1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Godwin

Anna Seward to Mrs. M. Powys, 1 June 1796; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 4:211.



Have you read Caleb Williams? — that singular production — a novel without love, or intrigue, on the part of the three principal male characters, and without ruined castles, and haunted galleries; yet, where expectation is excited to breathless ardour, and where the terrible Graces extend their petrifying wands. The style of this extraordinary work is manly, compressed, animated, and impressive, in a degree which vies with that of the best writers of this period, in which prose-excellence has attained its ne-plus-ultra. I am sorry to observe that the tendency of this work is not good. We find it an indirect libel upon the laws and constitution of Great Britain.