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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. I. 1800
Samuel Taylor Coleridge to William Godwin, 13 October 1800

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
Monday, Oct. 13, 1800.

Dear Godwin,—I have been myself too frequently a grievous delinquent in the article of letter-writing to feel any inclination to reproach my friends when peradventure they have been long silent. But, this is out of the question. I did not expect a speedier answer, for I had anticipated the circumstances which you assign as the causes of your delay.

“An attempt to finish a poem of mine for insertion in the second volume of the ‘Lyrical Ballads’ has thrown me so fearfully back in my bread-and-beef occupations, that I shall scarcely be able to justify myself in putting you to the expense of the few lines which I may be able to scrawl on the present paper; but some parts in your letter interested me deeply, and I wished to tell you so. First, then, you know Kemble, and I do not. But my conjectural judgments concerning his character lead me to persuade an absolute, passive obedience to his opinions; and this, too, because I would leave to every man his own trade. Your trade has been in the present instance, 1st, To furnish a wise pleasure to your fellow-beings in general; and 2dly, to give to Mr Kemble and his associates the means of themselves delighting that part of your fellow-beings assembled in a theatre. As to what relates to the first point, I should be sorry indeed if greater men than Mr Kemble could induce you to alter a ‘but’ to a ‘yet,’ contrary to your own convictions. Above all things, an author ought to be sincere to the public; and when William Godwin stands in the
title page, it is implied that W. G. approves that which follows. Besides, the mind and finer feelings are blunted by such obseqiousness. But in the theatre, it is as Godwin & Co. ex professo. I should regard it almost in the same light as if I had written a song for
Haydn to compose and Mara to sing. I know indeed what is poetry, but I do not know so well as he and she what will suit his notes and her voice. That actors and managers are often wrong is true; but still their trade is their trade, and the presumption is in favour of their being right. For the Press, I should wish you to be solicitously nice, because you are to exhibit before a larger and more respectable multitude than a theatre presents to you, and in a new part—that of a poet employing his philosophical knowledge.

“If it be possible, come therefore, and let us discuss every page and every line. The time depends of course on the day fixed for the representation of the piece.

“Now for something which I would fain believe is still more important, namely the property of your philosophical speculations. Your second objection, derived from the present ebb of opinion, will be best answered by the fact that Mackintosh and his followers have the flow. This is greatly in your favour, for mankind are at present gross reasoners. They reason in a perpetual antithesis; Mackintosh is an oracle, and Godwin therefore a fool. Now it is morally impossible that Mackintosh and the sophists of his school can retain this opinion. You may well exclaim with Job, ‘O that my adversary would write a book!’ When he publishes, it will be all over with him, and then the minds of men will incline strongly to those who would point out in intellectual perceptions a source of moral progressiveness. Every man in his heart is in favour of your general principles. A party of dough-baked democrats of fortune were weary of being dissevered from their fellow rich men. They want to say something in defence of turning round. Mackintosh puts that something into their mouths, and for awhile they will admire and be-praise him. In a little while these men will have fallen back into the ranks from which they had stepped out, and life is too
melancholy a thing for men in general for the doctrine of unprogressiveness to remain popular. Men cannot long retain their faith in the Heaven above the blue sky, but a Heaven they will have, and he who reasons best on the side of that universal wish will be the most popular philosopher. As to your first objection, that you are no logician, let me say that your habits are analytic, but that you have not read enough of Travels, Voyages, and Biography, especially of men’s lives of themselves, and you have too soon submitted your notions to other men’s censures in conversation. A man should nurse his opinions in privacy and self-fondness for a long time, and seek for sympathy and love, not for detection or censure. Dismiss, my dear fellow, your theory of Collision of Ideas, and take up that of Mutual Propulsions. I wish to write more to state to you a lucrative job, which would, I think, be eminently serviceable to your own mind, and which you would have every opportunity of doing here. I now express a serious wish that you would come and look out for a house.

S. T. Coleridge.

“I would gladly write any verses, but to a prologue or epilogue I am utterly incompetent. . . . .”