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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. VIII. 1811-1814
William Godwin to Percy Bysshe Shelley, 14 March 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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Produced by CATH
March 14, 1812.

“I take up the pen again immediately on the receipt of yours, because I am desirous of making one more effort to save yourself
and the Irish people from the calamities with which I see your mode of proceeding to be fraught. In the commencement of this letter you profess to ‘acquiesce in my decisions,’ and you go on with those measures which, with no sparing and equivocal voice, I have condemned. I smile, with a bitter smile, a smile of much pain, at the impotence of my expostulations on so momentous a topic, when I observe these inconsistencies. . . .

“You say, ‘What has been done within these last twenty years?’ Oh, that I could place you upon the pinnacle of ages, from which these twenty years would shrink to an invisible point! It is not after this fashion that moral causes work in the eye of him who looks profoundly through the vast and—allow me to add—venerable machine of human society. But so reasoned the French Revolutionists. Auspicious and admirable materials were working in the general mind of France; but these men said, as you say, ‘When we look on the last twenty years, we are seized with a sort of moral scepticism; we must own we are eager that something should be done.’ And see what has been the result of their doings. He that would benefit mankind on a comprehensive scale, by changing the principles and elements of society, must learn the hard lesson, to put off self, and to contribute by a quiet but incessant activity, like a rill of water, to irrigate and fertilise the intellectual evil. . . .

“I wish to my heart you would come immediately to London. I have a friend who has contrived a tube to convey passengers sixty miles an hour: be youth your tube. I have a thousand things I could say, really more than I could say in a letter on this important subject. You cannot imagine how much all the females of my family, Mrs Godwin and three daughters, are interested in your letters and your history.”