Enquirer

William GODWIN

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Item#: 116831 price:$2,500.00

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"ON THE BORDERLINE BETWEEN THE ENLIGHTENMENT AND ROMANTICISM": FIRST EDITION OF WILLIAM GODWIN'S ENQUIRER, 1797, WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED DURING HIS LIFE WITH MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT, WITH MAJOR ESSAYS THAT HELPED "INCITE MALTHUS TO WRITE HIS ESSAY ON POPULATION," RARE IN ORIGINAL BOARDS

GODWIN, William. The Enquirer. Reflections on Education, Manners, and Literature. In a Series of Essays. London: G.G. and J. Robinson, 1797. Octavo, original half tan cloth and blue-gray paper boards, original printed paper spine label, uncut. $2500.

First edition of a pivotal collection of 28 "intentionally experimental, provocative" essays by Godwin, "conceived, composed and published under the influence of his relationship with Mary Wollstonecraft" and a strong influence on Percy Shelley, containing key essays that substantially challenged Malthus to write his Essay on Population, an exceptional uncut copy in original boards.

The 28 essays in this seminal collection reconceive and point "back to Godwin's great political and ethical masterpiece of four years earlier, Political Justice (1793)." Along with that work, Enquirer pursues "the formative purpose that characterized the philosopher until the end of his career." Shortly after he began Enquirer in August 1796, Mary Wollstonecraft and Godwin became lovers. To a great extent, "Enquirer was conceived, composed and published under the influence of his relationship with Mary Wollstonecraft… The essays' philanthropic potential was evident in the effect they had on Mary. She read them in October 1796 and confessed they made her love Godwin 'more and more'" (Pérez Rodriguez, Education, Conversation and History, 81-82, 84n). Further, there "can be no doubt that Percy Shelley read Enquirer… Godwin's defense of classical education in Enquirer reflects Shelley's thought and writing… he extends and amplifies Godwin's suggestions about the classics into his own inexorable lifelong pursuit of self-enlightenment" (Hyde, Notes on Shelley's Reading of Godwin's Enquirer, 16, 23). For many of that generation Godwin, "with his revolutionary opinions,… seemed almost a prophet" (PMM 243).

Enquirer achieved perhaps its greatest impact when it substantially "incited Malthus to write his Essay on Population… Both Political Justice and Enquirer formed part of the central argument of Malthus' 1798 Essay, specifically by suggesting a utilitarian account of individual social worth." Godwin's essay, "Of Avarice and Profusion," had a particular impact on Malthus by posing "the question as to which moral outlook and resultant behavior most benefits society" (Claeys in Mayhew, ed., New Perspectives, 55-59, 66). Overall Enquirer foregrounds a shift in Godwin's perspective that "locates him most clearly on the borderline between the Enlightenment and Romanticism… At the close of the preface to Enquirer, Godwin briefly alludes to one key factor in this shift of his, the course of the French Revolution." Its impact infuses his essays with "what he sees as the primary purpose of education, awakening the mind… they are, in the fullest sense of the term, essayistic, intentionally experimental, provocative" (Handwerk in Maniquis & Myers, eds., Godwinian Moments, 108). With half title, rear errata leaf. ESTC T94276. Kress B3397. Goldsmiths' 16911. Rothschild 1018.

Text quite fresh with light foxing mainly to preliminaries, light expert restoration to spine ends, mild soiling to boards. A highly desirable wide-margined uncut copy in original boards.

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