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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. XI. 1824-1832
William Godwin to Edward Bulwer Lytton, 16 September 1830

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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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
Sep. 16, 1830.

My Dear Sir,—I remember a recorded speech of Lord Chatham at the appointment of the Rockingham administration in 1765, in which he says, ‘Confidence is a plant of slow growth in aged bosoms.’ Allow me to apply that maxim to myself.

“I have known you but a short time. I know you as the author of ‘Pelham,’ a man of eminent talents, and devoted, as it seemed to me, to the habits of high life. I heard from your lips occasionally high sentiments of philosophy and philanthropy. I was to determine as I could which of these two features formed the basis of your character.

“I now avow myself your convert. Your advertisement in this morning’s paper is a pledge for your future character. You have passed the Rubicon. You must go forward, or you must go back for ever disgraced. I know your abilities, and I therefore augur a career of rectitude and honour.

“With respect to the acquaintance I shall have with you, I can dispense with that. If in these portentous times you engage yourself with your powers of mind for the real interests of mankind, that is everything. I am but the dust of the balance.


“And yet, shall I own? The slowness you manifested in cultivating my acquaintance was one of the circumstances that weighed with me to your disadvantage. But I am nothing. Run the race you chalk out for yourself in this paper of yours, and I am more than satisfied.

“Allow me, however, to add something in allusion to our last conversation. It must be of the highest importance to an eminent character which side he embraces in the great question of self-love and benevolence. I tolerate and talk, and think with much good-humour towards the man who embraces the wrong side here, as I tolerate a Calvinist or a Jew. But in the public cause he labours with a mill-stone about his neck. No, not exactly that; but he is like a swimmer who has the use only of his left hand. Inexpressibly must he be disadvantaged in the career of virtue who adheres to a creed which tells him, if there be meaning in words, that there is no such thing as virtue.”