1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Godwin

John Scott, in "Living Authors: Godwin — chiefly as a Writer of Novels" London Magazine 2 (August 1820) 163.



Some minds find their chief pleasure in variety: others in completeness: others again in intensity. Mr. Godwin's is of the latter class. He regards the passions as divided and determinate powers, and he puts them in action, as they try the ordinance at Woolwich, not from a desire to forward any certain plan of general operations, but to essay and strain their own strength, the energy of their resistance, and of their violence. For the harmony of union he seems to have little feeling: to the softening and reacting springs of conduct; the modifying impulses; the preserving, and redeeming guards and checks; in short, to all that lessens dead weight, and breaks collision in the moral machinery of the world, he is almost insensible. He delights in simple principles, and undivided forces. His instinct is that of the bloodhound: he will follow on one track with wonderful vigour, and a perseverance that may be termed remorseless; but except for the single scent which has excited him to the chase, he has neither observation nor sensibility. Admiring, therefore, as we do, the genius of this author, we nevertheless think him a painful writer: we rise with the heartache from his works. The motto to his Mandeville is suitable enough for all his novels: "and the waters of that fountain were bitter; and they said, let the name of it be called Marah." We can conceive nothing more truly appalling than a world peopled on his system.