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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. VI. 1804-1806
William Godwin to Mary Jane Godwin, 5 June 1806

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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June 5, 1806.

“Yesterday (was that right or wrong?) we kept Charles’s birthday, though his mother was absent. . . . Charles has written an account of the day to Fanny; it passed pleasantly enough. . . .

“Do not imagine that I took Charles into my good graces the moment your back was turned. He indeed took care to prevent that if I had been inclined, by displeasing me the day I sent him for a frank, and on another errand. So that I had only just time to forgive him for his birthday.

“I wish to impress you with the persuasion that he is infinitely more of a child, and to be treated as a child, than you imagine. Monday I sent him for a frank, and set all the children to write letters, though by his awkwardness the occasion was lost. The
letter he then wrote, though I took some pains previously to work on his feelings, was the poorest and most soulless thing ever you saw. I then set him to learn the poem of “My Mother” in
Darton’s Original Poetry. Your letter to him came most opportunely to re-inforce the whole, and at last he has produced what I now send you. I went upstairs to his bedside the night before you left us, that I might impress upon him the importance of not suffering you to depart in anger: but instead of understanding me at first, he, like a child, thought I was come to whip him, and with great fervour and agitation, begged I would forgive him. He is very anxious that no one should see his letter but yourself, and I have promised to enforce his petition. . . .

“I shall be very happy to listen to you on that subject, on which so many poets have shone already, the praise of the country. But will you give me leave, my dearest love, to recall to your consideration the ties and bonds by which we are fettered? We cannot do as we would, and must be satisfied, for some time at least, if we can do at all. And do you really believe that ‘the sordid thoughts that in London make a necessary part of your daily existence’ could never find their way to Tilford? Alas, I am afraid that a narrow income, a numerous family, and many things to arrange and provide for, are the same everywhere. I am of my old friend Horace’s opinion, ‘that happiness may be found even in Rag fair (allow me the license of a translator) if we do but bring with us to the shed that covers us a well regulated mind.’ Yet I swear to you, I will with all pleasure retire with you to the country, the moment you shall yourself pronounce it to be practicable.

“Will you allow me to play with you the part of a monitor? or will you think that is incompatible with the feelings of a lover? You have effected, as you have repeatedly told me, one most excellent revolution in yourself since your marriage, that of taking many things quietly that were once torture, for example, money embarrassments and importunities. That you did not so from the first, was owing to your estrangement from the usages of the world, and to the want of that easily acquired tincture of philosophy, that
enables us to look at things as they will appear a week hence, or, for the most part, even to-morrow. That sorrow which will be no sorrow to-morrow, should not touch a wise woman’s heart. The offences of children should be taken as from that sort of beings that children always are, yourself in your early years only excepted; the offences of tradesmen as from tradesmen; and the nonsense of servants as from servants. Indeed, best beloved Mamma, if we do not learn this little lesson of prudence, it is not Tilford, no, nor Arno’s Vale, nor the Thessalian Tempe, that will make us happy. Our vexations will follow us everywhere with our family, and, if you will allow me once more to quote
Horace, when we mount our neighing steeds, Care will mount too, and cling close behind us. It is a sad thing, but such is the nature of human beings: we cannot have ‘the dear, beyond all words dear objects,’ as you so truly call them, that this roof covers, without having plenty of exercise for the sobriety and steadiness of our souls. Oh, that from this moment you would begin to attempt to cultivate that firmness and equanimity! You would then be everything that my fondest and warmest wishes could desire: you would be Tilford and Tuscany and Tempe all together, and you would carry them ever about in your heart. . . .

“The most extraordinary thing I send is William’s letter. Miss Smith, and all three children attest the fact. He asked Miss Smith to rule him some lines. When he began, she said to him, William, do not go out of the lines, and this was all the instruction he received.

“I think it is a little cruel of Fanny to have written to Charles and Jane, and not a line to her own sister.

“I called at Rowan’s on Monday evening. Not at home. I then passed on to Carlisle’s, and supped by accident on Carshalton fish. Tuesday I supped at Lamb’s, and they are engaged to be here on Sunday evening. G. M. C. dined with us last Sunday. This is all I have to tell you of that sort.

“My foot is nearly well. I could distinguish you in the coach as far as the corner of Chancery Lane. I thought you would have gone over Blackfriars’ Bridge: but, as you went my way, I deter-
mined to leave you, as a last legacy, my figure popping up and down in the act of running.—Ever your friend, brother, husband,

W. Godwin.

“Mrs Fraser called, Tuesday evening, to recommend a housemaid. I have seen and rather like her. I will swear she is sober and good-tempered. She is 21 years of age.”