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Godwinian Moments

Godwinian Moments: From the Enlightenment to Romanticism

Robert M. Maniquis
Victoria Myers
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Godwinian Moments
    Book Description:

    Godwinian Momentsis the first ever book collection on the work of William Godwin, the radical British philosopher, novelist, and pamphleteer who contributed extensively to the political and cultural shifts of 1783 to 1834.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9399-9
    Subjects: Philosophy, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chronology
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    Scholars like to tell the story of Percy Shelley’s jubilant discovery in 1812 that William Godwin was not yet dead. Godwin had risen to national fame in 1793 with theEnquiry Concerning Political Justice; a year later his novelCaleb Williamshad fascinated and alarmed readers of various political stripes; and his courageous interventions against the Pitt ministry’s white terror in 1795 had given further convincing proof of his active genius. But the public’s disillusionment with the French Revolution, and still more the repressive measures passed by parliament and enforced by the courts from 1795 on, discouraged radical publication and...


    • chapter one Godwin’s Calvinist Ghosts: Political Justice and Caleb Williams
      (pp. 25-58)

      To insist on traces of Calvinism in Godwin is to knock on an open door. In 1800 Godwin listed among the ‘errors’ in the first edition ofPolitical Justice‘unqualified condemnation of the private affections’ and ‘Sandemanianism, or an inattention to the principle that feeling, not judgment, is the source of human actions.’ The ‘Calvinist system,’ he added, had been ‘so deeply wrought into my mind from early life, as to enable these errors long to survive the general system of religious opinions of which they formed a part.’¹ Sandemanianism was, of course, that most severe form of Calvinist theology...

    • chapter two Godwin, Thelwall, and the Means of Progress
      (pp. 59-82)

      On 21 November 1795 William Godwin published hisConsiderations on Lord Grenville’s and Mr Pitt’s Bills, concerning Treasonable and Seditious Practices, and Unlawful Assemblies, signing it ‘by a Lover of Order.’ A week later the second edition of Godwin’sEnquiry Concerning Political Justiceappeared. The latter had been undergoing a process of revision for the previous twelve months; the former was written at pace between 16 and 19 November, following the introduction of the bills on 6 to 9 November. Both publications have been seen as indicating that Godwin had, to some degree, lost his radical nerve.¹ The second edition...

    • chapter three ‘The Press and Danger of the Crowd’: Godwin, Thelwall, and the Counter-Public Sphere
      (pp. 83-102)
      JON MEE

      Revisionist accounts of Jürgen Habermas’s narrative of the emergence of an eighteenth-century ‘public sphere’ have repeatedly noted its idealization of ‘bourgeois’ institutions of opinion formation.³ Geoff Eley, for instance, has discussed Habermas’s omission of any account of the emergent ‘plebeian public sphere’ associated with the popular radical movement of the 1790s.⁴ The question of whether ‘the press and danger of the crowd’ could be accommodated within an idea of the public was very much a live one not only outside but also within radical organizations.⁵ Consequently, ‘the harmony, regularity, and good order’ of the crowd was a recurrent emphasis in...

    • chapter four ‘Awakening the Mind’: William Godwin’s Enquirer
      (pp. 103-124)

      For all of his prominence as a political philosopher and a novelist, William Godwin may well have been most persistently committed to his role as educator. From his early educational prospectus of 1783, ‘Account of a Seminary,’ to his lateThoughts on Man(1831), Godwin remained concerned throughout his life with the problem of pedagogy, how children might be raised in ways that would best unfold their human potential – and concerned not simply in a theoretical sense, for he was himself the father of five children, and the publishing house that he and his wife ran for many years...

    • chapter five Godwin Disguised: Politics in the Juvenile Library
      (pp. 125-146)

      InFables, Ancient and Modern, William Godwin retells Aesop’s tale of the wolf and the mastiff. In the fable, a wolf happens to meet a mastiff and admires his ‘sleek coat’ and ‘full belly.’ The wolf introduces himself to the mastiff by calling attention to their close kinship, and asks the mastiff to explain the ‘sleek coat’ and ‘full belly.’ The mastiff replies that his master feeds him. All he has to do, the mastiff explains, is ‘bark, to frighten away idle people and thieves; I fawn upon my master, and behave civilly to all the family.’ Given the precarious...


    • chapter six Oratory and History: Godwin’s History of the Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham
      (pp. 149-171)

      Little has been said about Godwin’s historical writings, least of all about his earliest venture, the 1783History of the Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Although decidedly a minor work, it nonetheless participates in an important moment of cultural shift. Mark Salber Phillips’s account of eighteenth-century genre transformation does not speak ofChatham, but singles out Godwin’s 1803Life of Geoffrey Chauceras a triumphant example of the emergent interest in non-political histories of arts, customs, and manners – calling it ‘a kind of sentimental history of the times’ and ‘an imaginative entry into the experience of a...

    • chapter seven The Disfiguration of Enlightenment: War, Trauma, and the Historical Novel in Godwin’s Mandeville
      (pp. 172-193)

      In a well-known essay ‘Why War?’ Jacqueline Rose suggests that war marks a ‘limit’ to claims of ‘absolute knowledge,’ even as such claims are ‘offered as one cause – if notthecause – of war.’¹ War, literal and ideological, marks the limits of enlightenment in Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s sense. For them, in their famousDialectic of Enlightenment,enlightenment signifies both the complacency that thinks rationality can permanently overcome superstition, and a sense that culture can dominate nature, or that man can dominate his others so as to have them at his disposal. This essay explores the relation...

    • chapter eight ‘This is the dread hour, / That must decide the fate of England!’: Godwin’s St Dunstan
      (pp. 194-216)

      There is a weary tone evident in the following piece of parliamentary intelligence fromThe Timesof 2 March 1790:

      This day comes in the House of Commons Mr. Fox’s motion for a Repeal of the Test Act, so far as that Act respects the body of Protestant Dissenters. The subject already has undergone so many discussions in Parliament, that it is impossible the arguments on either the one or the other side of the question can contain any new force of reasoning, and as every Senator’s mind is already made up on this important business, the debate of course...

    • chapter nine Heavy Drama
      (pp. 217-238)

      Godwin’s plays, along with his relation to drama and theatre, have hardly been a hot topic in scholarly assessment of his life/works. Biographers usually mention the plays that he composed in the relatively early stages of his career and acknowledge his frequent and life-long attendance at London theatres, but they are generally dismissive of his own plays and do not construe his active support of theatre as necessitating further enquiry. Most literary-critical assessments ignore this component of Godwin’s life/writings altogether for some good reasons, given the vast amount and impressive generic array of his writings, the failure of his two...


    • chapter ten The Philosopher and the Moneylender: The Relationship between William Godwin and John King
      (pp. 241-260)

      On the surface they could not have been more different: William Godwin (1756–1836), from a middle-class Dissenting background, and John King (1753–1824), from a poor Sephardic Jewish background; the one a philosophical radical who made his living from literature, as author and bookseller, and the other an ‘unrespectable’ radical who published his writing, but who made his living on the border between legal and illegal money transactions; the one wrote a decisive pamphlet critical of the treason trial proceedings (Cursory Stricturesin 1794), and the other gave money to support the treason trial defendants and their families.¹ Their...

    • chapter eleven Commerce of Luminaries: Eight Letters between William Godwin and Thomas Wedgwood
      (pp. 261-282)

      Members of the English radical intelligentsia in the decade following the French Revolution exchanged not only knowledge and ideas but also gifts and financial aid. Many writers, scientists, and artists aspired to economic independence, but few achieved it. Some remained enmeshed in the eighteenth-century patronage system.¹ For example, in January 1798 Samuel Taylor Coleridge received from the chemist Thomas Wedgwood (1771–1805) and his brother Josiah II (1769–1843) an annuity of £150 to support a career devoted to ‘poetry and philosophy.’² Coleridge was not the only literary figure to benefit from the philanthropy of the Wedgwood brothers. Their plan...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 283-286)
  10. Index
    (pp. 287-298)