LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. VI. 1794-1796
William Godwin to John King, 24 January 1796

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
Jan. 24, 1796.

“I am extremely surprised at the note I have just received from you, and hasten to oppose the false statement it contains. From the first moment I was acquainted with you, it was a contest between me and several of my friends, and partly in my own mind, whether or no I ought to be acquainted with a man, of whom, to say the least, the world entertained a very ill opinion, respecting the justice of which I could be no competent judge. Upon what grounds, do you think, I decided that contest? I said, ‘It would be absurd for me to attempt to associate only with immaculate persons; nor do I believe that the right way to attempt to correct the errors of the vicious, is that all honest men should desert them.’ As to the frequency of my visits, I appeal to your own memory whether I ever sought that frequency. Did you imagine that your dinners were to be a bribe, seducing me to depart from the integrity of my judgment? That would be a character meaner than that of the poorest pensioner of the vilest court that ever existed.

“You seem to insinuate that I ought to appear in court as your friend and supporter. I have always avoided connecting myself with any set of men, even though Charles Fox should be at their head. I will stand or fall by my own character, and my own principles. Are you ignorant that, if I were to show myself as your supporter, it would be considered as a declaration, not merely
that I thought you injured by
Alex. Champion, Esq., of Winchester Street, but that I approved of the general spirit of your transaction with Philips, and other similar transactions? If I were asked in open court whether, upon the whole, I believed that your money transactions were immaculate, or that they had in some instances been very exceptionable, what do you think would be my answer?

“You call upon me for an act of friendship, and the act you demand would be scarcely of any imaginable use to you. At the same time you show very little friendship in the demand. Why should my character be involved with yours, which however as you may conceive undeservedly labours under a very extensive odium? Why should I bring obloquy upon all my future, and all my past labours? No sir, I will retain my little portion of usefulness undiminished. Whatever may be my share of good opinion with the world, it shall be injured by no man’s vices but my own. Should I not be both fool and knave if I did otherwise?

“You oblige me to treat you unceremoniously. But I must venture that rather than be misunderstood. Otherwise I certainly would have refused to give you pain, especially at the present moment. If there were anything I could do for your service that I could be brought to think reasonable, I would most cheerfully do it. I wish you all imaginable happiness, but I cannot sacrifice my independence and my judgment. Upon this footing, and this explanation being given, I am willing that our acquaintance should either cease or continue, as best suits your inclinations. It is perhaps impossible that one human being should have a repeated good humoured intercourse with another, without increasing in kindness towards him. But, remember, I can dine at a man’s table, without being prepared to be the partisan of his measures and proceedings.

“What a strange dilemma do you create for your acquaintance! If I had ceased to visit you, you would have censured me, as unnecessarily squeamish and fastidious. I have continued to visit you, and you conclude that I ought to be ready to proceed all lengths with you.

W. Godwin.”