William Godwin has long been known for his literary connections as the husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, the father of Mary Shelley, the friend of Coleridge, Lamb, and Hazlitt, the mentor of the young Wordsworth, Southey, and Shelley, and the opponent of Malthus. Godwin has been recently recognized, however, as the most capable exponent of philosophical anarchism, an original moral thinker, a pioneer in socialist economics and progressive education, and a novelist of great skill.
His long life straddled two centuries. Not only did he live at the center of radical and intellectual London during the French Revolution, he also commented on some of the most significant changes in British history. Shaped by the Enlightenment, he became a key figure in English Romanticism.
Basing his work on extensive published and unpublished materials, Peter Marshall has written a comprehensive study of this flamboyant and fascinating figure. Marshall places Godwin firmly in his social, political, and historical context; he traces chronologically the origin and development of Godwin’s ideas and themes; and he offers a critical estimate of his works, recognizing the equal value of his philosophy and literature and their mutual illumination.
The picture of Godwin that emerges is one of a complex man and a subtle and revolutionary thinker, one whose influence was far greater than is usually assumed. In the final analysis, Godwin stands forth not only as a rare example of a man who excelled in both philosophy and literature but as one of the great humanists in the Western tradition.
- “The most comprehensive and richly detailed work yet to appear on Godwin as thinker, writer, and person.”
—John P. Clark, The Tragedy of Common Sense
- “An ambitious study that offers a thorough exploration of Godwin’s life and complex times.”
- “Marshall steers his course . . . with unfailing sensitivity and skill. It is hard to see how the task could have been better done.”
—Michael Foot, The Observer
- “It brings back a thinker who was at once visionary and confident, and who had the good fortune to write when utopian ideas did not seem utopian.”
—David Bromwich, New York Times
- “An absorbing biography . . . presenting a sympathetic portrait of a principled, embattled humanist. Peter Marshall describes these voluminous and multifaceted writings discerningly.”
—M.B. Freidman, Choice
About the Contributors:
- Peter Marshall is a historian, philosopher, travel writer, and poet. He has written sixteen books, which have been translated into as many different languages, including Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism and William Godwin, both republished by PM Press. His other works include Nature’s Web: Rethinking Our Place on Earth, Riding the Wind: Liberation Ecology for a New Era, and William Blake: Visionary Anarchist. His circumnavigation of Africa was made into a British television series and an Italian series was based on his work on alchemy, The Philosopher’s Stone. His latest book is Poseidon’s Realm: A Voyage around the Aegean. He was a founder member of a libertarian community in England. He has a doctorate in the history of ideas and has taught part-time philosophy and literature at several British universities. His website is www.petermarshall.net.
- John P. Clark is an eco-communitarian anarchist theorist and activist. He lives and works in New Orleans, where his family has been for twelve generations. He is Director of La Terre Institute for Community and Ecology, which is located on Bayou La Terre, in the forest of coastal Mississippi. He is the author or editor of fourteen books, most recently The Tragedy of Common Sense (Changing Suns Press). He writes a column, “Imagined Ecologies,” for the journal Capitalism Nature Socialism, and edits the cyberjournal Psychic Swamp: The Surregional Review. He was formerly Curtin Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University. Over three-hundred of his texts can be found at https://loyno.academia.edu/JohnClark.
Author: Peter Marshall • Foreword: John P. Clark
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 544 pages
See and hear author interviews, book reviews, and other news on William Godwin’s page HERE
See and hear editor interviews, book reviews, and other news on Peter Marshall’s page HERE