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The Cynosure

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This text was taken from William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries, Vol. 2 by C. Kegan Paul. Henry S. King and Co., London, 1876.



IT seems well to give Godwin's correspondence with Coleridge during 1800 without break. The play therein mentioned was "Antonio," represented at Drury Lane, and damned, of which more will be said hereafter.

S. T. Coleridge to William Godwin.

"Wednesday Morning; Jan. 8, 1800

"MY DEAR SIR, - To-morrow and Friday business rises almost above smothering point with me, over chin and mouth! but on Saturday evening I shall be perfectly at leisure, and shall calendar an evening apart with you on so interesting a subject among my 'Noctes Atticae.' If this do not suit your engagements, mention any other day, and I will make it suit mine.-Yours with esteem,


"P.S.-How many thou sand letter-writers will in the first fortnight of this month write a 7 first and then transmogrify it into an 8, in the dates of their letters ! I like to catch myself doing that which involves any identity of the human race. Hence I like to talk of the weather, and in the fall never omit observing,IHow short the days grow! How the days shorten!' And yet that would fall a melancholy phrase indeed on the heart of a blind man !"

The Same to the Same.

8, Monday Morning, Mar. 3, 1800

"DEAR GODWIN,-The punch, after the wine, made me tipsy last night. This I mention, not that my head aches, or that I felt, after I quitted you, any unpleasantness or titubancy; but because tipsiness has, and has always, one unpleasant effect-that of making me talk very extravagantly; and as, when sober, I talk extravagantly enough for any common tipsiness, it becomes a matter of nicety in discrimination to know when I am or am not affected. An idea starts up in my head, -away I follow through thick and -thin, wood and marsh, brake and briar, with all the apparent interest of a man who was defending one of his old and Ion-established principles. Exactly of this kind was the conver- sation with which I quitted you. I do not believe it possible for a human being to have a greater horror of the feelings that usually accompany such principles as I then supposed, or a deeper conviction of their irrationality, than myself; but the whole think- ing of my life will not bear me up against the accidental crowd and press of my mind, when it is elevated beyond its natural pitch. We shall talk wiselier with the ladies on Tuesday. God bless you, and give your dear little ones a kiss a-piece from me. -Yours with affectionate esteem,


Mr LAMB's, No. 36 Chapel St."

The Same to the Same.

" Wednesday, May 21, 1800

DEAR GODWIN,-I received your letter this morning, and had I not, still I am almost confident that I should have written to you before the end of the week. Hitherto the translation of the Wallenstein has prevented me; not that it so engrossed my time, but that it wasted and depressed my spirits, and left a sense of wearisomeness and disgust, which unfitted me for anything but sleeping or immediate society. I say this, because I ought to have written to you first, and as I am not behind you in affectionate esteem, so I would not be thought to lag in those outward and visible signs that both show and vivify the inward and spiritual grace. Believe me, you recur to my thoughts frequently, and never without pleasure, never without making out of the past a little day dream for the future. I left Wordsworth on the 4th of this month. If I cannot procure a suitable house at Stowey, I return to Cumberland, and settle at Keswick, in a house of such a prospect, that if, according to you and Hume, impressions and ideas constitute our being, I shall have a tendency to become a god, so sublime and beautiful will be the series of my visual existence. But whether I continue here or migrate thither, I shall be in a beautiful country, and have house-room and heartroom for you, and you must come and write your next work at my house. My dear Godwin, I remember you with so much pleasure, and our conversations so distinctly, that I doubt not we have been mutually benefitted; but as to your poetic and physiopathic feelings, I more than suspect that dear little Fanny and Mary have had more to do in that business than I. Hartley sends his love to Mary. 'What? and not to Fanny?' 'Yes, and to Fanny, ave Mary.' He often talks about them. My poor lamb! how cruelly afflictions crowd upon him! I am glad that of him as I think ; he has an affectionate heart, sui generis; his taste acts so as to appear like the unmechanic siplicity of an instinct-in brief, he is worth an hundred men of mere talents. Conversation with the latter tribe is like the of leaden bells-one warms by exercise, Lamb every now and then irradiates, and the beam, though single and fine as a hair, is yet rich with colours, and I both see and feel it. In Bristol I was much with Davy, almost all day; he always talks of you with great affection. . . . If I settle at Keswick, he will be with me in fall of the year, and so meet you. And let me tell you, Godwin four such men as you, I, Davy, and Wordsworth, do not meet together in one house every day of the year. I mean, four men so distinct with so many sympathies.

"I received yesterday a letter from Southey. He arrived at Lisbon, after a prosperous voyage, On the last day of April. His letter to me is dated May-Day. He girds up his loins for a great history of Portugal, which will be translated into the Portuguese in the first year of the Lusitanian Republic.

"Have you seen Mrs Robinson lately? How is she? Remember me in the kindest and most respectful phrases to her. I wish I knew the particulars of her complaint. For Davy has discovered a perfectly new acid, by which he has restored the use of limbs to persons who had lost them for years (one woman 9 years) in cases of supposed rheumatism. At all events, Davy says it can do no harm in Mrs Robinson's case, and if she will try it, he will make up a little parcel, and write her a letter of instructions, &c. God bless you.-Yours sincerely affectionate,


Mr T. POOLE'S, N. STOWEY Bridgewater.

"Sara desires to be kindly remembered to you, and sends a kiss to Fanny and I clear meek little Mary."

William Godwin to S. T. Coleridge.

"DUBLIN (September I800)

DEAR COLERIDGE, - You scarcely expected a letter from me of the above date. But I received last September an invitation from John Philpot Curran, the Irish barrister, probably the first advocate in Europe, then in London, to spend a few weeks with him in Ireland this summer, which I did not feel in myself philosophy enough to resist. Nor do I repent my compliance. The advantages one derives from placing the sole of one's foot on foreign soil are extremely great. Few men, on such an occasion think it worth their while to put on armour for your encounter. I know Fox and Sheridan, but can scarce consider them as my acquaintance. Your next door neighbour, before he admits you to his familiarity, considers how far he should like to have you his familiar for the next seven years. 'But familiarity with a foreguest involves no such consequences, and so circumstanced, you are immediately admitted on the footing of an inmate. I am now better acquainted with Grattan and Curran, the Fox and Sheridan of Ireland, after having been four weeks in their company, than I can pretend ever to have been with their counterparts on my native soil.

"Curran I admire extremely. There is scarcely the man on earth with whom I ever felt myself so entirely at my ease, or so little driven back, from time to time, to consider of my own miserable individual. He is perpetually a staff and a cordial, without ever affecting to be either. The being never lived who was more perfectly free from every species of concealment. With great genius, at least a rich and inexhaustible imagination, he never makes me stand in awe of him, and bow as to my acknowledged superior, a thing by-the-by which, de temps a' d'autre, you compel me to do. He amuses me always, astonishes me often, yet naturally and irresistibly inspires me with confidence. I am apt, particularly when away from home, to feel forlorn and dispirited. The two last days I spent from him, and though they were employed most enviably in tete tete with Grattan, I began to feel dejected and home-sick. But Curran has joined me to-day, and poured into my bosom a full portion of his irresistible kindness and gaiety.

"You will acknowledge these are extraordinary traits. Yet Curran is far from a faultless and perfect character. Immersed for many years in a perpetual whirl of business, he has no profoundness or philosophy. He has a great share of the Irish characterdashing, etourdi, coarse, vulgar, impatient, fierce, kittenish. He has no characteristic delicacy, no intuitive and instant commerce with the sublime features of nature. Ardent in a memorable degree, and a patriot from the most generous impulse, he has none of that political chemistry which Burke so admirably describes (I forget his words), that resolves and combines, and embraces distant nations and future ages. He is inconsistent in the most whimsical degree. I remember, in an amicable debate with Sheridan, in which Sheridan far outwent him in refinement, penetration and taste, he three times surrendered his arms, acknowledgedhis error, yea, even began to declaim (for declamation is too frequently his mania) on the contrary side: and as often, after a short interval, resumed his weapons, and renewed the combat. Now and then, in the career of declamation, he becomes tautological and ineffective, and I ask myself: Is this the prophet that he went forth to see! But presently after he stumbles upon a rich vein of imagination, and recognises my willing suffrage. He has the reputation of insincerity, for which he is indebted, not to his heart, but to the mistaken, cherished calculations of his practical prudence He maintains in argument that you ought never to inform a man, directly or indirectly, of the high esteem in which you hold him. Yet, in his actual intercourse, he is apt to mix the information too copiously and too often. But perhaps his greatest fault is, that though endowed with an energy the most ardent, and an imagination the most varied and picturesque, there is nothing to which he is more prone, or to which his inclination more willingly leads him, than to play the buffoon."

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