Featured edition (II): Letters of William Godwin – Pamela Clemit – OUP

IMG_5811The Letters of William Godwin, Volume II: 1798–1805, expertly edited by Pamela Clemit (Durham), was published on 13 November 2014 by Oxford University Press.

According to the publisher’s description, ‘The first volume of William Godwin’s letters reflected the origins and impact of his great philosophical work, An Enquiry concerning Political Justice, and showed him at the height of his influence and reputation. This second volume […] reveals a less familiar person in different surroundings: a man still well-connected, attracting new friends and disciples, but increasingly embattled as a public intellectual, as a political radical, and as a professional author. The volume includes scores of texts newly transcribed from the original manuscripts and given scholarly annotation for the first time. […] The letters show [Godwin] responding to changes in public mood, seeking compromise in his philosophical commitments, and remaking himself as the author of novels, plays, biographies, and children’s books. […] They follow his quest, in the wake of the death of his first wife Mary Wollstonecraft, to find a new life-companion and mother for his two young children. […] They record irreplaceable losses, both public and private, and trace new beginnings in his intellectual and literary development, in his commercial ventures, and in his social and domestic life.’

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Some of these aspects of Godwin’s letters were explored more fully at a colloquium which accompanied the volume’s official launch on 18 November 2014 at Wolfson College, Oxford. The colloquium was chaired by Nicholas Halmi (Oxford) and included contributions from Mark Philp (Warwick), Jenny McAuley (Oxford), Jon Mee (York), and Pamela Clemit. Their papers discussed the shape of the volume as a whole, likening it to a Victorian multi-plot novel, and noting the continuing relevance of Godwin’s letters for modern readers (Clemit); Godwin’s courtship letters to Harriet Lee and Maria Reveley (Philp); the letters descriptive of places and persons which Godwin wrote home during his six-week visit to Ireland in 1800 (McAuley); and Godwin’s exchanges with some of his former political friends who turned against him at the end of the 1790s, notably Samuel Parr (Mee). The colloquium was attended by about 40 people and much enjoyed by all. A podcast of the papers given at the colloquium will be posted on Pamela Clemit’s blog early in 2015.

For more information about the edition as a whole, see Pamela Clemit’s blog and my earlier post.


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