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Full text of "Letters from Percy Bysshe Shelley to William Godwin"

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LETTERS 



TO 



WILLIAM GODWIN. 



VOL. I. 



LETTERS 



FROM 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 

TO 

WILLIAM GODWIN. 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 
vol. I. 



1891. 
London : Privately Printed. 

(Sot fur Sale.) 



CONTENTS. 

Vol. I. 



LETTER I. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

Friday, $rd Janitary, 1812 . . . 3 

LETTER II. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

Friday, loth January, 181 2 . . 8 

LETTER III. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

Thursday, 16th January, 18 12 . . 16 

LETTER IV. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

Tuesday, 28th January, 181 2 . 25 

LETTER V. 

Lower Sackville St., Dublin. 
Monday, 24//1 February, 181 2 . . 32 
VOL. I. b 



vi CONTENTS. 

pagi 

LETTER VI. 

Lower Sackville St., Dublin. 

Sunday, %th March, 1812 . . . 39 

LETTER VII. 

17, Grafton St., Dublin. 

Wednesday, \%th March, 1812 . . 48 

LETTER VIII. 

Nantgwillt, Rhayader. 

Saturday, 25th April, 181 2 . . . 55 

LETTER IX. v 

Nantgwillt, Rhayader. 
Wednesday, yd June, 181 2 . . 60 

LETTER X. 

Cwm Elan, Rhayader. 

Thursday, ill h June, 18 1 2 . - . 65 

LETTER XI. 

Lymouth, Barnstaple. 

Sunday, $th July, 181 2 . . . . 70 

LETTER XII. 

Lymouth, Barnstaple. 

Tuesday, fth July, 18 12 . . . . 76 

LETTER XIII. 

Lymouth, Barnstaple. 

Wednesday, 2gth July, 18 12 . . 82 



CONTENTS. vii 

I'AGE 
LETTER XIV. 
Bishopgate. 
Saturday, Jt/i January, 1S16 . . 93 

LETTER XV. 

Bishopgate. 

Wednesday, iSt/i January, 1816 . 98 

LETTER XVI. 

Bi«>hopgate. 

Saturday, 21 st January, 181 6 . . 102 

LETTER XVII. 

Bishopgate. 

Monday, 2yd January, 18 1 6 . 107 



LETTERS. 



VOL. I. 



LETTERS TO 
WILLIAM GODWIN. 

LETTER I. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

January yd, 1812. 
[Friday]. 

Sir, 

You will be surprised at hearing 
from a stranger. No introduction has, 
nor in all probability ever will, authorize 
that which common thinkers would call 
a liberty. It is however a liberty which, 
although not sanctioned by custom, is 
so far from being reprobated by reason 



4 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

that the dearest interests of mankind 
imperiously demand that a certain 
etiquette of fashion should no longer 
keep " man at a distance from man," 
or impose its flimsy fancies between the 
free communication of intellect. 

The name of Godwin has been used 
to excite in me feelings of reverence 
and admiration. I have been accus- 
tomed to consider him a luminary too 
dazzling for the darkness which sur- 
rounds him. From the earliest period 
of my knowledge of his principles, I 
have ardently desired to share, on the 
footing of intimacy, that intellect which 
I have delighted to contemplate in its 
emanations. 

Considering, then, these feelings, you 
will not be surprised at the inconceiv- 
able emotions with which I learned your 
existence and your dwelling. I had 
enrolled your name in the list of the 
honourable dead. I had felt regret 
that the glory of your being had passed 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 5 

from this earth of ours. It is not so ; 
you still live, and, I firmly believe, are 
still planning the welfare of human 
kind. 

I have but just entered on the scene 
of human operations ; yet my feelings 
and my reasonings correspond with 
what yours were. My course has been 
short, but eventful. I have seen much 
of human prejudice, suffered much 
from human persecution, yet I see no 
reason hence inferrible which should 
alter my wishes for their renovation. 
The ill-treatment I have met with has 
more than ever impressed the truth of 
my principles on my judgment. I am 
young, I am ardent in the cause of 
philanthropy and truth. Do not sup- 
pose that this is vanity j I am not 
conscious that it influences this portrait- 
ure. I imagine myself dispassionately 
describing the state of my mind. I am 
young ; you have gone before me, — I 
doubt not, are a veteran to me in the 

vol. 1. c 



6 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

years of persecution. Is it strange that, 
defying prejudice as I have done, I 
should outstep the limits of custom's 
prescription, and endeavour to make 
my desire useful by a friendship with 
William Godwin ? 

I pray you to answer this letter. 
Imperfect as may be my capacity, my 
desire is ardent and unintermitted. 
Half an hour would be at least 
humanely employed in the experiment. 
I may mistake your residence ; certain 
feelings, of which I may be an inade- 
quate arbiter, may induce you to desire 
concealment ; I may not, in fine, have 
an answer to this letter. If I do not, 
when I come to London I shall seek 
for you. I am convinced I could 
represent myself to you in such terms 
as not to be thought wholly unworthy 
of your friendship; at least, if desire 
for universal happiness has any claim 
upon your preference, that desire I can 
exhibit. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 7 

Adieu. I shall earnestly await your 
answer. 

Percy B. Shelley. 

To 
Mr. William Godwin, 
at M. J. Godwin's Juvenile Library, 
Skinner Street, 
London. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 



LETTER II. 

Keswick, [Cumberland.] 
January loth, 1812. 
[Friday]. 
Sir, 

It is not otherwise to be supposed 
than that I should appreciate your 
avocations far beyond the pleasure or 
benefit which can accrue to me from 
their sacrifice. The time, however, 
will be small which may be mis-spent 
in reading this letter ; and, much in- 
dividual pleasure as an answer might 
give me, I have not the vanity to 
imagine that it will be greater than the 
happiness elsewhere diffused during the 
time which its creation will occupy. 

You complain that the generalizing 
character of my letter renders it defi- 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 9 

cient in interest; that I am not an 
individual to you. Yet, intimate as I 
am with your character and your 
writings, intimacy with yourself must in 
some degree precede this exposure of 
my peculiarities. It is scarcely possible, 
however pure be the morality which 
he has endeavoured to diffuse, but that 
generalization must characterize the 
uninvited address of a stranger to a 
stranger. 

I proceed to remedy the fault. I am 
the son of a man of fortune in Sussex. 
The habits of thinking of my father and 
myself never coincided. Passive obe- 
dience was inculcated and enforced in 
my childhood. I was required to love, 
because it was my duty to love : it is 
scarcely necessary to remark that coer- 
cion obviated its own intention. I was 
haunted with a passion for the wildest 
and most extravagant romances. 
Ancient books of Chemistry and 
Magic were perused with an enthusiasm 

vol. 1. D 



io LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

of wonder, almost amounting to belief. 
My sentiments were unrestrained by 
anything within me : external impedi- 
ments were numerous, and strongly 
applied ; their effect was merely 
temporary. 

From a reader, I became a writer, of 
romances ; before the age of seventeen * 
1 had published two, St. Irvyne and 
'Zastrozzi, each of which, though quite 
uncharacteristic of me as now I am, 
yet serves to mark the state of my 
mind at the period of their composition. 
I shall desire them to be sent to you : 
do not, however, consider this as any 
obligation to yourself to misapply your 
valuable time. 



* Shelley is incorrect in stating that he had published 
two novels "before the age of seventeen." Shelley 
was born on August 4th, 1792, and as Zastrozzi was 
published on June 5th, 1810 [D. F. MacCarthy : 
Shelley s Early Life, 1872, p. 12]. he was just seventeen 
years and ten months old at the date of its issue. 
St. Iivyne was published on or about December 20th, 
1 8 10. at which date Shelley was fully eighteen years 
and four months old. This is not the only instance 
in which he understated his age ; possibly through 
negligence of mind, or possibly suggests Mr. Rossetti) 
with a spice of coxcombry. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. u 

It is now a period of more than two 
years since first I saw your inestimable 
book of Political Justice. It opened to 
my mind fresh and more extensive 
views ; it materially influenced my 
character, and I rose from its perusal 
a wiser and a better man. I was no 
longer the votary of romance ; till then 
I had existed in an ideal world — now I 
found that in this universe of ours was 
enough to excite the interest of the 
heart, enough to employ the discussions 
of reason ; I beheld, in short, that I 
had duties to perform. Conceive the 
effect which the Political Justice would 
have upon a mind before jealous of its 
independence, participating somewhat 
singularly in a peculiar susceptibility. 

My age is now nineteen ; at the period 
to which I allude I was at Eton. No 
sooner had I formed the principles 
which I now profess than I was anxious 
to disseminate their benefits. This was 
done without the slightest caution. I 



12 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

was twice expelled, but recalled by the 
interference of my father. I went to 
Oxford. Oxonian society was insipid to 
me, uncongenial with my habits of 
thinking. I could not descend to 
common life : the sublime interest of 
poetry, lofty and exalted achievements, 
the proselytism of the world, the 
equalization of its inhabitants, were to 
me the soul of my soul. You can 
probably form some idea of the con- 
trast exhibited to my character by 
those with whom I was surrounded. 
Classical reading and poetical writing 
employed me during my residence at 
Oxford. 

In the meantime I became, in the 
popular sense of the word, a sceptic. 
I printed a pamphlet, avowing my 
opinion, and its occasion. I distributed 
this anonymously to men of thought 
and learning, wishing that Reason 
should decide on the case at issue ; it 
was never my intention to deny it. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 13 

Mr. , at Oxford, among others, had 

the pamphlet ; he showed it to the 
Master and the Fellows of University 
College, and I was sent for. I was 
informed that, in case I denied the 
publication, no more would be said. I 
refused, and was expelled. 

It will be necessary, in order to 
elucidate this part of my history, to 
inform you that I am heir by entail to 
an estate of ^"6000 per annum. My 
principles have induced me to regard 
the law of primogeniture as an evil of 
primary magnitude. My father's notions 
of family honour are incoincident with 
my knowledge of public good. I will 
never sacrifice the latter to any con- 
sideration. My father has ever regarded 
me as a blot, a defilement of his honour. 
He wished to induce me by poverty to 
accept of some commission in a distant 
regiment; and, in the interim of my 
absence, to prosecute the pamphlet, 
that a process of outlawry might make 

vol. 1. E 



14 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

the estate, on his death, devolve to my 
younger brother. 

These are the leading points of the 
history of the man before you. Others 
exist, but I have thought proper to 
make some selection, not that it is my 
design to conceal or extenuate any part, 
but that I should by their enumeration 
quite outstep the bounds of modesty. 
Now, it is for you to judge whether, by 
permitting me to cultivate your friend- 
ship, you are exhibiting yourself more 
really useful than by the pursuance of 
those avocations of which the time 
spent in allowing this cultivation would 
deprive you. I am now earnestly 
pursuing studious habits. I am writing 
"An enquiry into the causes of the failure 
of the French Revolution to benefit 
mankind." My plan is that of resolving 
to lose no opportunity to disseminate 
truth and happiness. 

I am married to a woman whose 
views are similar to my own. To you, 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 15 

as the regulator and former of my mind, 
I must ever look with real respect and 
veneration. 

Yours sincerely, 

P. B. Shelley, 
To 
Mr. William Godwin, 

London. 



1 6 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 



LETTER III. 

Keswick, [Cumberland]. 

January \6th, 1812. 

[Thursday. \ 

My Dear Sir, 

That so prompt and so kind an 
answer should have relieved my mind 
I had scarcely dared to hope. To 
find that he — who as an author had 
gained my love and confidence, whose 
views and habits I had delighted to 
conjecture from his works, whose prin- 
ciples I had adopted, and every trace 
of whose existence is now made sacred, 
and I hope eternally so, by associations 
which throw the charm of feeling over 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 17 

the deductions of reason — that he, as 
a man, should be my friend and my 
adviser, the moderator of my en- 
thusiasm, the personal exciter and 
strengthener of my virtuous habits : 
all this was more than I dared to trust 
myself to hope, and which now comes 
to me almost like a ray of second 
existence. 

Without the deceit of self-flattery, 
which might lead me to think that 
my intellectual powers demanded your 
time, those circumstances, which 
arbitrarily — or, as may be said, for- 
tuitously — place me in a situation 
capable hereafter of considerably in- 
fluencing the actions of others, induce 
me to think I shall not 

" In publica commoda peccem, 
Si longo sermone morer tua tempora." 

I know not how to describe the 
pleasure which your last letter has 
vol. u F 



j 8 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

given me ; that William Godwin should 
have " a deep and earnest interest in 
my welfare," cannot but produce the 
most intoxicating sensations. It may 
be my vanity which is thus flattered ; 
but I am much deceived in myself, 
if love and respect for the great and 
worthy form not a very considerable 
part of my feelings. 

I cannot help considering you as a 
friend and adviser whom I have known 
very long; this circumstance must 
generate a degree of familiarity, which 
will cease to appear surprising to you, 
when [it is considered that] the intimacy 
which I had acquired with your writings 
so much preceded the information 
which led to my first letter. 

It may be said that I have derived 
little benefit or injury from artificial 
education. I have known no tutor or 
adviser {not excepting my father) from 
whose lessons and suggestions I have 
not recoiled with disgust. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 19 

The knowledge which I have, what- 
ever it may be (putting out of the 
question the age of the grammar and 
the horn-book) has been acquired by 
my unassisted efforts. I have before 
given you a slight sketch of my earlier 
habits and feelings. My present are, 
in my own opinion, infinitely superior 
— they are elevated and disinterested : 
such as they are, you have principally 
produced them. 

With what delight, what cheerful- 
ness, what good will, may it be con- 
ceived that I constitute myself the 
pupil of him, under whose actual 
guidance my very thoughts have hither- 
to been arranged ! 

You mistake me if you think that I 
am angry with my father. I have ever 
been desirous of a reconciliation with 
him ; but the price which he demands 
for it is a renunciation of my opinions, 
or, at least, a subjection to conditions 
which should bind me to act in oppo- 



20 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

sition to their very spirit. It is pro- 
bable that my father has acted for my 
welfare, but the manner in which he 
has done so will not allow me to 
suppose that he has felt for it, uncon- 
nectedly with certain considerations of 
birth ; and feeling for these things was 
not feeling for me. I never loved my 
father : — it was not from hardness of 
heart, for I have loved and do love 
warmly. 

You say, " Being yet a scholar, I 
ought to have no intolerable itch to 
become a teacher." I have not, — so 
far as any publications of mine are 
irreconcilable with the general good, or 
so far as they are negative. I do not 
set up for a judge of controversies; 
but, into whatever company I go, I 
have introduced my own sentiments, — 
partly with a view, if they were any 
wise erroneous, that unforeseen eluci- 
dations might rectify them ; or, if they 
were not, that I should contribute my 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 21 

mite to the treasury of wisdom and 
happiness. 

I hope in the course of our com- 
munication to acquire that sobriety of 
spirit which is the characteristic of true 
heroism. 

I have not heard without benefit that 
Newton was a modest man : I am not 
ignorant that vanity and folly delight 
in forwardness and assumption. But I 
think there is a line to be drawn 
between affectation of unpossessed 
talents, and the deceit of self-distrust, 
by which much power has been lost 
to the world ; for 

" Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, 
And waste its sweetness on the desert air." 

This line may be called " the modesty 
of nature." I hope I am somewhat 
anxious not to outstep its boundaries. 
I will not again crudely obtrude the 
question of atheism on the world. 
But could I not at the same time 

vol. 1. G 



22 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

improve my own powers, and diffuse 
true and virtuous principles? Many, 
with equally confined talents to my 
own, are by publications scattering the 
seeds of prejudice and selfishness. 
Might not an exhibition of truth, with 
equal elegance and depth, suffice to 
counteract the deleterious tendency of 
their principles ? Does not writing 
hold the next place to colloquial dis- 
cussion in eliciting and classing the 
powers of the mind ? * I am willing 
to become a scholar — nay, a pupil. 
My humility and confidence, where I 
am conscious that I am not imposed 
upon, and where I perceive talents and 
powers so certainly and undoubtedly 
superior, is unfeigned and complete. 

I have desired the publications of 
my early youth to be sent to you. You 
will perceive that Zastrozzi and St. 
Irvyfie were w r ritten prior to my ac- 



* This is in conformity with Godwin's own proposi- 
tions in his Political Justice. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 23 

quaintance with your writings; the 
Essay on Love, a little poem, since. 
I had, indeed, read St. Leon before I 
wrote St. Irvyne; but the reasonings 
had then made little impression. 

In a few days we set off to Dublin. 
I do not know exactly where we shall 
be ; but a letter addressed to Keswick 
will find me. Our journey has been 
settled some time. We go principally 
to forward as much as we can the 
Catholic Emancipation. 

Southey the poet, whose principles 
were pure and elevated once, is now 
the paid champion of every abuse and 
absurdity. I have had much conversa- 
tion with him. He says, " You will 
think as I do when you are as old." I 
do not feel the least disposition to be 
Mr. S[outhey]'s proselyte. 

In the summer we shall be in the 
north of Wales. Dare I hope that you 
will come to see us ? Perhaps this is 
an unfeasible neglect of your avoca- 



24 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

tions. I shall hope it until you forbid 
me. 

I remain, with the greatest respect, 
Your most sincere and devoted 

Percy B. Shelley. 

To 
Mr. William Godwin, 

London. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 



LETTER IV. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 
January 2%th, 1812. 
[ Tuesday. ] 

My Dear Sir, 

Your letter has reached me on the 
eve of our departure for Dublin. I 
cannot deny myself the pleasure of an- 
swering it, although we shall probably 
have reached Ireland before an answer 
to this can arrive. You do us a great 
and essential service by the enclosed 
introduction to Mr. Curran ; he is a 
man whose public character I have 
admired and respected. You offer an 
additional motive for hastening our 
journey. 

I have not long been married. My 
wife is the partner of my thoughts and 

vol. 1. H 



26 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

feelings. My state, at the period of 
our first knowledge of each other, was 
isolated and friendless; hers was em- 
bittered by family disagreements, and 
a system of domestic oppressions. We 
agreed to unite our fates ; and the 
reasons that operated to induce our 
submission to the ceremonies of the 
Church were the many advantages of 
benefiting society which the despotism 
of custom would cut us off from 
in case of our nonconformity. My 
peculiar reasons were considerations 
of the unequally weighty burden of 
disgrace and hatred which a resistance 
to this system would entail upon my 
companion. A man in such a case is 
a man of gallantry and spirit— a woman 
loses all claim to respect and polite- 
ness. She has lost modesty, which is 
the female criterion of virtue, and those 
whose virtues extend no farther than 
modesty regard her with hatred and 
contempt. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 27 

You regard early authorship [as] 
detrimental to the cause of general 
happiness. I confess this has not been 
my opinion, even when I have bestowed 
deep, and I hope disinterested, thought 
upon the subject. 

If any man would determine, sin- 
cerely and cautiously, at every period 
of his life, to publish books which 
should contain the real state of his 
feelings and opinions, I am willing to 
suppose that this portraiture of his 
mind would be worth many metaphy- 
sical disquisitions ; and one, whose 
mind is strongly imbued with an ardent 
desire of communicating pleasurable 
sensations is of all others the least 
likely to publish any feelings or 
opinions but such as should excite 
the reader to discipline in some sort 
his mind into the same state as that of 
the writer. 

With these sentiments I have been 
preparing an Address to the Catholics 



28 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

of Ireland, which, however deficient 
may be its execution, I can by no 
means admit that it contains one 
sentiment which can harm the cause of 
liberty and happiness. It consists of 
the benevolent and tolerant deductions 
of philosophy reduced into the sim- 
plest language, and such as those who 
by their uneducated poverty are most 
susceptible of evil impressions from 
Catholicism may clearly comprehend. 
I know it can do no harm ; it cannot 
excite rebellion, as its main principle 
is to trust the success of a cause to the 
energy of its truth. It cannot " widen 
the breach between the kingdoms," as 
it attempts to convey to the vulgar 
mind sentiments of universal philan- 
thropy; and, whatever impressions it 
may produce, they can be no others 
but those of peace and harmony. It 
owns no religion but benevolence, no 
cause but virtue, no party but the 
world. I shall devote myself with un- 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 29 

remitting zeal, as far as an uncertain 
state of health will permit, towards 
forwarding the great ends of virtue and 
happiness in Ireland, regarding as I 
do the present state of that country's 
affairs as an opportunity which if I, 
being thus disengaged, permit to pass 
unoccupied, I am unworthy of the 
character which I have assumed. — 
Enough of Ireland. 

I anticipated in my own mind your 
sentiments on the remark which you 
quoted from my last letter concerning 
my father. I am not a stranger to the 
immense complexity of human feel- 
ings ; but, when I find generosity so 
exceedingly outweighed in any one's 
conduct by the contrary and less ex- 
tended principle, then I despair of 
good fruits, seeing marks of barren- 
ness. I have a great wish of adding 
to my father's happiness, because the 
filial connection seems to render it, as 
it were, more particularly in my power ; 

vol. 1. 1 



30 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

but it is impossible. A little while 
since he sent to me a letter, through 
his attorney, renewing an allowance 
of two hundred pounds per annum, 
but with the remark " that his sole 
reason for so doing was to prevent my 
cheating strangers." The insult con- 
tained in these words, as applied to 
me, excites no feeling of repulsion or 
hatred towards him, but it makes me 
despair of conciliation, when I see how 
rooted is his prejudice against me. 

I find myself near the end of my 
paper. My egotism appears inexhaust- 
ible. My relation of pupilage with 
regard to you in a manner excuses this 
apparent vanity. I wish to put you in 
possession of as much of my thoughts 
and feelings as I know myself. I 
shall regard as a most inestimable 
blessing my happy audacity in casting 
aside the trammels of custom, and 
drinking the streams of your mind at 
their fountain-head. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 31 

I will say no more of Wales at 
present. We have determined, next 
summer, to receive a most dear friend,* 
of whom I shall speak hereafter, in 
some romantic spot. Perhaps I shall 
be able to prevail on you, and your 
wife and children, to leave the tumult 
and dust of London for a while. 
However that may be, I shall certainly 
see you in London. I am not yet of 
age. At that time I have great hopes 
of being enabled to offer you a house 
of my own. Philanthropy is confined 
to no spot. — Adieu ! 

Direct your next " Post Office, Dub- 
lin." My wife sends her respects. 

Believe me, in all sincerity of heart, 
Yours truly, sincerely, 

P. B. Shelley. 

To 
Mr. William Godwin, 

London. 

* Miss Elizabeth Hitchener. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 



LETTER V. 

[7, Lower Sackville Street], 

Dublin. 

February 24M, 181 2. 

[Monday.] 

My Dear Sir, 

A most tedious journey by sea and 
land has brought us to our destination. 
I have delayed a few days informing 
you of it, because I enclose with this 
a little pamphlet which I have just 
printed, and thereby save a double ex- 
pense. I have wilfully vulgarized the 
language of this pamphlet, in order to 
reduce the remarks it contains to the 
taste and comprehension of the Irish 
peasantry, who have been too long 
brutalized by vice and ignorance. I 
conceive that the benevolent passions 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 33 

of their breasts are in some degree 
excited, and individual interests in 
some degree generalized, by Catholic 
disqualifications and the oppressive in- 
fluence of the Union Act ; that some 
degree of indignation has arisen at the 
conduct of the Prince Regent, which 
might tend to blind insurrections. A 
crisis like this ought not to be per- 
mitted to pass unoccupied or unim- 
proved. 

I have another pamphlet in the press, 
earnestly recommending to a different 
class the institution of a philanthropic 
society. No unnatural unanimity can 
take place, if secessions of the minority 
on any question are invariably made. 
It might segregate into twenty different 
societies, each coinciding generically, 
though differing specifically. 

We have had a most tedious voyage. 
We were driven by a storm completely 
to the north of Ireland, in our passage 
from the Isle of Man. Harriet my 

vol. 1. K 



34 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

wife, and Eliza my sister-in-law, were 
very much fatigued, after twenty-eight 
hours' tossing in a galliot during a 
violent gale. They are now tolerably 
recovered. 

I am exceedingly obliged by your 
letter of introduction to Mr. Curran. 
His speeches had interested me before 
I had any idea of coming to Ireland. 
It seems that he was the only man who 
would engage in behalf of the prisoners 
during the times of horror of the 
Rebellions. I have called upon him 
twice, but have not found him at 
home. 

I hope that the motives which in- 
duce me to publish thus early in life 
do not arise from any desire of dis- 
tinguishing myself any more than is 
consistent with, and subordinate to, 
usefulness. In the first place, my 
physical constitution is such as will not 
permit me to hope for a life so long as 
yours j — the person who is constitution- 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 35 

ally nervous, and affected by slight 
fatigue at the age of nineteen, cannot 
expect firmness and health at fifty. I 
have therefore resolved to husband 
whatever powers I may possess, so that 
they may turn to the best account. I 
find that whilst my mind is actively 
engaged in writing or discussion, it 
gains strength at the same time, — that 
the results of its present power are 
incorporated. I find that subjects 
grow out of conversation, and that, 
though I begin a subject in writing 
with no definite view, it presently 
assumes a definite form, in consequence 
of the method that grows out of the 
induced train of thought. I therefore 
write ; and I publish, because I will 
publish nothing that shall not conduce 
to virtue, and therefore my publications, 
so far as they do influence, shall in- 
fluence to good. My views of society, 
and my hopes of it, meet with con- 
genial ones in few breasts. But virtue 



36 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

and truth are congenial to many. I 
will employ no means but these for my 
object ; and, however visionary some 
may regard the ultimatum that I pro- 
pose, if they act virtuously they will, 
equally with myself, forward its accom- 
plishment. And my publications will 
present to the moralist and meta- 
physician a picture of a mind, how- 
ever juvenile and unformed, which 
had, at the dawn of its knowledge, 
taken a singular turn ; and to leave out 
the early lineaments of its appearance 
would be to efface those which the 
attrition of the world had not deprived 
of right-angled originality. — Thus much 
for egotism. 

I am sorry that you cannot come to 
Wales in the summer. I had pictured 
to my fancy that I should first meet 
you in a spot like that in which Fleet- 
wood met Rufifigny ; that then every 
lesson of your wisdom might become 
associated in my mind with the forms 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 37 

of Nature where she sports in the 
simplicity of her loveliness and mag- 
nificence, and each become imperish- 
able together. This must not be yet. 
I will, however, hope that at some 
future time the sunset of your evening 
days may irradiate my soul, in scenes 
like these. I will come to London 
next autumn. A very dear friend has 
promised to visit us in Merionethshire 
in the summer ; and I will own that I 
am not sufficient of a Stoic not to per- 
ceive that the grand and ravishing 
shapes of Nature add to the joys of 
friendship. Besides, you must know 
that I either am or fancy myself some- 
thing of a poet. 

You speak of my wife. She desires, 
with me, to you, and to all connected 
with you, her best regards. She is a 
woman whose pursuits, hopes, fears, 
and sorrows, were so similar to my own 
that we married a few months ago. I 
hope in the course of this year to in- 

vol. 1. L 



38 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

troduce her to you and yours, as I 
have introduced myself to you. It is 
only to those who have had some share 
in making me what I am that I can be 
thus free. — Adieu. 

You will hear from me shortly. 
Give my love and respects to every one 
with whom you are connected. I feel 
myself almost at your fire-side. 

Yours very sincerely, 

P. B. Shelley. 

Have they sent you the books ? I 
send the little book for which I was 
expelled. I know that Milton believed 
Christianity, but I do not forget that 
Virgil believed ancient mythology. 

To 
Mr. IV. Godwin, 

London. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 39 



LETTER VI. 

[7, Lower] Sackville Street, 
• Dublin. 

March St/i, 1812. 
[Sunday.] 

My Dear Sir, 

Your letter affords me much food 
for thought ; guide thou and direct me. 
In all the weakness of my inconsist- 
encies, bear with me. The genuine re- 
spect which I bear for your character, 
the love with which your virtues have 
inspired me, is undiminished by any 
suspicion of externally-constituted au- 
thority \ when you reprove me, Reason 
speaks; I acquiesce in her decisions. 
I know that I am vain ; that I assume 
a character which is perhaps unadapted 
to the limitedness of my experience ; 



40 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

that I am without the modesty which 
is so generally considered an indispen- 
sable ornament to the ingenuousness of 
youth. I attempt not to conceal from 
others, or myself, these deficiencies, if 
such they are. That I have erred in 
pursuance of this line of conduct, I am 
well aware : in the opposite case, I 
think that my errors would have been 
more momentous and overwhelming. 
" A preponderance of resulting good is 
imagined in every action." I certainly 
believe that the line of conduct which 
I am now pursuing will produce a pre- 
ponderance of good ; when I get rid 
of this conviction, my conduct shall be 
changed. 

Enquiry is doubtless necessary, — 
nay, essential. I am eagerly open to 
every new information. I attempt to 
read a book which attacks my most 
cherished sentiments, as calmly as one 
which corroborates them. I have not 
"read your writings slightly." They 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 41 

have made a deep impression on my 
mind ; their arguments are fresh in my 
memory ; I have daily occasion to recur 
to them ; as allies in the cause which I 
am here engaged in vindicating. To 
them, to you, I owe the inestimable 
boon of granted power, of arising from 
the state of intellectual sickliness and 
lethargy into which I was plunged two 
years ago, and of which St. Irvyne and 
Zastrozziweve the distempered although 
unoriginal visions. 

I am not forgetful or unheeding of 
what you said of associations. But 
Political Justice was first published in 
1793 ; nearly twenty years have elapsed 
since the general diffusion of its doc- 
trines. What has followed? Have 
men ceased to fight ? Have vice and 
misery vanished from the earth ? Have 
the fire-side communications which it 
recommends taken place? Out of the 
many who have read that inestimable 
book, how many have been blinded by 

vol. 1. M 



42 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

prejudice ! How man)', in short, have 
taken it up to gratify an ephemeral 
vanity; and, when the hour of its 
novelty had passed, threw it aside, and 
yielded, with fashion, to the arguments 
of Mr. Malthus ! 

I have at length proposed a Philan- 
thropic Association, which I conceive 
not to be contradictory, but strictly 
compatible with the principles of Poli- 
tical Justice. The Address was princi- 
pally designed to operate on the Irish 
Mob. Can they be in a worse state 
than at present? Intemperance and 
hard labour have reduced them to ma- 
chines. The oyster that is washed and 
driven at the mercy of the tides appears 
to me an animal of almost equal eleva- 
tion in the scale of intellectual being. 
Is it impossible to awaken a moral 
sense in the breasts of those who appear 
so unfitted for the high destination of 
their nature ? Might not an unadorned 
display of moral truth, suited to their 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 43 

comprehensions, produce the best ef- 
fects ? The state of Society appears to 
me to be retrogressive. If there be any 
truth in the hopes which I so fondly 
cherish, then this cannot be. Yet, even 
if it be stationary, the eager activity of 
philanthropists is demanded. I think 
of the last twenty years with impatient 
scepticism as to the progress which the 
human mind has made during this 
period. I will own that I am eager 
that something should be done. But 
my Association. In some Suggestions * 
respecting it, I have the following : — 

"That any number of persons who 
meet together for philanthropical pur- 
poses should ascertain by friendly dis- 
cussion those points of opinion wherein 
they differ, and those wherein they co- 
incide ; and should, by subjecting them 
to rational analysis, produce an unani- 



* Apparently Shelley had written out a paper of 
Suggestions intended to follow the Proposals for an 
Association, &c. Nothing further is known of the 
Suggestions. 



44 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

mity founded on reason, and not the 
superficial agreement too often exhi- 
bited at associations for mere party 
purposes ; — that the minority, whose 
belief could not subscribe to the opinion 
of the majority on a division in any 
question of moment and interest, should 

secede Some associations might, 

by refinement of secessions, contain not 
more than three or four members." 

I do not think a society such as this 
is incompatible with your chapter on 
associations ; it purposes no violent or 
immediate measures ; its intentions are 
a facilitation of enquiry, and actually 
to carry into effect those confidential 
and private communications which you 
recommend. I send you with this the 
Proposals, which will be followed by 
the Suggestions. 

I had no conception of the depth of 
human misery until now. The poor of 
Dublin are assuredly the meanest and 
most miserable of all. In their nar- 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 45 

row streets thousands seem huddled 
together, — one mass of anjmated filth. 
With what eagerness do such scenes as 
these inspire me ! How self-confident, 
too, do I feel in my assumption to 
teach the lessons of virtue to those who 
grind their fellow beings into worse 
than annihilation ! These were the per- 
sons to whom, in my fancy, I had ad- 
dressed myself. How quickly were my 
views on this subject changed ! Yet 
how deeply has this very change rooted 
the conviction on which I came hither. 
I do not think that my book can in 
the slightest degree tend to violence. 
The pains which I have taken, even to 
tautology, to insist on pacific mea- 
sures, — the necessity which every war- 
rior and rebel must lie under to deny 
almost every passage of my book, 
before he can become so — must at 
least exculpate me from tending to 
make him so. 

I shudder to think that for the very 
vol. 1. n 



46 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

roof that covers me, for the bed whereon 
I lie, I am indebted to the selfishness 
of man. A remedy must somewhere 
have a beginning. Have I explained 
myself clearly? Are we now at issue? 

I have not seen Mr. Curran. I have 
called repeatedly, left my address and 
my pamphlet. I will see him before I 
leave Dublin. 

I send a newspaper and the Pro- 
posals. I had no conception that the 
packet I sent you would be sent by 
the post; I thought it would have 
reached you per coach. 

Harriet joins in respects to you. Is 
your denial respecting Wales irrevoc- 
able? Would not your children gain 
health and spirits from the jaunt? 

With sincerest respect yours, 

P. B. Shelley. 

You will see the account of me in 
the newspaper. I am vain, but not so 
foolish as not to be rather piqued than 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 47 

gratified at the eulogia of a journal. I 
have repeated my injunctions concern- 
ing St. I\rvyne\ and Z\astrozzi\ 

" Expenditure" is used in my Ad- 
dress in a moral sense. 



To 
Mr. William Godwin. 
London. 



48 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 



LETTER VII. 

17, Grafton Street, 

[Dublin]. 

March i%th, 181 2. 

[Wednesday.'] 

My Dear Sir, 

I have said that I acquiesce in your 
decision, nor has my conduct militated 
with the assertion. I have withdrawn 
from circulation the publications where- 
in I erred, and am preparing to quit 
Dublin. It is not because I think that 
such associations as I conceived would 
be deleterious that I have withdrawn 
them. It is possible to festinate, or 
retard, the progress of human perfecti- 
bility. Such associations as I would 
have recommended would be calcu- 
lated to produce the former effect ; the 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 49 

refinement of secessions would prevent 
a fictitious unanimity; as their pub- 
licity would render ineffectual any 
schemes of violent innovation. I am 
not one of those whom pride will re- 
strain from admitting my own short- 
sightedness, or confessing a convic- 
tion which wars with those previously 
avowed. My schemes of organizing 
the ignorant I confess to be ill-timed. 
I cannot conceive that they were dan- 
gerous, as unqualified publicity was 
likewise enforced; moreover, I do not 
see that a peasant would attentively 
read my address, and, arising from the 
perusal, become imbued in sentiments 
of violence and bloodshed. 

It is indescribably painful to con- 
template beings capable of soaring to 
the heights of science, with Newton 
and Locke, without attempting to awa- 
ken them from a state of lethargy so 
opposite. The part of this city called 
the Liberty exhibits a spectacle of 

vol. 1. o 



50 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

squalidness and misery such as might 
reasonably excite impatience in a cooler 
temperament than mine. But I sub- 
mit ; I shall address myself no more to 
the illiterate. I will look to events in 
which it will be impossible that I can 
share, and make myself the cause of 
an effect which will take place ages 
after I have mouldered in the dust ; I 
need not observe that this resolve re- 
quires stoicism. To return to the 
heartless bustle of ordinary life, to take 
interest in its uninteresting details, I 
cannot. Wholly to abstract our views 
from self undoubtedly requires unpar- 
alleled disinterestedness. There is not 
a completer abstraction than labouring 
for distant ages. 

My Association scheme undoubtedly 
grew out of my notions of "political 
justice," first generated by your book 
on that subject. I had not, however, 
read in vain of confidential discussions, 
and a recommendation for their gene- 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 51 

ral adoption; not in vain had I been 
warned against a fictitious [qy. facti- 
tious] unanimity. I have had the oppor- 
tunity of witnessing the latter at public 
dinners. The peculiarity of my Asso- 
ciation would have consisted in com- 
bining the adoption of the former with 
the rejection of the latter. Moreover, 
I desired to sink the question of imme- 
diate grievance in the more general 
and remote consideration of a highly 
perfectible state of society. I desired 
to embrace the present opportunity for 
attempting to forward the accomplish- 
ment of that event, and my ultimate 
views looked to an establishment of 
those familiar parties for discussion 
which have not yet become general. 

It appears to me that on the pub- 
lication of Political Justice you looked 
to a more rapid improvement than has 
taken place. It is my opinion that, 
if your book had been as general 
as the Bible, human affairs would 



5 2 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

now have exhibited a very different 
aspect. 

I have read your letters, — read them 
with the attention and reverence they 
deserve. Had /, like you, been witness 
to the French Revolution, it is pro- 
bable that my caution would have been 
greater. I have seen and heard enough 
to make me doubt the omnipotence of 
truth in a society so constituted as that 
wherein we live. I shall make you 
acquainted with all my proceedings ; 
if I err, probe me severely. 

If I was alone, and had made no en- 
gagements, I would immediately come 
to London : as it is, I defer it for a 
time. We leave Dublin in three 
weeks. 

A woman of extraordinary talents,* 
whom I am so happy as to enroll in 
the list of those who esteem me, has 
engaged to visit me in Wales. Mrs. 
Shelley earnestly desires me to make 

* Miss Elizabeth Hitchcner. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 53 

one last attempt to induce you to visit 
Wales. If you absolutely cannot, may 
not your amiable family, with whom we 
all long to become acquainted, breathe 
with us the pure air of the mountains ? 
Lest there be any informality in the 
petition, Mrs. Shelley desires her 
regards to Mrs. Godwin and family, 
urging the above. Miss Westbrook, 
my sister-in-law, resides with us ; and 
in one thing, at least, none of us are 
deficient, viz., zeal and sincerity. 

Fear no more for any violence or 
hurtful measures in which I may be 
instrumental in Dublin. My mind is 
now by no means settled on the subject 
of Associations : they appear to me in 
one point of view useful, in another 
deleterious. I acquiesce in your de- 
cisions. I am neither haughty, reserved, 
nor unpersuadable. I hope that time 
will show your pupil to be more worthy 
of your regard than you have hitherto 
found him ; and at all events, that he 

vol. 1. p 



54 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

will never be otherwise than sincere and 
true to you. 

P. B. Shelley. 
To 
Mr. William Godwin, 

London. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 55 



LETTER VIII. 

Nantgwii.lt, Rhayader, 

Radnorshire, South Wales. 

April 2$th, 181 2. 

{Saturday.} 

My Dear Sir, 

At length we are in a manner settled. 
The difficulty of obtaining a house in 
Wales (like many other difficulties) is 
greater than I had imagined. We 
determined, on quitting Dublin, to 
settle in Merionethshire, the scene of 
Fleetwood's early life, but there we 
could find not even temporary accom- 
modation. We traversed the whole of 
North, and a part of South Wales 
fruitlessly, and our peregrinations have 
occupied nearly all the time since the 
date of my last. 



56 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

We are no longer in Dublin. Never 
did I behold in any other spot a con- 
trast so striking as that which grandeur 
and misery form in that unfortunate 
country. How forcibly do I feel the 
remark which you put into the mouth 
of Fleetwood, that the distress which 
in the country humanizes the heart, by 
its infrequency, is calculated in a city, 
by the multiplicity of its demands for 
relief, to render us callous to the con- 
templation of wretchedness ! Surely 
the inequality of rank is not felt so 
oppressively in England ! Surely some- 
thing might be devised for Ireland, even 
consistent with the present state of 
politics to ameliorate its condition ! 

Curran at length called on me. I 
dined twice at his house. Curran is 
certainly a man of great abilities, but it 
appears to me that he undervalues his 
powers when he applies them to what 
is usually the subject of his conversation. 
I may not possess sufficient taste to 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 57 

relish humour, or his incessant comic- 
ality may weary that which I possess. 
He does not possess that mould of 
mind which I have been accustomed to 
contemplate with the highest feelings of 
respect and love. In short, though 
Curran indubitably possesses a strong 
understanding and a brilliant fancy, I 
should not have beheld him with the 
feelings of admiration which his first 
visit excited, had he not been your 
intimate friend. 

Nantgwillt, the place where we now 
reside, is in the neighbourhood of 
scenes marked deeply on my mind by 
the thoughts which possessed it when 
present among them. The ghosts of 
these old friends have a dim and strange 
appearance, when resuscitated, in a 
situation so altered as mine is, since I 
felt that they were alive. I have never 
detailed to you my short, yet eventful 
life ; but, when we meet, if my account 
be not candid, sincere, and full, how 

vol. 1. Q 



58 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

unworthy should I be of such a friend 
and adviser as that whom I now 
address ! 

We are not yet completely certain of 
being able to obtain the house where 
now we are. It has a farm of two 
hundred acres, and the rent is but 
forty-eight pounds* per annum. The 
cheapness, beauty, and retirement, 
make this place in every point of view 
desirable. Nor can I view this scenery, 
— mountains and rocks seeming to form 
a barrier round this quiet valley, which 
the tumult of the world may never 
overleap ; the guileless habits of the 
Welsh, — without associating your pre- 
sence with the idea, that of your wife, 
your children, and one other friend, to 
complete the picture which my mind 
has drawn to itself of felicity. Steal, 
if possible, my revered friend, one 



* This should be " mfmij i jfllll pounds " : see letters 
to Medwin, Senr., in Medwin's Life of Shelley, vol. i., 
p. 378, &c. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 59 

summer from the cold hurry of business, 
and come to Wales. — Adieu. 

Harriet desires to join me in kind- 
est remembrances to yourself, Mrs. 
G[odwin], and family. She joins also 
in earnest wishes that you would all 
visit us. 

Yours, 

P. B. Shelley. 
To 
Mr. William Godwin, 

London. 



6o LETTERS TO GODWIN. 



LETTER IX. 

Nantgwillt, [Rhayader]. 

June 3rd, 181 2. 

[Wednesday.] 

My Dear Sir, 

I hasten to dissipate the unfavour- 
able impressions you seem to have 
received from my silence. Mrs. God- 
win, in a letter to my wife, mentions 
the existence of your letter in Ireland. 
This I have never been able to recover : 
indeed, I am confident that the date 
of your last was considerably anterior 
to the 30th of March. 

My health has been far from good 
since I wrote to you ; and I have been 
day after day tormented and rendered 
anxious by the delay of legal business 
necessary to secure this house to us. I 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 61 

do not say that anything can absolutely 
excuse any neglect to you ; but the 
constant expectancy that the succeed- 
ing day would bring a train of thought 
more favourable than the present, to- 
gether with your expected letter, may 
be permitted to palliate it. 

I hope, my venerated friend, that 
you will soon permit the time to arrive 
when you may know me as I am ; 
when you may consult those lineaments 
which cannot deceive; and be placed 
in a situation which will obviate the 
possibility of delusion. 

I revert with pleasure to the latter 
part of your letter, and entreat you to 
erase from your mind the impressions 
which occasioned the former. They 
shall never, assure yourself, find occa- 
sion of renewal. 

Until my marriage, my life had been 
a series of illness (as it was of a ner- 
vous and spasmodic nature) which in a 
degree incapacitated me for study. I 

VOL. i. R 



62 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

nevertheless, in the intervals of com- 
parative health, read romances, and 
those the most marvellous ones, un- 
remittingly ; and pored over the reve- 
ries of Albertus Magnus and Para- 
celsus, the former of which I read in 
Latin, and probably gained more know- 
ledge of that language from that source 
than from all the discipline of Eton. 
My fondness for natural magic and 
ghosts abated, as my age increased. 
I read Locke, Hume, Reid, and what- 
ever metaphysics came in my way, 
without however renouncing poetry, 
an attachment to which has charac- 
terized all my wanderings and changes. 
I did not truly think and fitl t however, 
until I read Political Justice \ though my 
thoughts and feelings, after this period, 
have been more painful, anxious, and 
vivid, — more inclined to action and 
less to theory. Before, I was republi- 
can : Athens appeared to me the 
model of governments. But after- 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 63 

wards Athens bore in my mind the 
same relation to perfection that Great 
Britain did to Athens. 

I fear that I am wanting in that 
mild and equable benevolence con- 
cerning which you question me. Still, 
I flatter myself that I improve ; at 
all events, I have willingness, and 
"desire never fails to generate capacity." 

My knowledge of the chivalric age 
is small : do not conceive that I intend 
it to remain so. During my existence 
I have incessantly speculated, thought, 
and read. A great deal of this labour 
has been uselessly directed ; still, I am 
willing to hope that some portion of 
the stores thus improvidently accumu- 
lated will turn to account. I have 
just finished reading Le Systeme de la 
Nature, par AT. Mirabaud* Do you 
know the real author ? It appears to 
me a work of uncommon powers. 

* Written by Baron d'Holbach. Shelley inserted a 
long extract from this work in the .Votes to Queen 
Mao. 



64 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

I write this to you by return of post, 
solicitous as quickly as possible to 
reassure you of my fidelity and truth. 
I will soon write one more at length, 
and with answers more satisfactory to 
the questions in the latter part of 
yours. 

Believe me, with sincerest respect, 
Yours most truly, 

P. B. Shelley. 

To 
Mr. William Godivin, 

London. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 65 



LETTER X. 

Cwm Elan, Rhayader. 
June Hi A, 181 2. 
[Thursday.] 
My Dear Sir, 

I will no longer delay returning my 
grateful and cordial acknowledgments 
for your inestimable letter of March 30. 
That it is most affectionate and kind I 
deeply feel and thankfully confess. I 
can return no other answer than that I 
will become all that you believe and 
wish me to be. I should regard it as 
my greatest glory, should I be judged 
worthy to solace your declining years ; 
it is a pleasure the realization of which 
I anticipate with confident hopes, and 
which it shall be my study to deserve. 
I will endeavour to subdue the impa- 

vol. 1. s 



66 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

tience of my nature, so incompatible 
with true benevolence. 

I know that general philanthropy 
does not permit its votaries to relax, 
even when hope appears to languish ; 
or to indulge bitterness of feeling 
against the very worst, the most 
mistaken, of men. 

To these faults, in a considerable 
degree, I plead guilty ; at all events, I 
have now a stimulus adequate to excite 
me to the conquest of them. 

I yet know little of the chivalric age. 
The ancient romances, in which are 
depicted the manners of those times, 
never fell in my way. I have read 
Southey's Amadis of Gaul and Palme- 
rin of England, but at a time when I 
was little disposed to philosophize on 
the manners they describe. I have 
also read his Chronicle of the Cid. It 
is written in a simple and impressive 
style, and surprised me by the extent 
of accurate reading evinced by the 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 67 

references. But I read it hastily ; and 
it did not please me so much as it will 
on a reperusal, seasoned by your 
authority and opinion. 

It requires no great study to attain 
an intimate knowledge of Grecian and 
Roman history ; it requires but com- 
mon feeling to appreciate and acknow- 
ledge the resplendent virtues with 
which it is replete. The first doubts 
which arise in boyish minds concerning 
the genuineness of the Christian re- 
ligion, as a revelation from the divinity, 
are often excited by a contemplation of 
the virtues and genius of Greece and 
Rome. Shall Socrates and Cicero 
perish, whilst the meanest hind of 
modern England inherits eternal life ? 

I mean not to affirm that this is the 
first argument with which I would 
combat the delusions of superstition ; 
but it certainly was one of the first that 
operated to convince me that they 
were delusions. 



68 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

What do you think of Eaton's trial 
and sentence ? I mean not to insinu- 
ate that this poor bookseller has any 
characteristics in common with Socrates 
or Jesus Christ. Still, the spirit which 
pillories and imprisons him is the same 
which brought them to an untimely 
end : still, even in this enlightened age, 
the moralist and reformer may expect 
coercion analogous to that used with 
the humbler yet zealous imitator of 
their endeavours. I have thought of 
addressing the public on the subject, 
and indeed have begun an outline of 
the address.* May I be favoured with 
your remarks on it before I send it to 
the world ? 

We are unexpectedly compelled to 
quit Nantgwillt. I hope, however, 
before long time has elapsed, to find a 
home. These accidents are unavoid- 



* When completed this projected "address to the 
public" was issued as A Letter to Lord Ellenborough , 
occasioned by the sentence which he passed on Mr. 
D. I. Eaton. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 69 

able to a minor. I hope, wherever we 
are, you, Mrs. Godwin, and your 
children will come this summer. 

I do not suppose we shall remain 
here longer than a week. All letters 
directed here will securely and cer- 
tainly be forwarded. Harriet desires 
to join me in everything that is re- 
spectful and affectionate to yourself, 
Mrs. G [odwin], and family, my ven- 
erated friend. 

Believe me to remain, yours most 
sincerely, 

P. B. Shelley. 

To 
Mr. William Godwin, 

London. 



VOL. 



7o LETTERS TO GODWIN. 



LETTER XL 

Lymouth, Barnstaple. 

July $th, 1812. 

[Sunday.] 

My Dear Sir, 

I write to acknowledge the pleasure 
I anticipate in the perusal of some 
letters from you and yours which have 
not yet reached us. The post comes to 
Lymouth but twice in a week j and 
some allowance is to be made for 
the casualties which attend an event 
by which we have been unexpectedly 
unsettled. We were all so much pre- 
possessed in favour of Mr. Eton's house 
that nothing but the invincible ob- 
jection of scarcity of room would have 
induced us, even after seeing it, to 
resign the predetermination we had 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 71 

formed of taking it. We now reside in 
a small cottage ; but the poverty and 
humbleness of the apartments is com- 
pensated for by their number, and we 
can invite our friends with a conscious- 
ness that there is enclosed space 
wherein they may sleep, which was not 
to be found at Mr. Eton's. 

I will, in the absence of other topics, 
explain to you my reason for fixing 
upon this residence. I am, as you 
know, a minor, and as such depend 
upon a limited income (^400 per an- 
num) allowed by my relatives. Upon 
this income justice and humanity 
have many claims, and the necessary 
expenses of existing in conformity to 
some habitudes which may be said to 
be interwoven with our being dissipate 
the remainder. I might, it is true, 
raise money on my prospects, but the 
percentage is so enormous that it is 
with extreme unwillingness I should 
have recourse to a step which I might 



72 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

then be induced to repeat, even to a 
ruinous frequency and extent. The 
involvement of my patrimony would 
interfere with schemes on which it is 
my fondest delight to speculate. I may 
truly, therefore, be classed generically 
with those minors who pant for twenty- 
one, though I trust that the specific 
difference is very, very wide. The 
expenses incurred by the failure of our 
attempt in settling at Nantgwillt have 
rendered it necessary for us to settle for 
a time in some cheap residence, in 
order to recover our pecuniary in- 
dependence. 

I will still hope that you and your 
estimable family will, before much time 
has elapsed, become inmates of our 
house. This house boasts not such 
accommodation as I should feel satis- 
fied in offering you ; but I propose a 
plan which, if it meets your approba- 
tion, may prove an interlude to our 
meeting, and become an earnest that 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 73 

much time will not elapse before its 
occurrence. I have a friend* .... 
But first I will make you in some 
measure acquainted with her. She is 
a woman with whom her excellent 
qualities made me acquainted. Though 
deriving her birth from a very humble 
source, she contracted, during youth, a 
very deep and refined habit of thinking. 
Her mind, naturally inquisitive and 
penetrating, overstepped the bounds of 
prejudice ; she formed for herself an 
unbeaten path of life. 

By the patronage of a lady whose 
liberality of mind is singular, this 
woman, at the age of twenty was 
enabled to commence the conduct of 
a school. She concealed not the un- 
common modes of thinking which she 
had adopted, and publicly instructed 
youth as a Deist and a Republican. 
When I first knew her, she had not 
read Political Justice, yet her life ap- 

* Miss Elizabeth Hitchener. 
VOL. I. U 



74 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

peared to me in a great degree modelled 
upon its precepts. Such is the woman 
who is about to become an inmate of 
our family. She will pass through 
London, and I shall take the liberty of 
introducing to you one whom I do 
not consider unworthy of the ad- 
vantage. 

As soon as we recover our financial 
liberty, we mean to come to London. 
Why may not Fanny come to Lymouth 
with her and return with us all to 
London in the autumn? I entreat 
you to look with a favourable eye upon 
this request, and indeed our hearts 
long for a personal intercourse with 
those to whom they are devoted ; yet 
I fear, from the tenor of Mrs. 
G[odwin]'s letter, that we must give up 
the hope of seeing you. This disap- 
pointed hope determines us to journey 
to London as soon as we can. 

This place is beautiful : it equals — 
Harriet says it exceeds — Nantgwillt. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 75 

Mountains certainly of not less per- 
pendicular elevation than iooo feet 
are broken abruptly into valleys of 
indescribable fertility and grandeur. 
The climate is so mild that myrtles of 
an immense size twine up our cottage, 
and roses blow in the open air in 
winter. In addition to these is the 
sea, which dashes against a rocky and 
caverned shore, presenting an ever- 
changing view. All "shows of sky 
and earth, of sea and valley," are here. 
Adieu. Believe how devotedly and 
sincerely I must now remain yours, 

P. B. Shelley. 

I write this letter by return of post, 
and send purposely to Barnstaple. I 
have more to say ; but will reserve it 
until I receive the letters which are on 
the way. 

To 
Mr. William Goihvin, 

London. 



76 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 



LETTER XII. 

Lymouth, [Barnstaple]. 

July jtli, 1812. 

[ Tuesday. ] 

My Dear Sir, 

The person whom I sent yesterday 
to the post-town has returned. He 
brought those letters from you and 
yours, which have been forwarded from 
Cwm Elan to Chepstow. It is a 
singular coincidence that in my last 
letter I entered into details respecting 
my mode of life, and unfolded to you 
the reasons by which I was induced, on 
being disappointed in Mr. Eton's house, 
to seek an unexpensive retirement. I 
feel my heart throb exultingly when, as 
I read the misgivings of your mind con- 
cerning my rectitude, I reflect that I 
have to a certain degree refuted them by 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 77 

anticipation. My letter, dated the 5th, 
will prove to you that it is not to live 
in splendour, which I hate, — not to 
accumulate indulgences, which I de- 
spise, that my present conduct was 
adopted. Most unworthy, indeed, 
should I be of that high destiny which 
he who is your friend and pupil must 
share, if I was not myself practically a 
proselyte to that doctrine by promul- 
gating which with unremitting zeal and 
industry I have become the object of 
hatred and suspicion. 

Our cottage (for such, not nominally, 
but really, it is) exceeds not in its 
accommodations the dwellings of the 
peasantry which surround it. Its beds 
are of the plainest, I may say the 
coarsest, materials ; and from the single 
consideration that accommodations for 
personal convenience were glaringly 
defective, did I refrain in my last letter 
from pressing the request, whose con- 
cession is nearest to my desires, that 

vol. 1. x 



7& LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

you would come to this lovely solitude, 
and bring to a conclusion that state of 
acquaintance which stands between us, 
to a perfect intimacy. I was beginning 
a sentence in the middle of the second 
page of my letter, in which I should 
have pressed you to come here, when 
Harriet interrupted me, bade me con- 
sider that your health was delicate, that 
our rooms were complete servants' 
rooms. I finished the sentence as it 
stands. She added that we would 
hasten our journey to London, and 
that you all should live with us. It was 
the thought of the moment j I send it 
you without comment, as it arose. See 
my defence. Yet, my esteemed and 
venerated friend, accept my thanks ;— 
consider yourself as yet more beloved 
by me for the manner in which you 
have reproved my suppositionary errors ; 
and ever may you, like the tenderest 
and wisest of parents, be on the watch 
to detect those traits of vice which, yet 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 79 

undiscoveied, are nevertheless marked 
on the tablet of my character, so that I 
pursue undeviatingly the path which 
you first cleared through the wilderness 
of life. 

I said, in my last letta^lhat there 
are certain habitudes in conformity to 
which it is almost necessary that 
persons who have contracted them 
should exist. By this I do not mean 
that a splendid mansion, or an equi- 
page, is in any degree essential to life ; 
but that, if I was employed at the loom 
or the plough, and my wife in culinary 
business and housewifery, we should, 
in the present state of society, quickly 
become very different beings, and, I may 
add, less useful to our species. Nor, 
consistently with invincible ideas of 
delicacy, can two persons of opposite 
sexes, unconnected by certain ties, 
sleep in the same apartment. Probably, 
in a regenerated state of society, agri- 
culture and manufacture would be com- 



So LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

patible with the most powerful intellect, 
and most polished manners ; probably 
delicacy, as it relates to sexual distinc- 
tion, would disappear \ — yet now, a 
plough-boy can with difficulty acquire 
refinement of intellect ; and promis- 
cuous sexual intercourse, under the pre- 
sent system of thinking, would inevitably 
lead to consequences the most injurious 
to the happiness of mankind. Mr. 
Eton's house had not sufficient bed- 
rooms, scarcely sufficient for ourselves, 
and you and your family must sleep ; 
for, my dear friend, believe me that I 
would not willingly take a house, for 
any time, whither you could not come. 
Have I written desultorily? Is my 
explanation of habitudes incorrect, 
or indistinct ? Pardon me, for I am 
anxious to lose no time in communica- 
ting my sentiments. 

Harriet is writing to Fanny * ; if she 

* Fanny Imlay, the daughter of Mary Wollstone- 
craft, and Gilbert Imlay, but frequently spoken of as 
•' Fanny Godwin." 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 81 

is particular in her invitation of Fanny, 
it is not meant exclusively. There are a 
sufficient quantity of bed-rooms ; and, 
if the humbleness of their quality is no 
objection, I need not say, — Come, thou 
venerated and excellent friend, and 
make us happy. — Adieu ! 

Believe me, with the utmost sincerity 
and truth, Ever yours, 

P. B. Shelley. 

(Single sheet.) 

To 
Mr. William Godwin , 

London. 



VOL. I. 



82 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 



LETTER XIII. 

Lymouth, [Barnstaple]. 

July 29th, 1 8 12. 

[Wednesday.] * 

My Dear Godwin, 

I have never seen you,t and yet I 
think I know you ; I think I knew you 
even before I ever heard from you, 
whilst yet it was a question with me 
whether you were living or dead. It has 
appeared to me that there are linea- 
ments in the soul, as well as in the 
face: lineaments, too, less equivocal 



* This letter exhibits Shelley in a peculiarly negative 
frame of mind : — the Shelley of the " Notes " to Oueen 
Mab. 

+ On September iStk, 1812, William Godwin un- 
expectedly arrived at Lymouth— only to find, to his 
very considerable vexation, that the Shelleys had left 
since August 31st. [See Shelley Memorials, p. 41]. 
It was in Lcndon, and not until the following October 
(1812), that Godwin first met his future son-in-law. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 83 

and deceptive than those which result 
from mere physical organization. This 
opinion may be illusory j if I find it so, 
it shall be retracted. 

You say three letters of yours have 
been unanswered. I waited to know 
whether those of mine contained any 
topics worthy of notice or discussion. 
I find they do not; therefore, let us 
pass on. 

To begin with Helve'tius. I have 
read Le Systeme de la Nature, and 
suspect this to be Helvetius's by your 
charges against it. It is a book of 
uncommon powers, yet too obnoxious 
to accusations of sensuality and 
selfishness. Although, like you, an 
irreconcileable enemy to the system of 
self-love, both from a feeling of its 
deformity and a conviction of its false- 
hood, I can by no means conceive how 
the loftiest disinterestedness is incom- 
patible with the strictest materialism. 
In fact, the doctrine which affirms that 



84 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

there is no such thing as matter, and 
that which affirms that all is matter, 
appear to me perfectly indifferent in the 
question between benevolence and self- 
love. I cannot see how they interfere 
with each other, or why the two 
doctrines of materialism and dis- 
interestedness cannot be held in one 
mind, as independently of each other 
as the two truths that a cricket-ball is 
round and a box square. Immateriality 
seems to me nothing but a simple 
denial of the presence of matter, of 
the presence of all the forms of being 
with which our senses are acquainted ; 
and it surely is somewhat inconsistent 
to assign real existence to what is a 
mere negation of all that actual world to 
which our senses introduce us. 

I have read Berkeley ; and the perusal 
of his arguments tended more than 
anything to convince me that Im mater- 
ialism, and other words of general 
usage, deriving all their force from 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 85 

mere predicates in non, were invented 
by the pride of philosophers to conceal 
their ignorance, even from themselves. 
]f I err in what I say, or if I differ 
from you (though in this point I think 
I do not), Reason stands arbiter 
between us. Reason, if 1 may be 
permitted to personify it, is as much 
your superior as you are mine. An 
hour and a thousand years are equally 
incommensurate with eternity. 

With respect to Helvdtius's opinion 
of the omnipotence of education, there 
I submit to your authority, because 
authority, derived from experience such 
as yours, is reason. I will own that the 
opinion of Helve'tius, until very lately, 
has been mine. 

You know that in most points I agree 
with you. As I see you in Political 
Justice, I agree with you. Your Enquirer 
is replete with speculations in which I 
sympathize ; yet the arguments there in 
favour of classical learning failed to 

vol. 1. z 



86 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

remove all my doubts on that point. 
I am not sufficiently vain and dog- 
matical to say that now I have no 
doubts on the deleteriousness of 
classical education \ but it certainly is 
my opinion (nor has your last letter 
sufficed to refute it) that the evils of 
acquiring Greek and Latin considerably 
overbalance the benefit. But why, 
because I think so, should it even be 
supposed necessary by you to warn 
me against fearing that you feel 
displeasure ? Assure yourself that the 
picture of you in the retina of my 
intellect is a standing proof to me that 
its original is capable of extending to 
opinions the most unlimited toleration, 
and that he will scan with disgust 
nothing but a defect of the heart. Let 
Reason, then, be arbiter between us. 
Yet sometimes I am struck with dismay 
when I consider that, placed where you 
are, high up on the craggy mountain of 
knowledge, you will scarcely condescend 



. LETTERS TO GODWIN. 87 

to doubt, even sufficiently for the 
purposes of discussion, that opinion 
which you hold, although by that 
doubting you might fit me for following 
in your footsteps. Yet I will explain 
my reasons for doubting the efficacy of 
classical learning as a means of for- 
warding the interests of the human race. 
In the first place, I do not perceive 
how one of the truths of Political 
Justice rests on the excellence of 
ancient literature. That Latin and 
Greek have contributed to form your 
character it were idle to dispute ; but 
in how great a degree have they con- 
tributed ? Are not the reasonings on 
which your system is founded utterly 
distinct from and unconnected with 
the excellence of Greece and Rome ? 
Was not the government of republican 
Rome, and most of those of Greece, as 
oppressive and arbitrary as that of 
Great Britain is at present ? And what 
do we learn from their poets ? As you 



88 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

have yourself acknowledged some- 
where, " they are fit for nothing but the 
perpetuation of the noxious race of 
heroes in the world." Lucretius 
forms, perhaps, the single exception. 
Throughout the whole of their litera- 
ture runs a vein of thought similar to 
that which you have so justly censured 
in Helvetius. Honour — and the opin- 
ion either of contemporaries, or more 
frequently of posterity — is set so much 
above virtue as, according to the last 
words of Brutus, to make it nothing 
but an empty name. Their politics 
sprang from the same narrow and cor- 
rupted source : witness the interminable 
aggressions between each other of the 
states of Greece ; the thirst of conquest 
with which even republican Rome 
desolated the earth. They are our 
masters in politics because we are so 
immoral as to prefer self-interest to 
virtue, and expediency to positive good. 
You say that words will neither de- 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 89 

bauch our understandings nor distort 
our moral feelings. You say that the 
time of youth could not be better em- 
ployed than in the acquisition of 
classical learning. But words are the 
very things that so eminently contribute 
to the growth and establishment of 
prejudice : the learning of words, before 
the mind is capable of attaching cor- 
respondent ideas to them, is like 
possessing machinery with the use of 
which we are so unacquainted as to be 
in danger of misusing it. But words 
are merely signs of ideas. How many 
evils, and how great evils, spring from 
annexing inadequate and improper 
ideas to words ! The words honour, 
virtue, duty, goodness, are examples of 
this remark. Besides, we only want 
one distinct sign for one idea. Do you 
not think that there is much more 
danger of our wanting ideas for the 
signs of them already made, than of 
our wanting these signs for inexpressi- 
vol. I. a A 



90 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

ble ideas? I should think that natural 
philosophy, medecine, astronomy, and, 
above all, history, could be sufficient 
employments for immaturity; employ- 
ments which would completely fill up 
the era of tutelage, and render un- 
necessary all expedients for losing time 
well, by gaining it safely. 

Of the Latin language, as a grammar. 
I think highly. It is a key to the 
European languages, and we can hardly 
be said to know our own without 
first attaining a complete knowledge of 
it. Still, I cannot help considering it 
as an affair of minor importance, inas- 
much as the science of things is superior 
to the science of words. Nor can I 
help considering the vindicators of 
ancient learning — I except you, not 
from politeness, but because you, unlike 
them, are willing to subject your opin- 
ions to reason — as the vindicators of a 
literary despotism ; as the tracers of a 
circle which is intended to shut out 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 91 

from real knowledge (and to which this 
fictitious knowledge is attached) all 
who do not breathe the air of prejudice, 
or who will not support the established 
systems of politics, religion, and morals. 
I have as great a contempt for Cobbett 
as you can have ; but it is because he 
is a dastard and a time-server, — he has 
no humanity, no refinement. But, were 
he a classical scholar, would he have 
more? Did Greek and Roman litera- 
ture refine the soul of Johnson ? Does 
it extend the views of the thousand 
narrow bigots educated in the very 
bosom of classicality ? But 

M In publica commoda peccem 
" Si longo sermone morer tua tempora," * 

says Horace at the commencement of 
his longest letter. 

Well, adieu. All join in kindest 



* Shelley seems to have been fend of this quotation. 
It had already appeared in his letter to Godwin dated 
January 16M, 1812 [see ante, p. 17]. It also re- 
appears in one of his letters to Peacock. 



92 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

love to your amiable family, of whom 
I have forgotten to speak, but not to 
think ; and I remain 

Very truly and affectionately yours, 
P. B. Shelley. 

To 
Mr. IV. Godwin, 

London. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 93 



LETTER XIV. 

BlSHOPGATE, 
January flA, 181 5 [1816.] 
[Saturday.] 
Sir, 

I will endeavour to give you as 
clear as possible a history of the pro- 
ceedings between myself and my 
father. 

A small portion of the estates to 
which I am entitled in reversion, w r ere 
comprehended in the will of Mr. John 
Shelley, my great uncle, and devised to 
the same uses as the larger portion 
which was settled by my father's mar- 
riage, jointly by my grandfather and 
father. This portion was valued at 
;£i8,oco, which my father purchased 
of me with an equivalent of ^11,000. 

vol. 1. B B 



94 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

I signed on this occasion two deeds, 
the one was to empower my attorney to 
suffer what is called a recovery, the 
other a counterpart of the deed of 
conveyance. 

Before these transactions, however, 
and at the very commencement of our 
negotiations, I signed a deed which 
was the preliminary and the basis of 
the whole business. My grandfather 
had left me the option of receiving a 
life estate in some very large sum (I 
think ;£i 40,000) on condition that 
I would prolong the entail, so as to 
possess only a life estate in my original 
patrimony. These conditions I never 
intended to accept, although Longdill 
considered them very favourable to 
me, and urged me by all means to 
grasp at the offer. It was my father's 
interest and wish that I should refuse 
these conditions, because my younger 
brother would inherit, in default of my 
compliance with them, this life-estate. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 95 

Longdill and Whitton * therefore made 
an agreement that I should resign my 
rights to this property, and that my 
father, in exchange for the concession, 
should give me the full price for my 
reversion. In compliance with the 
terms of this agreement, I signed a 
deed importing that I disclaimed my 
grandfather's property. My father did 
not sign his part of the agreement 
because he could not do so without 
forfeiting the new entail (which says 
that whoever in whatever manner 
endeavours to break through the in- 
tentions of the testator shall not enjoy 
the fortune). But Mr. Whitton en- 
gaged tacitly to Longdill that my father 
would buy the reversion on the terms 
already settled. 

Now, Whitton professes my father's 
willingness to proceed, but urges every 
consideration calculated to delay the 



* Longdill was Shelley's solicitor; Whitton was 
Sir Timothy's solicitor. 



96 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

progress of the affair. Longdill told 
me that he saw Whitton wished to 
procure as much delay as possible, but 
that he still thought it was their inten- 
tion not entirely to give up the ne- 
gotiation. Whether both Whitton and 
Longdill are not quietly making their 
advantage out of the inexperience and 
credulity of myself and my father, is a 
doubt that has crossed my mind. 

You say that you will receive no 
more than ^1,250 for the payment of 
those incumbrances from which you 
think I may be considered as specially 
bound to relieve you. I would not 
desire to persuade you to sell the 
approbation of your friends for the 
difference between this sum and that 
which your necessities actually require. 
But the mention of your friends has 
suggested a plan to my mind which 
possibly you may be able to execute. 
You have undoubtedly some well- 
wishers, who, although they would 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 97 

refuse to give you so large a sum as 
,£1,200, might not refuse to lend it 
you on security which they might 
consider unexceptionable. I think you 
could lay before any rich friend such 
a statement of your case as that, if he 
could refuse to lend ^1,200 on my 
security, his desire of benefiting you 
must be exceedingly slight. 

There is every probability in favour 
of the arrangement with my father 
being completed within the year. I 
can give evidence of the existence of 
negotiations between us. 

If this prospect should fail, I still 
remain heir to property of £6,000 or 
£7,000 a year. Why not ask Grattan, 
or Mackintosh, or Lord Holland, whom 
I have heard named as your 

[The remainder of this letter is missing.] 



VOL. I. C C 



98 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 



LETTER XV. 

BlSHOPGATE, 

Jan\uary\ iSi/i, 1816. 
[Wednesday.] 

Sir, 

I consent to sell an annuity which 
shall produce enough to cover Hogan's 
demand, on these conditions : — 

That you should agree to pay the 
interest until I am able to discharge the 
principal. I shall take your word for 
the fulfilment of this part of the contract. 

That entire secrecy should be ob- 
served. It will be necessary that the 
solicitor who engages in the manage- 
ment of the affair should defer regis- 
tering the annuity for judgment for 
the period of a year. 

Do you know the quarter whence 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 99 

the money can be produced ? I would 
prefer any other than Hay ward, for 
reasons which I could enumerate if it 
were necessary. 

The person who proposed to lend 
^1,000, would probably lend a quarter 
of that sum. You had better apply 
to him in the first instance and enquire 
whether he will do so. I, not residing 
in London, am obviously incompetent 
to conduct the affair. 

Clairmont informs me that in a 
former instance he explained with you 
on the subject of the claim which you 
urge, to be repaid the ^200 sub- 
tracted by me from the ^1,200 of 
nominal debt which he agreed to state 
on your part, for the purpose of putting 
me in possession of the ^200. He 
told you that he believed you to be 
mistaken in your construction of my 
message, and on explaining with me, 
I confirmed his remembrance of the 
real state of the arrangement. 



ioo LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

Perhaps it is well that you should 
be informed that I consider your last 
letter to be written in a certain style of 
haughtiness and encroachment, which 
neither awes nor imposes on me. But 
I have no desire to transgress the 
limits which you placed to our inter- 
course, nor in any future instance 
will I make any remarks but such 
as arise from the strict question in dis- 
cussion. 

Perhaps you do well to consider 
every word irrelevant to that question 
which does not regard your personal 
advantage. 

P. B. Shelley. 

I forgot to inform you that no paper 
has been signed by my father which 
regards the affair of the estate. The 
general intention and fundamental 
basis of the business have been stated 
and admitted in many instances by 
Whitton in writing, though I should 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 101 

conceive not in a manner which con- 
stitutes a legal obligation. 

[Addressed out 'side, .] 

W. Godwin, Esq., 

41, Skinner Street, 

Sncnv Hill, 

London. 



VOL. I. D D 



io2 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 



LETTER XVI. 

BlSHOPGATE, 

January 2ist t 1816. 

[Saturday. ] 

Sir, 

It is impossible to procure any letter 
from Whitton, or any evidence of the 
affair with my father. Any attempt to 
possess myself of such a document 
would risk an entire destruction of my 
prospects in that quarter. But I ap- 
prehend that a reference to my banker 
would answer the same end. It would 
prove to the inquirer that I am in the 
regular receipt of ^800 per annum. I 
should conceive that a person who had 
an opportunity of making 1 5 per cent, 
of so small a sum as .£200 or ^"300 
would consider this fact a sufficient 
assurance of the safety of his loan. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 103 

Particularly when he reflects in ad- 
dition upon the strong presumption 
which he can deduce from various 
circumstances of the approaching settle- 
ment of my affairs. 

If the person who applied to you is, 
contrary to my expectation, disposed to 
think differently of the matter, then let 
Hayward be applied to. 

There are some objections to Hay- 
ward, some of which incite me to require 
caution in treating with him, some 
demand explanation, and are only worth 
considering as they impede the loan. 

1 st. Secrecy is to be secured which is 
somewhat difficult, unless his own 
interest is implicated. 

2nd. This real or pretended want of 
confidence in my representations is to 
be overcome. 

When I applied to him for the pur- 
pose of borrowing money for my own 
wants he inquired whether by the late 
arrangement with my father all incum- 



104 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

brances on the estate were cancelled. I 
replied in the affirmative since, although 
I did not know that Nash had been 
actually paid, yet an offer being then 
pending by which he was to receive 
^4,500 for what he purchased from me 
the year before at ,£2,600, I did not 
doubt, nor did Longdill doubt, but that 
he would resign on these terms his 
claim on the estate. 

I spoke therefore according to my 
belief, according to the real fact, and 
according to the purpose for which alone 
it imported him to know when I replied 
that the estate was no longer incum- 
bered. But indeed I know not whether 
Hayward would presume to make this 
accusation to any one, whom he knew 
had direct communication with me, or 
concerning whom it might not reason- 
ably be doubted whether the misrepre- 
sentations did not as probably originate 
with any informer or with himself. 
Hayward is to be applied to, if your 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 105 

person fails. But I hope the necessity 
will not arise. If you clearly perceive 
that there is no other mode of raising 
the money, I do not require a day's 
delay. You can either apply to Hay- 
ward, or I will write to him, as you 
choose. 

If Hayward refuses and we can raise 
money on my security in no manner, 
did it never suggest itself to you, that 
your signature joined with mine might 
effect what neither would effect singly ? 

With respect to the question which 
you ask on the subject of the ^200, I 
certainly never gave Clairmont the 
smallest ground for the representation 
on which your mistake rests. I accept, 
and thank you for your explanation. If 
you really think me vicious, such 
haughtiness as I imputed to you is 
perhaps to be excused. But I, who do 
not agree with you in that opinion, 
cannot be expected to endure it without 
remonstrance. I can easily imagine 

voi,. 1. E E 



106 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

how difficult it must be, in addressing a 
person whom we despise or dislike, to 
abstain from phrases, the tenor of which 
is peculiar to the sentiments with which 
we cannot help regarding such a person. 
Perhaps I did wrong to feel so deeply 
or notice so readily a spirit of which 
you seem so unconscious. 

P. B. Shelley. 

[Addressed outside.] 

W. Godwin, Esq., 

41, Skinner Street, 

Snow Hill, 

London. 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 107 



LETTER XVII. 

BlSHOPGATE, 

yanuary 2yd, 1816. 

{Monday. ,] 

Sir, 

I fear that it is quite impossible to 
procure any documents from Longdill. 
I do not mean to say that if the loan 
cannot be procured without it, I will 
refuse to attempt to procure them. But 
Longdill is now out of town, and the few 
days that will pass during his absence 
may be employed in discovering whether 
we can do without him. 

Hayward, it seems, must be applied 
to. Let this be done without delay. 
I should conceive that the same advan- 
tages which made it appear probable 
that the person you mentioned would 



108 LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

find the money, would operate with 
greater force on Hayward. 

I told Hayward that I did not know 
when the affair with my father would 
terminate, or even whether it might 
not be entirely abandoned. 

I conceive that he relied in reality 
far more on my present income than 
my future expectations, and that if he 
declines to advance any additional loan, 
it will spring not from any doubt of the 
validity of my security, but because 
some object which he might have con- 
templated in his former services was 
not obtained. 

As soon as we have procured Hay- 
ward's answer, we shall either be certain 
that he will advance the money, or that 
he will not. 

If he decides in the negative, I will 
lose no time in taking whatever mea- 
sures may appear good to you for 
procuring it from some other quarter. 

I am most undoubtedly in earnest, as 



LETTERS TO GODWIN. 109 

much so as I should have been last 
November, had such an explanation 
been made as I have since received, 
and the same spirit of promptitude 
shown to share with me the burthens 
incident to the pecuniary difficulties 
with which I have been so long sur- 
rounded. 

I hope that you will not refrain from 
applying to Hayward on the ground 
that these letters from Whitton may 
possibly be procured. I have not my- 
self even seen them that I recollect ; 
and it is most likely that they would be 
found to express only a general inten- 
tion on my father's part to divide the 
estates, a fact of which Hayward cer- 
tainly entertains no doubt. I am in- 
deed earnest that you should not defer 
to put the question to Hayward. 

I am sorry that I cannot appeal to 
my memory for the precise words of 
the message which you received with 
the ,£1,000 in the spring. I am certain 

VOL. I. F F 



no LETTERS TO GODWIN. 

only that it was not, because I am aware 
of arrangements made in my own mind, 
by which it could not be, such as you 
represent Clairmont to have delivered 
it. My meaning was that you should 
receive no more than that^"i,ooo until 
the second settlement with my father 
which was then expected in November. 
I consider that giving in your debt at 
;£ 1,200, as an accommodation to me, 
enabling me to procure as I did ^200 
which I should not otherwise have re- 
ceived. My message certainly in some 
manner expressed this view of the 
subject to Clairmont, and no other. 

P. B. Shelley. 

[Addressed outside']. 

W. Godwin, Esq., 

41, Skinner Street, 

Snow Hilly 
London. 



Privately Printed: 1891