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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. VIII. 1811-1814
Samuel Taylor Coleridge to William Godwin, 26 March 1811

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
Mar. 26, 1811.

Dear Godwin,—Mr Grattan did me the honour of calling on me and leaving his card on Sunday afternoon, unfortunately a few minutes after I had gone out, and I am so unwell that I am afraid I shall not be able to return the call to-day, as I had intended, though it is a grief even for a brace of days to appear
insensible of so much kindness and condescension. But what need has Grattan of pride?
“‘Ha d’ uopo solo
Mendicar dall’ orgoglio, onore e stima
Chi senza lui di vilipendio è degno.’

“I half caught from Lamb that you had written to Wordsworth with a wish that he should versify some tale or other, and that he had declined it. I told dear Miss Lamb that I had formed a complete plan of a poem, with little plates for children, the first thought, but that alone, taken from Gesner’sFirst Mariner;’ and this thought I have reason to believe was not an invention of Gesner’s. It is this: that in early time, in some island or part of the continent, the ocean had rushed in, overflowing a vast plain of twenty or thirty miles, and thereby insulating one small promontory or cape of high land, on which was a cottage, containing a man and his wife and an infant daughter. This is the one thought. All that Gesner has made out of it (for I once translated into blank verse about half of the poem, but gave it up under the influence of a double disgust, moral and poetical), I have rejected, and, strictly speaking, the tale in all its parts, that one idea excepted, would be original. The tale will contain the cause, the occasions, the process, with all its failures and ultimate success, of the construction of the first boat, and of the undertaking of the first naval expedition. Now, supposing you liked the idea—I address you and Mrs Godwin as commerciants, not you as the philosopher who gave us the first system in England that ever dared reveal at full that most important of all important truths, that morality might be built up on its own foundation like a castle built from the rock, and on the rock, with religion for the ornaments and completion of its roof and upper storeys—nor as the critic who in the life of Chaucer has given us, if not principles of aesthetic, or taste, yet more and better data for principles than had hitherto existed in our language. If we, pulling like two friendly tradesmen together (for you and your wife must be one flesh, and I trust are one heart), you approve of the plan, the next
question is whether it should be written in prose or verse, or if the latter, in what metre—stanzas or eight-syllabled iambics with rhymes (for in rhyme it must be) now in couplets and now in quatrains, in the manner of
Cooper’s admirable translation of the ‘Lament of Gresset.’ (NB.—Not the Cowper.)

“Another thought has struck me of a school-book in two octavo volumes of ‘Lives’ in the manner of Plutarch’s, but instead of comparing and coupling Greek with Roman, Dion with Brutus, and Cato with Aristides, of placing ancient and modern together, Hume with Alfred, Cicero with Bacon, Hannibal with Gustavus Adolphus, and Julius Cæsar with Buonaparte. Or, which perhaps might be at once more interesting and more instructive, a series of ‘Lives,’ from Moses to Buonaparte, of all those great men who in states, or in the mind of man, had produced great revolutions, the effects of which still remain, and are more or less distant causes of the present state of the world. . . .”