The Letters of William Godwin Volume II: 1798-1805 Synopsis
The first volume of William Godwin's letters reflected the origins and impact of his great philosophical work, An Enquiry concerning Political Justice, and showed him at the height of his influence and reputation. This second volume (1798-1805) reveals a less familiar person in different surroundings: a man still well-connected, attracting new friends and disciples, but increasingly embattled as a public intellectual, as a political radical, and as a professional author. The volume includes scores of texts newly transcribed from the original manuscripts and given scholarly annotation for the first time. Godwin was not only a speculative philosopher but also a risk-taking entrepreneur. The letters show him responding to changes in public mood, seeking compromise in his philosophical commitments, and remaking himself as the author of novels, plays, biographies, and children's books. They trace the fragmentation of his intellectual circle of the 1790s and the building of new alliances. They include an eye-witness account of the condition of Ireland on the eve of the 1800 Act of Union. They follow his quest, in the wake of the death of his first wife Mary Wollstonecraft, to find a new life-companion and mother for his two young children. Godwin's letters reflect the cultural history of his times, and throw light on many other literary, political, and artistic figures. They record irreplaceable losses, both public and private, and trace new beginnings in his intellectual and literary development, in his commercial ventures, and in his social and domestic life.
The Letters of William Godwin Volume II: 1798-1805 Press Reviews
The high praise lavished on [Volume I] can also be paid to this second volume. Professor Clemit has again produced a highly informative introduction, a very useful index, some attractive illustrations, interesting details on Godwin's receipts for book sales and his promissory notes, and a huge number of very helpful notes added after each letter. Godwin took great care in composing these letters and it is important that this edition allows us to see the major revisions, which he often made in order to express himself to the greatest effect. The labour invested by Professor Clemit in this volume has been prodigious. Her editorial work, moreover, is of the very highest standard and she has set the bar very high for ... the succeeding volumes in this extremely important series. * H. T. Dickinson, Enlightenment and Dissent * Two meticulously edited and annotated volumes of letters by Romantic philosopher William Godwin give great insights into the Romantic movement and the trials of the literary life in the late 18th and early 19th century ... What we have here are 700 pages of meticulously chosen, prepared and annotated letters, a triumph of scholarship from Professor Pamela Clemit ... Both volumes read like a thriller or a love story ... It is wonderful to know that this is just the beginning: four more volumes of letters are planned. I can't wait to line them up on my bookshelf. * Tom Hodgkinson, The Idler * This is a beautifully presented book with an editorial apparatus of the most exacting standards I cannot overstate the extent of Clemits achievement. Her scrupulous care in assembling, organising, and presenting her primary materials; her editorial notes; and her editorial principles deserve every encomium one could muster. Her thoroughness opens the truly exciting prospect that the forthcoming volumes will illuminate Godwins less-explored years. * David O'Shaughnessy, Keats-Shelley Journal * Clemit's edition ... not only offers the reader a sense of continuing dialogue or discussion, so vital to the impulse of these epistolary texts ... but also brims with rich historical, biographical and literary annotation, so as to recreate the cross-currents of Godwin's shifting milieu and of the wider networks of Romantic-period writers and thinkers, more generally. In this, it provides a wonderfully suggestive resource not only for Godwin specialists but for scholars of British Romanticism and intellectual history. * Jeremy Elprin, Cercles * This is an exemplary piece of scrupulous, imaginative and sympathetic editorial work. Pamela Clemit knows her subject intimately ... As in the first volume of the Letters, the contextualizing is superb. Clemit includes copious evidence of Godwin's editing process and, in the notes, significant extracts from his original correspondents ... If we are to judge by the first two volumes of Godwin's Letters, the completed project promises ultimately to provide an exhaustive and intimate narrative of the philosopher's life. Future biographers will be fortunate to have such a resource at their disposal. * Rowland Weston, Review of English Studies * If the first volume of Pamela Clemit's magisterial edition of the letters of William Godwin reads like a Jacobin novel, this second volume, produced to the same high standard, reads inevitably like an anti-Jacobin one ... Considered as an epistolary anti-Jacobin novel, the second volume of Godwin's letters seems to me better than some actual representations of the genre. The prose is more pointed and varied, from romance to finance, and Pamela Clemit's astute, perfectly balanced notes give necessary background information much more efficiently than the round-about coincidences many epistolary novelists use ... Considered as an editorial production, this volume of Godwin's letters deserves the highest praise, both for the numbers of letters recovered (242) and for their presentation * Kenneth Johnston, Review 19 * This second volume of a projected six once again displays Pamela Clemit's comprehensive and meticulous editorial work [which] has greatly enhanced the accessibility of a major portion of the Abinger Collection of the Bodleian Library.... The Letters [are] a vital reference tool for scholars of varying disciplines, and will be essential reading for scholars of the Romantic period. * Emma Povall, Coleridge Bulletin * In many ways the Godwin that emerges over the eight years chronicled [in Volume II] is a more complex and interesting figure than the intellectual luminary of the 1790s.... Clemit's edition is a model of the kind, including detailed and authoritative notes after each letter, meticulous descriptions of the manuscripts, generous quotations from the other side of the correspondence and useful cross-references to Godwin's diary The letters in this fascinating volume should finally overturn Kenneth Neill Cameron's verdict that Godwin from around 1798 on [...] gives one the impression of a man in retreat, socially and psychologically. * James Grande, Charles Lamb Bulletin * The letters published here, newly transcribed from manuscript sources and expertly annotated, reveal a man adapting to new circumstances and struggling to keep himself and his family afloat ... The editorial task here must have been daunting but these drafts are reconstructed painstakingly and skilfully. * Sharon Ruston, Times Literary Supplement *