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28 September 1989
The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Biography of a Family 
by William​ St Clair.
Faber, 572 pp., £20, June 1989, 0 571 15422 0
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... Don’t be deceived by title or subtitle. This is not the biography of a family and it is not about the Godwins and the Shelleys. Perhaps the publishers persuaded William St Clair against his better judgment to downgrade his hero in the title and to include the Shelleys, who are more famous. This rich, glorious book is, however, a biography of WilliamGodwin – no ...
8 July 1993
Political Justice 
by William Godwin, introduced by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Woodstock, £150, November 1992, 1 85196 019 8
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The Political and Philosophical Writings of William​ Godwin 
edited by Mark Philp.
Pickering & Chatto, £395, March 1993, 1 85196 026 0
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Political Writings 
by Mary Wollstonecraft, edited by Janet Todd.
Pickering & Chatto, 411 pp., £39.95, March 1993, 1 85196 019 8
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Memoirs of Wollstonecraft 
by William Godwin, introduced by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Woodstock, 199 pp., £8.95, April 1993, 1 85477 125 6
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... sell as many. At £150 it will also not be prosecuted. Mark Philp has given himself a more difficult task. He has edited the new seven-volume edition of the Political and Philosophical Writings of WilliamGodwin, having edited previously, with some help from Marilyn Butler, all of Godwin’s novels. Philp is undoubtedly the country’s leading Godwinian, having established his authority with his study ...

Menagerie of Live Authors

Francesca Wade: Marys Shelley and Wollstonecraft

7 October 2015
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley 
by Charlotte Gordon.
Hutchinson, 649 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 0 09 195894 7
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... There were​ high hopes for the son of Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley, the grandson of WilliamGodwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, but the boy told his mother that all he wanted was a quiet life and a sailing boat. She wasn’t wholly disappointed at his failure to distinguish himself. When it was ...

The Professor

Marilyn Butler

3 April 1980
A Fantasy of Reason: The Life and Thought of William​ Godwin 
by Don Locke.
Routledge, 398 pp., £13.50, January 1980, 0 7100 0387 0
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... WilliamGodwin is a man who cries out to be the subject of a life. He has everything: a repressed personality, ripe for psychoanalysis; a role in the high dramas of his wife Mary Wollstonecraft, his daughter Mary ...

May I come to your house to philosophise?

John Barrell: Godwin’s Letters

8 September 2011
The Letters of William Godwin​ Vol. I: 1778-97 
by Pamela Clemit.
Oxford, 306 pp., £100, February 2011, 978 0 19 956261 9
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... Over the last few months two publications have made it possible, as never before, to attempt to understand the enigmatic WilliamGodwin, the author of one of the great novels of the 18th century and of the founding text in the philosophy of anarchism, the husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, the father of Mary Shelley, and the friend or ...
18 September 1980
William​ Mulready 
by Kathryn Heleniak.
Yale, 287 pp., £25, April 1980, 0 300 02311 1
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... in life he taught himself Greek and German. He could draw, and was probably in the Royal Academy schools by the age of 13. This would be in 1799 or 1800. While still at the schools he came across WilliamGodwin, then running his ill-starred children’s books business. For Godwin he made a number of illustrations: the cuts for the first edition of the Lambs’ Tales from Shakespeare are his Godwin ...
6 September 1984
Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic 
by David Bromwich.
Oxford, 450 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 19 503343 4
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William GodwinPhilosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary 
by Peter Marshall.
Yale, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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Burke, Paine, Godwin​ and the Revolution Controversy 
edited by Marilyn Butler.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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... is to look it up in Hazlitt: you are bound to get a good quote, something concrete. We use Hazlitt to advertise and illuminate other writers and artists. Peter Marshall does so in his new biography, WilliamGodwin. Hazlitt’s vivid account of Godwin’s political importance appears on the first page of Marshall’s introduction, and his worthy book is studded with variations on ‘as Hazlitt rightly ...

Lunacies

Ian Campbell Ross: ‘provincial genius’

23 October 2003
Hermsprong; or Man as He Is Not 
by Robert Bage, edited by Pamela Perkins.
Broadview, 387 pp., £8.99, March 2002, 1 55111 279 5
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... In the summer of 1797, WilliamGodwin set out on a tour of the Midlands. He had hoped to visit, among others, Erasmus Darwin, but finding the naturalist away from home, Godwin asked Darwin’s wife for a letter of introduction to Robert Bage instead. To his surprise, Mary Darwin said she could not properly provide one since, though Bage was her husband’s ‘very ...

Teeth of Mouldy Blue

Laura Quinney: Percy Bysshe Shelley

21 September 2000
The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley: Volume I 
edited by Donald Reiman and Neil Fraisat.
Johns Hopkins, 494 pp., £58, March 2000, 0 8018 6119 5
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... places, Ireland, where Shelley tried to foment revolution; he fled Harriet and Eliza, partly on the grounds that they were intellectually unsympathetic; he sought a mentor and father substitute in WilliamGodwin, and then alienated him by eloping with his daughter, Mary; he discarded Harriet and their two small children, and in 1816 she drowned herself. His actions were reckless, destructive and ...
23 March 1995
Marriage, Debt and the Estates System: English Landownership 1650-1950 
by John Habakkuk.
Oxford, 786 pp., £65, September 1994, 0 19 820398 5
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... Lawyers have seldom had a good press. According to Shelley’s father-in-law, WilliamGodwin, a lawyer could ‘scarcely fail to be a dishonest man’, though that, he added, was ‘less a subject for censure than regret’. Shelley’s friend and biographer, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, being ...

To Stir up the People

John Barrell: Pitt’s Reign of Alarm

23 January 2014
Unusual Suspects: Pitt’s Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s 
by Kenneth Johnston.
Oxford, 376 pp., £30, July 2013, 978 0 19 965780 3
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... In April 1792, William Pitt, the ‘heaven-born minister’ as his Tory supporters liked to call him, made what we can now recognise as one of the first of many attempts to cast off the perception that the Tories are the ...

Versatile Monster

Marilyn Butler

5 May 1988
In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity and 19th-century Writing 
by Chris Baldick.
Oxford, 207 pp., £22.50, December 1987, 0 19 811726 4
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... in the first sentence of The Communist Manifesto ‘walks for the first time in the pages of Burke’. Burke’s early opponents, English radicals such as Tom Paine and Mary Shelley’s parents WilliamGodwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, tried to neutralise the damage his imagery did to the popular side, by giving the monstrous child an even more monstrous parent. If the Revolution was going bad, it ...

Tantrums

C.K. Stead

22 February 1996
Letters of Claire Clairmont, Charles Clairmont and Fanny Imlay Godwin 
edited by Marion Kingston Stocking.
Johns Hopkins, 704 pp., £45, May 1995, 0 8018 4633 1
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... and persisted. Flexibility about names suggests concealment of origins and uncertainty of identity. Jane Clairmont became Clare, then Claire, sometimes Clara, and added Constantia. Her mother married WilliamGodwin twice in an afternoon, once as ‘Jane Clairmont, widow’, a second time as ‘Mary Vial, spinster’. She brought two children to the marriage, almost certainly by different fathers. Godwin ...

Why Mr Fax got it wrong

Roy Porter: Population history

5 March 1998
English Population History from Family Reconstitution 1580-1837 
by E.A. Wrigley and R.S. Davies.
Cambridge, 657 pp., £60, July 1997, 0 521 59015 9
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The Savage Wars of Peace: England, Japan and the Malthusian Trap 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 427 pp., £45, May 1997, 0 631 18117 2
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... inevitably outruns food resources – was heralded by some as the decisive scientific refutation of the mad perfectibilist schemes of the French Revolutionaries and their English confrères like WilliamGodwin, and damned by others as hardheartedness incarnate. Marie Antoinette had just told the poor to go and eat cake: Malthus trumped her, apparently sentencing them to death by starvation – and ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: Thomas Lawrence

6 January 2011
... times, for his astonishing skill in drawing’, Fanny Burney wrote. A detail from ‘Mary Hamilton, Later Mary Denham’ (1789) The drawings in the exhibition include one of Thomas Holcroft and WilliamGodwin, as spectators at the trial of fellow radical John Thelwall, that shows every sign of being done swiftly, but delicately, on the spot; portraits like that of Mary Hamilton, made in 1789, show ...

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