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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. XIII. 1800
William Godwin to James Marshal, 2 August 1800

Contents Vol. I
Ch. I. 1756-1785
Ch. II. 1785-1788
Ch. III. 1788-1792
Ch. IV. 1793
Ch. V. 1783-1794
Ch. VI. 1794-1796
Ch. VII. 1759-1791
Ch. VII. 1791-1796
Ch. IX. 1797
Ch. X. 1797
Ch. XI. 1798
Ch. XII. 1799
Ch. XIII. 1800
Contents Vol. II
Ch. I. 1800
Ch. II. 1800
Ch. III. 1800
Ch. IV. 1801-1803
Ch. V. 1802-1803
Ch. VI. 1804-1806
Ch. VII. 1806-1811
Ch. VIII. 1811-1814
Ch. IX. 1812-1819
Ch. X. 1819-1824
Ch. XI. 1824-1832
Ch. XII. 1832-1836
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Produced by CATH
Dublin, Aug. 2, 1800.

“I begin another letter immediately on despatching its predecessor, as much, I believe, by way of recording my own feelings and adventures, as with a view to any amusement you may derive from the narration. Two persons, as you know, exclusive of Mr Curran, I was particularly desirous of seeing in Ireland, Mr Grattan and the Countess of Mountcashel. This desire I have had a reasonable opportunity of gratifying; and, in addition to this, have been a spectator of a considerable portion of most interesting scenery, which was not in my contemplation when I left England. I saw Mr Grattan, for the first time in Ireland, at Mr Curran’s country house, on Saturday the 12th of July, ten days after my arrival at Dublin. He then dined with us, but it was a numerous company, that afforded me very little opportunity of diving into his characteristic qualities. The next day, however, we went over to Grattan’s own house, where we arrived in the evening, and slept that and the succeeding night. Mr Curran was obliged on Monday morning to go to Dublin to attend the courts, in consequence of which I had Grattan almost, though not entirely, to myself till dinner-time, when Curran and another person, his companion, returned from Dublin, about 18 English miles. The Sunday of this week I had dined at Lady Mountcashel’s, about the same distance from Dublin, and 4 miles from Grattan, in company with
Mr Curran. These two days, July 13, 14, were the first time in which I saw any of the beautiful scenery with which Ireland, and especially the county of Wicklow, abounds. I was particularly struck with a scene they call the Scalp, which has, I think, a finer effect than Penmanmawr in N. Wales, as in this latter instance you pass between two vast acclivities of rocks, with immense fragments broken off, and tumbled round you to the right and the left.

“With this quantity of gratification I might have rested satisfied. No more than this obtruded itself on my acceptance. But I invited myself to a second and a third dinner with Lady Mountcashel, July 21 and 28, and a second at Grattan’s, July 29. On the 28th, Lady Mountcashel conducted me in her cabriole to the Devil’s Glen, 20 or 30 miles from Dublin, and infinitely the most stupendous scene I ever saw. You travel for at least a mile and a half surrounded by rocks and mountains, varied and magnificent in their form beyond all imagination, and with a current all the way at the bottom, encumbered with stones of astonishing dimensions, and terminating at the further end in a grand waterfall, which changes its direction two or three times in the descent. You are not here, as in a similar scene nearer Dublin, fettered and hemmed in by the too great nearness of the opposing rocks, but, while cut off, on the one hand, from the whole world, your soul has room to expand in its desert, and savour its divinity. My visit at Grattan’s, July 29, was peculiarly fortunate. I spent two mornings with him alone.

“And now let me recollect with what degree of kindness and cordiality I have been received in this country. No one has been ignorant who I was; to no one in that sense have I needed an introduction; and by none, so far as I know, have I been received with an unfavourable prepossession. Yet, believe me, I feel no atom intoxicated by the kindness of this people. I am not aware that I have been received with distinguishing or inordinate favour, except by a few. The good opinion of Joseph Cooper Walker, an Irish antiquarian, seems to have been marked with sufficient explicitness. Hugh Hamilton, whom I conceive to be the most
eminent painter in Dublin, has shown himself enthusiastically partial to me.
Mr Curran’s kindness has been satisfactory, cordial, animated and unceasing. Grattan conversed with me with perfect familiarity, and answered me on all subjects without reserve, but not one word of personal kindness and esteem towards me ever escaped his lips. Let me observe by the way, that the characters of the two most eminent personages of this country, though sincere and affectionate friends to each other, are strongly contrasted. They are both somewhat limited in their information, and are deficient in a profound and philosophical faculty of thinking. They have both much genius. Grattan, I believe, is generally admitted to be the first orator in the British dominions; and variety and richness of picturesque delineation perpetually mask the slightest sallies of Curran’s conversation. But Grattan is mild, gentle, polished, and urbane on every occasion on which I have seen him; Curran is wild, ferocious, jocular, humorous, mimetic and kittenish; a true Irishman, only in the vast portion of soul that informs him, which of course a very ordinary Irishman must be content to want. He is declamatory, and his declamation is apt to grow monotonous, so that I have once or twice on such an occasion, felt inclined to question the basis of my admiration for him, till a moment after a vein of genuine imagination and sentiment burst upon me, and threw contempt and disgrace on my scepticism. I have had the good fortune to hear from him a speech of two hours, in the cause of Latten versus the publisher of a pamphlet by Dr Duigenan, which was tried a little before in England, Erskine being advocate for the plaintiff. Erskine got £500 damages and Curran 6d.; so disgracefully high does the spirit of party, even in courts of law, run on this side the water.

Lady Mountcashel is a singular character: a democrat and a republican in all their sternness, yet with no ordinary portion either of understanding or good nature. If any of our comic writers were to fall in her company, the infallible consequence would be her being gibbetted in a play. She is uncommonly tall and brawny, with bad teeth, white eyes, and a handsome countenance. She
commonly dresses, as I have seen
Mrs Fenwick dressed out of poverty, with a grey gown, and no linen visible; but with gigantic arms, which she commonly folds, naked and exposed almost up to the shoulders.

“Monday, July 14, was rendered memorable here by the execution of Jemmy O’Brien, a notorious informer, for murder. He had been accustomed, I am told, to sell warrants of imprisonment on suspicion of treasonable practices for 2 s. 6d. a-piece. Persons came out of the country 30 and 40 miles barefoot to enjoy the spectacle of his exit. One exclaimed, he was the death of my husband, and another, my two brothers were brought to the gallows by his instrumentality. An individual stationed himself on the highest pinnacle in the neighbourhood, that the whole population, however remote, might join in one shout of deafening and unbounded rapture the moment the scaffold sunk from under him. For the rapture, however, you will observe that they were partially indebted to the apprehension which both he and they entertained to the last moment, that the government would interfere with a pardon. When his execution was completed, his body was for a few moments in the hands of the populace, and they tore away fingers and toes with the utmost greediness, to preserve as precious relics of their antipathy and revenge.

“I am exceedingly offended with Mrs Elwes for her fiction, equally wilful and malicious, of a quarrel between me and Mrs Robinson. There is not a shadow of foundation for it. I was somewhat displeased with her (Mrs R.) the last time I saw her for her copious vein of vulgar abuse against a quondam, most despicable friend of hers, and endeavoured in vain to stop it, but I scarcely imagined she was even sensible of the degree of pain and displeasure she inspired.

“And now what shall I say for my poor little girls? I hope they have not forgot me. I think of them every day, and should be glad, if the wind was more favourable, to blow them a kiss a piece from Dublin to the Polygon. I have seen Mr Grattan’s little girls and Lady Mountcashel’s little girls, and they are very nice children, but I have seen none that I love half so well or
think half so good as my own. I thank you a thousand times for your care of them. I hope next summer, if I should ever again be obliged to leave them for a week or two, that I shall write long letters to
Fanny in a fine print hand, and that Fanny will be able to read them to herself from one end to the other. That will be the summer 1801.”