5 October 1797

William Godwin to Mary Hays, [Little John Street], 5 October 1797.1 


     With this note you will receive all the letters & notes of yours addressed to my wife, that I have been able to find, & uninspected, as you desired. I do not however wish to deceive you; you have a very inaccurate notion of the confidence that, between minds of an affectionate cast, subsists in the tender relation from which I have been so deplorably cut off, if you can suppose that my wife did not show me so much of the inclosed letters as relates to myself. But you are still more ignorant of my character, if you imagine that I harbour the smallest displeasure or resentment, at any expressions that may have fallen from you in the moment of wounded pride. 

     I have not inclosed your letters to myself, & it is because I think, upon more reflection, you will not desire that I should. I always entertain, I cannot help it, an ill opinion of a person who employs a precaution of that sort. It was the first thing that fully [decided] my judgment of miss Pinkerton.2 In the course of human affairs we are obliged to make this sort of deposit of our minds with the persons with whom we have much intercourse. He that shrinks from this species of confidence must, as I should think, have a very bad heart. I am sure it is a thought that could not harbour with a person of a generous soul.  The case is different, when the individual to whom [your?] letters were identified is dead; & I do not blame your conduct in that article. The other letters I detain for the present, not from any motive that respects myself, but to give you time to reconsider the subject.

     The letter which now lies before me, is not the only letter I have lately seen of yours, in which you trumpet forth the praises of disingenuousness. I am happy, when I see a person set up for a preacher of immorality, to find them doing it in terms that must be repugnant to the feelings of every uncorrupted heart. I can truly say that no confidence you ever placed in me, lowered you in my esteem. I feel for disappointment, & sympathise with distress. But I have been less pleased with you, since you became in your own opinion, a considerable author, & a person “not altogether insignificant.”3 To speak plainly, I think you have forgotten a little of that simplicity & mildness, which so well becomes a woman & a human creation.

     But, though you have in this respect become a little less pleasing to me, I trust in your own good sense to call you back to nature, as I can still respect your good qualities, without being blind to your faults. There has been some misapprehension between us lately about visits. I received what I thought was an intimation that you intended to call on me, & at present I had rather be visited than visit. This put out of my mind any idea of paying the first visit. Do not let us stand upon little punctilios, &, if you have any satisfaction & pleasure in seeing me, do not be prevented by those little suspicions & umbrages, which, if not carefully watched, are apt to creep in upon & discolour the mind. I am your friend. I thank you for the sympathy I am sure [you] have felt for my distress, though it has been silent.

                                       W Godwin


Oct. 5. 1797.

1 MS Abinger c. 22, fols 58-59, Bodleian Library, Oxford;  Brooks, Correspondence 464-65; Clemit, Letters 1.252-53.

2 Either N. Pinkerton or A. Pinkerton (both names appear in Godwin's diary during the summer of 1797, in which a Miss Pinkerton created some turmoil within the Godwin household, enough that Hays was aware of the situation and knowledgeable of Miss Pinkerton. See Shelley and his Circle, 1773-1822, ed. Kenneth Neill Cameron (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1961), vol. 1, p. 183.

3 Godwin is probably quoting from one of Hays's previous letters.