourable opinion he entertained of the E[nquirer] and P[olitical] J[ustice], and his anxiety to be acquainted with the author. Soon after Mr Mackintosh made me a similar communication. In February 1794 the Doctor was in town, and at Mr Mackintosh's desire I attended him to the Doctor's lodgings. He received me with the cordiality and warmth which have so often delighted me. To Mr Mackintosh he said, ' Jemmy, I was very angry with you yesterday, but now you have brought Godwin to me, I cannot help forgiving you.' Dr Parr invited me to spend some time with him in Warwickshire. I went thither in October. The Doctor introduced me to all his neighbours. We dined out almost every day, and his manner of announcing me was in the highest terms of eulogium and regard. After a stay of six days, I was unexpectedly called to town by some circumstances connected trials at the Old Bailey. The Doctor dismissed me with reluctance, complained of the shortness of my visit, and insisted that, when the affair was over, or if not then, in the following summer, I should return and make up to him the injury he now sustained. In November following, the Doctor, at my particular instigation, visited Mr Gerrald in the prison of the Nes Compter. I repeated my visit to the Doctor in 1795, and staid sixteen days: still the same round of distinguishing kindness and panegyrical introductions. In April 1796 Dr Parr invited himself, his family, and a party of ten or twelve persons to dine with me in a little hovel which I then tenanted near London. In June 1797 I was in Warwickshire on a journey northwards. I then saw Dr Parr, who regretted to me his absence from home, but insisted I should make some stay at his house on my return. In June 1798 I had another cordial interview with him in London. " The passage in which you speak so irreverently and unjustly of the Founder, &c.' In the period of the Doctor's greatest cordiality and friendship, he was accustomed to call and believe me an atheist. This remark brings to my mind a passage in Hume's History of England, where he says: 'At God's altar in Canterbury, there were offered in one year £3, 2S. 6d.; at the Virgin's, £63, 5s. 6d.; at 81. Thomas's, £832, 12S. 3d. But next year the disproportion was still greater; there was not a penny offered at God's altar; the Virgin's gained £ 4, IS. Sd., but St. Thomas had got for his share £ 956, 6s. 3d.'
"'I had not then discovered,' &c. Whether any, and what meaning is to be ascribed to this mysterious and terrible sentence, Dr Parr only, I suppose, is able to explain.
'Above all,' &c. Thus, by Dr Parr's own confession, the E[nquirer] and P[olitical] J[ustice] which originally induced him to seek my acquaintance, is the great and principal reason ·why he now desires that' in future I will not give myself the trouble of writing any more letters, and favouring him with any more visits.'
"The above remarks I have put dmvn under the idea that Dr Parr's letter may one day be printed. I feel the utmost delicacy in exercising any jurisdiction over the communications of private correspondence; but I do not regard the letter a man writes me, for the purpose of dismissing me from all future intercourse with him, as private correspondence.
"(If Dr Parr's letter should ever be printed, mine of April 1800 should stand as a general introduction, and of January in the same year.)"
From Dr Parr to William Godwin.
HATTON, Oct. 28, 1800.
"For reasons which were some time ago communicated to Mr Godwin, Dr Parr takes the liberty of returning him a book which has been read by Mrs Parr, Mrs Wynne, and Catherine; and he begs leave to unite with them in thanks to the courtesy of the writer. In the sincerity of his soul, Dr Parr wishes Mr Godwin health, prosperity, and such a state of mind, united with a possible and proper use of his great talents, as may obtain for him a lasting reputation among wise and good men, and secure his happiness both here and hereafter."
Unfinished draft of letter from William Godwin to Dr Parr,
"SIR, -- I very sincerely thank you for your letter. I feel the most pungent grief in witnessing your disgrace j but, since it must be so, I am well satisfied to possess this evidence of your disgrace, subscribed in your own hand and with your own name.
"If I could ever be prevailed upon to present to the public the luxuriant but short-lived vegetation of your professions of regard, as they now lie by me in my closet, contrasted with the expressions of this letter, and the frivolous reasons by which they are attempted to be supported, your character would be placed in a light in which it was never yet the lot of a human being to be exhibited.
"I rejoice that there are not many men like you. If there were, there would indeed be little inducement to the attempting public benefit by the acquisition of talents, when the very production which first obtained for its author the attention of one who was a stranger to him, is afterwards unblushingly assigned as the ground, and, 'above all,' the ground of alienation ·and a tone of reproach that I think it would rather unmanly to apply to the most atrocious criminal that ever held up his hand at the bar of Old Bailey.
My 'unwarranted misrepresentation' of Mackintosh's lectures, stated in my own terms, I am ready to support, if necessary, with a body of evidence as complete as ever obtained the attention of a court of justice in a public trial."
Return to Table of Contents