LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. IV. 1793

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

In 1793 Godwin published “Political Justice,” and it becomes necessary to examine this important work, as well as the various writings which preceded it. Any attempt to form an estimate of his literary labours has hitherto been deliberately set aside, and the next chapter will be devoted to the task. In the meantime Godwin shall give his own account of his mode of life at this period:—


“In the beginning of the year 1793 I removed to a small house in Challon Street, Somers Town, which I possessed entirely to myself, with no other attendance than the daily resort of a bedmaker for about an hour each day. No man could be more desirous than I was of adopting a practice conformable to my principles, as far as I could do so without affording reasonable ground of offence to any other person. I was anxious not to spend a penny on myself, which I did not imagine calculated to render me a more capable servant of the public, and as I was averse to the expenditure of money, so I was not inclined to earn it but in small portions. I considered the disbursement of money for the benefit of others as a very difficult problem, which he who has the possession of it is bound to solve in the best manner he can, but which affords small encouragement to any one to acquire it who has it not. The plan, therefore, I resolved on was leisure—a leisure to be employed in deliberate composition, and in the pursuit of such attainments as afforded me the most promise to render me useful. For years I scarcely did anything at home or abroad
without the enquiry being uppermost in my mind whether I could be better employed for general benefit; and I hope much of this temper has survived, and will attend me to my grave. The frame in which I found myself exalted my spirits, and rendered me more of a talker than I was before or have been since, and than is agreeable to my natural character. Certainly I attended now, and at all times, to everything that was offered in the way of reasoning and argument, with the sincerest desire of embracing the truth, and that only. The ‘
Enquiry concerning Political Justice’ was published in February. In this year also I wrote the principal part of the novel of ‘Caleb Williams,’ which may, perhaps, be considered as affording no inadequate image of the fervour of my spirit; it was the offspring of that temper of mind in which the composition of my ‘Political Justice’ left me. In this year I acquired the friendship of many excellent persons—Thomas Wedgwood, Richard Porson, Joseph Gerrald, Robert Merry, and Joseph Ritson.”


Of these, Porson’s name needs no remark; of Gerrald and Wedgwood more hereafter. Merry was a Harrow and Cambridge man, afterwards in the Guards. He wrote plays and poetry, now forgotten, under the signature “Della Crusca.” He married Miss Brunton, a well-known actress, emigrated to America, and died there in 1798.

Ritson was a lawyer, but better known as the collector of old English songs and ballads. He was a vegetarian, and died in 1803, aged fifty-one.

Mrs Shelley’s affectionate note on Wedgwood demands insertion:—


Godwin cemented this year his acquaintance with a man known to himself and all his literary contemporaries, as the most generous, the most amiable of men; Thomas Wedgwood of Etruria, in Staffordshire, a name dear to all who reverence virtue and goodness. His enthusiasm in the cause of knowledge, his earnest desire to serve his fellows, rank him high among good
men. He was afflicted with bad health, which acted on his nerves, and frequently rendered him low-spirited to a painful degree. At one time he and Godwin contemplated making a common household together; their establishment was to be conducted on the most economical plan, as suited the narrow circumstances of the one, and the generous views of the other, which led him to limit his personal expenses, that he might have more to spare for others.”


This scheme, however, fell through, and Godwin continued to live, now alone, as he tells us, in Challon Street, Somers Town. He furnished only a part of his house, and keeping strictly to his intention of earning little and spending little, he lived during three successive years on the several annual sums of £110, £120, and £130.

His habits were exceedingly regular, and remained the same to the end of his life.


“He rose,” says his daughter, “between seven and eight, and I read some classic author before breakfast. From nine till twelve or one he occupied himself with his pen. He found that he could not exceed this measure of labour with any advantage to his own health, or the work in hand. While writing ‘Political Justice,’ there was one paragraph which he wrote eight times over before he could satisfy himself with the strength and perspicuity of his expressions. On this occasion a sense of confusion of the brain came over him, and he applied to his friend Mr Carlisle, afterwards Sir Anthony Carlisle, the celebrated surgeon, who warned him that he had exerted his intellectual faculties to their limit. In compliance with his direction, Mr Godwin reduced his hours of composition within what many will consider narrow bounds. The rest of the morning was spent in reading and seeing his friends. When at home he dined at four, but during his bachelor life he frequently dined out. His dinner at home at this time was simple enough. He had no regular servant; an old woman came in the morning to clean and arrange his rooms, and if necessary she prepared a mutton chop, which was put in a Dutch oven.”


The diary shows the same amount of reading as heretofore, chiefly in English, Latin, and French. It tells of work contemplated as well as accomplished, as, for instance, under Oct. 20. “Plan a treatise on God,” and he notes also that he made a proposal to Robinson to write a history of Rome, “from the building of the city by Romulus to the Battle of Actium,” the demand for which he considered would be “immense.” There is the same eagerness about foreign and home politics, but the most exciting events, such as the sentence on and death of Louis XVI., Horne Tooke’s trial [Jan. 24th], the debate whether Political Justice should or should not be prosecuted [May 25th], are told in the fewest words.

In reference to this last event Mrs Shelley says that from


“A government fearful and suspicious in the extreme, ready to use any measures for pulling down the spirit of innovation which had spread abroad, every man who publicly announced liberal opinions anticipated prosecution. I have frequently heard my father say that Political Justice escaped prosecution from the reason that it appeared in a form too expensive for general acquisition. Pitt observed, when the question was debated in the Privy Council, that ‘a three guinea book could never do much harm among those who had not three shillings to spare.’”


In publishing the book at this high price


Godwin acted in strict conformity to his principles. He was an advocate for improvements brought in by the enlightened and sober-minded, but he deprecated abrupt innovations, and appeals to the passions of the multitude.”


The publisher, however, expected a large sale of the book, and his expectations were realised. The agreement between author and publisher, “William Godwin, of Challon Street, in the parish of St Pancras, Middlesex, gentleman, and George Robinson, of Paternoster Row,
bookseller,” is extant. Seven hundred guineas was paid down by Robinson for the copyright, and a further sum of three hundred guineas was covenanted to be paid, and was paid, after the sale of 3000 copies in quarto, or 4000 in quarto and octavo added together. The work was first brought out “in two volumes quarto, containing one hundred and twenty sheets, or thereabouts.”

The only entry at this time which calls for special remark in regard to the list of friends and acquaintances, is that of the name of Mrs Reveley, which meets us now for the first time, and from the first very frequently.


Maria Reveley,” writes Mrs Shelley, “was the daughter of an English merchant at Constantinople, named James. Her education had been wild and singular, and had early developed the peculiar and deep-seated sensibility which through life formed her characteristic. Her father had left her in infancy with her mother in England—he might be said to have deserted them, for they lived in great penury. She remembered once asking her mother for a farthing to buy a cake, which was given her with such reluctance, on the score of poverty, that with a passion of tears she returned it. Mrs James at length took a desperate resolution, and sailed to Constantinople with her daughter, then eight years old. Mr James had no inclination to renew his conjugal duties. He had in his house the wife of one of his skippers as housekeeper, and it was generally believed she stood to him in a more intimate relation. He was, however, delighted with his little daughter, and had her stolen from her mother, and secreted in the house of a Turk, till he had persuaded Mrs James, by the promise of an annuity, to return to England alone. The little Maria was then taken home, and brought up with sedulous care. Many accomplishments were taught her, and on one of the first side-saddles which appeared in the East, she accompanied her father in his rides in the environs of Constantinople. While yet a
mere child she looked womanly and formed, and entered into the society of European merchants and diplomatists. Having no proper chaperon, she was left to run wild as she might, and at a very early age had gone through the romance of life. When she was fifteen her father left Constantinople and went to Rome. She had shown great talent for painting, and it was her wish that she should cultivate this art under the tuition of
Angelica Kauffman. Her studies were, however, interrupted by her early marriage. Her beauty attracted the admiration of Mr Reveley, a young English architect travelling for improvement; they married and came to England.

Mr Reveley’s means were small, his father being still alive, and his marriage imprudent, for Mr James, who acted ill in all the relations of life, refused to consent to the match, only, as it would seem, as an excuse for giving his daughter no fortune. From the genial climate, the luxuries, the gay and refined society which had surrounded her, Mrs Reveley found herself transported to a situation but little removed from penury, demanding an economy and self-denial in expenditure of the most painful kind. She found herself among the middling class of English people—ignorant, narrow-minded, and bigoted. She felt fallen on evil days, the fairy lights had disappeared from life; sedulous occupation bestowed on the necessaries of life was varied only by society which did not possess a ray of intellect, and had but little refinement.

“She was very young and very beautiful, and possessed a peculiar charm of character in her deep sensibility, and an ingenuous modesty that knew no guile: this was added to ardour in the pursuit of knowledge, a liberal and unquenchable curiosity. Parties ran high in those days. Her husband joined the liberal side, and entered with enthusiasm into the hopes and expectations of political freedom, which then filled every heart to bursting. The consequence of these principles was to lead to his acquaintance with many of their popular advocates, and among them with Godwin and Holcroft. There was a gentleness, and yet a fervour in the minds of both Mrs Reveley and Godwin that led to sympathy.
He was ready to gratify her desire for knowledge, and she drank eagerly of the philosophy which he offered. It was pure but warm friendship, which might have grown into another feeling, had they been differently situated. As it was, Godwin saw only in her a favourite pupil, a charming friend, a woman whose conversation and society were fascinating and delightful; but his calm and philosophic heart was undisturbed by any of those feelings which in natures less happily tempered would too readily have crept in to disturb and injure.”


A considerable part of the correspondence for this year turns, as might be expected, on Political Justice. The letters to and from Newton, Godwin’s old schoolmaster, explain themselves, and they substantiate also what has been already surmised, that the extreme dislike of the pupil for the master in later years dated, not from the time of their early intercourse, but from the misunderstanding which arose when each became conscious of the wide chasm which separated their opinions. The chasm appeared to widen, the breach in feeling was the greater, because, though he would not afterwards admit it, Godwin had really been conscious of great intellectual indebtedness to his old teacher, not unmixed with affection on both sides.

William Godwin to the Rev. Samuel Newton.

Sir,—I have been informed that you have delivered it as your judgment of the work I have published on Political Justice, that, upon attempting the perusal, you found in it matters so peculiarly censurable that you could not bear to read any farther.

“I confess I am strongly inclined to believe that there has been some mistake on the part of my informant, and that the story I have heard is untrue. If so, you will thank me for giving you an opportunity to contradict it.


“Having written thus much, I will trouble you with the reasons that persuade me you never delivered the opinion ascribed to you.

“When I knew you, you were an ardent champion for political liberty. I cannot easily suppose that you have changed your sentiments on that head.

“It is impossible that you should not have perceived that the book in question is intended to promote that glorious cause. Granting that I have the misfortune to differ from you in your theological creed, I am well assured that at the period to which I allude, you had the candour and discernment to do justice to the political writings of people of all persuasions in religion and philosophy. The indulgence in this respect that you would grant to all other men, I cannot suppose you would deny to me. The subject of the book is not religion, but politics: if it be calculated to produce any effect, it is infinitely more probable that that effect will relate to its express object, than its incidental allusions; to the politics which I imagine you will allow to be generally right, than to the theology which you perhaps suspect to be wrong.

“There is a view which I am strongly inclined to entertain upon this subject, that I will take the liberty to mention. We have all of us our duties. Every action of our lives, and every word that we utter, will either conduce to or detract from the discharge of our duty. We cannot any of us do all the things of which mankind stand in need; we must have fellow-labourers. Hence it seems to follow that it is one of our most important duties to do justice to the good qualities of every man and every book that falls under observation, that thus we may enlarge the opportunity of others for discharging those parts of public service which we cannot perform ourselves. It is unworthy of any real friend to mankind to depreciate any well conceived endeavour from a too painful feeling of the incidental defects that may accompany it.

“I make no apology for want of ceremony. We are both of us, I conceive, enemies to that servility under which the species have so long laboured.”

Samuel Newton to William Godwin.
Thorpe next Norwich, Dec. 4th, 1793.

Dear Sir,—I naturally contract a friendship, feel an attachment, and interest myself in the welfare of those who have for any time lived with me, though their sentiments and habits may be different from mine. Sincerely can I say that I have been very solicitous for your reputation and welfare; and when I saw your publication advertised, I told several gentlemen of my acquaintance of different persuasions, that from what I knew of your abilities and application, I presumed it was a production that merited attention. When I was lately at my son’s at Witham, I was determined, as he had procured it for a book-club there, I believe on my recommendation, to read it attentively through, though it was in a library at Norwich some time before, to which I belonged, but I had not time then to investigate its contents. In the perusal I was charmed with your language, with many of your sentiments, and with your general idea of political justice and liberty. I said that there were some descriptions, reasonings, and ideas, that for simplicity, elegance, force, and utility, seemed to me to surpass all that I had ever read in Tacitus, Polybius, Montesquieu, Barbeyrac, Grotius, Robertson, Price, or Priestley.

“But I will ingenuously confess to you (and I have, you know, a right to think for myself) that there were several things that you advanced concerning moral obligation, gratitude, any public test of marriage, Christianity, and one or two more subjects, that very much disgusted me. My indignation was raised, not so much that you differed from me, but because I considered it would damn the book, which contained in it so many useful and interesting sentiments. Towards the close, or about the middle of the second volume, I found something of this kind, and I did throw by the book, with some such sentence as you have heard, but it was from an impulse, I can assure you, arising from the preceding views. Truth I revere, though it condemns my own conduct.

“I believe Christianity, you may not; but as I am convinced that it is the most friendly system to the equality and liberty of
mankind that ever was published, I think justice requires me to resent a person’s suggesting that I am not as strongly attached to the rights of man as any one who does not believe it.

“In short, Sir, permit me to intimate that when you publish another edition, I think you can better the arrangement, and make the general method more perspicuous; and if you should think proper to change your expressions, and leave out certain sentences on some subjects, which are, as I conceive, no ways essential to your general system, your performance will be more extensively perused, and it will wonderfully add, I doubt not, to that torrent of political light which is pouring in upon an oppressed world.

“Thus much I thought it my duty to suggest to you, but whether you think it worthy your attention or not, I shall think I am bound by immutable justice to wish you well, and really to esteem you without giving way to the least degree of base servility.

S. Newton.”

This letter, courteous and moderate as is its tone, does not appear to have satisfied Godwin. His reply is lost, but the tenor of it is sufficiently clear from Newton’s second letter:

The Same to the Same.
Dec. 14th, 1793.

“Since, Sir, you have been so condescending as to favour me with another epistle, I think it, from our former connection, my duty (and I annex a real meaning to the term) to reply with all due respect, but with all simplicity and integrity. I have often said that there might be a volume collected from your work which would make, in my opinion, one of the most valuable political systems that I ever perused, and, as far as justice, equality, and liberty are recommended in it, I heartily wish the motives and arguments were impressed upon the heart of every human being, particularly on the rich, the powerful, and the learned. Viewing it altogether, I own it is a wonderful production; but I must confess that it has such a cast of character in it from its author, that
I am inclined to think I should have known it to have been yours, had not your name stood in the title page.

“I never affected the reputation of a philosopher, nor have I ever courted the countenance and recommendations of the reputed Literate; but I have for a number of years thought for myself, read productions on all sides of religious and political questions, and been very particular in my observations on the associations, habits, and character of my species. The result of my observations has been this:—Two sets of men have appeared to my view which I wish not to imitate. The one is composed of those who seek popularity, reputation, and interest by embracing the most fashionable systems in the religion and policy of the age, and by following the esteemed great with a sort of implicit confidence and submission. I suspect these have no genuine sincerity. The other set is composed of those who affect in everything singularity, who delight in contradiction, whose fort is objection, whose aristocracy is dictation, and whose pride is that of superior genius, accuracy, and judgment to all others. These may boast of sincerity, and treat the bulk of mankind as the swinish multitude who are not capable or worthy of examining and judging on the subject of religion and policy with themselves. In this spirit there is something in my view truly despicable; yea, I smile at a Johnson, or a Hume, when they assume the air of the latter set of men, and as I conceive resentment and indignation virtues, if properly, that is proportionably directed against vice and usurpation, without wishing to injure persons, I think myself justified by immutable justice, in allowing these sensations to pass in my mind. Yes, I feel not any remorse for indulging them, though I have as firm a belief as you can have in the most certain and indissoluble connection between moral causes and effects. But I use not the word necessarian because I think the philosophers who have adopted it are guilty of a vulgar error, in appropriating a word to a sense contrary to its general acceptation.

“That Goliath of critical and moral censure, Johnson, would, perhaps, have thought me a most seditious and dangerous Sectary for rejecting all establishments of religion, and for seriously
ridiculing every order of priests constituted by the reigning powers.
Hume would have deemed me a servile, implicit, narrow soul, for believing a religion which was embraced by my parents, though I think I have as fairly examined it as any man in the island. But I laugh at his conceit, and pity his prejudices, guessing, from what I know of his life, how his associations of ideas were formed; for as a philosopher pretending to the most accurate and deep investigations, he should have accounted for this phenomenon, how the books containing the Hebrew and Christian systems of religion came to be published. If they were forgeries, who were their authors, and what their motives and ends in publishing such singular schemes, so different from all the fine conceptions and sublime notions of all politicians and philosophers that ever existed? I can resolve questions of this sort with regard to the Coran, and every other pretended revelation from God, but I never saw this done with respect to the Bible.

“Our associations of thought, and habits of mind are so totally different, that it is no wonder we should determine very oppositely one to the other on many subjects, and therefore you will not be surprised if I should affirm, as I do with the greatest sincerity: the evidence for the being of a God from analogy, or arguing from the effect to the cause, and of a future state from our desires, and from the supposed justice of the divine government, does not strike my mind so forcibly, nor afford it so much satisfaction as that which it is impressed with, for the undoubted truth of the Hebrew and Christian religions. You may think I have not examined as fairly and impartially as you have done. I must think the same of you. Here your right to judge is the same as mine. Here is the equality I would maintain. And if you think you have far superior genius, that is a point I cannot dispute with you. Those of this character I have found committing as many blunders, and run into as many extravagant absurdities as any of more moderate abilities. In short, Mr Godwin, my views of mankind, the little knowledge I have of myself, the account my religion gives me of man, which I find confirmed by fact, prevent my boasting with an aristocratical air of any superior talents, lead
me to think I am not so great a man as I once thought myself to be, and compel me so conscientiously to impress it in your thoughts, that you and I, and all mankind are more upon an equality with respect to a capacity for the most certain and useful knowledge in politics, morals, and religion than you are perhaps in the habit of admitting. As your friend really thought, so he has discharged his duty, in wishing to convince you of it, thinking this to be the greatest friendship without servility or prejudice.”

With this letter, as was not unnatural, ended all intercourse between the Rev. Samuel Newton, and his distinguished but unorthodox pupil. There appears in this correspondence Godwin’s extreme sensitiveness to criticism, which rendered so much of his intercourse with his friends subject to those unfortunate démêlés of which his journals speak so often. The following note, written by Godwin, and the letter from Marshal in reference to the same affair belong to the same year, and illustrate in an amusing way this extreme touchiness, though it must be admitted that the friendly critic seems to have pushed his candour to its furthest bounds.

“When I had written nearly three-fourths of the first volume of Caleb Williams, I was prevailed on, with much reluctance by the importunity of a very old friend, to entrust him with the perusal of my manuscript. In three days he returned it to me with a note nearly in these words:—‘If you have the smallest regard for your own reputation or interest, you will immediately put the enclosed papers in the fire. I was strongly tempted to have done this friendly office for you, but that I recollected, I had placed myself under a promise to return them.’ It is hardly necessary to say that the receipt of this note was the means of disturbing me. It was three days before I fully recovered my elasticity and fervent tone of mind required for the prosecution of my work.”

James Marshal to William Godwin.
Friday, May 31, ’93.

“I enclose you three guineas; the rest you shall have very shortly. I take this opportunity of saying a word or two on the affair of Tuesday. It was not I, but somebody else, who exhibited marks of intoxication, or more properly of insanity—for upon no principle of sound intellect is it to be accounted for. I came like a rational being, from motives of the purest kind, to discharge what I believed to be a duty. But Sir Fretful was in a humour to hear nothing but commendation, and tyrant Procrustes would admit no duty in another of which he should himself be the object, and which did not square precisely with his own ideas. Yet this is a philosopher teaching the firm discharge of duty to mankind! Whip me such philosophers, whose precepts and practice are eternally at variance.

“So far from being told twenty times, previous to reading the MS., that I was not to give my opinion, I do not remember being once told it; but had it been so, I do not see that it ought at all to have altered my conduct

“One word respecting the MS. itself, and I have done. The incidents are ill chosen; the characters unnatural, distorted; the phraseology intended to mark the humorous ones inappropriate; the style uncouth; everything upon stilts; the whole uninteresting; written as a man would make a chair or a table that had never handled a tool. I got through it, but it was as I get over a piece of ploughed-up ground, with labour and toil. By the way, judging from the work in question, one might suppose some minds not to be unlike a piece of ground. Having produced a rich crop, it must lie fallow for a season, that it may gain sufficient vigour for a new crop. You were speaking for a motto for this work—the best motto in my opinion would be a Hic jacet; for depend upon it, the world will suppose you to be exhausted; or rather what a few only think at present, will become a general opinion, that the Hercules you have fathered is not of your begetting.


“Your note to me is written to justify yourself from a charge of weakness; and it contains an additional confirmation of that weakness. The meaning of it is that if I cannot have the forbearance to avoid mentioning a syllable or breathing a censure upon this ‘work of works,’ I must not approach you till it be finished. Fie, fie! what name does this deserve?

Jas. Marshal.”

It is pleasant to hear of Tom Cooper again, whose relations with Godwin were now those of a steady and grateful friendship. The letters from him, which conclude the correspondence for this year, show how Godwin’s stern training had at least enabled him to keep courage and a stout heart under difficulties. Undeterred by his trip to the North in Kemble’s company, he had fairly taken up the profession of an actor, and had joined a company of strollers on their provincial tour.

Thomas Cooper to William Godwin.
Portsmouth, March 1, ’93.

“Well, here I am! ‘My fortune smiles and gives me all that I dare ask!’ I called on Mr Collins this morning. He received me very politely, desired me to call on him at three o’clock, and he would go over with me to the theatre. Mrs C. proposed an amendment, that I should dine with them, and go after dinner. So I did. Mr Collins was very pleased with my rehearsal. I walked with their son to a lodging which he knew. When I went out of the room Mrs C. said that she should expect me back to tea. To tea back I came, having agreed for a remarkably nice room at 9s. a week; and now I am writing in their apartment, which is the reason for my writing so laconically.

“Inform my mother, if you can, of what I write. Inform Mr Marshal that I play for the first time on Monday the 4th inst. If
he have a mind to come down, I can procure him an order. I can write no more. I am obliged thus to write. If I did not, I should be unable to write till Monday.

“My next letter shall keep up better appearances.

Thomas Cooper.”
The Same to the Same.
Portsmouth, March 11, ’93.

“I gave my mother all the information you require in the letter I sent yesterday, and I thought that might save the additional trouble and expense of postage, for I have a great deal to do. Though I play seldom, whenever I play I have to study the character; but as necessary information cannot in London be conveyed half a mile, I will with pleasure endeavour to do it from seventy miles’ distance. You desired to be acquainted with some of the gentlemen of the company. Their names are as follows:—Tyler, Curtis, Stanewix, Gill, Kelly, Woolley, Baker, Davies, Barrett; Mesdames Tyler, Maxfield, Kelly, Davies, Collins, Balls, and Lings. Mr Tyler is the chief singer, and has £1, 11s. 6d. salary a week. He plays, besides, in middling parts, is good-natured and rather formal, and about thirty-eight years of age. Mr Curtis is a kind of pompous fool, never seems to attempt anything in acting, stands always in one position, and as erect as if he had a spit thrust through him. Mr Gill is—nobody. Mr Stanewix is a young beginner—he has been but nine months on the stage. I do not well know what to make of him. His understanding is above mediocrity, but I believe he will never be a good actor. He plays French parts and fops. Mr Maxfield is the tragedy hero. It so happened that he did not till last night play one of his best castes, when he played ‘George Barnwell’ with some merit; but though this man is their Richard III., their Essex, &c., such is the nature of this company that last night, after playing ‘George Barnwell,’ he went on as a sailor in ‘Captain Cook,’ without a word to say, or anything to do. Kelly is a Jack in all parts—a young man who would have merit in some caste, if
he did not undertake all. Woolley, Baker, and Davies are low comedy men, and all have an equal and middling share of merit. Perhaps Woolley is the best. Barrett is the auxiliary to the company in the same manner as Holman was, but in my mind a very bad actor. He is about forty-seven years of age, plays genteel comedy, Plune, Kerger, Lord Townley, &c. He has been a manager somewhere, played ‘
Don Juan’ at the Royalty, and is six foot high. He is a wit, but of all the dull who profess that character, I never knew a duller. I will give a specimen. Somebody asked whether Mrs Inchbald’s play was cast. Another replied that if he had the direction of it, it would be cast into the fire. ‘Then,’ rejoined Barrett, ‘it would be an outcast.’ He was complaining one day of a dilemma to which he was reduced. ‘I am in a damned scrape; I almost think I am a fiddle, I am in such a scrape,’ running his stick backwards and forwards across his arm by way of illustration. When Mrs Davies, Mrs Laing, and Mrs Rivers are mentioned, I have mentioned all the women who are not non-entities. I have, since I wrote last, played Worthy and Philip in ‘The Brothers.’ The salary is only 15s. a week, not to me only, but to everybody except Tyler and Barrett. Next week is Passion Week, during which there are no plays, and no pay.

Thomas Cooper.

“I expect every day to be pressed, and neither appearance nor friends can save me. Masters of houses have been taken away. I know a common sailor who sometime ago was a player.”

The Same to the Same.
Winchester, July 13, ’93.

“You say in your last letter that you are obliged to adopt my mode of correspondence. I agree with you that your mode would be far preferable; but from my situation, it is impossible to adopt it.

“Since about June 10th we have travelled from Portsmouth to Chichester; from thence, after ten days, back to Portsmouth, and
having stayed there four days, have taken our departure for Winchester, where we have now been about a fortnight, and our managers think of dissolving the company till we play at Southampton, which will be at the end of this month. In all our journeys we bear our own expenses, and they have allowed nothing extra for our continual removings. We are paid only nightly. In this town our salary is only 4s. a-night. This last week we have only played once, so that we are going to receive this morning a shilling a-head; and if we are not dismissed till Southampton, there is no probability of our playing more than once in that town, which I suppose will be upwards of a fortnight. From the above circumstances you may conclude that we are all chop-fallen. It is your maxim that a little wholesome adversity is a very good thing for a young man to encounter, so that I trust you will give me credit for a little wisdom: that a few of the dregs of folly are purged away by the purifying physic of bread and water. You may expect, if we are dismissed, to see me in London in a few days, towards the latter end of next week. So much for that subject.
Mr Quicke was with us at Chichester, and the four days at Portsmouth. He is a very pleasant man in company, and very familiar. We expect Incledon at Southampton, and I believe Holman, but of him I am not certain.

“I received a day or two ago a very strange letter from my sister about her situation. A kind of despondency runs throughout it. Has she written to you in the same style lately? I returned a pretty sharp answer immediately, which I hope will cure her of her disorder, whatever it is. You have never informed me anything of your affairs—how your book sells, whether you like your way of living, &c.

“Write to me as soon as convenient; but observe that I shall perhaps not be here long. I am in perfect health, as I hope this will find you.

T. Cooper.”
The Same to the Same.
Winchester, July 19, 1793.
“‘It must be so. O guts, ye reason well,
Else whence those painful gripes, those inward workings,
This craving after something good to eat?
* * * * * * *
* * * Why shrinks the belly
To the back bone, and ’tween leaves no vacuum?
‘Tis this damned nothing that commoves within.
‘Tis starving’s self that stares us in the face
And indicates non-entity to man.’

“I am just come from the theatre, where we dismissed two from the theatre and one from the pit.

“I shall not come to London after all. We have played once this week, having got a bespeak from the Marquis of Buckingham: we are to open at Southampton on Monday week, so that it would not be worth while to come for so short a space; besides that, our managers mean to open their doors next week, as the week before.

“There are a few mistakes in your letter. When I say that my situation renders impracticable a diligent correspondence, I did not mean that it has that effect at present, for if I did, my actions would belie my words; but that it had in our frequent movings, and during the benefit time at Portsmouth. You are to write to me at full, as you need not expect to see me. In the next paragraph you say, ‘Not a word about your health,’ but that’s a mistake, for the last words of my letter are, ‘I am in perfect health, as I hope this will find you;’ but I suppose you had not patience to get through my bad handwriting.

“I’ll now relate a theatrical incident. George Barnwell was played: you recollect that the uncle comes on, and makes a soliloquy on death. The uncle had not, or did not choose to have leisure to learn the soliloquy, but thought, if he carried on a book of the play, that he might read it. He did not reflect that the stage would be darkened, and when he looked in the book, he found he could not read. He recollected the first words, ‘O
death!’ and repeated them three or four times in great agitation, calling at the same time for George Barnwell to come and kill him, but George was laughing so heartily behind the scenes that for some time he could not relieve his uncle, and his uncle said no more than ‘O death—do—do’—till his nephew came and stabbed him, and laughed at him in the agonies of death.

“I have just received information that the Coldstream is all killed except fifteen, and that the Duke is in the number of the slain. Among the rest of the information you are to give me, let the sale of your pamphlet and the title be included—what Mr Holcroft has lately written—what Mr Marshall is about. In short, tell me something about everybody. Do you know anything concerning the Dysons now?

“Remember me to all my acquaintance in London: say something for me to each, what you shall judge proper, just the same as if I had written.

T. Cooper.”
The Same to the Same.
Southampton, Oct. 18, 1793.

“Glory be to Thee, O God, for all the manifold goods which day after day Thou bestowest upon me! Would you believe it? I have had a benefit—such a benefit—a kind of Irish one, by which I have lost upwards of six pounds—at least I remain that much indebted to our managers. How strange, how despicable are the dispositions of tyrants! The morning after my night, this Davies came to me to do something for him in a pantomime which is performed to-night for his benefit. I readily consented. Things have turned out that I am not of much consequence to him to-night, and this morning, instead of the smiling, smirking face of yesterday, he addressed me with a stiff Hibernian frown—‘Mr Cooper, I want some money—I must have money. I’ll not pay the salaries, sir, till you have paid me. Blood, sir, why am I to pay money out of my own pocket?’ The absent politician, too, has attempted to speak to me. ‘Mr Tyler, have you heard any news to-day? Oh, Mr Cooper, about your night (a pause). I have not seen the Star
to-day. Sir, walk this way, if you please.’ I was going to follow but Mrs Somebody met him, and he immediately began to settle the business of the nation. He dared imagine that it was for me to wait his pleasure. About half-an-hour afterwards he repeated his request, and I told him I was engaged.

“The usual method of payment in cases of deficiency of the changes is by stopping 3s. or 4s. per week out of the salary; but on account of my great deficiency, he says he will stop the whole week’s salary until it is paid. In case he attempts it, it is my present intention to leave him immediately, not secretly. No; what I dare do, I dare do openly. If he pursues other steps, I have arrived at such a happy disregard of my personal affairs, that it will scarcely give me a moment’s concern.

“You will wonder, perhaps, how I came to fail so much. There are three or four sufficient reasons. The first is, that the interest of a man of long standing and unusual acquaintance carries everything before it; next, that though the other weak interests are supremely blessed with the happy gifts of fawning servility, yet I have not so much of the spaniel about me; I cannot take my hat off to the great man’s servant. If I were to lose £50 and fifty benefits, I cannot bow to flatter the man I despise. The third was that I was between two fires—one manager’s daughter before, the other manager’s wife after me.

“I now want you or Mrs Holcroft to inform me whether Mr H. himself spoke to Mrs Wood relative to an engagement for me with her husband; or if not, who was it.

T. Cooper.”
The Same to the Same.
Southampton, Nov. 2, ’93.

“If there were an appearance of reserve in my letters, relative to my present situation, it could be only an appearance; for I have not, nor have I ever had, the least wish to conceal anything. If I did not expatiate at large on the subject, it was because I had no desire to excite any man’s compassion; for I feel no compassion for myself; or in other words, I am quite indifferent about it,
as I have told you before. I have lived partly upon a little money which I had saved, and partly upon credit, which has involved me in debt near £2. But I shall considerably decrease it by means of about a guinea, which I got last night, by joining with two others who had failed, and buying a bad stock-night of the managers at an under-price. This, with the loan of a guinea, which you are so kind as to offer me, will pretty well bring me about, so that I shall probably still remain with Messrs C. and D., if they promise to allow me a salary after this town, and will pay the bill for printing the tickets for my benefit. But if he refuses, my former resolution will remain unbroken. You may depend on seeing me in London very soon—how soon will in some measure depend on
Mr Davies’s acceptance or rejection of my proposals. If he refuse, I shall not stay to play for his benefit. At all events, you will see me in less than a fortnight.

“If you can oblige me with this guinea, direct to me in any small parcel, at Mr Ling’s, 15 Butcher Row, and send it by Mr Cox’s coach, which sets out every morning from the Saracen’s Head, Snow Hill.

“When I spoke relative to the School for Arrogance to Mr Davies, he said, ‘If Mr Holcroft had really been inclined to serve me, he certainly could not have refused so small a favour.’ I smiled within myself at the confined ideas of a selfish man.

“I should be glad if you would not make it public that I am coming to town. ’Tis, I grant, a childish wish, but it would be a pleasure to surprise my friends. Though childish, it is innocent, and as it would be a pleasure, I hope it will be a sufficient reason with you to comply with my request.

T. Cooper.