1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Godwin

Stephen Jones, in Biographia Dramatica; or, A Companion to the Playhouse (1812) 1:280-81.



WILLIAM GODWIN is the son of Mr. John Godwin, who was minister of a dissenting congregation at Guestwick, a village in Norfolk. A schoolmaster in the neighbourhood gave him the first rudiments of education; after which young Godwin was removed to Norwich, and placed under the care of a private tutor. From thence he went to the dissenter's college at Hoxton, near London, where he remained five years under the tuition of Drs. Kippis and Rees.

On his leaving the college, in 1778, he entered on the office of a dissenting minister; in which he continued four years, residing chiefly at Stowmarket, in Suffolk, where he had a congregation. In 1782, he determined on commencing author by profession, and removed to London, where he employed himself for about ten years, chiefly in obscure and temporary labours.

At the latter end of 1792, or the beginning of 1793, Mr. Godwin published his Political Justice, 4to. In 1795 came out a second edition, in 2 vols. 8vo; and a third in 1797. His next work was a popular novel, called Caleb Williams, published in 1794; reprinted in 1795, and again in 1797. In 1797 also appeared, The Enquirer, a volume of miscellaneous essays; and it was early in this year that Mr. Godwin married Mary Wollstonecraft, the well-known author of The Rights of Woman; but the domestic happiness which he had, no doubt, promised himself from this union, was early to terminate: the lady dying in the September of the same year. In 1799, Mr. Godwin published a novel, called St. Leon, which had considerable success; but which elicited, from some witty wag, an amusing counterpart, entitled St. Godwin. In 1803, appeared the Life of Chaucer, 2 vols. 4to. In 1805, our author gave the public another novel, in 3 vols. called Fleetwood; or, The New Man of Feeling. But his title to a place in these volumes Mr. Godwin derives from the following two dramas: 1. Antonio. T. 8vo. 1800. 2. Faulkner. T. 8vo. 1808.