1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Godwin

Mary Shelley to John Murray, 4 May 1832; Smiles, A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir of John Murray (1891) 2:328-29.



May 4th, 1832.

I do not know how to thank you sufficiently for the very agreeable presents you have made me and my friend. You are quite magnificent in your generosity, and nothing can be more welcome than your books.

I am afraid I shall scarcely meet all your wishes in the intended notes. The subject of Lord Byron's adventures is greatly exhausted; and, besides, the names of ladies are scarcely fair subjects for publication. However, I will do what I can. Of course you will take care that I am not brought forward or named, as you are aware how sedulously I try to keep in the background. By the bye, I must mention that early next month I leave town for some little time, so that I should be glad that Mr. Finden should see me during the course of this present one.

May I, without intruding on you, mention another subject? You apparently consider the closing of your "Family Library" as conclusive, on the subject of my father's writing to you. Is this necessary? You are but too well aware of the evil days on which literature is fallen, and how difficult it is for a man, however gifted, whose existence depends on his pen, to make one engagement succeed another with sufficient speed to answer the calls of his situation. Nearly all our literati have found but one resource in this — which is in the ample scope afforded by periodicals. A kind of literary pride has prevented my father from mingling in these; and, never having published anything anonymously, he feels disinclined to enter on a, to him, new career.

I feel persuaded that he would render his proposed "Lives of the Necromancers" a deeply interesting and valuable work. There is a life and energy in his writings which always exalts them above those of his contemporaries. If this subject, which seems to me a fortunate one, does not please you, there are many others which would offer themselves, were he certain that you would accede to him and give him that encouragement, which he has been accustomed hitherto to find. He had thought of the "Lives of the English Philosophers." I should certainly be glad that the publisher of Byron and Moore, and all the best writers, added the name of Godwin to the list; and if upon consideration you find that your views do not oppose an engagement with him, you will perhaps invite him to further communication on the subject.

Excuse my pressing this point, which, after all, must be decided by the laws of expediency; and, believe me,

Yours truly and obliged,

MARY SHELLEY.