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My best thanks are due to Sir Percy Shelley, the grandson of William Godwin, for the generous manner in which he has placed at my disposal the whole of the papers in his possession which relate to his grandfather. These included a vast quantity of letters and other MSS., some of which had never been opened since they were laid aside by Godwin's own hand, many years before his death. Mrs Shelley began to arrange them for publication soon after that event, in 1836, but many packets had apparently not been examined by her. This fact renders it the more necessary that I should state that while Sir Percy Shelley has sanctioned my work as a whole, he is in no way whatever answerable for details. I only am responsible for the selections made and inferences drawn from the papers, as well as for every opinion expressed in the book.
A very few of the letters have been already printedsome of Godwin's by Lady Shelley in her“ Shelley Memorials,” and some of Coleridge's by Mr Garnett in a Magazine article.
In all cases where there appeared to be the smallest doubt in regard to the publication of documents, I have consulted, where possible, the representatives of the persons concerned, and have obtained their permission to print the letters.
C. K. P. February 1876.
HIS FRIENDS AND CONTEMPORARIES
EARLY LIFE. 1756-1785.
To those conversant with the literary history of the close of the last, and the first quarter of the present century, few names are more familiar than that of William Godwin. The husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, the father-in-law of Shelley, the confidential friend of Coleridge and Lamb, his life was so closely intertwined with the lives of those whose story has been often written, as to render some record of him valuable, even had the man himself been less remarkable than he was. But though the present generation has read his works but little, this age owes more to him than it recognizes ; many opinions now clothed in household words were first formulated by him, and the publication of his “Political Justice,” in 1793, marked a distinct epoch in the growth of liberal thought. During a large part of his life younger men looked on him as a kind of prophet-sage, and he exercised a remarkable influence over all with whom he came in contact.
The mere record of his life, would, if written soon after his death, have had a deeper interest than it now can have, the interest being in these days rather antiquarian and