Studies in the Literary Backgrounds of English Radicalism: With Special Reference to the French Revolution

By M. Ray Adams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
JOSEPH FAWCETT AND WORDSWORTH'S SOLITARY

The name of Joseph Fawcett has fallen for several reasons into an undeserved obscurity. He had no biographer among his contemporaries who might have collected pertinent material while it was most readily available. But, at any rate, his ideas could have won only a very small audience in the years immediately following his death in 1804, even before which his reputation was mercilessly dealt with like that of other radicals. Besides, his personal eccentricities threw into shadow the more solid portions of his fame. In spite of the fact that he was the intellectual godfather of two of the leading thinkers of his age, William Godwin and William Hazlitt, the bulk of the literary memorials which they have left of him is slight.1 We have, therefore, an exasperatingly small body

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1
Hazlitt was reported to have planned to write a life of his friend. On January 15, 1806, Lamb wrote to Hazlitt, favoring the prosecution of his supposed design and hinting that Fawcett's work should be better known: "Mrs. H. was naming something about a "Life of Fawcett" to be by you undertaken: the great Fawcett, as she explained to Manning, when he asked, 'What Fawcett?' He innocently thought Fawcett the Player. But Fawcett the divine is known to many people. . . . You might dish up a Fawcettiad in three months, and ask £60 or £80 for it." ( The Letters of Charles Lamb, edited by Alfred Ainger, I, 222). But the project never materialized. An extended account of Hazlitt's memories of Fawcett would have done more than can possibly be done now to keep his name alive. W. C. Hazlitt in his memoirs of his grandfather, laments the slenderness of his information about "that excellent and accomplished man." ( Memoirs of William Hazlitt, II, 240.)

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