This text was taken from William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries, Vol. 1 by C. Kegan Paul. Henry S. King and Co., London, 1876.
Married Life. 1797.
THE fragmentary notes which Mrs. Shelley left, in reference to her mother, are all full of very peculiar interest. They serve to manifest not only the sympathy, partly intellectual, partly physical, felt by the gifted daughter for the still more gifted mother, who died in giving her birth, but also the estimate in which that mother was held by Godwin and by such friends as Mrs. Reveley, from whom Mrs Shelley learned all that she knew of her dead mother. Some of these notes are too incomplete for quotation, mere drafts and hints of sentences, which might afterwards be finished; but one, more entire, may here be given, describing the estimate which she had been led to form of Mary Wollstonecraft at the time of her marriage.
"Mary Wollstonecraft was one of those beings who appear once perhaps in a generation, to gild humanity with a ray which no difference of opinion nor chance of circumstances can cloud. Her genius was undeniable. She had been bred in the hard school of adversity, and having experienced the sorrows entailed on the poor and the oppressed, an earnest desire was kindled within her to diminish these sorrows. Her sound understanding, her intrepidity, her sensibility and eager sympathy, stamped all her writings with force and truth, and endowed them with a tender charm that enchants while it enlightens. She was one whom all loved who had ever seen her. Many years are passed since that beating heart has been laid in the cold still grave, but no one who has ever seen her speaks of her without enthusiastic veneration. Did she witness an act of injustice, she boldly came forward to point it out, and induce its reparation. Was there discord among friends or relatives, she stood by the weaker party, and by her earnest appeals and kindliness awoke latent affection, and healed all wounds. 'Open as day to melting charity,' with a heart brimful of generous affection, yearning for sympathy, she had fallen on evil days, and her life had been one course of hardship, poverty, lonely struggle, and bitter disappointment.
"Godwin met her at the moment when she was deeply depressed by the ingratitude of one utterly incapable of appreciating her excellence; who had stolen her heart, and availed himself of her excessive and thoughtless generosity, and lofty independence of character, to plunge her in difficulties and then desert her. Difficulties, worldly difficulties, indeed, she set at nought, compared with her despair of good, her confidence betrayed, and when once she could conquer the misery that clung to her heart, she struggled cheerfully to meet the poverty that was her inheritance, and to do her duty by her darling child. It was at this time that Godwin again met her, at the house of her friend Miss Hayes," having before done so occasionally before she went to Norway.
Godwin's first impression of her was not a pleasing one. He wished to hear Tom Paine talk, who was also of the party, and always a silent man, and he considered that Mrs. Imlay talked too much. He was also an extremely fastidious critic, and had been offended at some slight verbal inaccuracies, as they seemed to him, in her earlier works. But after reading the letters from Norway, his views about her culture were wholly altered. He saw that the blemishes, if indeed they had really existed, were but superficial, and he speedily yielded to the charm which all that knew her recognised. His own exquisitely written description of their love is published in the Memoirs of his wife, but a passage may here be extracted from a book which now is scarce, and but little known. He says,
"The partiality we conceived for each other was in that mode which I have always considered as the purest, and most refined style of love. It grew with equal advances in the mind of each. It would have been impossible for the most minute observer to have said who was before and who was after. One sex did not take the priority which long established custom has awarded it, nor the other overstep that delicacy which is so severely imposed. I am not conscious that either party can assume to have been the agent or the patient, the toil spreader or the prey, in the affair. When, in the course of things, the disclosure came, there was nothing, in a manner, for either party to disclose to the other. . . . There was no period of throes and resolute explanation attendant on the tale. It was friendship melting into love."
The description of their married happiness is equally striking. The slight clouds which will appear in the correspondence which passed between them, were of an extremely transient character, and arose from Mary Wollstonecraft's extreme sensitiveness and eager quickness of temper, which were perhaps now and then tried by Godwin's confirmed bachelor habits, and also by the fact that he took au pied de la lettre all that she said about the independence of women, when in truth she leant a good deal on the aid of others. Into one plan of Godwin's, which may seem strange, his wife willingly fell. His strong view on the possibility that families may easily weary of the society of their different members, led him to take rooms in a house about twenty doors from that in the Polygon, Somers Town, which was their joint home. To this study he repaired as soon as he rose in the morning, rarely even breakfasting at the Polygon, and here also he often slept. Each was engaged in his and her own literary occupations, and they seldom met, unless they walked together, till dinner time. each day.
"We agreed, also," says Godwin, "in condemning the notion, prevalent in many situations in life, that a man and his wife cannot visit in mixed society, but in company with each other; and we rather sought occasions of deviating from than in complying with this rule."
Before the marriage was declared, but while the intimate relation in which they stood to each other was understood, Southey, then in London, met Godwin and Mary, and wrote to his friend Cottle his views of them.
R. Southey to 7. Cottle.
"March 13th, 1797.
"... Of all the lions or literati I have seen here, Mary Imlay's countenance is the best, infinitely the best: the only fault in it is an expression somewhat similar to what the prints of Horne Tooke display-an expression indicating superiority; not haughtiness, not sarcasm, in Mary Imlay, but still it is unpleasant. Her eyes are light brown, and although the lid of one of them is affected by a little paralysis, they are the most meaning I ever saw. . .. As for Godwin himself; he has large noble eyes, and a nose -oh most abominable nose! Language is not vituperatious enough to describe the effect of its downward elongation."-
Southey's Life, Vol. i., pp. 305, 306.
The marriage itself took place at Old St. Pancras Church on March 29th, 1797, Marshal and the clerk of the church being the witnesses. Godwin takes no notice whatever of it in his diary.
Among those who were entitled to early information was Mr. Thomas Wedgwood of Etruria. His correspondence during the early months of this year with Godwin had been familiar and lengthy, chiefly concerned with difficult metaphysical problems in the study of which both were interested. In one, however, he asks for a loan of £50, and the request was at once granted, but he did not at once explain the reason that he required such a sum, though he knew that his friend would be astonished, since his careful frugality was well known. The money was in fact required to enable him to help Mary Wollstonecraft out of some difficulties, and after the marriage, he again wrote thus;
W. Godwin to T. Wedgwood, Esq.
"No.7 EVESHAM BUILDINGS, SOMERS TOWN,
April 19th, 1797.
"... You have by this time heard from B. Montague of my marriage. This was the solution of my late application to you, which I promised speedily to communicate. Some persons have found an inconsistency between my practice in this instance and my doctrines. But I cannot see it. The doctrine of my 'Political Justice' is, that an attachment in some degree permanent, between two persons of opposite sexes is right, but that marriage, as practised in European countries, is wrong. I still adhere to that opinion. Nothing but a regard for the happiness of the individual, which I had no right to injure, could have induced me to submit to an institution which I wish to see abolished, and which I would recommend to my fellow-men, never to practise, but with the greatest caution. Having done what I thought necessary for the peace and respectability of the individual, I hold myself no otherwise bound than I was before the ceremony took place.
"It is possible however that you will not see the subject in the same light, and I perhaps went too far, when I presumed to suppose that if you were acquainted with the nature of the case you would find it to be such as to make the interference I requested of you appear reasonable. I trust you will not accuse me of duplicity in having told you that it was not for myself that I wanted your assistance. You will perceive that that remark was in reference to the seeming inconsistency between my habits of economy and independence and the application in question.
"I can see no reason to doubt that as we are both successful authors, we shall be able by our literary exertions, though with no other fortune, to maintain ourselves either separately, or which is more desirable jointly. The loan I requested of you was rendered necessary by some complication in her pecuniary affairs, the consequence of her former connection, the particulars of which you have probably heard. Now that we have entered into a new mode of living, which will probably be permanent, I find a further supply of fifty pounds will be necessary to enable us to start fair. This you shall afford us, if you feel perfectly assured of its propriety, but if there be the smallest doubt in your mind, I shall be much more gratified by your obeying that doubt, than superseding it, I do not at present feel inclined to remain long in any man's debt, Dot even in yours. As to the not having published our marriage at first, I yielded in that to her feelings. Having settled the principal point in conformity to her interest, I felt inclined to leave all inferior matters to her disposal
"We do not entirely cohabit."
Godwin wrote to his mother at once that she might be, as was right, among the first people informed about his marriage. But the fact of Fanny's existence and other details were probably supplied by Miss Godwin. The old lady took time to answer the communication.
Mrs. Godwin, Sen., to W. Godwin.
[WOOD DALLING, NORFOLK,]
"3rd May, 1797.
DEAR WM. - What you say respecting your dear cousin's death is very consolitory and a just remark. It was rather the pleasure of knowing she was a live than use we could be of to each other, and upon reflection mater of thankfulness on her account, as the change to her is so far superior to the infirm body she carried about, only this that her letters were always incouraging me to go on trusting in the Lord that had been so gratious to me hitherto, and would not forsake any that reverance his name. Thus did we incourage and comfort one another with passages out of scripture that never failing word. When lover and friend forsake us then the Lord will take us up; this is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother, and though we should lose all other friends, the unchangable god liveth, for of his years there is no end, blessed for ever be his name.
"Your broken resolution in regard to matrimony incourages me to hope that you will ere long embrace the Gospel, that sure word of promise to all believers, and not only you, but your other half, whose souls should be both one, as Watts says of his friend Gunston, the sooner the better. My dear Wm., the apoligy I have to make for not answering yours is, Mrs G. was going to send a box to H. soon, and was willing to save ye postage. You might have been so good as told me a few more particulars about your conjugal state, as when you were married, as being a father as well as a husband; hope you will fill up your place with propriety in both relations; you are certainly transformed in a moral sense, why is it impassable in a spiritual sense, which last will make you shine with the radiance of the sun for ever. Mrs G. and, I may say, all your friends and mine wish you happiness, and shall be glad to see you and your wife in Norfolk, if I be spared. You must not expect great exactness, as I have a young servant, and myself able to do nothing at all. I hope you are good walkers, for I have no horse, and have not entered my Cart, so can go nowhere but to meeting with it. I have for many days had the cramp, I call it, rather than ye Rhumatism. I can't put on my own stockens, and am obliged to stand to eat my vituals, and get up and walk about perhaps 40 times while I write this letter. I intend sending you a few eggs with this in Hannah's box. Could send you a small fether bed, would do for a servant, by wagon, if acceptable. If you give me a direction, you may write by ye return of the box, or Mr Jo. Godwin, whome, John says, intends coming into the country in about a fortnight or three weeks, or by post for me at Mr Munton's, shopkeeper, Foulsham, will cost but 7d., any other way 8d. Your poor sister H. is, I fear, a bad oeconemist, her heart too generous for her comings in, and besides that she has lost her good friend Mrs Hague. Many people think her character injured by Marshal, a married man, who, I suppose dines with her on Sundays; is it not so? Do you commend her, tell me freely, or advise her against it yourself? She will hear you sooner than anybody else - faithful are the wounds of a friend. If a righteous man smite me, it shall be a kindness; it's an exelent oil that shall not break my head saith the wise man.
" My dears, whatever you do, do not make invitations and entertainments, that was what hurt Jo. Live comfortable with one another. The Hart of her husband safely trusts in her. I cannot give you no better advice than Qut of Proverbs, the Prophets, and New Testament. My best affections attend you both.-From yr. Mother, A. GODWIN.
"I am informed Mr. Harwood's mother is dead; that's all I know. Your eggs will spoil soon if you don't pack them up in sawdust, bran, or something of the kind, and turn them often. 'Tis pitty to pay carriage for them if they don't keep."
Mrs Shelley's note on the marriage of her father and mother is as follows:-
"At the beginning of this year  Mr. Godwin married Mary Wollstonecraft. The precise date is not known; he does not mention it in his journal, and the ceremony had taken place some time before the marriage was declared. This secrecy partly arose from a slight shrinking on Mr. Godwin's part from avowing that he had acted in contradiction to his theories. Such contradictions occur indeed every day, and are applauded. But the fervour and uncompromising tone assumed by the author of 'Political Justice' in promulgating his opinions made his followers demand a rigid adherence to them in action, and to comply with the ordinance of marriage was in the eyes of many among them absolute apostacy. Yet, in fact, all Mr. Godwin's inner and more private feelings were contrary to the supposed gist of his doctrines. The former were all strongly enlisted on the side of female virtue, and he would readily have proved, if questioned, that it was only misapprehension of his doctrines that could lead anyone to think that he was opposed to marriage. "Another cause for the secrecy at first maintained was the stem law of poverty and necessity. My father narrowly circumscribed both his receipts and disbursements. The maintenance of a family had never been 'contemplated, and could not at once be provided for. My mother, accustomed to a life of struggle and poverty, was so beloved by her friends, that several, and Mr. Johnson in particular, had stood between her and any of the annoyances and mortifications of debt. But this must cease when she married. They both however looked on this sort of struggle, in which they had been born, and had always lived, as a very secondary matter, and after a short period of deliberation they, in the month of April, declared the marriage which had before been solemnized. The celebrity of both parties rendered the event of importance in their own circle. It is too usual that when a man marries he commences new habits under such a totally new influence, and that he is lost to all his former friends. Mr. Godwin spent a portion of every day in society, and was much beloved; his more intimate friends believed they should suffer from the change. Two ladies shed tears when he announced his marriage Mrs. Inchbald and Mrs. Reveley. The former lady seceded from his circle on this occasion, making worldly motives her excuse. Mrs. Reveley feared to lose a kind and constant friend, but, becoming intimate with Mary Wollstonecraft, she soon learnt to appreciate her virtues and to love her. She soon found, as she told me in after days, that instead of losing one she had secured two friends, unequalled, perhaps, in the world for genius, single-heartedness, and nobleness of disposition, and a cordial intercourse subsisted between them."
Mrs. lnchbald's letter, acknowledging the receipt of the communication, is very characteristic of a woman who, as Godwin remarks, afterwards wished to "shuffle out" of a difficulty. He did not choose to take the hint, and it appears, both from his Diary and a later letter, that he and his wife were present with Mrs Inchbald at the play on the night in question, Wednesday, April 9th, and that then Mrs. Inchbald expressed her feelings freely to Mrs Godwin.
Mrs. lnchbald to William Godwin.
"April 11, 1797.
"I most sincerely wish you and Mrs. Godwin joy. But, assured that your joyfulness would obliterate from your memory every trifling engagement, I have entreated another person to supply your place, and perform your office in securing a box on Reynold's night. If I have done wrong, when you next marry, I will act differently."
Godwin merely communicated the fact of the marriage to Holcroft. He knew that his friend would understand to whom he was married. He received from him a very different letter.
Thomas Holcroft to William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwill.
"From my very heart and soul I give you joy. I think you the most extraordinary married pair in existence. May your happiness be as pure as I firmly persuade myself it must be. I hope and expect to see you both, and very soon. If you show coldness, or refuse me, you will do injustice to a heart which, since it has really known you, never for a moment felt cold to you.
"I cannot be mistaken concerning the woman you have married. It is Mrs. W. Your secrecy a little pains me. It tells me you do not yet know me.
It will be seen that the above letters are not arranged precisely in the order of their dates, but they appeared to fall in better with Mrs. Shelley's note on the marriage than earlier.
The mode of Godwin's married life having been described, a selection from the notes which passed between the pair, both immediately before the marriage and afterwards, to and from the house in the Polygon and his lodgings in Evesham Place, needs no further explanation. Some of them have been taken out of their place in order of date, that the series may be presented consecutively.
Mary Wollstonecraft to William Godwin.
"Jan. S, 1797. Thursday morning.
"I was very glad that you were not with me last night, for I could not rouse myself. To say the truth, I was unwell and out of spirits; I am better to-day. "
"I shall take a walk before dinner, and expect to see you this evening, chez moi, about eight, if you have no objection."
The Same to the Same.
"Jan. 12, 1797. Thursday morning.
"I am better this morning, but it snows so incessantly, that I do not know how I shall be able to keep my appointment this evening. What say you? But you have no petticoats to dangle in the snow. Poor women-how they are beset with plagues within and without."
The Same to the Same.
"Jan. 13th, 1797. Friday morning.
"I believe I ought to beg your pardon for talking at you last night, though it was in sheer simplicity of heart, and I have been asking myself why it so happened. Faith and troth, it was be. cause there was nobody else worth attacking, or who could converse. C. had wearied me before you entered. But be assured, when I find a man that has anything in him, I shall let my every day dish alone. "I send you the Emma" [Emma, or the Unfortunate Attachment. A novel. London 1773] for Mrs. Inchbald, supposing you have not altered your mind.
"Bring Holcroft's remarks with you, and Ben Johnson" [sic].
The Same to the Same.
"Jan. 27. 1797.
"I am not well this morning. It is very tormenting to be thus, neither sick nor well, especially as you scarcely imagine me indisposed.
"Women are certainly great fools; but nature made them so. I have not time or paper, else I could draw an inference, not very illustrative of your chance-medley system. But I spare the moth-like opinion; there is room enough in the world, &c."
The Same to the Same.
"Feb. 3, 1797. Friday Morning
"Mrs. Inchbald was gone into the City to dinner, so I had to measure back my steps.
"To day I find myself better, and, as the weather is fine, mean to call on Dr. Fordyce. I shall leave home about two o'clock. I tell you so, lest you should call after that hour. I do not think of visiting you in my way, because I seem inclined to be industrious. I believe I feel affectionate to you in proportion as I am in spirits; still I must not dally with you, when I can do anything else. There is a civil speech for you to chew."
The Same to the Same.
"Feb. 17, 1797.
"Did I not see you, friend Godwin, at the theatre last night? I thought I met a smile, but you went out without looking round.
"We expect you at half-past four." [She did see "friend Godwin," for the Diary shows that he was there.]
The Same to the Same.
"Feb, 22, 1797.
"Everina's cold is still so bad, that unless pique urges her, she will not go out to-day. For to-morrow, I think I may venture to promise. I will call, if possible, this morning. I know I must come before half after one; but if you hear nothing more from me, you had better come to my house this evening.
"Will you send the second volume of 'Caleb,' and pray lend me a bit of Indian rubber. I have lost mine. Should you be obliged to quit home before the hour I have mentioned, say. You will not forget that we are to dine at four. I wish to be exact, because I have promised to let Mary go and assist her brother this afternoon. I have been tormented all this morning by puss, who has had four or five fits. I could not conceive what occasioned them, and took care that she should not be terrified. But she flew up my chimney, and was so wild, that I thought it right to have her drowned. Fanny imagines that she was sick, and ran away."
Everina, who had been residing for some time with her sister, but who was not in her sister's confidence as to her relation with Godwin, now left London, to become governess in the Wedgwood family, at Etruria.
The Same to the Same.
"Mar. 11th, 1797. Saturday Morning.
"I must dine to-day with Mrs. Christie, and mean to return as early as I can; they seldom dine before five.
"Should you call and find only books, have a little patience, and I shall be with you.
"Do not give Fanny a cake to-day. I am afraid she staid too long with you yesterday.
"You are to dine with me on Monday, remember; the salt beef awaits your pleasure."
The Same to the Same.
"Mar. 17. 1791. Friday. Morning.
"And so, you goose, you lost your supper - and deserved to lose it, for not desiring Mary to give you some beef.
"There is a good boy, write me a review of Vannen. I remember there is an absurd attack on a Methodist preacher, because he denied the Eternity of future punishments.
"I should be glad to have the Italian, were it possible, this week, because I promised to let Johnson have it this week."
William Godwin to Mary Wollstonecraft.
"[Between March 17 and 29. 1797.]
"I will have the honour to dine with you. You ask me whether I think I can get four orders. I do not know, but I do not think the thing impossible. How do you do?
The Same to the Same.
"March 29. [after the Wedding.]
"I must write, though it will not be long till five. I shall, however, reserve all I have to say. Non je ne veux pas etre fache quan! au passe. Au revoir."
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin" to William Godwin.
"March 31,1797. Friday.
"I return you the volumes; will you get me the rest? I have not, perhaps, given it as careful a reading as some of the sentiments deserve.
"Pray send me by Mary for my luncheon a part of the supper you announced to me last night, as I am to be a partaker of your worldly goods, you know! "
The Same to the Same.
"Saturday, April 8, 1797.
"I have just thought that it would be very pretty in you to call on Johnson to-day. It would spare me some awkwardness, and please him and I want you to visit him often of a Tuesday. This is quite disinterested, as I shall never be of the party. Do, you would oblige me. But when I press anything, it is always with a true wish submission to your judgment and inclination. Remember to leave the key of No. 5 with us, on account of the wine."
The Same to the Same.
"April 11th, 1797.
I am not well to-day; my spirits have been harassed. Mary will tell you about the state of the sink, &c. Do you know you plague me a little by not speaking more determinately to the landlord, of whom I have a mean opinion. He tires me by his pitiful way of doing everything. I like a man who will say yes or no at once."
The Same to the Same.
April 11th, 1797.
I wish you would desire Mr. Marshal to call on me. Mr. Johnson or somebody has always taken the disagreeable business of settling with tradespeople off my hands. I am perhaps as unfit as yourself to do it, and my time appears to me as valuable as that of other persons accustomed to employ themselves. Things of this kind are easily settled with money I know; but I am tormented by the want of money, and feel, to say the truth, as if I was not treated with respect, owing to your desire not to be disturbed."
William Godwin to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwi1l.
April 20th, [1797.]
"I am pained by the recollection of our conversation last night. The sole principle of conduct of which I am conscious in my behaviour to you, has been in everything to study your happiness. I found a wounded heart, and as that heart cast itself on me, it was my ambition to heal it. Do not let me be wholly disappointed.
"Let me have the relief of seeing you this morning. If I do not call before you go out, call on me."
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin to William Godwi1l.
"April 20th, 1797.
"Fanny is delighted with the thought of dining with you. But I wish you to eat your meat first, and let her come up with the pudding. I shall probably knock at your door in my way to Opie's; but should I not find you, let me request you not to be too late this evening. Do not give Fanny butter with her puddin."
The Same to the Same.
" Saturday morning, May 21st, 1797.
" . . . Montagu called on me this morning, that is breakfasted with me, and invited me to go with him and the Wedgwoods into the country to-morrow, and return the next day. As I love the country, and think with a poor mad woman I knew, that there is God, or something very consolatory in the air, I should without hesitation have accepted the invitation but for my engagement with your sister. To her even I should have made an apology, could I have seen her, or rather have stated that the circumstance would not occur again. As it is I am afraid of wounding her feelings, because an engagement often becomes important in proportion as it has been anticipated. I began to write to ask your opinion respecting the propriety of sending to her, and feel as I write that I had better conquer my desire of contemplating unsophisticated nature than give her a moment's pain.
It does not appear how this knotty point was settled, but Godwin was not long afterwards a companion of Mr. Basil Montagu on a somewhat longer excursion, extending over more than a fortnight. The friends hired a one horse carriage, and made a tour into Staffordshire, taking journeys which speak well for the quality of the animal they drove. An abridgement of Godwin's diary will throw light on the correspondence with his wife during the tour.
" June 3, Sa.-Tour w. Montagu: sleep at Beaconsfield.
" 4, Su.- Wycombe: breakfast at Tetsworth: dine at Horseman's, Oxford, w. Porter, Mossop, and 3 Swans:
Woodstock: sleep at Chapel House.
" 5, M-Shipston: Welsburn: breakfast at Morley's, Hampton Lucy, w. C. Parr; dine at Boot's, Atherston nr. Stratford, w. Parr, Morley, Bradley, and Philips: Henley: sleep at Hochley House.
" 6, Tu.- Breakfast at Birmingham: Walsal: dine at Caunoc:
Stafford: tea, Stone: sup at Etruria, w. Br. Allen and ladies.
" 7, W.-Hobbes's 'Human Nature' p. 14. Dine at Mrs. Wedgwood's, w. Miss Ja. Willet: ride to Chesterton w. Montagu.
" 8, Th.-Hobbes, p. 26. View the Pottery: Theatre, Stobe, School for Scandal' and ' Catherine.'
" 9, .F.-Hobbes, p. 32, fin. Navigate the Tunnel: ladies dine.
" 10, Sa.- Life of Hobbse' pp. 20. Ladies dine: ride to Newcastle and Burslem w. Montagu.
" 11, Sat.-'Leviathan' p. 14: 'Logique par Condillac,' p. 30:
Bailly, 'Sur les Sciences,' p. 50: Ride to Trentham w. J. & T. Wedgwoods and Montagu. "
12, M.- Leviathan,' p. 24, (chap. 6.): Bailly, p. 76.
Dine at Mrs Wedgwood's w. Miss IVillet junior.
''June 13, Tu.- Breakfast at L!ttoxeter: dine at Derby; call on Mrs Danvin: sleep at Burton-upon-Trent.
" 14, W-Elford, walk w. Bage: dine at Tamworth: Bage calls: sup at Bage's w. Davis.
" 15, Th.-Coleshil: breakfast at George in Tree: dine at Hatton w. Wynns: walk to Kennilworth w. Montagu.
" 16, .F.-Guy's Cliff: Coventry Fair: dine at Dunchurch :
Daventry: sleep at Northampton.
" 17, Sa.-Wellingborough: breakfast at Thrapston: dine at Mr Robt. Montagu's, Brampton: tea, Holworthy's w. Miss ·Wants.
" 18, Su.-Breakfast and dine at Mrs Montagu's: see Hinchinbrooke House: Huntingdon: sup at Jones's, Cambridge, w. ·Woodhouse.
" 19, M.-Breakfast at Otter's: dine at Gunnings Ichleton : sleep at Sawbridgeworth.
" 20, Tu.-Breakfast on Epping Forest: Polygon; Fenwick calls: A. Pinkerton at tea.
The letters which follow give the journey in detail.
William Godwin to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin
"STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, June 5, 1797.
"I write at this moment from Hampton Lucy, in sight of the house and park of Sir Thomas Lucy, the great benefactor of mankind, who persecuted William Shakespeare for deer-stealing, and obliged him to take refuge in the metropolis. Montagu has just had a vomit, to carry off a certain quantity of punch, with the drinking of which he concluded the Sunday evening.
"Is that the right style for a letter?
"We are going to dine to-day at the house of Mr. Boot, a country farmer, with Dr Parr and a set of jolly fellows, to com. memorate the victory, or rather no-victory gained last week by the High Sheriff of Warwick and the oppositionists over the Lord Lieutenant and the ministerialist, on the matter of the dismission of Mr. Pitt and his coadjutors. We sleep to-night at Dr Parr's, 60 miles from Etruria, at which place therefore we probably shall not arrive till Wednesday. Our horse has turned out admirably, and we were as gay as larks. "We were almost drowned this morning in a brook, swelled by the rains. We are here at the house of a Mr. Morley, a clergyman, with whom we breakfasted after a ride of 22 miles. He is an excellent classic, and, which is almost as good, a clever and amiable man. Here we met Catherine Parr, the youngest, as blooming as Hebe, and more interesting than all the goddesses in the Pantheon. Montagu is in love with her.
"We slept the first night at Beaconsfield, the residence of Mr. Burke, 23 miles. The town was full of soldiers. We rose the next morning, as well as to-day, a little after four. We drove about 20 miles to breakfast, and arrived at Oxford, 53 miles from town, about 12. Here we had a grand dinner prepared for us by letter, by a Mr. Horseman, who says that you and I are the two greatest men in the world. He is very nervous, and thinks he never had a day's health in his life. He intends to return the visit, and eat a good dinner in the Paragon, but he will find himself mistaken. We saw the buildings, an object that never impressed me with rapture, but we could not see the collection of paintings at Ch. Ch. Library, because it was Sunday. We saw however an altar-piece by Guido, Christ bearing the Cross, a picture I think of the highest excellence. Our escort, one of whom thinks himself an artist, were so ignorant as to tell us that a window to which we were introduced, painted by Jervas (as they said), from Reynolds, was infinitely superior. We had also a Mr. Swan and his two wives, or sisters, to dinner, but they were no better than geese.
"And now, my dear love, what do you think of me? Do you not find solitude infinitely superior to the company of a husband? Will you give me leave to return to you again when I have finished my pilgrimage, and discharged the penance of absence? Take care of yourself, my love, and take care of William. Do not you be drowned, whatever I am. I remember at every moment all the accidents to which your condition subjects you, and wish I knew of some sympathy that could inform me from moment to moment how you do, and what you feel.
"Tell Fanny something about me. Ask where she thinks I am. Say I am a great way, and going further and further, but that I shall turn round to come back again some day. Tell her I have not forgotten her little mug, and that I shall choose a very pretty one. Montagu said this morning about eight o'clock, upon the road, 'Just now little Fanny is going to plungity-plunge.' Was he right? I love him very much. He is in such a hurry to see his chere adorable, that I believe, after all, we shall set forward this evening and get to Etruria to-morrow.
[End torn off.]
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin to William Godwin
"Tuesday, June 6th.
"It was so kind and considerate in you to write sooner than I expected, that I cannot help hoping you would be disappointed at not receiving a greeting from me on your arrival at Etruria. If your heart was in your mouth, as I felt, just now, at the sight of your hand, you may kiss or shake hands with the letter, and imagine with what affection it was written. If not, stand off, profane one!
"I was not quite well the day after you left me; but it is past, and I am well and tranquil, excepting the disturbance produced by Master William's joy, who took it into his head to frisk a little at being informed of your remembrance. I begin to love this little creature, and to anticipate his birth as a fresh twist to a knot which I do not wish to untie. Men are spoilt by frankness, I believe, yet I must tell you that I love you better than I supposed I did, when I promised to love you for ever. And I will add what will gratify your benevolence, if not your heart, that on the whole I may be termed happy. You are a kind, affectionate creature, and I feel it thrilling through my frame, giving and promising pleasure.
"Fanny wanted to know 'what you are gone for,' and endeavours to pronounce Etruria. Poor papa is her word of kindness. She has been turning your letter on all sides, and has promised to play with Bobby till I have finished my answer.
"I find you can write the kind of letter a friend ought write, and give an account of your movements. I hailed the sunshine and moonlight, and travelled with you, scenting the fragrant gale. Enable me still to be your company, and I will allow you to peep over my shoulder, and see me under the shade of my green blind, thinking of you, and all I am to hear and feel when you return. You may read my heart, if you will.
"I have no information to give in return for yours. Holcroft is to dine with me on Saturday. So do not forget us when you drink your solitary glass, for nobody drinks wine at Etruria, I take it. Tell me what you think of Everina's behaviour and situation, and treat her with as much kindness as you can-that is, a little more than her manner will probably call forth-and I will repay you.
"I am not fatigued with solitude, yet I have not relished my solitary dinner. A husband is a convenient part of the furniture of a house, unless he be a clumsy fixture. I wish you, from my soul, to be rivetted in my heart; but I do not desire to have you always at my elbow, although at this moment I should not care if you were. Yours truly and tenderly, MARY.
"Fanny forgets not the mug.
"Miss Pinkerton seems content. I was amused by a letter she wrote home. She has more in her than comes out of her mouth. My dinner is ready, and it is washing-day. I am putting everything in order for your return. Adieu!"
William Godwin to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin.
"ETRURIA, June 7, 1797.
More adventures. There are scenes, Sterne says, that only a born to be present at. I sealed my last letter at Hampton Lucy, and set off for Mr. Boot's, farmer at Atherston, where I expected to meet Dr. Parr to dinner. Our way lay through Stratford-upon-Avon, where, after having paid our respects to the house, now inhabited by a butcher, in which Shakespeare is said to have been born, I put your letter in the post.
"But before we entered Stratford we overtook Dr. Parr. After a very cordial salutation, he told us that we saw him in the deepest affliction, and forbad our visit at present to his house, though he pressed us to wait upon him upon our return from Etruria. He, however, went on with us upon his trot to the dinner at Atherston. His affliction was for the elopement of his daughter with a Mr. Wynn, a young man of eighteen, a pupil of the Doctor's, son to a member of Parliament; and who will probably inherit a considerable fortune. They set off for Gretna Green on the night of Sunday the 4th. To do the Doctor justice, though in the deepest affliction, he was not inconsolable. He had said to the young man the Friday before: Sir, it is necessary we should come to an issue. You must either quit my house, or relinquish your addresses to Miss Parr; if, after having ceased to live with me, you choose to continue your addresses, I shall have no objection to you; but I will have no Gretna Green work. I allow you till Monday to give in your answer. I cannot help, however, believing that the Doctor is not very inconsolable for the match. What do you think of it? I certainly regard Miss Parr as a seducer, and have scarcely any doubt that the young man will repent, and that they will be unhappy. It was her, and her mother's maxim that the wisest thing a young woman of sense could do was to marry a fool, and they illustrated their maxim from their domestic scene. Miss Parr has now, it seems, got her fool, and will therefore learn by experiment the justice of her maxim.
"I expected to have been rallied by the Doctor upon my marriage. He was in high spirits, but abstained from the subject. I at length reminded him of his message by the Wedgwoods. I mentioned it with the utmost humour, but desired an explanation, as I was really incapable of understanding it. He appeared confused, said he had been in high good humour the evening he supplied with the Wedgwoods, and had talked away at a great rate. He could not exactly say how he had expressed himself, but was sure he did not use the word mean. We had a good deal I told him that he understood everything except my system of 'Political Justice;' and he replied that was exactly the case with me. Montagu afterwards told me that Dr Parr had assured him that I was more skilful in moral science than any man now living. I am not, however, absolutely sure of accuracy of Montagu's comprehension.
"We left the Doctor at the farmer's house, and came on on Monday evening to within ten miles of Birmingham and fifty miles of Etruria. (I forgot to say in the right place that Miss Parr, upon hearing of my expedition, that she would give me the most complete roasting she ever gave to any man in her life, upon my marriage. She, however, has got her husband, and I have probably lost my roasting. Though I think it not improbably that we shall find Mr. and Mrs. Wynn at Dr Parr's on our return.)
Every night we have ceased to travel at eleven; every morning we risen at four, so that you see we have not been idle. We breakfasted on Tuesday at Birmingham, where we spent two hours, surveyed the town, and saw the ruins of two large houses, which had been demolished in the Birmingham riots. I amused myself enquiring the meaning of a handbill respecting a waxwork exhibition containing, among others, lively and accurate "CSS3 of the Prince and Princess of Wirtemberg, and Poet Fruth. As I had never heard of Poet Fruth, my curiosity was excited. We found that he was an ale-house keeper of Birmingham, the author of a considerable number of democratical squibs. If we return by Birmingham, I promise myself to pay him a visit.
From Birmingham, we passed through Walsall, a large and handsome town of this county, 8 miles. We went forward, however, and came at 12 o'clock to Cannock, a pretty little town. Here we proposed to give our horse some water, and a mouthful of corn. Montagu had repeatedly regretted the hardship imposed upon the horse of eating his hay with a large bit of iron in his mouth, and here, therefore, he thought proper to take off his bridle at the inn door. The horse, finding himself at liberty, immediately pranced off, overturned the chaise, dashed it against a post, and broke it in twenty places. It was a formidable sight, and the horse was with great difficulty stopped. We, however, are philosophers, so, after having amused ourselves for some time with laughing at our misadventure, we sent for a smith to splinter our carriage. By two we had eaten our dinner, the chaise was hammered together. We paid the smith his demand of 2S., and bid adieu to Cannock, the scene of this memorable adventure.
"Our next town was Stafford, which I viewed with unfeigned complacence, as having had the honour of being represented in four successive Parliaments by Richard Sheridan. We did not, however, stop here (8 miles), but proceeded to Stone (7 more), and nine short of Etruria. Here we took tea, and here I wrote the first 18 lines of this letter. You cannot imagine the state of intoxication of poor Montagu as he approached the place of our destination. It was little less than madness, but the most kindhearted madness imaginable. He confessed to me that he had set out from London in extreme ill-humour, from preceding fatigue, and from doubts of the capacity of the horse to perform the journey, in which, however, he was agreeably disappointed. He added that it was infinitely the most delightful journey he had ever made.
"We reached Etruria without further accident, a little after eight. Our reception appears to be cordial. Farewell, my love. I think of you with tenderness, and shall see you again with redoubled kindness (if you will let me) for this short absence. Kiss Fanny for me, remember William, but, most of all, take care of yoursel£ Tell Fanny I am safely arrived in the land of mugs.
"Your sister would not come down to see me last night at supper, but we met at breakfast this morning. I have nothing to say about her."
William Gowin to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin
"ETRURIA, June 10, 1797.
"You cannot imagine how happy your letter made me. No creature expresses, because no creature feels, the tender affections so perfectly as you do; and, after all one's philosophy, it must be confessed that the knowledge that there is some one that takes an interest in one's happiness, something like that which each man feels in his own, is extremely gratifying. We love, as it were, to multiply the consciousness of our existence, even at the hazard of what Montagu described so pathetically one night upon the New Road, of opening new avenues for pain and misery to attack us.
"We arrived, as you are already informed, at Etruria on Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday I finished my second letter to you, which was exchanged that evening for your letter, written the preceding day. This is the mode of carrying on correspondence at Etruria: the messenger who brings the letters from Newcastle under-Lyne, two miles, carries away the letters you have already written. In case of emergency, however, you can answer letters by return of post, and send them an hour after the messenger, time enough for the mail.
"I wrote last Wednesday a letter which of course you were to receive this morning. It is probable that you are now reading it: it is between twelve and one. I hope it finds you in health and spirits. I hope you hail the handwriting on the direction, though not probably with the surprise which, it seems, the arrival of my first letter produced. You are now reading my adventures: the elopement of Mrs. Wynn, the little, good-humoured sparring between me and Dr. Parr, and the tremendous accident of Cannock. These circumstances are presenting themselves with all the grace of novelty. I am, at the same time, reading your letter, I believe for the fourth time, which loses not one grace by the repetition. Well, fold it up; give Fanny the kiss I sent her, and tell her, as I desired you, that I am in the land of mugs. You wish, it may be, that my message had been better adapted to her capacity, but I think it better as it is; I hope you do not disdain the task of being its commentator.
"One of the pleasures I promised myself in my excursion, was to increase my value in your estimation, and I am not disappointed. What we possess without intermission we inevitably hold light; it is a refinement in voluptuousness to submit to voluntary privations. Separation is the image of death, but it is Death stripped of all that is most tremendous, and his dart purged of its deadly venom. I always thought St. Paul's rule, that we should die daily, an exquisite Epicurean maxim. The practice of it would give to life a double relish.
"Yesterday we dined at Mrs. Wedgwood's the elder, Everina was not of the party. They sat incessantly from three to eleven P.M. This does not suit my propensities; I was obliged to have a ride in the whiskey at five, and a walk at half after eight.
"Montagu's flame is the youngest of the family. She is certainly the best of the two unmarried daughters; but, I am afraid, not good enough for him. She is considerably fat, with a countenance rather animated, and a glimpse of Mrs. Robinson. Perhaps you know that I am a little sheepish, particularly with stranger ladies. Our party is numerous, and I have had no conversation with her. I look upon any of my friends going to be married with something of the same feeling as I should do if they were sentenced to hard labour in the Spielberg. The despot may die, and the new despot grace his accession with a general jail delivery j that is almost the only hope for the unfortunate captive.
"To-day we went over Mr. Wedgwood's manufactory. Everina accompanied us, and Mr. Baugh Allen-no other lady. For Everina, she was in high spirits. She had never seen the manufactory before. The object of my attention was rather the countenances of the workpeople, than the wares they produced. . . .
"Tell Fanny we have chosen a mug for her, and another for Lucas. There is a F on hers, and an L on his, shaped in an island of flowers, of green and orange tawny alternately. With respect to their beauty, you will set it forth with such eloquence as your imagination can supply.
"We are going this evening, the whole family included, to see the 'School for Scandal,' represented by a company of strollers at Newcastle- under-Lyne. . . . Your 'William (do you know me by that name?) salutes the trio, M., F., and last and least (in stature at least), little W."
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin to William Godwin
"Saturday, half after one o'clock.
"Your letter of Wednesday I did not receive till just now, and I have only half an hour to express the kind emotions which are clustering about my heart, or my letter will have no chance of reaching General Tarleton's to-day, and to-morrow being Sunday, two posts would be lost. My last letter of course you did not get, although I reckoned on its reaching you Wednesday morning.
"I read, T[homas] W[edgwood]'s letter. I thought it would be affectation not to open it, as I knew the hand. It did not quite please me. He appears to me to be half spoilt by living with his inferiors in point of understanding, and to expect that homage to be paid to his abilities which the world will readily pay to his fortune. I am afraid that all men are materially injured by inheriting wealth, and, without knowing it, become important in their own eyes, in consequence of an advantage they contemn.
"I am not much surprised at Miss Parr's conduct. You may remember that I did not give her credit for as much sensibility (at least the sensibility which is the mother of sentiment and delicacy of mind) as you did, and her conduct confirms my opinion. Could a woman of delicacy seduce and marry a fool? She will be unhappy, unless a situation in life, and a good table to prattle at, are sufficient to fill up the void of affection. This ignoble mode of rising in the world is the consequence of the present system of female education.
I have little to tell you of myself I am very well. Mrs. Reveley drank tea with me one morning, and I spent a day with her, which would have been a very pleasant one, had I not been a little too much fatigued by a previous visit to Mr. Barry. Fanny often talks of you, and made Mrs. Reveley laugh by telling her, when she could not find the monkey to show it to Henry, 'that it was gone into the country.' I supposed that Everina would assume some airs at seeing you. She has very mistaken notions of dignity of character.
"Pray tell me the precise time-I mean when it is fixed-I do believe I shall be glad to see you I-of your return, and I will keep a good look-out for you. William is all alive, and my appearance no longer doubtful. You, I dare say, will perceive the difference. What a fine thing it is to be a man I
"You were very good to write such a long letter. Adieu! take care of yourself Now I have ventured on you, I should not like to lose you.
William Godwin to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin
"ETRURIA (finished), June 12, 1797.
"Having dispatched one letter, I now begin another. You have encouraged me to believe that some pleasure results to you, merely from thus obtaining the power of accompanying my motions, and that what would be uninteresting to another may, by this circumstance, be rendered agreeable to you. I am the less capable of altering my method, if it ought to be altered, as you have not dealt fairly by me this post. I delivered a letter of mine to the messenger, but I received none from him in return. I am beginning a fourth letter, but of yours I have as yet only one.
"The theatre, which was at Stoke-up on-Trent, two miles from Etruria, was inexpressibly miserable. The scene was new to me, and I should have been sorry to have missed it; but it was extremely tedious. Our own company, consisting of nine persons, contributed one-half of the audience, exclusive of the galleries. The illusion, the fascination of the drama, was, as you may well suppose, altogether out of the question. It was the counterpart of a puppet-show at a country fair, except that, from the circumstance of these persons having to deliver the sentiments of Sheridan and Shakespeare (the School (or Scandal and Catherine and Petruchio) their own coarseness and ribaldry were rendered fifty times more glaring and intolerable. Lady Teazle was by many degrees the ugliest woman I ever saw. One man took the two parts of Crabtree and Moses. Another, without giving himself the trouble to change his dress, played Careless and Sir Benjamin Backbite. The father of Catherine had three servants j and when he came to the country-house of Petruchio, he had precisely the same three servants to attend him. The gentleman who personated Charles in the play was the Woman's tailor in the farce, and volunteered a boxing-match with Sir Oliver Surface in the character of Grumio. Snake, who was also footman-general to every person in the play, had by some means contracted the habit of never appearing when he was wanted, and the universal expedient for filling up the intervals, was for the persons on the stage to commence over again their two or three last speeches till he appeared. But enough of these mummers. Peace be to their memory. They did not leave us in our debt: they paid the world in talent, to the full as well as they were paid in coin.
"Which is best, to pass one's life in the natural vegetation state of the potters we saw in the morning, turning a wheel, or treading a lay: or to pass it like these players, in an occupation to which skill and approbation can alone give a zest, without a hope of rising to either?
"Saturday morning our amusement was to go to a place called the Tunnel, a sort of underground navigation, about a mile and a half, at a distance of three miles from Etruria. We went in a small boat, which was drawn along by a horse. As we approached the Tunnel, we saw a smoke proceeding from the mouth, which gave it no inadequate resemblance of what the ancients feigned to be the entrance to the infernal regions. We proceeded to about the middle of the subterranean, the light that marked the place of our entrance gradually diminishing, till, when we had made two-thirds of our way, it wholly disappeared. The enclosure of the Tunnel was by an arch of brick, which distilled upon us, as we passed, drops of water impregnated with iron. We discerned our way by means of candles that we brought along with us, and pushed ourselves along with boat staves, applied to the walls on either side as we passed. Our voyage terminated, as to its extent, in a coalpit, of which there are several in the subterranean. We had the two elder children with us, who exhibited no signs of terror. I remarked, in coming out, that the light from the entrance was much longer visible in going than returning; and, indeed, in the latter instance, was scarcely visible till it in a manner burst upon us at once.
"The only ladies who accompanied us in this voyage was Mrs. Josiah Wedgwood and Mrs. Montagu elect. Here, and at the play, where I contrived to sit beside her, I contrived to see more of this latter than I had yet done. I am sorry to observe that she does not improve upon me.
"Another evening and no letter. This is scarcely kind. I reminded you in time that it would be impossible to write to me after Saturday, though it is not improbable you may not see me before the Saturday following. What am I to think? How many possible accidents will the anxiety of affection present to one's thoughts! Not serious ones, I hope: in that case I trust I should have heard. But headaches; but sickness of the heart, a general loathing of life and of me. Do not give place to this worst of diseases! The least I can think is, that you recollect me with less tenderness and impatience than I reflect on you. There is a general sadness in the sky, the clouds are shutting around me, and seem depressed with moisture: everything turns the soul to melancholy. Guess what my feelings are, when the most soothing and consolatory thought that occurs, is a temporary remission and oblivion in your affections.
"I had scarcely finished the above when I received your letter, accompanying T. W.'s, which was delayed by an accident till after the regular arrival of the post. I am not sorry to have put down my feelings as they were.
"We propose leaving Etruria at four o'clock to-morrow morning (Tuesday). Our journey cannot take less than three days, viz., Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We propose, however, a visit to Dr. Darwin, and a visit to Dr. Parr. With these data from which to reason, you may judge as easily as I, respecting the time of our arrival in London. It will probably be either Friday or Saturday. Do not, however, count on anything as certain respecting it, and so torment yourself with expectation.
"Tell Fanny the green monkey has not come to Etruria. Bid her explain to Lucas the mug he is to receive. I hope it will not be broken on the journey."
William Godwin to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin.
"June 15, 1797.
"We are now at The George in the Tree, 10 miles north from Warwick. We set out from Etruria, as we purposed, at 5 A.M., Tuesday, June 13. We bent our course for Derby, being furnished with a letter of introduction to Dr Darwin, and purposing to obtain from him a further letter of introduction to Mr Bage, of Tamworth, author of 'Man as He is,' and' Hermsprong.' Did we not well? Are not such men as much worth visiting as palaces, towns, and cathedrals? Our first stage was Uttoxeter, commonly called Utchester, 19 miles. Here we breakfasted. Our next stage was Derby, where we arrived at two o'clock. At this place, though sentimental travellers, we were for once unfortunate. Dr Darwin was gone to Shrewsbury, and not expected back till Wednesday night. At this moment I feel mortified at the recollection. We concluded that this was longer than we could with propriety wait for him. I believe we were wrong. So extraordinary a man, so truly a phenomenon as we should probably have found him, I think we ought not to have scrupled the sacrifice of 36 hours. He is 67 years of age, though as young as Ganymede j and I am so little of a traveller, that I fear I shall not again have the opportunity I have parted with. We paid our respects, however, to his wife, who is still a fine woman, and cannot be more than 50. She is perfectly unembarrassed, and tolerably well bred. She seemed, however, to me to put an improper construction on our visit, said she supposed we were come to
see the lions, and that Dr Darwin was the great lion of Derbyshire. We asked of her a letter to Mr. Bage; but she said she could not do that with propriety, as she did not know whether she had ever seen him, though he was the Doctor's very particular friend.
"Thus baffled in our object, we plucked up our courage, and determined to introduce ourselves to the author of ' Hermsprong.' We were able to cite our introduction to Dr. Darwin by the Wedgwoods, and our intention of having procured a letter from the Doctor. Accordingly Ive proceeded from Derby to Burtonupon-Trent, 16 miles. This is a very handsome town, with a wide and long street, a beautiful river, and a bridge which Montagu said was the longest he ever saw in the world. Here we slept, and drank Burton ale at the spring, after a journey of 48 miles. The next morning, between six and seven, we set out for Tamworth, IS miles. At Elford, 11 miles, we saw Mr. Bage's mills, and a house in which he lived for 40 years. His mills are for paper and flour. Here we enquired respecting him, and found that he had removed to Tamworth five years ago, upon the death of his younger son, by which event he found his life rendered solitary and melancholy. The people at the mill told us that he came three times a-week, walking from Tamworth, to the mill, four miles j that they expected him at eleven (it was now nine) j and that, if we proceeded, we should meet him upon the road. They told us, as a guide, that he was a short man, with white hair, snuff-coloured clothes, and a walking-stick. He is 67 years old, exactly the same age as Dr. Darwin. Accordingly, about a mile and a half from Tamworth, we met the man of whom we were in quest, with a book in his hand. We introduced ourselves, and, after a little conversation, I got out of the chaise, and walked back with him to the mill. This six or seven miles was very fortunate, and contributed greatly to our acquaintance. I found him uncommonly cheerful and placid, simple in his manners, and youthful in all his carriage. His house at the mill was floored, every room below-stairs, with brick, and like that of a common farmer in all respects. There was, however, the river at the bottom of the garden, skirted with a quickset hedge, and a broad green walk. He told me his history.
"His father was a miller, as well as himself, and he was born at Derby. At twenty-two he removed to Elford. He had been acquainted forty years with Dr. Darwin. The other acquaintances of his youth were Whitehurst, author of 'The Theory of the Earth,' and some other eminent man, whose name I forget. He taught himself French and Latin, in both of which languages he is a considerable proficient. In his youth he was fond of poetry; but, having some motive for the study of mathematics, he devoted his three hours an afternoon (the portion of time he allotted for reading) to this subject for twelve years, and this employment destroyed the eagerness of his attachment to poetry. In the middle of life, he engaged in a joint-undertaking with Dr. Darwin and another person respecting some iron-works. This failed, and he returned once more to his village and to his mill. The result filled him with melancholy thoughts j and, to dissipate them, he formed the idea of a novel, which he endeavoured to fill with gay and cheerful ideas. At first he had no purpose of publishing what he wrote. Since that time he has been accustomed to produce a novel every two years, and' Hermsprong' is his sixth. He believes he should not have written novels, but for want of books to assist him in any other literary undertaking. Living at Tam\vortl1, he still retains his house at the mill, as the means of independence. It is his own, and he considers it as his security against the caprice or despotism of a landlord, who might expel him from Tamworth. He has thought much, and, like most of those persons I have met with who have conquered many prejudices and read little metaphysics, is a materialist. His favourite book on this point is the 'Systeme de la Nature.' We spent a most delightful day in his company. When we met him, I had taken no breakfast j and though we had set off from Burton that morning at six, and I spent the whole morning in riding and walking, I felt no inconvenience on waiting for food till our dinner time at two, I was so much interested with Mr. Bage's conversation.
"I am obliged to finish this letter somewhat abruptly, at the house of Dr. Parr, where we arrived Thursday (yesterday) about noon, and" found Mr. and Mrs. Wynn, but not the Doctor, he having thought proper to withdraw himself on their arrival. It is most probable we shall be in town to-morrow evening, but may possibly not arrive till Sunday.
"I should have added to the account of Mr. Bage, that he never was in London for more than a week at a time, and very seldom more than 50 miles from his home. A very memorable instance, in my opinion, of great intellectual refinement, attained in the bosom of rusticity.
"Farewell. Salute William in my name. Perhaps you know how. Take care of yourself 1- Tell Fanny that her mug and Lucas's are hitherto quite safe. I hope I shall find that the green monkey has resumed his old station by the time of my return."
William Godwin to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin
"June 17, 1797
"You cannot imagine anything like Mr. Wynn and his wife. He is a raw country booby of eighteen, his hair about his ears, and a beard that has never deigned to submit to the stroke of the razor. His voice is loud, broad and unmodulated, the mind of the possessor has never yet felt a sentiment that should give it flexibleness or variety. He has at present a brother with him, a lad, as I guess, of fifteen, who has come to Dr. Parr's house at Hatton, with a high generosity of sentiment, and a tone of mind, declaring that, if his brother be disinherited, he, who is the next brother, will not reap the benefit. His name is Julius, and John "Wynn, the husband, is also a lad of very good dispositions. They both stammer: Julius extremely, John less: but with the stuttering of Julius there is an ingenuousness arid warmth that have considerable charms. John, on the contrary, has all the drawling, both of voice and thinking, that usually characterizes a clown. His air is gauche, his gait negligent and slouching, his whole figure boorish. Both the lads are as ignorant, and as destitute of adventure and ambition, as any children that aristocracy has to boast. Poor Sarah, the bride, is the victim of her mother, as the bridegroom is her victim in turn. The mother taught her that the height of female wisdom was to marry a rich man and a fool, and she has religiously complied. Her mother is an admirable woman, and the daughter mistook, and fancied she was worthy of love. Never was a girl more attached to her mother than Sarah Wynn (Parr). You do not know, but I do, that Sarah has an uncommon understanding, and an exquisite sensibility, which glows in her complexion, and flashes from her eyes. Yet she is silly enough to imagine that she shall be happy in love and a cottage, with John Wynn. She is excessively angry with the fathers on both sides, who, as she says, after having promised the contrary, attempted clandestinely to separate them. They have each, beyond question, laid up a magazine of unhappiness: yet I am persuaded Dr Parr is silly enough to imagine the match a desirable one.
"We slept, as I told you, at Tamworth on Wednesday evening. Thursday morning we proceeded through Coleshill (where I found a permanent pillory established, in lieu of the stocks), and where we passed through a very deep and rather formidable ford, the bridge being under repair, and breakfasted at the George in the Tree, 18 miles. From thence the road by Warwick would have been 14 miles, and by a cross-country road only six. By this, therefore, we proceeded, and a very deep and rough road we found it. We arrived at Hatton about one, so, after dinner, thinking it too much to sit all day in the company I have described, I proposed to Montagu a walk to Kenilworth Castle, the seat originally of Simon De Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who in the reign of Henry III., to whom he was an implacable enemy, was the author of the institution of the House of Commons; and,' more recently, the seat of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester--the favourite, and, as he hoped and designed, the husband of Elizabeth, to whom he gave a most magnificent and memorable entertainment at this place. The ruins are, beyond comparison, the finest in England. I found Montagu by no means a desirable companion in this expedition. He could not be persuaded to indulge the divine enthusiasm I felt coming on my soul, while I felt revived, and, as it were, embodied, the image of ancient times: but on the contrary, expressed nothing but indignation against the aristocracy displayed, and joy that it was destroyed. From Dr Parr's to Kenilworth, across the fields, is only four miles. By the road, round by Warwick, it is nine. We of course took the field way, but derived but little benefit from it, as we were on foot from half after four to half after ten, exclusive of a rest of ten minutes. One hour out of the six we spent at Kenilworth, and two hours and a half in going and returning respectively, so utterly incapable were we of finding the path prescribed us.
"To-day, Friday, as fortune determined, was Coventry Fair, with a procession of all the trades, with a female representative of Lady Godiva at their head, dressed in a close dress to represent nakedness. As fortune had thus disposed of us, we deemed it our duty not to miss the opportunity. We accordingly set out after breakfast, for Montagu proved lazy, and we did not get off till half after eleven. From Dr Parr's to Warwick is four miles, from Warwick to Coventry ten miles. One mile on the Coventry side of Warwick is Guy's Cliff, Mr. Greathed's. My description of his garden was an irresistible motive with Montagu to desire to visit it, though I by no means desired it. We accordingly went, and walked round the garden. Mr. Greathed was in his grounds, and I left a card, signifying I had done myself the pleasure of paying my respects to him, and taken the liberty of leading my friend over his garden. This delay of half-an-hour precisely answered the purpose of making us too late for Lady Godiva. We saw the crowd, which was not yet dispersed, and the booths of the fair, but the lady, the singularity of the scene, was retired.
"It is now Sunday evening: we are at Cambridge. Montagu says we shall certainly be in town to-morrow (Monday) night. The distance is fifty-three miles: we shall therefore probably be late, and he requests that, if we be not at home before ten, you will retain somebody to take the whiskey from Somers Town to Lincoln's Inn. If Mary be at a loss on the subject, perhaps the people of Montagu's lodging can assist her.
"Farewell: be happy: be in health and spirits. Keep a look out, but not an anxious one. Delays are not necessarily tragical. I believe there will be none."
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin to William Godwin
"June 19. Monday, almost 12 o'clock.
"One of the pleasures you tell me that you promised yourself from your journey was the effect your absence might produce on me. Certainly at first my affection was increased, or rather was more alive. But now it is just the contrary. Your later letters might have been addressed to anybody, and will serve to remind you where you have been, though they resemble nothing less than mementos of affection.
"I wrote to you to Dr. Parr's; you take no notice of my letter. Previous to your departure, I requested you not to torment me by leaving the day of your return undecided. But whatever tenderness you took away with you seems to have evaporated on the journey, and new objects, and the homage of vulgar minds restored you to your icy philosophy.
You tell me that your journey could not take less than three days, therefore, as you were to visit Dr. Darwin and Dr. Parr, Saturday was the probable day. You saw neither, yet you have been a week on the road. I did not wonder, but approved of your visit to Mr. Bage. But a show which you waited to see, and did not see, appears to have been equally attractive. I am at a loss to guess how you could have been from Saturday to Sunday night travelling from Coventry to Cambridge. In short, your being so late to-night, and the chance of your not coming, shows so little consideration, that unless you suppose me to be a stick or a stone, you must have forgot to think, as well as to feel, since you have been on the wing. I am afraid to add what I feel. Goodnight."
Two more notes which follow show that the cordial affection which subsisted between the married pair was not seriously affected by this little outburst.
The Same to the Same.
"June 25, 1797·
"I know that you do not like me to go to Holcroft's. I think you right in the principle, but a little wrong in the present application.
"When I lived alone, I always dined on a Sunday with company, in the evening, if not at dinner, at St. Paul's, with Johnson, generally also of a Tuesday, and some other day at Fuseli's.
"I like to see new faces as a study, and since my return from Norway, or rather since I have accepted of invitations, I have dined every third Sunday at Twiss's, nay oftener, for they sent for me when they had any extraordinary company. I was glad to go, because my lodging was noisy of a Sunday, and Mr. S.'s house and spirits were so altered, that my visits depressed him, instead of exhilarating me.
"I am then, you perceive, thrown out of my track, and have not traced another. But so far from wishing to obtrude on yours, I had written to Mrs. Jackson, and mentioned Sunday, and am now sorry that 'I did not fix on to-day as Oile of the days for sitting for my picture.
"To Mr. Johnson I would go without ceremony, but it is not convenient for me at present to make haphazard visits.
"Should Carlisle chance to call on you this morning, send him to me; but by himself, for he often has a companion, with him, which would defeat my purpose."
The Same to the Same.
"Monday morning, July 3d, 1797.
"Mrs. Reveley can have no doubt about to-day, so we are to stay at home. I have a design upon you this evening to keep you quite to myself-I hope nobody will call I-and make you read the play.
"I was thinking of a favourite song of my poor friend Fanny's: In a vacant rainy day, you shall be wholly mine,' &c.
"Unless the weather prevents you from taking your accustomed walk, call on me this morning, for I have something to say to you."
Holcroft's intimacy with Godwin by no means grew less because his friend was married. The following letter from him when visiting some friends in Norfolk gives a pleasant picture of Mrs. Godwin, senior, and of the eagerness which the good old lady really felt to see her distinguished son:-
Thomas Holcroft to William Godwin.
"WOOD NORTON, July 26, 1797.
"It was my intention to write, for I feel a kind of vacuity of heart when I am deprived of the intercourse of my accustomed friends. But as I cannot write to them all, and as we have many friends in common, I think there are few whom you may not safely assure on my part that they have their tum in my thoughts. I deferred this pleasant duty however till I had seen your mother, whom I thought it right and respectful to visit. My coming occasioned some little alarm. The Major, Mrs. Harwood, and Fanny accompanied me. We were seen from the windows as we came up to the gate. I had my spectacles on, and your sister-in-law ran to inform your mother that yourself and Mrs. Godwin were arrived. The old lady stood in the portico; the young ones advanced. There was an anxious curiosity in their countenances, and your sister, addressing herself to me, said, 'I think I know you, sir.' I scarcely knew what to reply. Imagination had winged her and myself to London, where I supposed that some years ago I might have seen her at your lodgings, taking it for granted that she was a relation. But as I did not answer, Major Harwood relieved our embarrassment by announcing my name. The change of countenance that took place was visible, for though your sister could not perhaps have fully persuaded herself that my face was actually yours, yet she seemed rather to trust to her hopes than to her recollection; and these being disappointed, an immediate blank took possession of her features, and the rising joy was damped. Your mother, however, very kindly invited us in, and gave us all the good things she had that could administer to our immediate pleasures. The expectations which Major H. had raised by his description of your mother was not entirely answered. She was neither so alert, so commanding, nor so animated as he and Anne had described; but as they both are apt to deal in the superlative, I make some deductions from their previous description and after remarks, according to which she is very rapidly on the decline. Having quitted her farming business, I have no doubt myself but that her faculties will be impaired much faster than they would have been had she continued to exert them; yet I strongly doubt of the very rapid decline which the Major supposes. Her memory is good, her conceptions, speaking comparatively, are clear, and her strength considerable.
"I have seen more of the County of Norfolk than of its inhabitants; of which county I remark that to the best of my recollection it contains more flint, more turkies, more turnips, more wheat, more cultivation, more commons, more cross-roads, and, from that token, probably more inhabitants, than any county I ever visited. It has another distinguishing and paradoxical feature, if what I hear be true. It is said to be more illiterate than other parts of England, and yet I doubt if any county of like extent have produced an equal number of famous men. This, however, is merely a conjecture, made not from examination, but from memory.
"As it is necessary for me to bathe, I shall immediately depart for Yarmouth, and pass through Norwich, which I have not yet seen. If you or Mrs. Godwin, or both, can but prevail on yourself or selves to endure the fatigue of writing to me, I hope I Deed not use many words to convince you of the pleasure it will give me. And be it understood that this letter is addressed to you both, whatever the direction on the back may affirm to the contrary. Professions are almost impertinent, and yet I am almost tempted to profess to you how sincerely and seriously I am interested in your happiness. But as I am sure my words would ill describe my thoughts, I shall forbear. Pray inform me, sweet lady, in what state is your novel? And on what, courteous sir, are you employed? Though I am idle myself, I cannot endure that anyone else should be so. Direct to me at the postoffice, Yarmouth. Pray do me the favour to call occasionally and look into the house and library.
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