The first volume of William Godwin's letters reflected the origins and impact of his great philosophical work, An Enquiry concerning Political Justice, and showed him at the height of his influence and reputation. This second volume (1798-1805) reveals a less familiar person in different surroundings: a man still well-connected, attracting new friends and disciples, but increasingly embattled as a public intellectual, as a political radical, and as a professional author. The volume includes scores of texts newly transcribed from the original manuscripts and given scholarly annotation for the first time. Godwin was not only a speculative philosopher but also a risk-taking entrepreneur. The letters show him responding to changes in public mood, seeking compromise in his philosophical commitments, and remaking himself as the author of novels, plays, biographies, and children's books. They trace the fragmentation of his intellectual circle of the 1790s and the building of new alliances. They include an eye-witness account of the condition of Ireland on the eve of the 1800 Act of Union.
They follow his quest, in the wake of the death of his first wife Mary Wollstonecraft, to find a new life-companion and mother for his two young children. Godwin's letters reflect the cultural history of his times, and throw light on many other literary, political, and artistic figures. They record irreplaceable losses, both public and private, and trace new beginnings in his intellectual and literary development, in his commercial ventures, and in his social and domestic life.
Publisher: Oxford University Press