« НазадПродовжити »
LAST WORDS ON POLITICS.
earlier date, seems in place here. He was true to himself, consistent and unwavering.
William Godwin to W. Cross.
Jan. 31, 1831. “I am extremely sorry that any silence on my part should have been the cause of giving you pain. . . . I have been all my life accustomed to regard man as everything, 'the most excellent and noble creature of the world,' and property as comparatively mere dross and dirt. I was sorry, therefore, to see you count the value of a man by pounds, shillings, and pence. I remember a plan of Mr H. Tooke on the subject of Parliamentary Reform, which was to give every man a right to as many votes for a repre sentative as he was able and willing to purchase at a stipulated price. I do not know whether he was in jest or earnest, and I dare say you never saw his plan. Yours is better than his because yours does not depend so much on whim as his did.
“I am a republican because I am a philanthropist. That form of society, perhaps, is the best which shall make individual man feel most generous and most noble. As poor Dr Watts says, “The mind's the standard of the man.'
“With regard to the revolution which occurred in France in July last, it appears to me that the leaders did well in the points you specify. You say that your voluntary association would have proved strong enough to resist all the force that combined Europe could have brought against them. Be it so: yet the despots of Europe would not have thought so. And to prevent a war is much better than to finish a war with victory to the just cause. I am glad, therefore, that the leaders said to Europe, 'We will have a king as we have had before. Be not alarmed: we will set no example of anarchy and the dissolution of government to the people over whom you reign.' I moreover rejoice in the generous magnanimity and forbearance the leaders have displayed, so much the reverse of the Revolution of 1789. I finally rejoice in the energy that has saved the lives of the ministers of Charles X."
Though his mind was thus vigorous, his body was showing signs of decay. The occasional maladies from which he had suffered for many years, giddiness, faintings, and numbness in his limbs, occurred at more frequent periods; the entries in the Diary on given days that he felt quite well are evidence added to the record of maladies that on other days he was aware that “age with stealing steps had clawed him in her clutch." Yet it is possible the habit of minute introspection, extending to his bodily condition, led him to dwell on some matters of which even less healthy men might have thought less; and, on the whole, it was a singularly vigorous old age. To the last years, even to the last days of his life, his habits were • the same as they had been forty years before. Reading of the most varied kind, but by preference the Classics and Italian literature, occupied his mornings, visits from and to friends his afternoons. He still dined out and attended the theatre, and even so late as Thursday, March 24, 1836, he went to the Opera to hear Zampa.
He was aware, however, that the end could not be far distant, and contemplated it with the same philosophical calm which had characterized him through life. On August 21, 1834, he had written some reflections on the diaries he had kept for so many years, on a loose sheet of paper, that he might place it regularly and with method in its true position whenever he felt that the last entry in the Diary, as it lay open on his desk was made. He ended vol. xxxii. of this on the Saturday, March 26, 1836, with these words:
“ Malfy, fin. Call on Hudson, Trelawny calls, cough, snow.” and then on the inside of the cover pasted the sheet which had so long waited for its place. It is as follows :
THE LAST PAGE OF DIARY.
“ August 21, 1834. “With what facility have I marked these pages with the stamp of rolling weeks and months and years—all uniform, all blank ! What a strange power is this! It sees through a long vista of time, and it sees nothing. All this at present is mere abstraction, symbols, not realities. Nothing is actually seen : the whole is ciphers, conventional marks, imaginary boundaries of unimagined things. Here is neither joy nor sorrow, pleasure nor pain. Yet when the time shall truly come, and the revolving year shall bring the day, what portentous events may stamp the page ! what anguish, what horror, or by possibility what joy, what Godlike elevation of soul! Here are fevers, and excruciating pains in their sacred secundine asleep. Here may be the saddest reverses, destitution and despair, detrusion and hunger and nakedness, without a place wherein to lay our head, wearisome days and endless nights in dark and unendurable monotony, variety of wretchedness; yet of all one gloomy hue; slumbers without sleep, waking without excitation, dreams all heterogeneous and perplexed, with nothing distinct and defined, distracted without the occasional bursts and energy of distraction. And these pages look now all fair, innocent, and uniform. I have put down eighty years and twenty-three days, and I might put down one hundred and sixty years. But in which of these pages shall the pen which purposes to record, drop from my hands for ever, never again to be resumed? I shall set down the memoranda of one day, with the full expectation of resuming my task on the next, or my fingers may refuse their functions in the act of forming a letter, and leave the word never by the writer to be completed.
“ Everything under the sun is uncertain. No provision can be a sufficient security against adverse and unexpected fortune, least of all to him who has not a stipulated income bound to him by the forms and ordinances of society. This, as age and feebleness of body and mind advances, is an appalling consideration, 'a man cannot tell what shall be,' to what straits he may be driven, what trials and privations and destitution and struggles and griefs may be reserved for him.”
It was with no faltering hand, but yet with a prophetic feeling, that the end had come, that Godwin finished his last Diary note-book. On Sunday, March 27th, the illness of which he had complained the day before increased, and his cold became feverish.
The pen had “ 'dropped from his hand for ever," and after ten days of gradual
and peaceful decay, he died on Thursday, April 7th, # 1836,
He was buried by the side of Mary Wollstonecraft, in Old St Pancras Churchyard, which even then had not entirely ceased to be a quiet nook, where Shelley had met Mary Godwin under the willow which shadowed her mother's grave. The tide of London was soon to desecrate and deform into hideous desolation a spot full of so many memories ; two Railways run below and through Old St Pancras graveyard.
But when it became needful to disturb the bones of the dead for the sake of the living, Mary Shelley had passed away, and was resting in Bournemouth churchyard, the burial-place nearest to the home of her only surviving child. In order that parents and daughter might rest together, the remains of Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft were transferred to the same spot by their grandson, in whose house, enshrined in a silver urn, are the ashes of his father. It is Shelley's heart alone, "cor cordium,” that the Roman grave contains. Clerical intolerance uttered some protests against the inscription on the grave, where stand recorded the works by which each who lies there is best known, though it is difficult to see why words which were innocent in St Pancras' churchyard were harmful elsewhere. But kinder and wiser counsels prevailed, and on a sunny bank, sloping to the west, among the rose-twined
crosses of many who have died in more orthodox beliefs, rest those who at least might each of them have said
WILLIAM GODWIN, Author of “Political Justice.”
Aged 80 years.
Born, April 27th, 1759 ; Died, Sepr. 10, 1797.
London, A.D. 1851.
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY,
Percy Bysshe Shelley.