1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Godwin

George Ticknor; Journal Entry, 1819; Life, Letters, and Journals of George Ticknor (1876) 1:294.



Godwin is as far removed from everything feverish and exciting as if his head had never been filled with anything but geometry. He is now about sixty-five, stout, well-built, and unbroken by age, with a cool, dogged manner, exactly opposite to everything I had imagined of the author of "St. Leon" and "Caleb Williams." He lives on Snowhill, just about where Evelina's vulgar relations lived. His family is supported partly by the labors of his own pen and partly by those of his wife's, but chiefly by the profits of a shop for children's books, which she keeps and manages to considerable advantage. She is a spirited, active woman, who controls the house, I suspect, pretty well; and when I looked at Godwin, and saw with what cool obstinacy he adhered to everything he had once assumed, and what a cold selfishness lay at the bottom of his character, I felt a satisfaction in the thought that he had a wife who must sometimes give a start to his blood and a stir to his nervous system.

The true way, however, to see these people was to meet them all together, as I did once at dinner at Godwin's, and once at a convocation, or "Saturday Night Club," at Hunt's, where they felt themselves bound to show off and produce an effect; for then Lamb's gentle humor, Hunt's passion, and Curran's volubility, Hazlitt's sharpness and point, and Godwin's great head full of cold brains, all coming into contact and conflict, and agreeing in nothing but their common hatred of everything that has been more successful than their own works, made one of the most curious and amusing olla podrida I ever met.