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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. VII. 1806-1811
William Godwin to Louisa Holcroft [Kenney], [draft; January? 1810]

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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Dear Madam,—You ask my feelings respecting the manuscript life of Mr Holcroft. When your note reached me, I had no feelings on the subject worth communicating. The two or three slight criticisms that suggested themselves to me I mentioned to Mr Hazlitt, and he promised to attend to them. The narrative which Mr Holcroft dictated in the last weeks of his existence impressed me with the strongest feelings of admiration, and the life appeared a very decent composition, with a few excellent passages, sufficiently fitted on the whole for the purpose for which it was intended.

“I had not then seen the diary part, this was detained from me till yesterday, I believe by accident. This part is a violation of the terms originally settled with Mr Hazlitt. The book, it was agreed, should consist of life, and a selection of letters. I knew of the existence of this diary, but had not read it; and had not the least imagination that it was ever to be printed. When Mr Hazlitt told me he had inserted the greater part of it, I did not immediately set up my judgment, who had not read it, against his, who had.

“I have now examined it, and consider it (as a publication) with the strongest feelings of disapprobation. It is one thing for a man to write a journal, and another for that journal to be given to the public. I am sure Mr Holcroft would never have consented to this. I have always entertained the highest antipathy to this violation of the confidence between man and man, that every idle word, every thoughtless jest I make at another’s expense, shall be carried home by the hearer, put in writing, and afterwards printed. This part will cause fifty persons at least, who lived on friendly terms with Mr Holcroft, to execrate his memory. It will make you many bitter enemies, who will rejoice in your ruin, and be transported to see you sunk in the last distress. Many parts are actionable.

“I will give you instances of each sort. There is a story of one Marriott, an attorney, whom Mr Holcroft never saw; that is, no
doubt, actionable, if the man is living.
Mr Dealtry, an intimate friend of Dr Parr, is introduced, saying that the Doctor could not spell. There is probably an eternal breach between them, and how occasioned? By the circumstance of a thoughtless joke, uttered with no evil intention, being caught up by the hearer, and afterwards sent to the press. Two or three detestable stories (lies, I can swear) are told of Mrs Siddons; and Miss Smith, the actress, is quoted as the authority; that is, Miss Smith, as other people do, who are desirous of amusing their company, told these stories as she heard them, borne out with a sort of saw, ‘You have them as cheap as I.’ The first meeting of Emma Smith and Mr Holcroft occurs, and he sets her down, and Mr Hazlitt prints her, as a young woman of no talents; I believe Mr Holcroft altered his opinion on that subject. A tale is introduced about the private transactions and affairs of Mrs Wollstonecraft and Mr Imlay; what right have the publishers of this book to rake up and drag in that subject? For myself, I can fairly say that if I had known that every time I dined with or called upon Mr Holcroft, I was to be recorded in a quarto book, well printed, and with an ornamental frontispiece, in the ridiculous way of coming in to go out again fifty times, I would not on that penalty have called upon or dined with him at all. In short, the publication of the whole of this part of the book answers no other purpose than to gratify the malignity of mankind, to draw out to view the privacies of firesides, and to pamper the bad passions of the idle and worthless with tittletattle, and tales of scandal.

“I would have gone to Mr Nicholson immediately on the subject, had he not by a letter of the most odious and groundless insinuations rendered that, at least for the present, impossible. By what I here write, therefore, I beg leave to enter my protest on the subject, and so to discharge my conscience. I will be no part or party to such a publication.