Letter from WILLIAM GODWIN to JAMES BARRY, written 10 September 1797, at Polygon, Somers Town, London

Source: MS Abinger c. 22, f.38, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Barry first met the political writer William Godwin (1756-1836) in 1783, and they became close friends, though sometimes disagreements flared up between them. The religious writer John Hollis (1742-1824) told Godwin in 1791 that Barry 'expressed his dislike of your associating with his enemies,' yet 'he still preserved his good opinion of you'.1 Godwin records in his diary 0n 26 December 1795, 'Call on Barry (catatrophe)'.2 Barry's library contained a copy of Godwin's An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and Its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness. 2 vols. London: 1793.

Godwin had married the political writer and reformer Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) in March 1797; she was pregnant by him and died soon after giving birth to their daughter, who was to become Mary Shelley. Wollstonecraft, a friend of Barry's, had visited him in June, a few months before her death. 3 In his Letter to the Dilettanti Society (1798), Barry writes of 'the eloquent, generous, amiable sensibility of the celebrated and long-to-be-lamented Mary Wolstonecraft'(p.68).

There is no formal address to Barry at the start of the letter,but his name is written at the tope of the letter as the addressee.

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I thank you extremely for your anxiety about my wife. Do not think however that you could have been so anxious as I was. You know perhaps that she had the best assistance from persons of the highest talents; & you must be aware that it is impossible to introduce the plan of a practitioner in whom one has less confidence, without contradicting the plans of those in whom one has more.4 You do not yet know, I suppose, that she died at eight this morning.

The goodness of your heart might perhaps lead you to call on me. I earnestly desire to see nobody for the present, but those I have been daily in the habit of seeing.

WmWilliam Godwin

SundaySeptSeptember. 10