William St Clair

William St Clair welcomes the publication of William Godwin’s Letters and Diary

The Letters of William Godwin, Volume 1: 1778–1797


Oxford University Press 306pp £100 order from our bookshop

William Godwin’s Diary: Reconstructing a Social and Political Culture 1788–1836


Claire Clairmont, Mary Jane’s Daughter: New Correspondence with Claire’s Father



Without exception, it is fair to say, every one of William Godwin’s many books was intended not only to impart information but to engage the reader in a debate. Godwin also wrote many letters, often in answer to strangers, with the purpose of sharing experiences in what his age could regard unapologetically as an ongoing search for truth. As Godwin wrote to Shelley (one of the many readers of An Enquiry into Political Justice who had asked to meet him), the life of a thinking man ‘is a series of Retractations’. Since Godwin kept drafts of some letters as he was composing them and made copies of others before he sent them, and given that he and his family later retrieved many from the recipients, the corpus is extraordinarily full, with around 1,200 known to survive.

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