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Scandal’s Hostages

Claire Tomalin, 19 February 1981

The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: Vol. 1 
edited by Betty Bennett.
Johns Hopkins, 591 pp., £18, July 1980, 0 8018 2275 0
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... and so liable to insult, which she got, and fended off for herself. Her father, the Micawberish William Godwin, was unlikely to be able to assist her once she reached London; he had grown accustomed to the bounty of his son-in-law without any prospect of repaying it. (In one of her letters Mary loyally urges a correspondent to remember to inscribe ...

Ovid goes to Stratford

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare Myths, 5 December 2013

Thirty Great Myths about Shakespeare 
by Laurie Maguire and Emma Smith.
Wiley-Blackwell, 216 pp., £14.99, December 2012, 978 0 470 65851 2
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... productions written for the occasion in a distinctly Pickwickian manner. Its members included William Godwin junior, son of the political philosopher by his second wife, whose account of the origins of Shakespeare’s genius, a poem called ‘Olympian Mulberry Leaves; or, The Offerings of the Gods to Shakespear’, is every bit as Gothic as anything ...


Jeremy Harding: Hitchens, 31 March 2011

... Revolution in France, and Hitchens tells us that among others who wrote replies to Burke … was William Godwin, which he wasn’t. He says that, unlike Paine, Wollstonecraft advocated votes for women, which she didn’t. Paine himself, Hitchens says, was not discouraged from writing Part One of Rights of Man by the rough treatment he received at the ...

On the Shelf

Tom Crewe: ‘The Adventures of Caleb Williams’, 8 October 2020

... high’ (there were five, and for the others you’ll have to read her piece) was that of William Godwin’s Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams, published in 1794. Hazlitt would have agreed. ‘We conceive no one ever began Caleb Williams that did not read it through,’ he declared in 1825. Here, as a test, are the opening ...

Sublimely Bad

Terry Castle, 23 February 1995

Secresy; or, The Ruin on the Rock 
by Eliza Fenwick, edited by Isobel Grundy.
Broadview, 359 pp., £9.99, May 1994, 1 55111 014 8
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... John Fenwick, an Irish patriot and member of the London Corresponding Society, became friends with William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft around the time of the French Revolution. One of the few – haunting – pieces of biographical information we have about Fenwick, indeed, is that she was present at the birth of Wollstonecraft’s daughter – the ...

Bring some Madeira

Thomas Keymer: Thomas Love Peacock, 8 February 2018

Nightmare Abbey 
by Thomas Love Peacock, edited by Nicholas A. Joukovsky.
Cambridge, 297 pp., £84.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03186 9
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Crotchet Castle 
by Thomas Love Peacock, edited by Freya Johnston and Matthew Bevis.
Cambridge, 328 pp., £79.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03072 5
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... though also personally loyal to Harriet, he advised Shelley, on Harriet’s suicide, to marry Mary Godwin without delay. Shelley made him his business agent in the same period, and the annual pension of £120 this brought him, along with the creative energy he drew from the Shelley circle, allowed him to find his feet, in particular as a satirist. Two of ...


Terry Eagleton: Anonymity, 22 May 2008

Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature 
by John Mullan.
Faber, 374 pp., £17.99, January 2008, 978 0 571 19514 5
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... about Mansfield Park’s view of its own heroine. If we did not know that industrial imagery in William Blake’s work generally carries a negative charge, it would be harder to argue that the speaker of the ‘Tyger’ poem is not Blake himself, a point highly relevant to the work’s meaning. On the other hand, if we discovered that ...

Against Michelangelo

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Pinecone’, 11 October 2012

The Pinecone 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 332 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 571 26950 1
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... while at Cambridge and consequently gave up his original plan of a career in the Church, also knew William Godwin and Coleridge. George, the only one of the brothers whose portrait survives, has a look of the latter about him with his long hair and slightly abstracted gaze. All the brothers travelled widely and spoke and read several languages. When they ...

Walking in high places

Michael Neve, 21 October 1982

The Ferment of Knowledge: Studies in the Historiography of 18th-Century Science 
edited by G.S. Rousseau and R.S. Porter.
Cambridge, 500 pp., £25, November 1980, 9780521225991
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Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin 
by Thomas McFarland.
Princeton, 432 pp., £24.60, February 1981, 0 691 06437 7
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Poetry realised in Nature: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Early 19th-Century Science 
by Trevor Levere.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £22.50, October 1981, 0 521 23920 6
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by Richard Holmes.
Oxford, 102 pp., £1.25, March 1982, 0 19 287591 4
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Young Charles Lamb 1775-1802 
by Winifred Courtney.
Macmillan, 411 pp., £25, July 1982, 0 333 31534 0
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... lonely schoolboy from Christ’s Hospital. Through his study of the scientific work, Levere joins William Empson among others in defending the coherence of Coleridge and his metaphysics. Coleridge’s vision of a ‘dynamic’ German philosophy, pitted against Anglo-Gallic reductionism; his flirtation with chemistry ‘to improve his stock of ...

Wordsworth’s Crisis

E.P. Thompson, 8 December 1988

Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years 
by Nicholas Roe.
Oxford, 306 pp., £27.50, March 1988, 0 19 812868 1
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... I am of that odious class of men called democrats,’ Wordsworth wrote to his friend William Mathews in 1794. Much the same can be said of Coleridge, on the evidence of his letters and publications of the mid-1790s. By the early decades of this century, British, French and American scholarship concurred in finding both poets to be, in the 1790s, republicans and advanced reformers, who then suffered disappointment in the course of the French Revolution and, in different ways and at different times, changed their minds ...

Sagest of Usurpers

Ian Gilmour: Cromwell since Cromwell, 21 March 2002

Roundhead Reputations: The English Civil Wars and the Passions of Posterity 
by Blair Worden.
Allen Lane, 387 pp., £20, November 2001, 9780713996036
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... in the hollow of His hand’. But to make him popular and influential in the England of William III, the Ludlow of the memoirs was largely stripped of his religion and made a secular figure. The memoirs, Worden points out, transformed Ludlow from a saint into a patriot. Algernon Sidney was another Roundhead pressed into service as a radical Whig ...
What is Love? Richard Carlile’s Philosophy of Sex 
edited by M.L. Bush.
Verso, 214 pp., £19, September 1998, 1 85984 851 6
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... the Utilitarians, when we think of the period as an era of freedom. There is the great anarchist William Godwin, whose treasured insight it was that our impulses are the artefacts of society and who didn’t hesitate to carry that insight into the sexual domain. His feminist partner Mary Wollstonecraft applied the same thought to women’s sexual ...

Old Stragers

Pat Rogers, 7 May 1981

The Garrick Stage: Theatres and Audience in the 18th Century 
by Allardyce Nicoll.
Manchester, 192 pp., £14.50, April 1980, 0 7190 0768 2
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The Kemble Era: John Philip Kemble, Sarah Siddons and the London Stage 
by Linda Kelly.
Bodley Head, 221 pp., £8.50, April 1980, 0 370 10466 8
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Early English Stages 1300 to 1660: Vol. 3: Plays and their Makers to 1576 
by Glynne Wickham.
Routledge, 357 pp., £14.50, April 1981, 0 7100 0218 1
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... our gaze. The thing we contemplate is not Edmund Kean, his very self and voice, but the Kean of William Hazlitt. The radiance of the report obscures that which is reported. Ms Kelly writes clearly for the most part, seldom with elegance. She gets into some frightful muddles of syntax: ‘Family commitments, among them to her stepson George, an unsuccessful ...

Manufactured Humbug

Frank Kermode: A great forger of the nineteenth century, 16 December 2004

John Payne Collier: Scholarship and Forgery in the 19th Century 
by Arthur Freeman and Janet Ing Freeman.
Yale, 1483 pp., £100, August 2004, 0 300 09661 5
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... by the 19th-century forgers were more sophisticated, though less celebrated, than those with which William Henry Ireland in the previous century had deceived James Boswell and many others, though not the great Shakespearean Edmond Malone (himself guilty of tampering with manuscripts). The men of this new age were scholars, working in a tradition often said to ...

Divided We Grow

John Barrell: When Pitt Panicked, 5 June 2003

The London Corresponding Society 1792-99 
edited by Michael T. Davis.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, June 2002, 1 85196 734 6
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Romanticism, Publishing and Dissent: Joseph Johnson and the Cause of Liberty 
by Helen Braithwaite.
Palgrave, 243 pp., £45, December 2002, 0 333 98394 7
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... the reasons they gave for their alarm. It was pretended that the LCS was armed, and comprised, as William Pitt expressed it, a ‘Jacobin army’, but its members taken together seem to have owned fewer weapons than decorated the walls of an average country house. At the treason trials, the law officers claimed that the LCS was leading a plot to depose the ...

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