Chronology of Godwin's
(only the landmark publications will be noted.)
1756: March 3, born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire Fens, England. His
father, John Godwin, was Minister of Wisbech Independent
Chapel. His mother, Ann Hull, came from a well-to-do family,
her father owning several ships trading on the Baltic Sea.
1758: Family moved to Debenham, near Suffolk.
1760: Family moved to Guestwich, near Norwich where, until his
death, John Godwin was minister at the Independent Meeting
House for twelve years.
1764: William, a brother, and a boy named Steele sent to Akers's
school at Hindolveston, two and a half miles from home.
1767: Sent to Norwich to become the sole student of Reverend Samuel
1771: Returned to Guestwich and worked as an assistant to Akers at
his old school.
1772: Father died in November.
1773: Went to London, applied to Homerton Academy, but refused
admission because of his adherence to Sandemanian views.
Spent several months with relatives in Kent.
1773: September was admitted to the dissenting college at Hoxton
where he studied for five years. Tutored by Kippis.
1778: In May, left Hoxton and acquired the post of Minister in the
small town of Ware in Hertfordshire. Encountered
Rev. Joseph Fawcet.
1779: In August, left Ware for London where for four months he
lodged near Cripplegate.
1780: Moved to Stowmarket, in Suffolk and is introduced to the
works of Rousseau, Hélvetius and d'Holbach.
Became a deist.
1782: Reverted to Socinianism, and in May returned to London
until December when he moved to Beaconsfield.
1783: For seven months held the post of minister at Beaconsfield in
1783: In January, published the Life of Chatham, anonymously.
1783: In July, he returned to London, residing in Holborn where he
began to earn a living as a writer.
1783: On August 4, announced opening of a seminary for twelve pupils
in Epsom, Surrey, but student recruitment failed
and plan abandoned. The prospectus, Account of the
Seminary, however, provides insight into Godwin's views
1784-1785: Primary income from reviews for Murray's English Review.
1784: Employed as an assistant in the preparation of the New
1785: Early in the year he wrote a series of letters in the
Political Herald, as Mucius, later becoming
the acting editor, but refused the offer to become
permanent editor. Met Priestly. Shared a house
with James Marshall who became Godwin's life-long friend.
1786: Met Holcroft.
1788: An orphaned cousin, Thomas Cooper, age 12, came under Godwin's
1788-1789: Spent twelve months writing The English Peerage
1791: In May, planned Political Justice.
1791: Met Mary Wollstonecraft at a diner at which Paine was also a
1793: In February, first edition of Political Justice.
1794: Published Caleb Williams.
1797: In March, he married Wollstonecraft.
1797: On August 30, Mary Godwin born, ten days later Wollstonecraft
died from complications at birth of Mary.
1803: Re-married to Mary Jane Clairmount.
1805: Established The Juvenile Library.
1812: Shelley sought out Godwin.
1814: Shelley and Mary run off to France
1816: Shelley and Mary married after Shelley's former wife committed
1822: Shelley drowned, Mary returned to London, lived briefly with
her father until found her own lodgings near by.
1824: The Juvenile Library closed.
1831: Published Thoughts on Man.
1833: Acquired the sinecure office of Yeoman Usher of the Exchequer
with a yearly salary of £ 220.
1836: On April 7, he died in London. Buried next to Mary
Wollstonecraft in the burial ground of Old St. Pancras
Church; later both were moved to Bournemouth Churchyard
and buried next to Mary Shelley (1851).