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June 3 1812: Shelley to Godwitn


On June, 3, 1812, Percy Bysshe Shelley writes to William Godwin.  Shelley is still living at Nantgwilt in Radnorshire, Wales. He is still trying to settle there by buying a house and farm of about 200 acres. Earlier, he had written to his father for money but was refused which explains why he is "anxious" and "tormented" by the business of trying to acquire the property. He does end the letter by writing  about his education and how important Godwin's  book Political Justice was to him. He writes: "I did not truly think and feel, however, until I read Political Justice, though my thoughts and feelings, after this period, have been more painful, anxious, and vivid,—more inclined to action and less to theory." Shelley`s letter is reproduced below.

Mr. William Godwin, London.Nantgwilt, June 3, 1812.

My Dear Sir,
I hasten to dissipate the unfavourable impressions you seem to have received from my silence. Mrs. Godwin, in a letter to my wife, mentions the existence of your letter in Ireland. This I have never been able to recover; indeed, I am confident that the date of your last was considerably anterior to the 30th of March.

My health has been far from good since I wrote to you, and I have been day after day tormented, and rendered anxious by the delay of legal business necessary to secure this house to us. I do not say that anything can absolutely excuse any neglect to you; but the constant expectancy that the succeeding day would bring a train of thought more favourable than the present, together with your expected letter, may be permitted to palliate it.

I hope, my venerated friend, that you will soon permit the time to arrive when you may know me as I am,—when you may consult those lineaments which cannot deceive,—and be placed in a situation which will obviate the possibility of delusion.

I revert with pleasure to the latter part of your letter, and entreat you to erase from your mind the impressions which occasioned the former. They shall never, assure yourself, find occasion of renewal. Until my marriage, my life had been a series of illness, as it was of a nervous and spasmodic nature, which in a degree incapacitated me for study. I nevertheless, in the intervals of comparative health, read romances, and those the most marvellous ones, unremittingly, and pored over the reveries of Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus, the former of which I read in Latin, and probably gained more knowledge of that language from that source than from all the discipline of Eton. My fondness for natural magic and ghosts abated, as my age increased. I read Locke, Hume, Reid, and whatever metaphysics came in my way, without, however, renouncing poetry, an attachment to which has characterized all my wanderings and changes. I did not truly think and feel, however, until I read "Political Justice," though my thoughts and feelings, after this period, have been more painful, anxious, and vivid,—more inclined to action and less to theory. Before I was a republican: Athens appeared to me the model of governments; but afterwards, Athens bore in my mind the same relation to perfection that Great Britain did to Athens.

I fear that I am wanting in that mild and equable benevolence concerning which you question me; still I flatter myself that I improve; at all events, I have willingness, and "desire never fails to generate capacity." My knowledge of the chivalric age is small: do not conceive that I intend it to remain so. During my existence, I have incessantly speculated, thought, and read. A great deal of this labour has been uselessly directed ; still I am willing to hope that some portion of the stores thus improvidently accumulated, will turn to account. I have just finished reading "La Systeme de la Nature, par M. Mirabaud." Do you know the real author ? It appears to me a work of uncommon powers.

I write this to you by return of post, solicitous, as quickly as possible, to reassure you of my fidelity and truth. I will soon write one more at length, and with answers more satisfactory to the questions in the latter part of yours.
Believe me, with sincerest respect,
Yours most truly,
P. B. Shelley.

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