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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. IX. 1797
William Godwin to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, 17 June 1797

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
June 17, 1797.

“You cannot imagine anything like Mr Wynn and his wife. He is a raw country booby of eighteen, his hair about his ears, and a beard that has never deigned to submit to the stroke of the razor. His voice is loud, broad and unmodulated, the mind of the possessor has never yet felt a sentiment that should give it flexibleness or variety. He has at present a brother with him, a lad, as I guess, of fifteen, who has come to Dr Parr’s house at Hatton, with a high generosity of sentiment, and a tone of mind, declaring that, if his brother be disinherited, he, who is the next brother, will not reap the benefit. His name is Julius, and John Wynn, the husband, is also a lad of very good dispositions. They both stammer: Julius extremely, John less: but with the stuttering of Julius there is an ingenuousness and warmth that have considerable charms. John, on the contrary, has all the drawling, both of voice and thinking, that usually characterizes a clown. His air is gauche, his gait negligent and slouching, his whole figure boorish. Both the lads are as ignorant, and as destitute of adventure and ambition, as any children that aristocracy has to boast.
Sarah, the bride, is the victim of her mother, as the bridegroom is her victim in turn. The mother taught her that the height of female wisdom was to marry a rich man and a fool, and she has religiously complied. Her mother is an admirable woman, and the daughter mistook, and fancied she was worthy of love. Never was a girl more attached to her mother than Sarah Wynn (Parr). You do not know, but I do, that Sarah has an uncommon understanding, and an exquisite sensibility, which glows in her complexion, and flashes from her eyes. Yet she is silly enough to imagine that she shall be happy in love and a cottage, with John Wynn. She is excessively angry with the fathers on both sides, who, as she says, after having promised the contrary, attempted clandestinely to separate them. They have each, beyond question, laid up a magazine of unhappiness: yet I am persuaded Dr Parr is silly enough to imagine the match a desirable one.

“We slept, as I told you, at Tamworth on Wednesday evening. Thursday morning we proceeded through Coleshill (where I found a permanent pillory established, in lieu of the stocks), and where we passed through a very deep and rather formidable ford, the bridge being under repair, and breakfasted at the George in the Tree, 18 miles. From thence the road by Warwick would have been 14 miles, and by a cross-country road only six. By this, therefore, we proceeded, and a very deep and rough road we found it. We arrived at Hatton about one, so, after dinner, thinking it too much to sit all day in the company I have described, I proposed to Montagu a walk to Kenilworth Castle, the seat originally of Simon De Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who in the reign of Henry III., to whom he was an implacable enemy, was the author of the institution of the House of Commons; and, more recently, the seat of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester—the favourite, and, as he hoped and designed, the husband of Elizabeth, to whom he gave a most magnificent and memorable entertainment at this place. The ruins are, beyond comparison, the finest in England. I found Montagu by no means a desirable companion in this expedition. He could not be persuaded to indulge the
divine enthusiasm I felt coming on my soul, while I felt revived, and, as it were, embodied, the image of ancient times: but on the contrary, expressed nothing but indignation against the aristocracy displayed, and joy that it was destroyed. From
Dr Parr’s to Kenilworth, across the fields, is only four miles. By the road, round by Warwick, it is nine. We of course took the field way, but derived but little benefit from it, as we were on foot from half after four to half after ten, exclusive of a rest of ten minutes. One hour out of the six we spent at Kenilworth, and two hours and a half in going and returning respectively, so utterly incapable were we of finding the path prescribed us.

“To-day, Friday, as fortune determined, was Coventry Fair, with a procession of all the trades, with a female representative of Lady Godiva at their head, dressed in a close dress to represent nakedness. As fortune had thus disposed of us, we deemed it our duty not to miss the opportunity. We accordingly set out after breakfast, for Montagu proved lazy, and we did not get off till half after eleven. From Dr Parr’s to Warwick is four miles, from Warwick to Coventry ten miles. One mile on the Coventry side of Warwick is Guy’s Cliff, Mr Greathed’s. My description of his garden was an irresistible motive with Montagu to desire to visit it, though I by no means desired it. We accordingly went, and walked round the garden. Mr Greathed was in his grounds, and I left a card, signifying I had done myself the pleasure of paying my respects to him, and taken the liberty of leading my friend over his garden. This delay of half-an-hour precisely answered the purpose of making us too late for Lady Godiva. We saw the crowd, which was not yet dispersed, and the booths of the fair, but the lady, the singularity of the scene, was retired.

“It is now Sunday evening: we are at Cambridge. Montagu says we shall certainly be in town to-morrow (Monday) night. The distance is fifty-three miles: we shall therefore probably be late, and he requests that, if we be not at home before ten, you will retain somebody to take the whiskey from Somers Town to Lincoln’s Inn. If Mary be at a loss on the subject, perhaps the people of Montagu’s lodging can assist her.


“Farewell: be happy: be in health and spirits. Keep a lookout, but not an anxious one. Delays are not necessarily tragical. I believe there will be none.”