10 October 1797

William Godwin to Mary Hays, [Little John Street], 10 October 1797.1


    You have remarked, I am told, that there are some letters written by you to my wife, that are not in the parcel I have returned to you. If you doubt my veracity, when I said that what I sent was all I was able to find, it would be idle in me to repeat the assertion.

     I am not determined as to returning some letters to me. It is true, that I have no motive respecting myself for detaining them. But the recalling them is such a breach of the principles of confidence & cordiality that holds society together, that I hesitate as to the affording it the least countenance. In the mean time I am resolved not to correspond with any one on such terms, & therefore, till you recal your request, I must beg leave to return any letters you shall write to me in future, unopened.

    I feel considerable kindness & sympathy for you. But, while you treat, not my principles (to call them the principles of an individual, would be to degrade them), but the principles that oppose shameless adultery & support decorum, as “false heroism & ridiculous philosophy,” & the conduct, which sentiments not unfriendly have led me to hold towards yourself, as “tyranny,” – shall I confess it? – I almost fear that much benefit is not likely to result from our intercourse.2

     I would willingly do anything in my power to soothe your painful feelings. I did not feel, till you thought proper to create it, that there was a breach between us. Your passionate answer to my kind observation on Tuesday, the fifth of September, “that we felt ourselves much obliged to you for your kindness, but that my wife had already every attendant necessary, & that therefore we should not find it requisite to trouble you,”3 I should probably, if you had thought proper, have forgotten. To convince you how confidently I expected your calling on me, let me remark, that I had laid aside separately some remembrances of my wife which I thought might be acceptable to you, & had determined, forgetting your behaviour of the Tuesday abovementioned, to receive you with every degree of kindness of which I was capable. The time, I believe, will come, when you will regret the sacrificing some of the most solid pleasures of life, to the gratification of an irritable temper, & a disposition upon the watch for offence.

                                 W Godwin

Oct. 10. 1797. 

1 MS Abinger c. 22, fols 60-61, Bodleian Library, Oxford; Brooks, Correspondence 465-66; Clemit, Letters 1.253-54.

2 Again, Godwin appears to be quoting from previous letters of Hays. 

3 Though Hays's earlier letter to Hugh Skeys implies she was present during Wollstonecraft's final days, Godwin suggests otherwise.