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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. VII. 1806-1811
William Godwin to Proctor Patrickson, 4 February 1812

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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Skinner Street, Feb. 4. 1812.

Dear Patrickson,—I take the earliest opportunity to answer your letter, because it requires an answer. I am shocked with the passage in it, where you say you will write to your mother, and tell her you do not wish to hear from her any more.

“Surely a mother is a thing of more worth than this. The being that watched over you indefatigably in infancy, that had a thousand anxieties for you, and that reared you with care, and perhaps with difficulty, is not to be so treated. Your mother is a wrong-headed, not an abandoned woman. This is the great difference, at least with few exceptions, between one human creature and another. We all of us endeavour to square our actions by our conscience, or our conscience by our actions: we examine what we do by the rule, and pronounce sentence of acquittal or approbation on ourselves: but some of us are in error, and some enlightened. You and I, who are of course among the enlightened, should pity those
that are less fortunate than ourselves, and not abhor them: even an erroneous conscience, by which he who bears it in his bosom tries and examines his actions, is still a thing to be respected.

“I think that you should write to your mother as little as possible, and perhaps for the present ask no favours of her. . . . But to go out of your way to insult her is horrible. . . .

“The ties between one human creature and another are so few in number, and so scanty, as society is at present constituted, that I would not wantonly break any of those that nature has made, and least of all that to a mother. Human creatures are left so much alone, hardly sufficiently aided in the giddiness of youth, and the infirmities of age, that I am sure it is not the part of a wise or a good man to increase this crying evil under the sun. I still hope the time will come when you shall relieve the sorrows of a mother, and when she shall look up to her son with pride and with pleasure. . . .—Your sincere friend,

W. Godwin.”