carries on the exploration of the ideal of benevolence. Wordsworth's poetic
stances do represent some retreat from his earlier radical positions, as he knew;
but they also retain important connections to--and build on or renew--both the
prorevolutionary arguments of the 1790s and a liberal philosophical tradition.
I wish to thank the National Endowment for the Humanities for supporting
much of the research for this essay.
All quotations from The Prelude refer to the 1805 text, as given in The
Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850, ed.
M. H. Abrams, and Stephen Gill ( N.Y.: Norton, 1979).
The Complete Works of William Hazlitt, ed.
P. P. Howe, 21 vols.
( London: J. M. Dent, 1930-34), 11:20.
An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, 2 vols. ( 1793; rpt. Oxford: Woodstock, 1992). In what follows, I refer to 1:82-83 (bk. 2, ch. 2).
The continuing interest of Godwin's illustration is suggested in a recent
book by George P. Fletcher, Loyalty: An Essay on the Morality of Relationships
( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), which uses the Fénelon case as a
startingpoint for a defense of the value of particular loyalties against the claims
of impartiality (see 12-14). For another example, see
Terrance McConnell, Gratitude ( Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), esp. 130-31.
See St. Leon, ed.
Gina Luria ( N.Y.: Garland, 1974), viii-xi. Godwin
then quotes from a similar statement he had made in the second edition of his 1798 Memoirs of
Thoughts Occasioned by the Perusal of Dr. Parr's Spital Sermon
( London: 1801), 37, 42, rpt. in Uncollected Writings by William Godwin (1785-
Jack W. Marken and
Burton R. Pollin ( Gainesville, Fla.: Scholars'
Facsimiles and Reprints, 1968), 326, 331. Coleridge's view, in his marginalia to
this text, was that the furor over the Fénelon passage was "a striking Instance of
the Danger" philosophers run in choosing "contemporary Examples, as
Illustrations" (reproduced in Godwin, Uncollected Writings, 332, and also in The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, vol. 12: Marginalia, pt. 2: Camden to Hutton, ed.
George Whalley [ Princeton: Princeton UP, 1984], 848).
The example of Brutus, incidentally, was often invoked in reference to the
Hazlitt Life of Thomas Holcroft ( 1816), in Works, 3:135 (bk. 4, ch.
For a good discussion of Godwin's thought, especially in relation to
previous moral philosophers, see
D. H. Monro, Godwin's Moral Philosophy: AnInterpretation of William Godwin
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: The French Revolution Debate in English Literature and Culture.
Contributors: Lisa Plummer Crafton - Editor.
Publisher: Greenwood Press.
Place of publication: Westport, CT.
Publication year: 1997.
Page number: 76.
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