LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. I. 1800
William Godwin to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [September 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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
Dublin [September 1800.]

Dear Coleridge,—You scarcely expected a letter from me of the above date. But I received last September an invitation from John Philpot Curran, the Irish barrister, probably the first advocate in Europe, then in London, to spend a few weeks with him in Ireland this summer, which I did not feel in myself philosophy enough to resist. Nor do I repent my compliance. The advantages one derives from placing the sole of one’s foot on a foreign soil are extremely great. Few men, on such an occasion, think it worth their while to put on armour for your encounter. I know Fox and Sheridan, but can scarce consider them as my acquaintance. Your next door neighbour, before he admits you to his familiarity, considers how far he should like to have you for his familiar for the next seven years. But familiarity with a foreign
guest involves no such consequences, and so circumstanced, you are immediately admitted on the footing of an inmate. I am now better acquainted with
Grattan and Curran, the Fox and Sheridan of Ireland, after having been four weeks in their company, than I can pretend ever to have been with their counterparts on my native soil.

Curran I admire extremely. There is scarcely the man on earth with whom I ever felt myself so entirely at my ease, or so little driven back, from time to time, to consider of my own miserable individual. He is perpetually a staff and a cordial, without ever affecting to be either. The being never lived who was more perfectly free from every species of concealment. With great genius, at least a rich and inexhaustible imagination, he never makes me stand in awe of him, and bow as to my acknowledged superior, a thing by-the-by which, de temps à d’autre, you compel me to do. He amuses me always, astonishes me often, yet naturally and irresistibly inspires me with confidence. I am apt, particularly when away from home, to feel forlorn and dispirited. The two last days I spent from him, and though they were employed most enviably in tête à tête with Grattan, I began to feel dejected and home-sick. But Curran has joined me to-day, and poured into my bosom a full portion of his irresistible kindness and gaiety.

“You will acknowledge these are extraordinary traits. Yet Curran is far from a faultless and perfect character. Immersed for many years in a perpetual whirl of business, he has no profoundness or philosophy. He has a great share of the Irish character—dashing, étourdi, coarse, vulgar, impatient, fierce, kittenish. He has no characteristic delicacy, no intuitive and instant commerce with the sublime features of nature. Ardent in a memorable degree, and a patriot from the most generous impulse, he has none of that political chemistry which Burke so admirably describes (I forget his words), that resolves and combines, and embraces distant nations and future ages. He is inconsistent in the most whimsical degree. I remember, in an amicable debate with Sheridan, in which Sheridan far outwent him in refinement, penetration, and taste, he three times surrendered his arms, acknowledged
his error, yea, even began to declaim (for declamation is too frequently his mania) on the contrary side: and as often, after a short interval, resumed his weapons, and renewed the combat. Now and then, in the career of declamation, he becomes tautological and ineffective, and I ask myself: Is this the prophet that he went forth to see! But presently after he stumbles upon a rich vein of imagination, and recognises my willing suffrage. He has the reputation of insincerity, for which he is indebted, not to his heart, but to the mistaken, cherished calculations of his practical prudence. He maintains in argument that you ought never to inform a man, directly or indirectly, of the high esteem in which you hold him. Yet, in his actual intercourse, he is apt to mix the information too copiously and too often. But perhaps his greatest fault is, that though endowed with an energy the most ardent, and an imagination the most varied and picturesque, there is nothing to which he is more prone, or to which his inclination more willingly leads him, than to play the buffoon.”