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murder, a perfect misprision of parricide, while they dreamed of nothing less. M., I believe, was the only person who suffered acutely from the failure ; for G. thenceforward, with a serenity unattainable but by the true philosophy, abandoning a precarious popularity, retired into his fasthold of speculation,—the drama in which the world was to be his tiring room, and remote posterity his applauding spectators at once, and actors.
SECOND MARRIAGE AND MARRIED LIFE.
The failure of Antonio was a very serious matter to Godwin. His pecuniary circumstances had long been increasingly unsatisfactory, and he was of all men least fitted to manage such a household as his own, the expenses of two little girls and their attendants lying quite outside his experience. In play-writing he had found, as he considered, an occupation peculiarly suited to his genius, one, moreover, which could more quickly yield definite results, and bring at once fame and money. The disappointment of his hope brought matters to a crisis, and many letters of this year, not interesting in their details, exhibit him in the position, so sad for any man, saddest of all for a man of great ability and lofty aims, of applying to one friend after another for money aid, of making excuses for non-payment, and neither in applications or refusals, was he, or could he perhaps be quite straightforward. Who ever was or is so under similar circumstances ?
The need of writing for bread, though this of course had been one element in all his former work, had grown so im
perative that it over-mastered his deeper interest in his + occupations, and a tendency becomes manifest in him to
sink from author into mere bookmaker. “Political Justice,” the novels, and the play had sprung from his conviction and his fancy,—were parts of his very self. The same
cannot be said of many of his later works. They were undertaken as commercial speculations, whereas for prose writers as well as poets, the saying of Goethe's “Minstrel," "Ich singe wie der Vogel singt,” is that which should be the inmost thought of their heart, even if they be not like him, independent of the reward.
It must not, however, be considered that all Godwin's work was perfunctory, or his whole life absorbed in sordid money cares ; nor would it be advantageous to follow the details of his struggles or of his literary experiments. But it would not be honest to conceal the fact that here were the elements of a deterioration which more or less affected his character through many remaining years of his life.
The care also of the children became an increasing anxiety. The person in whose charge they were was in an ill-defined position, scarcely a companion, yet not quite a servant, sensitive and exacting, but without real authority : willing to accept the attentions of the wayward Arnot, between whom and herself some indefinite engagement seems to have existed, yet so jealous in regard to Godwin as to give rise to the opinion that she was not indisposed to become his wife if he asked her. His sister Hannah seemed willing to further the idea ; but Godwin himself, aware of the half-developed intention, had no desire that it should be carried out.
The women whom Godwin had thought it possible he could really love after his wife's death had both rejected his advances, yet his marriage was becoming each day more necessary to the daily life of his household and to his own comfort. In the case of the lady whom he made his wife, no wooing was needed, for all the advances came from her side. This was a Mrs Clairmont, a widow, with a son then at school, and one little daughter somewhat older than
Fanny, who came to occupy the next house to Godwin in the Polygon. She was clever, enthusiastic and handsome, yet not a person in any measure fitted for the task of managing such a household, and supplying the place of a mother to the children—whom she did not like. But she fell in love with Godwin even before she had spoken to him; and as he made no steps towards the cultivation of it an acquaintance, Mrs Clairmont herself took the initiative. Godwin sometimes sat in the little balcony at his window; and here, one evening, Mrs Clairmont addressed him from her own—"Is it possible that I behold the immortal Godwin ?" To swallow flattery, however coarsely served, was always one of his weaknesses—nor did even this repel him. Under date of May 5th, when hard at work on his Life of Chaucer, the entry is underlined, “Meet Mrs Clairmont”after which her name constantly appears. The acquaintance rapidly developed, intercourse between the houses became very frequent, ending in marriage before the close of the year.
It was not a happy one. Mrs Clairmont was a querulous though always admiring wife, but she was a harsh and unsympathetic stepmother; and Jane Clairmont, her daughter, became the cause in after-years of much sorrow to Godwin's own daughter Mary, afterwards Mrs Shelley. But of this in its own place.
The diaries for this year show no variety in Godwin's regular life. His brothers find record at intervals. They were usually in want of money, and always were relieved from his own slender purse. The Wollstonecrafts renewed with him a somewhat fitful intercourse; the old friends whom he visited, and who visited him, remained almost unchanged; a few more acquaintances disappear, a few new ones are added.
Not all Mrs Godwin senr.'s letters are given.
But a large portion is presented because, spite of the aberrations in spelling, in a day when many ladies of her age spelt still worse, the sound common sense displayed is wholly independent of the accuracy of the language. And that Godwin could have such letters written to him places him in an amiable light. He was content to be a child still tof his mother, to be lectured at her will.
Mrs Godwin, sen., to William Godwin.
Jan. 1, 1801” [First written 18001.) "DEAR SON WILLIAM,—I do purpose in a few weeks to send the remaining part of Joe's Share to you, which is about £25 (now Wright's bond is paid), for you to take the managment of it for the benefit of his children, to put out. I think Mary and John have had all that can be expected of it, as I cannot give them anything by will, and whatever he may have promissed to do for them is all a hazard, as he may think he wants it for his own use. I think he can make a good shift without it. Suppose he has wholy cast of Mary, now she has a husband, though an Indolent one. I have not certainly heard William is got into the bluecoat School. Doth he do credit to it by improvment? I will give you notice when I send the money, and hope you will write also. Tell me what Harriot and Pheby are doing, and how John goes on. I hope he will stay his time, and behave so as to be respected by his master, and how your children do. I did not mean the snuffbox for a plaything for Mary. It is of value, but for you to take care of till she knows its value, and is told it was her grandfather's present to her grandmother. I hope for some good account of John, that he has not wasted his little. As to Hannah, she complains much; her expenses must be great, besides her lodgings being unoccupy'd half the year. She tells me Mr Hague, her good friend, is failed again : sure he must have missmanaged very greatly. I shall send you a Turkey this week, hope it