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editions. In a twelvemonth afterwards appeared his novel of Things as they Are, or the Adventures of Caleb Williams. His object here was also to inculcate his peculiar doctrines, and to comprehend ‘a general review of the modes of domestic and unrecorded despotism, by which man becomes the destroyer of man.’ His hero, Williams, tells his own tale of suffering and of wrong—of innocence persecuted and reduced to the brink of death and infamy by aristocratic power, and by tyrannical or partially-administered laws; but his story is so fraught with interest and energy, that we lose sight of the political object or satire, and think only of the characters and incidents that pass in review before us. The imagination of the author overpowered his philosophy; he was a greater inventor than logician. His character of Falkland is one of the finest in the whole range of English fictitious composition. The opinions of Godwin were soon brought still more prominently forward. His friends, Holcroft, Thelwall, Horne Tooke, and others, were thrown into the Tower on a charge of high treason. The novelist had joined none of their societies, and however obnoxious to those in power, had not rendered himself amenable to the laws of his country.* Godwin, however, was ready with his pen. Judge Eyre, in his charge to the grand jury, had laid down principles very different from those of our author, and the latter instantly published Cursory Strictures on the judge's charge, so ably written that the pamphlet is said to have mainly led to the acquittal of the accused parties. In 1796 Mr Godwin issued a series of essays on education, manners, and literature, entitled The Enquirer. In the following year he married Mary Wollstonecraft, author of The Vindication of the Rights of Woman, &c. a lady in many respects as remarkable as her husband, and who died after having given birth to a daughter (Mrs Shelley) still more justly distinguished. Godwin's contempt of the ordinary modes of thinking and acting in this country was displayed by this marriage. His wife brought with her a natural daughter, the fruit of a former connexion. She had lived with Godwin for some time before their marriage; and ‘the principal motive,’ he says, “for complying with the ceremony, was the circumstance of Mary's being in a state of pregnancy.’ Such an open disregard of the ties and principles that sweeten life and adorn society astonished even Godwin's philosophic and reforming friends. But whether acting in good or in bad taste, he seems always to have been fearless and sincere. He wrote Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (who died in about half a year after her marriage), and in this curious work all the details of her life and conduct are minutely related. We are glad,
* If we may credit a curious entry in Sir Walter Scott's
diary, Godwin must have been early mixed up with the Eng
lish Jacobins. “Canning's conversion from popular opinions," says Scott, “was strangely brought round. While he was studying in the Temple, and rather entertaining revolutionary opinions, Godwin sent to say that he was coming to breakfast with him, to speak on a subject of the highest importance. Canning knew little of him, but received his visit, and learned to his astonishment that, in expectation of a new order of things, the English Jacobins designed to place him, Canning, at the head of the revolution. He was much struck, and asked time to think what course he should take; and having thought the matter over, he went to Mr Pitt, and made the AntiJacobin confession of faith, in which he persevered until —. Canning himself mentioned this to Sir W. Knighton upon occasion of giving a place in the Charter-house, of some tem pounds a-year, to Godwin's brother. He could scarce do less for one who had offered him the dictator's curule chair.’—Lockhart's Life of Scott. This occurrence must have taken place before 1793, as in that year Canning was introduced by Pitt into parliament.
after this mental pollution, to meet Godwin again as a novelist—
He bears no token of the sabler streams,
In 1799 appeared his St Leon, a story of the ‘mira
culous class,’ as he himself states, and designed to mix human feelings and passions with incredible situations. His hero attains the possession of the philosopher's stone, and secures exhaustless wealth by the art of transmuting metals into gold, and at the same time he learns the secret of the elirir vitat, by which he has the power of renewing his youth. These are, indeed, “incredible situations;' but the romance has many attractions—splendid description and true pathos. Its chief defect is an excess of the terrible and marvellous. In 1800 Mr Godwin produced his unlucky tragedy of Antonio; in 1801 Thoughts on Dr Parr's Spital Sermon, being a reply to some attacks made upon him, or rather on his code of morality, by Parr, Mackintosh, and others. In 1803 he brought out a voluminous Life of Chaucer, in two quarto volumes. With Mr Godwin the great business of this world was to write books, and whatever subject he selected, he treated it with a due sense of its importance, and pursued it into all its ramifications with intense ardour and application. The “Life of Chaucer' was ridiculed by Sir Walter Scott in the Edinburgh Review, in consequence of its enormous bulk and its extraneous dissertations, but it is creditable to the author's taste and research. The student of our early literature will find in it many interesting facts connected with a chivalrous and romantic period of our history— much sound criticism, and a fine relish for true poetry. In 1804 Mr Godwin produced his novel of Fleetwood, or the New Man of Feeling. The title was unfortunate, as reminding the reader of the old Man of Feeling, by far the most interesting and amiable of the two. Mr Godwin's hero is self-willed and capricious, a morbid egotist, whose irritability and frantic outbursts of passion move contempt rather than sympathy. Byron has said—
Romances paint at full length people's wooings, But only give a bust of marriages.
This cannot be said of Mr Godwin. Great part of Fleetwood is occupied with the hero's matrimonial troubles and afflictions; but they only exemplify the noble poet's farther observation—“no one cares for matrimonial cooings.' The better parts of the novel consist of the episode of the Macneills, a tale of family pathos, and some detached descriptions of Welsh scenery. For some years Mr Godwin was little heard of. He had married again, and, as a more certain means of maintenance, had opened a bookseller's shop in London, under the assumed name of “Edward Baldwin.” In this situation he ushered forth a number of children's books, small histories and other compilations, some of them by himself. Charles Lamb mentions an English Grammar, in which Hazlitt assisted. He tried another tragedy, Faulkner, in 1807, but it was unsuccessful. Next year he published an Essay on Sepulchres, written in a fine meditative spirit, with great beauty of expression; and in 1815 Lives of Edward and John Phillips, the nephews of Milton. The latter is also creditable to the taste and research of the author, and illustrates our poetical history about the time of the Restoration. In 1817 Mr Godwin again entered the arena of fiction. He had paid a visit to Scotland, and concluded with Constable for another novel, Mandeville, a tale of the times of Cromwell. The style of this work is measured and stately, and it abounds in that moral * in 5
which the author delighted, but often carried beyond truth and nature. The vindictive feelings delineated in “Mandeville' are pushed to a revolting extreme. Passages of energetic and beautiful composition—reflective and descriptive—are to be found in the novel; and we may remark, that as the author advanced in years, he seems to have cultivated more sedulously the graces of language and diction. The staple of his novels, however, was taken from the depths of his own mind—not from extensive surveys of mankind or the universe; and it was obvious that the oft-drawn-upon fountain began to dry up, notwithstanding the luxuriance of the foliage that shaded it. We next find Mr Godwin combating the opinions of Malthus upon population (1820), and then setting about an elaborate History of the Commonwealth. The great men of that era were exactly suited to his taste. Their resolute energy of character, their overthrow of the monarchy, their republican enthusiasm and strange notions of faith and the saints, were well adapted to fire his imagination and stimulate his research. The history extended to four large volumes, which were published at intervals between 1824 and 1828. It is evident that Mr Godwin tasked himself to produce authorities for all he advanced. He took up, as might be expected, strong opinions; but in striving to be accurate and minute, he became too specific and chronological for the interest of his narrative. It was truly said that the style of his history “creeps and hitches in dates and authorities. In 1830 Mr Godwin published Cloudesley, a tale, in three volumes. Reverting to his first brilliant performance as a novelist, he made his new hero, like Caleb Williams, a person of humble origin, and he arrays him against his patron; but there the parallel ends. The elastic vigour, the verisimilitude, the crowding incidents, the absorbing interest, and the overwhelming catastrophe of the first novel, are not to be found in ‘Cloudesley.’ There is even little delineation of character. Instead of these we have fine English, ‘clouds of reflections without any new occasion to call them forth; an expanded flow of words without a single pointed remark.’ The next production of this veteran author was a metaphysical treatise, Thoughts on Man, &c.; and his last work (1834) a compilation, entitled Lives of the Necromancers. In his later years Mr Godwin enjoyed a small government office, yeoman usher of the Exchequer, which was conferred upon him by Earl Grey's ministry. In the residence attached to this appointment, in New Palace Yard, he terminated his long and laborious scholastic life on the 7th of April 1836. No man ever panted more ardently, or toiled more heroically, for literary fame; and we think that, before he closed his eyes, he must have been conscious that he had “left something so written to after-times, as they should not willingly let it die.’ “Caleb Williams' is unquestionably the most interesting and original of Mr Godwin's novels, and is altogether a work of extraordinary art and power. It has the plainness of narrative and the apparent reality of the fictions of Defoe or Swift, but is far more pregnant with thought and feeling, and touches far higher sympathies and associations. The incidents and characters are finely developed and contrasted, an intense earnestness pervades the whole, and the story never flags for a moment. The lowness of some of the scenes never inspires such disgust as to repel the reader, and the awful crime of which Falkland is guilty is allied to so much worth and nobleness of nature, that we are involuntarily led to regard him with feelings of exalted pity and commiseration. A brief glance at
the story will show the materials with which Godwin “framed his spell.” Caleb Williams, an intelligent young peasant, is taken into the house of Mr Falkland, the lord of the manor, in the capacity of amanuensis, or private secretary. His master is kind and compassionate, but stately and solemn in manner. An air of mystery hangs about him ; his address is cold, and his sentiments impenetrable; and he breaks out occasionally into fits of causeless jealousy and tyrannical violence. One day Williams surprises him in a closet, where he heard a deep groan expressive of intolerable anguish, then the lid of a trunk hastily shut, and the noise of fastening a lock. Finding he was discovered, Falkland flies into a transport of rage, and threatens the intruder with instant death if he does not withdraw. The astonished youth retires, musing on this strange scene. His curiosity is awakened, and he learns part of Falkland's history from an old confidential steward—how that his master was once the gayest of the gay, and had achieved honour and fame
abroad, till on his return he was persecuted with a
malignant destiny. His nearest neighbour, Tyrrel,
a man of estate equal to his own, but of coarse and
violent mind and temper, became jealous of Falkland's superior talents and accomplishments, and conceived a deadly enmity at him. The series of events detailing the progress of this mutual hatred (particularly the episode of Miss Melville) is developed with great skill, but all is creditable to the high-minded and chivalrous Falkland. The conduct of Tyrrel becomes at length so atrocious, that the country gentlemen shun his society. He intrudes himself, however, into a rural assembly, an altercation ensues, and Falkland indignantly upbraids him, and bids him begone. Amidst the hootings and reproaches of the assembly, Tyrrel retires, but soon returns inflamed with liquor, and with one blow of his muscular arm levels Falkland to the ground. His violence is repeated, till he is again forced to retreat. This complication of ignominy, base, humiliating, and public, stung the proud and sensitive Falkland to the soul; he left the room ; but one other event closed the transactions of that memorable evening—Tyrrel was found dead in the street, having been murdered (stabbed with a knife) at the distance of a few yards from the assembly house. From this crisis in Falkland's history commenced his gloomy and unsociable melancholy— life became a burden to him. A private investigation was made into the circumstances of the murder: but Falkland, after a lofty and eloquent denial of all knowledge of the crime, was discharged with every circumstance of honour, and amidst the plaudits of the people. A few weeks afterwards, a peasant, named Hawkins, and his son were taken up on some slight suspicion, tried, condemned, and executed for the murder. Justice was satisfied, but
changed his resolution, and ordered him to withdraw. Next day Falkland disclosed the secret. “I am the blackest of villains; I am the murderer of Tyrrel; I am the assassin of the Hawkinses." He made Williams swear never to disclose the secret, on pain of death or worse. “I am,' said Falkland, ‘as much the fool of fame as ever; I cling to it as my last breath : though I be the blackest of villains, I will leave behind me a spotless and illustrious name: there is no crime so malignant, no scene of blood so horrible, in which that object cannot engage me." Williams took the oath and submitted. His spirit, however, revolted at the servile submission that was required of him, and in time he escaped from the house. He was speedily taken, and accused at the instance of Falkland of abstracting valuable property from the trunk he had forced open on the day of the fire. He was cast into prison. The interior of the prison, and its wretched inmates, are then described with great minuteness. Williams, to whom the confinement became intolerable, escaped. He is first robbed and then sheltered by a band of robbers—he is forced to flee for his life—assumes different disguises—is again in prison, and again escapes; but misery and injustice meet him at every step. He had innocently fastened on himself a second enemy, a villain named Gines, who from a highwayman had become a thief-taker; and the incessant exertions of this fellow, tracking him from place to place like a blood-hound, are related with uncommon spirit and effect. The whole of these adventures possess an enchaining interest, and cannot be perused without breathless anxiety. The innocence of Williams, and the manifestations of his character—artless, buoyant, and fast maturing under this stern discipline—irresistibly attract and carry forward the reader. The connection of Falkland and Williams is at last wound up in one scene of overpowering interest, in which the latter comes forward publicly as the accuser of his former master. The place is the hall of a magistrate of the metropolitan town of Falkland's county.
[Concluding Scene of Caleb Williams.]
I can conceive of no shock greater than that I received from the sight of Mr Falkland. His appearance on the last occasion on which we met had been haggard, ghost-like, and wild, energy in his gestures, and phrensy in his aspect. It was now the appearance of a corpse. He was brought in in a chair, unable to stand, fatigued and almost destroyed by the journey he had just taken. His visage was colourless ; his #. destitute of motion, almost of life. His head reclined upon his bosom, except that now and then he lifted it up, and opened his eyes with a languid glance, immediately after which he sank back into his former apparent insensibility. He seemed not to have three hours to live. He had kept his chamber for several weeks, but the summons of the magistrate had been delivered to him at his bedside, his orders respecting letters and written papers being so peremptory that no one dared to disobey them. Upon reading the paper, he was seized with a very dangerous fit; but as soon as he recovered, he insisted upon being conveyed, with all practicable expedition, to the place of appointment. Falkland, in the most helpless state, was still Falkland, firm in command, and capable to extort obedience from every one that approached him. What a sight was this to me! Till the moment that Falkland was presented to my view, my breast was steeled to pity. I thought that I had coolly entered into the reason of the case (passion, in a state of solemn and omnipotent vehemence, always appears to be coolness to him in whom it domineers), and
that I had determined impartially and justly. I believed that, if Mr Falkland were permitted to persist in his schemes, we must both of us be completely wretched. I believed that it was in my power, by the resolution I had formed, to throw my share of this wretchedness from me, and that his could scarcely be increased. It appeared, therefore, to my mind to be a mere piece of equity and justice, such as an impartial spectator would desire, that one person should be miserable in preference to two, that one person, rather than two, should be incapacitated from acting his part, and contributing his share to the general welfare. I thought that in this business I had risen superior to personal considerations, and judged with a total neglect of the suggestions of selfregard. It is true Mr Falkland was mortal: but notwithstanding his apparent decay, he might live long. Ought I to submit to waste the best years of my life in my present wretched situation? He had declared that his reputation should be for ever inviolate; this was his ruling passion, the thought that worked his soul to madness. He would probably, therefore, leave a legacy of persecution to be received by me, from the hands of Gines, or some other villain equally atrocious, when he should himself be no more. Now or never was the time for me to redeem my future life from endless wo. But all these fine-spun reasonings vanished before the object that was now presented to me. Shall I trample upon a man thus dreadfully reduced Shall I point my animosity against one whom the system of nature has brought down to the grave? Shall I poison, with sounds the most intolerable to his ears, the last moments of a man like Falkland It is impossible. There must have been some dreadful mistake in the train of argument that persuaded me to be the author of this hateful scene. There must have been a better and more magnanimous remedy to the evils under which I groaned. It was too late. The mistake I had committed was now gone, past all power of recall. Here was Falkland, solemnly brought before a magistrate to answer to a charge of murder. Here I stood, having already declared myself the author of the charge, gravely and sacredly pledged to support it. This was Iny situation; and thus situated I was called upon immediately to act. My whole frame shook. I would eagerly have consented that that moment should have been the last of my existence. I, however, believed that the conduct now most indispensably incumbent on me was to lay the emotions of my soul naked before my hearers. I looked first at Mr Falkland, and then at the magistrate and attendants, and then at Mr Falkland again. My voice was suffocated with agony. I began:-‘Would to God it were possible for me to retire from this scene without uttering another word I would brave the consequences—I would submit to any imputation of cowardice, falsehood, and profligacy, rather than add to the weight of misfortune with which Mr Falkland is overwhelmed. But the situation, and the demands of Mr Falkland himself, forbid me. He, in compassion for whose fallen state I would willingly forget every interest of my own, would compel me to accuse, that he might enter upon his justification. I will confess every sentiment of my heart. Mr Falkland well knows—I affirm it in his presence—how unwillingly I have proceeded to this extremity. I have reverenced him; he was worthy of reverence. From the first moment I saw him, I conceived the most ardent admiration. He condescended to encourage me; I attached myself to him with the fulness of affection. He was unhappy; I exerted myself with youthful curiosity to discover the secret of his wo. This was the beginning of misfortune. What shall I say? He was indeed the murderer of Tyrrell He suffered the Hawkinses to be *.
knowing that they were innocent, and that he alone was guilty! After successive surmises, after various indiscretions on my part, and indications on his, he at length confided to me at full the fatal tale ! Mr Falkland! I most solemnly conjure you to recollect yourself! Did I ever prove myself unworthy of your confidence? The secret was a most painful burthen to me: it was the extremest folly that led me unthinkingly to gain possession of it; but I would have died a thousand deaths rather than betray it. It was the jealousy of your own thoughts, and the weight that hung upon your mind, that led you to watch my motions, and conceive alarm from every particle of my conduct. You began in confidence—why did you not continue in confidence? The evil that resulted from my original imprudence would then have been comparatively little. You threatened me: did I then betray you ? A word from my lips at that time would have freed me from your threats for ever. I bore them for a considerable period, and at last quitted your service, and threw myself a fugitive upon the world, in silence. Why did you not suffer me to depart You brought me back by stratagem and violence, and wantonly accused me of an enormous felony | Did I then mention a syllable of the murder, the secret of which was in my possession Where is the man that has suffered more from the injustice of society than I have done I was accused of a villany that my heart abhorred. I was sent to jail. I will not enumerate the horrors of my prison, the lightest of which would make the heart of humanity shudder. I looked forward to the gallows! Young, ambitious, fond of life, innocent as the child unborn, I looked forward to the gallows. I believed that one word of resolute accusation against my patron would deliver me : yet I was silent; I armed myself with patience, uncertain whether it were better to accuse or to die. Did this show me a man unworthy to be trusted I determined to break out of prison. With infinite difficulty, and repeated miscarriages, I at length effected my purpose. Instantly a proclamation, with a hundred guineas' reward, was issued for apprehending me. I was obliged to take shelter among the refuse of mankind, in the midst of a gang of thieves. I encountered the most imminent peril of my life when I entered this retreat, and when I quitted it. Immediately after, I travelled almost the whole length of the kingdom, in poverty and distress, in hourly danger of being retaken and manacled like a felon. I would have fled my country; I was prevented. I had recourse to various disguises; I was innocent, and yet was compelled to as many arts and subterfuges as could have been entailed on the worst of villains. In London I was as much harassed, and as repeatedly alarmed, as I had been in my flight through the country. Did all these persecutions persuade me to put an end to my silence? No : I suffered them with patience and submission; I did not make one attempt to retort them upon their author. I fell at last into the hands of the miscreants. In this terrible situation I, for the first time, attempted, by turning informer, to throw the weight from myself. Happily for me the London magistrate listened to my tale with insolent contempt. I soon,
and long, repented of my rashness, and rejoiced in my miscarriage. I acknowledge that in various ways Mr Falkland showed humanity towards me during this period. He would have prevented my going to prison at first ; he contributed to my subsistence during my detention ; he had no share in the pursuit that had been set on foot against me: he at length procured my discharge when brought forward for trial. But a great part of his forbearance was unknown to me; I supposed him to be my unrelenting pursuer.
I could not forget that, whoever heaped calamities on
me in the sequel, they all originated in his forged
accusation. The prosecution against me for felony
was now at an end. Why were not my sufferings permitted to terminate then, and I allowed to hide my weary head in some obscure yet tranquil retreat? Had I not sufficiently proved my constancy and fidelity Would not a compromise in this situation have been most wise and most secure? But the restless and jealous anxiety of Mr Falkland would not permit him to repose the least atom of confidence. The only compromise that he proposed was, that, with my own hand, I should sign myself a villain. I refused this proposal, and have ever since been driven from place to place, deprived of peace, of honest fame, even of
bread. For a long time I persisted in the resolution
that no emergency should convert me into the assailant. ment and impatience, and the hateful mistake into which I fell has produced the present scene. I now see that mistake in all its enormity. I am sure that if I had opened my heart to Mr Falkland, if I had told to him privately the tale that I have now been
telling, he could not have resisted my reasonable
demand. After all his precautions, he must ultimately have depended upon my forbearance. Could he be sure, that if I were at last worked up to disclose everything I knew, and to enforce it with all the energy I could exert, I should obtain no credit? If he must in every case be at my mercy, in which mode ought he to have sought his safety—in conciliation, or in inexorable cruelty? Mr Falkland is of a noble nature. Yes! in spite of the catastrophe of Tyrrel, of the miserable end of the Hawkinses, and of all that I have myself suffered, I affirm that he has qualities of the most admirable kind. It is therefore impossible that he could have resisted a frank and fervent expostulation, the frankness and the fervour in which the whole soul was poured out. I despaired while it was yet time to have made the just experiment; but my despair was criminal, was treason against the sovereignty of truth. I have told a plain and unadulterated tale. I came hither to curse, but I remain to bless. I came to accuse, but am compelled to applaud. I proclaim to all the world that Mr Falkland is a man worthy of affection and kindness, and that I am myself the basest and most odious of mankind Never
In an evil hour I at last listened to my resent
will I forgive myself the iniquity of this day. The
memory will always haunt me, and embitter every hour of my existence. In thus acting, I have been a murderer—a cool, deliberate, unfeeling murderer. I have said what my accursed precipitation has obliged me to say. Do with me as you please. I ask no favour. Death would be a kindness compared to what I feel !” Such were the accents dictated by my remorse. I
poured them out with uncontrollable impetuosity, for
my heart was pierced, and I was compelled to give vent to its anguish. Every one that heard me was petrified with astonishment. Every one that heard me was melted into tears. They could not resist the ardour with which I praised the great qualities of Falkland; they manifested their sympathy in the tokens of my penitence. How shall I describe the feelings of this unfortunate man Before I began, he seemed sunk and debilitated, incapable of any strenuous impression. When I mentioned the murder, I could perceive in him an involuntary shuddering, though it was counteracted, partly by the feebleness of his frame, and partly by the energy of his mind. This was an allegation he expected, and he had endeavoured to prepare himself for it. But there was much of what F. of which he had had no previous conception. When I expressed the anguish of my mind, he seemed at first startled and alarmed, lest this should be a new expedient to gain credit to my tale. His indignation against me was great for having retained all my resentment towards him, thus, as it might be, in the
last hour of his existence. It was increased when he discovered me, as he supposed, using a pretence of liberality and sentiment to give new edge to my hostility. But as I went on, he could no longer resist. He saw my sincerity; he was penetrated with my grief and compunction. He rose from his seat, supported by the attendants, and—to my infinite astonishment—threw himself into my arms! “Williams,” said he, “you have conquered! I see too late the greatness and elevation of your mind. I confess that it is to my fault, and not yours, that it is to the excess of jealousy that was ever burning in my bosom that I owe my ruin. I could have resisted any plan of malicious accusation you might have brought against me. But I see that the artless and manly story you have told, has carried conviction to every hearer. All my prospects are concluded. All that I most ardently desired is for ever frustrated. I have spent a life of the basest cruelty to cover one act of momentary vice, and to protect myself against the prejudices of my species. I stand now completely detected. My name will be consecrated to infamy, while your heroism, your patience, and your virtues, will be for ever admired. You have inflicted on me the most fatal of all mischiefs, but I bless the hand that wounds me. And now’—turning to the magistrate—‘ and now, do with me as you please. I am prepared to suffer all the vengeance of the law. You cannot inflict on me more than I deserve. You cannot hate me more than I hate myself. I am the most execrable of all villains. I have for many years (I know not how long) dragged on a miserable existence in insupportable pain. I am at last, in recompense for all my labours and my crimes, dismissed from it with the disappointment of my only remaining hope, the destruction of that for the sake of which alone I consented to exist. It was worthy of such a life that it should continue just long enough to witness this final overthrow. If, however, you wish to punish me, you must be speedy in your justice ; for as reputation was the blood that warmed my heart, so I feel that death and infamy must seize me togethers’ I record the praises bestowed on me by Falkland, not because I deserve them, but because they serve to aggravate the baseness of my cruelty. He survived but three days this dreadful scene. I have been his
murderer. It was fit that he should praise my patience,
who has fallen a victim, life and fame, to my precipitation It would have been merciful, in comparison, if I had planted a dagger in his heart. He would have thanked me for my kindness. But atrocious, execrable wretch that I have been, I wantonly inflicted on him an anguish a thousand times worse than death. Meanwhile I endure the penalty of my crime. His figure is ever in imagination before me. Waking or sleeping, I still behold him. He seems mildly to expostulate with me for my unfeeling behaviour. I live the devoted victim of conscious reproach. Alas! I am the same Caleb Williams that so short a time ago boasted that, however great were the calamities I endured, I was still innocent. Such has been the result of a project I formed for delivering myself from the evils that had so long attended me. I thought that if Falkland were dead, I should return once again to all that makes life worth possessing. I thought that if the guilt of Falkland were established, fortune and the world would smile upon my efforts. Both these events are accomplished, and it is now only that I am truly miserable. Why should my reflections perpetually centre upon myself?—self, an overweening regard to which has been the source of my errors' Falkland, I will think only of thee, and from that thought will draw everfresh nourishment for my sorrows One generous, one disinterested tear, I will consecrate to thy ashes! A
nobler spirit lived not among the sons of men. Thy
intellectual powers were truly sublime, and thy bosom burned with a godlike ambition. But of what use are talents and sentiments in the corrupt wilderness of human society It is a rank and rotten soil, from which every finer shrub draws poison as it grows. All that, in a happier field and a purer air, would expand into virtue and germinate into usefulness, is thus converted into henbane and deadly nightshade.
Falkland I thou enteredst upon thy career with the purest and most laudable intentions. But thou imbibedst the poison of chivalry with thy earliest youth ; and the base and low-minded envy that met thee on thy return to thy native seats, operated with this poison to hurry thee into madness. Soon, too soon, by this fatal coincidence, were the blooming hopes of thy youth blasted for ever! From that moment thou only continuedst to live to the phantom of departed honour. From that moment thy benevolence was, in a great measure, turned into rankling jealousy and inexorable precaution. Year after year didst thou spend in this miserable project of imposture; and only at last continuedst to live long enough to see, by my misjudging and abhorred intervention, thy closing hope disappointed, and thy death accompanied with the foulest disgrace?
Sir Walter Scott has objected to what may be termed the master incident in Caleb Williams, and calls it an instance of the author's coarseness and bad taste; namely, that a gentleman passionately addicted to the manners of ancient chivalry should become a midnight assassin when an honourable revenge was in his power. Mr Godwin might have defended himself by citing the illustrious critic's own cxample: the forgery by Marmion is less consistent with the manners of chivalry than the assassination by Falkland. Without the latter, the novel could have had little interest—it is the key. stone of the arch. Nor does it appear so unsuited to the character of the hero, who, though smit with a romantic love of fame and honour, is supposed to have lived in modern times, and has been wound up to a pitch of phrensy by the public brutality of Tyrrel. The deed was instantaneous— the knife, he says, fell in his way. There was no time for reflection, nor was Tyrrel a person whom he could think of meeting on equal terms in open combat. He was a moisome pest and nuisance, despatched in a moment of fury by one whom he had injured, insulted, and trampled upon, solely because of his worth and his intellectual superiority.
We have incidentally alluded to the other novels of Godwin. ‘St Leon’ will probably descend to posterity in company with “Caleb Williams, but we cannot conceive that a torso of any of the others will be preserved. They have all a strong family likeness. What Dugald Stewart supposed of human invention generally, that it was limited, like a barrel-organ, to a specific number of tunes, is strictly true of Mr Godwin's fictions. In “St Leon,’ however, we have a romantic story with much fine writing. Setting aside the “incredible’ conception on which it proceeds, we find the subordinate incidents natural and justly proportioned. The possessor of the philosopher's stone is an interesting visionary—a French Falkland of the sixteenth century, and as unfortunate, for his miraculous gifts entail but misery on himself, and bring ruin to his family. Even exhaustless wealth is in itself no blessing ; and this is the moral of the story. The adventures of the hero, both warlike and domestic, are related with much gorgeousness and amplitude. The character of the heroic Marguerite, the wife of Leon, is one of the author's finest delineations. Bethlem Gabor is also a vigorous and striking sketch, though introduced too late in the novel to