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Things as They Were: The Original Ending of Caleb Williams Authorts): D. Gilbert Dumas
Source: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 6, No.3, Restoration and Eighteenth Century (Summer, 1966), pp. 575-597
Published by: Rice University
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Things As They Were: The Original Ending of Caleb Williams
D. GILBERT DUMAS
GODWIN'S NOTE IN THE SECOND EDITION of Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams informs us that he had withdrawn the Preface, now restored, from the first edition because of the fears of booksellers. The novel had first appeared in May 1794, "the same month," says Godwin in his note, "in which the sanguinary plot broke out against the liberties of Englishmen .... Terror was the order of the day; and it was feared that even the humble novelist might be shown to be constructively a traitor."! The plot Godwin alludes to was of course the Crown's proceedings against Hardy, Tooke, Thelwall, Holcroft, and other members of the London Corresponding Society on charges of High Treason. Noting that the series of political arrests commenced with that of Thomas Hardy on May 12, perhaps more than one reader of Godwin's note has wondered whether the author might after that date not only have withdrawn the Preface but altered or deleted other material in CW which might have aroused the fears of booksellers. An examination of the holograph manuscript of CW reveals that Godwin did indeed make a major change in the novel, but whether the change was made before or after May 12, and whether the change was made in compliance with the fears of booksellers or in compliance with the demands of the author's artistic judgment remains conjectural. The startling fact, hitherto unnoticed, is that bound together in the holograph are two radically different versions of the novel's ending, a cancelled first version and the version of the first edition of 1794, the version, that is, we are familiar with."
1 (3 vols. London, 1796), I, vii. References in my text and notes hereafter cite the title of all editions as CWo
"MS. Forster 3. M. Victoria and Albert Museum Library, London. 161 leaves, 40, 3 vols. in 1, paged separately: I. 1-119, (lacks Preface and pp. 1-36, 115-119), (10 pp. inserted). II. 1-106, (lacks pp. 13-20, 31-36, 81-82), (8 pp. inserted). III. 1-115, (lacks pp. 91-100), (8 pp. inserted), (pp. 94a, 107a, 108a, 115 are misbound in vol. 1). Rejected ending: 107- 117, (lacks pp. 111-112), binding position: pp. 107-108 in vol. 3 after p.
No portion of a novel is liable to be so crucial to its total significance and ultimate esthetic impact as its ending. Godwin himself tells us in his account of the composition of CW that he first "invented" his third volume, working backwards to the first volume before undertaking the actual composition from the beginning: "I felt that I had a great advantage in thus carrying back my invention from the ultimate conclusion to the first commencement. . . . An entire unity of plot would be the infallible result; and the unity of spirit and interest in a tale truly considered, gives it a powerful hold on the reader, which can scarcely be generated with equal success in any other way."" Despite his avowed circumspection in working out his conclusion, Godwin, after having once finished the work, returned to it a few days later in order to rewrite its ending, altering substantially its nature. Nowhere to my knowledge does Godwin comment on this remarkable fact. In his correspondence, in his various prefaces, and in his journals we search unsuccessfully for such a comment.
One must nevertheless confront head-on questions raised by the discovery of the novel's ending. Despite the prevailing political harassment during the period Godwin wrote and published CW, there appears to be no direct relationship between the incidence of the rewritten ending and the fact that the Preface was withdrawn because of the publisher's fear of political reprisal.' Details afforded by the holograph
106; pp. 109-110 in vol. 1 after pp, 107a, 108a of vol. 3 misbound in vol. 1; pp. 113-117 in vol. 3 after p. 114b. The MS. contains an overwhelming number of interlineations, deletions and insertions. Abundant notations by the typesetters, such as "Morton begins," and signature indications (in a variety of hands) which correspond exactly to the signatures of the first edition provide conclusive proof that the book was set in type from this MS. Whoever assembled the leaves for binding must have worked with a deficient MS whose leaves had already been gathered into correct sequential order except for those of the rejected and new endings and except for a few miscellaneous ones. Confronted with superfluous pages and unaware that two versions of the novel's ending were present, the binder, ignoring the text, probably inserted some of these pages into the first volume in order to fill gaps in the pagination; e.g., although volume 1 lacks pages 109-110, no gap in pagination exists in the bound MS because pages 109-110 of the rejected ending have been inserted here.
'Fleetwood: or, The New Man of Feeling (Standard Novels No. XXII)
(London, 1832), p. viii.
'Godwin's booksellers, John and George Robinson were fined in Nov. 1793, for selling Part II of Paine's Rights of Man ("The King v. Robinson and Others," London Chronicle, Tue. 26 Nov. to Thur. 28 Nov.
D. GILBERT DUMAS
and by Godwin's journal indicate, as we shall see below, that he wrote the new ending several days before Hardy's arrest, a circumstance which provides persuasive argument against any view that the rewriting was motivated by political timidity. My object here will be first to establish the time of rewriting and, second, to examine briefly the effects of the change on the novel in terms of its literary merit and doctrinal intention. Before proceeding with the analysis, however, it will be useful here to summarize the two endings.
In the published version, it will be remembered that the confrontation between Falkland and Caleb before the English magistrate concludes with Falkland's collapse and confession. He acknowledges that he is the murderer of Tyrrel and responsible for the execution of the Hawkinses. Three days following his confession Falkland dies. Caleb, imagining himself Falkland's murderer, condemns himself for motives of selfish egoism and, overwhelmed by remorse, prepares to live out his life suffering the penalty of his crime-a conscience agonized by guilt. The novel ends with Caleb's panegyric on the benevolence, intellect, and nobility of his former master, whom he sees as victimized by society.
In the original version, during the confrontation before the magistrate Falkland again denies his crime. Caleb's protestations are abruptly and rudely silenced by the prejudiced magistrate: "Be silent! said he. What is it you intend by thus continuing to intrude yourself? Do you believe you can overbear and intimidate us? We will hear none of your witnesses. We have heard you too long. Never was the dignity of administrative justice in any instance insulted with so barefaced and impudent a forgery I?" After his unsuccessful petition
1793, pp. 517-518). The harassment of publishers and booksellers may explain the curious fact that CW, although purchased by the Robinsons (Kenneth Neill Cameron, Shelley and his Circle: 1773-1822, Cambridge, Mass., 1961, I, 203, n.6), first appeared not under the imprint of the Robinsons, but under that of B. Crosby; yet the second and third editions bear the Robinsons' imprint. A business connection may have existed between Benjamin Crosby and George Robinson, for whom he had once worked. Crosby sold his business to W. Simkin and R. Marshall in 1814, the firm which later brought out the 4th ed. of CW in 1816 (Joseph Shaylor, Sixty Years a Bookman, London, 1923, pp, 113- 114).
'Holograph MS. III, 110. Hereafter I insert into my text all references to the MS. Permission to quote granted by the Keeper of the Public Relations, Victoria and Albert Museum.
before the justice of England, and tortured by Falkland's sinister and cruel agent, Jones, 6 Caleb goes mad. Recovering partially, he dreams about escaping: "It would be better at once to cease to exist, than remain for ever in this horrible situation. But hope still clings to my heart. I may escape. Why should I, who have broken fetters, and made my way through walls of stone, doubt of my deliverance from this new confinement?" (MS. III, 113). Hearing that Falkland is alive and healthy Caleb exclaims, "Alas! It too plainly appears in my history that persecution and tyranny can never die!" (MS. III, 114). "I am still in the highest degree perplexed," says Caleb, "whenever it recurs to my mind, to account for the entire and ignominious miscarriage of my last ... accusation before the chief magistrate ... I so ardent, so impassioned, so full of my subject, so confident in the justice of my cause! It must surely have been with the persons that heard me an affair of the senses rather than the understanding" (MS. III, 114-115). Reflecting on his "defeat" he concludes: "My innocence will then die with me! The narrative I have taken the pains to digest will then only perpetuate my shame and spread more widely the persuasion of my nefarious guilt! ... This is the bitterest aggravation of all my sufferings!" (MS. III, 115). The final entries in Caleb's history, given below, consist of rambling incoherent passages reminiscent of Clarissa Harlowe's "papers," for, indeed, like Clarissa he is writing while under the effects of a drug :"
I wonder how long I have slept - sometimes it seems to have been so long - and sometimes it seems a very little while - As soon as I eat, and drink, I fall asleep again - is not that strange?
I should like to recollect something - it would make an addition to my history - but it is all a blank!sometimes it is day, and sometimes it is night - but nobody does any thing, and nobody says any thingIt would be an odd kind of a history!
Once I had an enemy - oh! two or three enemiesand they drove me about, and menaced me, and tormented me! - and now nobody disturbs me - I am
"Godwin changed the name to "Gines" in the 2nd ed.
'It is worth noting that Godwin was, according to his journal (see n.8 below) reading Richardson's Clarissa while engaged in writing the final 26 pages of the first version of CW, a fact which argues direct imitation.
D. GILBERT DUMAS
so quiet - I have not an enemy in the world - nor a friend.
So you tell me Mr. Falkland is dead? - Very likely - it was high time - was not it?
They do nothing but tell me over and over again that Mr. Falkland is dead - what is that to me? - Heaven rest his soul! - I wonder who that Mr. Falkland was, for every body to think so much about him? - Do you know?
If I could once again be thoroughly myself, I should tell such tales! - Some folks are afraid of that, do you see, and so - But I never shall- never - never! - I sit in a chair in a corner, never move hand or footI am like a log - I know all that very well, but I cannot help it! - I wonder which is the man, I or my chair?
I have dreams - they are strange dreams - I never know what they are about - No, not while I am dreaming - they are about nothing at all- and yet there is one thing first, and then another thing, and there is so much of them, and it is all nothing - when I am awake it is just the same! - I used to have dreams of quite a different kind - and to talk in my dreamsand some folks said I disturbed them - and so, I believe they have given me something to quiet me.
Well, it is all one at last - I believe there was nothing in life worth making such a bustle about - no, nor in secrets - nor in murders neither, for the matter of that - when people are dead, you know, one cannot bring them to life again! - dead folks tell no talesghosts do not walk these days - I never saw Mr. Tyrrel's - Only once!
Well then, - it is wisest to be quiet, it seemsSome people are ambitious - other people talk of sensibility - but it is all folly! - I am sure I am not one of those - was I ever? - True happiness lies in being like a stone - Nobody can complain of me - all day long I do nothing - I am a stone - a grave-stone!an obelisk to tell you, There lies what was once a man! (MS. III, 116-117).
If we turn now to examine Godwin's daily progress in the composition of CW as it is recorded in his journal," we find no entry clearly indicating that he has rewritten the ending,
'Godwin's journals are in the possession of Lord Abinger, Clees Hall, Bures, Suffolk. Professor Lewis Patton of Duke University is preparing a critical edition. Microfilm copies may be consulted at the Bodleian Library, the Duke University Library, and the Carl H. Pforzheimer Library.
information which would of course conclusively establish the date of rewriting. Although Godwin meticulously recorded the number of pages written each day, he apparently regarded his revisions as incidental to the primary task of invention, citing in the journal neither which pages he revised nor their total number but giving merely the single word "revise." Moreover, the journal does not reveal the dates Godwin delivered the whole or portions of his CW manuscript to the printer, nor does it specifically note his receipt of proofs. Significantly, the journal entry of 30 April 1794, reads, "Write pp. 112-117/2, f'in.?" The pagination here exactly corresponds to that of the manuscript's original ending; the rewritten version was shorter, running to page 115 only. The journal tells us that Godwin revised on the following day, 1 May. On 2 and 3 May he did not work on the novel. From 4 to 16 May the following relevant entries occur:
4. Suo Write 1% pages .
5. M. Write 2 pages .
6. Tu, Write 4 pages .
7. W. Write 1 page: Revise .
8. Th. Write 1 page: Revise .
9. F. Revise Williams, Vol. I. ...
10. Sa. Revise .
13. Tu Williams, Vol. II. .
16. F Williams, Vol. III .
Since between 8 May and 26, the date of publication, no "write" entries appear, one must ask whether the above entries refer to the new version. It is probable that they do, for the nine and a half page total of the "write" entries almost exactly matches the nine manuscript pages of the rewritten version. The half-page discrepancy may be accounted for by either an unrecorded half-page of additional rewriting or by a miscalculation on Godwin's part. Now it is possible that these entries refer to another manuscript and that Godwin actually rewrote the ending of CW at a later date without recording the fact in his journal. There is, however, no evidence in the journal that Godwin was working on another manuscript during this period. Moreover, if Godwin had indeed rewritten the novel's ending after Hardy's arrest on 12 May, it is unlikely that the novel could have been published
"The numeral "2" beneath a page number signifies that Godwin has written the first or second half of that page.
D. GILBERT DUMAS
by 26 May. What we know of Godwin's habits in dealing with his printer-his practice, for example, of forwarding completed portions of his manuscript to the printer while latter portions were in the process of being composed'v=-clearly suggests that all but the final chapter or two of CW was at the printer's while Godwin was rewriting the ending and that the journal entries of 9, 13, and 16 May mark his receipt and revision of final proofs or unbound sheets. If the first two volumes were being set up in type while Godwin was forwarding portions of the third, it is likely that he would have received the final proofs for all three volumes within a few days of each other. It is important to note, furthermore, that the proofs or unbound sheets received or revised by Godwin on 16 May must have included the new version of the novel's ending, for the pages of the original ending were never set up in type.!' It is probable, therefore, that Godwin brought the novel to a premature close on 30 April, and, except for revisions made in manuscript and proof, to a final close on 8 May-four days before the arrest of Hardy.
We must not abandon the bibliographical problem without pausing over the Preface. Lacking in the holograph and unrecorded in the journal, the Preface appears in the second edition of CW with the date 12 May, the very date of Hardy's arrest. Mere coincidence is doubtful. By affixing this date Godwin could both ironically comment on and underscore the importance of the views he voices in his text. Furthermore, Godwin's own role vis-a-vis the "terror" commands the reader's attention in the 1795 note to the Preface, first, when the
IO"It has been my habit," says Godwin in a letter to Archibald Constable (publisher of Mandeville), "to write with so much deliberation and thought that I have never hesitated to send my work to the press by the time half of it was completed, and as it drew to its conclusion the printer and the author generally finished within three days of each other." See Thomas Constable, Archibald Constable and his Literary Correspondents (Edinburgh, 1873), II, 71. We may recall that Godwin attributed inconsistencies in the arguments of Political Justice in the 1st ed. (2 vols., London, 1793) to the fact that the early portions of the book were being printed while the latter portions were in the process of composition (Preface, pp. ix-x).
"None of the extant pages of the rejected ending contains a typesetter's notation. In the rewritten version MS. p. 109 carries the typesetter's notation for signature 0, and MS. p. 112 the notation "Morton." If the pages of the rejected ending had been set in type, the signature ° would appear somewhere between the bottom of p. 109 and the top half of p. 110.
author of Political Justice refers to himself as a "humble novelist," second, when he refers to constructive treasona reference surely intended to remind us of Chief Justice Eyre's charge to the grand jury and of Godwin's attempt in his Siricturee-? to shatter Eyre's fragile legal argument. Of more immediate relevance to a discussion of the cancelled ending of CW is the fact that the Preface was evidently withdrawn only after the political arrests had begun, for when Elizabeth Inchbald read CW in proof-proofs which apparently were not ready for the author until 16 May-she directly warned Godwin about the politically dangerous nature of the Preface.!" If Godwin had revised the novel's ending out of timidity it is hardly probable that he would have several days later added or allowed to stand a preface characterized by its irreverence toward government.
During the short interval between 30 April, the day he finished the first version, and 4 May, the day he apparently began the second, Godwin may have turned over the final portion of his manuscript to a friend, who persuaded him to rewrite it; or, he may quite simply have changed his mind concerning the literary merit or doctrinal character of the original ending. As to the respective literary merits of the two versions critics will perhaps disagree; but that the political and philosophical implications of the first version undergo considerable transformation in the second, a transformation which directly and adversely affects both the logical dramatic development and the propagandistic intention of the narrative, seems to me indisputable.
CW was not, like the author's Political Justice, written for the happy few; nevertheless, it was, says Godwin in an autobiographical note, "the offspring of that temper of mind in which the composition of my 'Political Justice' left me."> The novel's "valuable lesson" was intended, Godwin explains in the Preface, for an audience "whom books of philosophy and science are never likely to reach.">" Stated generally,
'2Cursory Strictures on the Charge delivered by Lord Chief Justice Eyre to the Grand Jury, October 2, 1794. First Published in the Morning Chronicle, October 21 (London, 1794).
'"C. Kegan Paul, William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries, 2 vols. (London, 1876), I, 139-140. This letter, undated, is quoted only in part by Paul.
"Paul, I, 78.
HCW (2nd ed.), I, vi.
D. GILBERT DUMAS
the author's task was "to comprehend, as far as the progressive nature of a single story will allow, a general review of the modes of domestic and unrecorded despotism, by which man becomes the destroyer of man.">" The specific message, the political principle, he determined to embody in his fictional work was "that the spirit and character of the government intrudes itself into every rank of society."!" This of course is the same political principle that supports much of the huge argument of Political Justice. CW was meant to work out concretely and in terms of practical experience-carefully selected, to be sure-the "despotism" of government. So far as it is his intention to persuade his readers to a particular view regarding government, Godwin's purpose may correctly be termed propagandistic.
In July 179'5, before the second edition, which restores the Preface, appeared, Godwin, in response to an attack on CW in the British Critic,18 wrote a letter to the editor of that journal reaffirming his doctrinal and propagandistic purpose. Since his statement of purpose here has not previously been noted by commentators, it will be worth citing at length:
[Your correspondent] supposes that my book was written "to throw an odium upon the laws of my country." But this is a mistake into which no attentive and clearsighted reader could possibly fall. The object is of much greater magnitude. It is to expose the evils which arise out of the present system of civilized society; and having exposed them to lead the enquiring reader to examine whether they are, or are not, as has commonly been supposed, irremediable; in a word, to disengage the minds of men from presupposition, and launch them upon the sea of moral and political enquiry . . . . Your correspondent comes nearer the point when he ... states my object to be: "the laws of this country, and the mode of their execution"; or rather, as he ought to have stated, the administration of justice and equity, with its consequences, as it exists in the world at large, and in Great Britain in particular.t"
Despite Godwin's clear statements of purpose the alternate endings suggest that either he was uncertain how he could
lGCW (2nd ed.) , I, vi. l7CW (2nd ed.) , I, vi.
""Correspondence," V (Apr. 1795),444-447.
"VI (July 1795), 94-95. (Emphasis added.) See also rejoinder, VI (Aug. 1795),213-215.
best execute his design or was unwilling, finally, to pursue with relentless rigor and clarity his original conception. While Godwin's critical portrayal of "the administration of justice" as we have it in the published version was forceful enough to raise howls of righteous outrage from eighteenthcentury conservatives, more liberal-minded men in the next century, such as Leslie Stephen, could declare that "The reader, unassisted by the preface, would scarcely perceive Godwin's doctrine between the lines."2o Stephen exaggerates of course; yet it is true that in the new version Godwin's political theme emerges in somewhat attenuated form, for although it very much remains a major theme, its privileged position is usurped when at the crucial point of the narrative the thematic focus shifts and, as we shall see, other doctrines suddenly obtrude themselves as major themes. I am not surprised, therefore, that Stephen, who admired the development of the novel up to the catastrophe, could exclaim, "what has happened to the moral? How about the wickedness of government? The answer must be that it has passed out of sight."21
The rewritten ending in effect almost transforms CW into a novel of "things as they ought to be," undercutting the severity of Godwin's view of "Things as They Are." Almost, for while the new ending adroitly sidesteps the political issues set up by the intellectual and fictional framework of the novel, the current of injustice which runs throughout is not by any means dissipated and Caleb, though vindicated, has little cause to exult in his triumph over Falkland. But vindicated he is, the "sincerity" of his plain tale overcoming whatever resistance we might have expected from biased magistrates and an obsessed Falkland: "as I went on," says Caleb, "[Falkland] could no longer resist. He saw my sincerity; he was penetrated with my grief and compunction," and Falkland, throwing himself into Caleb's arms, declares, "Williams . . . you have conquered! ... the artless and manly story you have told, has carried conviction to every hearer."22 Readers and critics alike, both in Godwin's time and our own, have seized
2°"William Godwin's Novels," Studies of a Biographer, III (2nd ser., New York and London, 1902),140.
"Stephen, p. 145.
22 (3 vols., London, 1794), III, xv, 298. References are to this, the first, edition. For readers using other editions I include chapter number and treat the concluding chapter heading, "Postscript," as part of chapter xv.
D. GILBERT DUMAS
upon this incident as demonstrating the triumph of certain Godwinian doctrines such as the power of justice and truth. Thus Hazlitt could say that Caleb "overthrows [Falkland] on the vantage-ground of humanity and justice.">" Similarly in a recent article George Sherburn argued that in the concluding episode Caleb finally proved his belief that truth will be convincing when delivered with heartfelt enthusiasm.>' It must be observed, however, that Caleb's innocence does not establish itself through the honest procedures of impartial justice but through the collapse and confession of Falkland. Truth, that is, innocence, triumphs by default, not by its own strength. Although there occurs no literal triumph, there is, in the confession of Falkland, the illusion of such a triumph. If the second version of the novel's final episode is indeed intended to illustrate the triumph of truth, we must exclaim together with Leslie Stephen, "what has happened to the moral? How about the wickedness of government?" Repeatedly the novel has been telling us that truth cannot triumph so dramatically as the collapse of Falkland suggests. In society as it is, fervent expostulation, to use Godwin's rhetoric, simply does not produce such startling triumphs of justice.
Throughout the novel Godwin takes care to develop Caleb's progressive loss of faith in the political system and in the capacity of men to acknowledge truth when they hear itworse, even to give truth a fair hearing. When Caleb states that he "will never believe that a man conscious of innocence, cannot make other men perceive that he has that thought" (II, x, 186-187), he is expressing one of several beliefs that characterize him as a naive hero, specifically a politically naive hero unaware of the extraordinary efficacy of prejudices pervading the social system. His solemn protestation that he is not guilty of the crimes alleged against him by Falkland convinces no one. In jail-that disabusing experience -Caleb exclaims, "I recollected with astonishment my puerile eagerness to be brought to the test and have my innocence examined" (II, xi, 218). Many adventures later, when he has had recourse to what he considers the ultimate resort in proving his innocence, that is, revealing Falkland's secret
"""Mr. Godwin," (rev. of Cloudesley) Edin. Rev. LI (Apr. 1830) in Works, ed. P. P. Howe (London and Toronto, 1930), XVI, 394. ""'Godwin's Later Novels," Studies in Romanticism, I (Winter, 1962), 70.
crime, he again learns that the power of truth is no power at all. His attempt to reveal Falkland's crime meets with the contemptuous jeer of English class prejudice from a magistrate who declares, "whether or no the felony with which you stand charged would have brought you to the gallows, I will not pretend to say. But I am sure this story will. There would be a speedy end to all order and good government, if fellows that trample upon ranks and distinctions in this atrocious sort, were upon any consideration suffered to get off" (III, xi, 191). Led back to the very prison from which he had earlier taken prodigious pains to escape, Caleb sums up his added insight into things as they are: "And this ... was the justice of mankind .... Six thousand a year shall protect a man from accusation; and the validity of an impeachment shall be superseded, because the author of it is a servant!" (III, xi, 193).
If the law judges according to wealth and position, ordinary mortals do so according to reputation. As a victim of calumny Caleb is destined to lose the sympathy of even his dearest friends. In an interesting passage in The Enquirer Godwin states that the actions of a victim of calumny will be "misrepresented, misunderstood and vilified. It matters not with how much generosity he sets himself to act: the glass of truth shall never be turned on him; nor shall he in any instance obtain justice."25 Even after the charges against him have been formally dropped, Caleb continues to suffer the ignominy of the servant who has robbed his master. He is compelled to abandon his peaceful retreat in a Welsh village when Falkland's agent introduces into the community the pamphlet describing the alleged crimes and sensational escapes of the notorious "Kit" Williams (III, xiii, 239-240). Caleb's faith in the power of truth is by this time so shattered that he does not trouble to attempt to clear himself. "I had seen," he says, "too much of the reign of triumphant falshood to have ... sanguine confidence in the effects of my innocence" (III, xiii, 241).
Of all mankind there is one person, thinks Caleb, who will listen to his story, Collins, the man whom Caleb regards with a son's affection and respect. In a climactic encounter with
25 ••• Reflections on Education, Manners and Literature (London, 1797), p.148.
D. GILBERT DUMAS
the long absent Collins, Caleb is persuaded to forego his final chance to proclaim his innocence to a sympathetic fellow being. Collins, wise in years, realizes the impotence of truth when opposed by self-interest, prejudice, and circumstance:
Of what would you convince me? That Mr. Falkland is a suborner and a murderer? ... If you could change all my ideas, and show me that there was no criterion by which vice might be prevented from being mistaken for virtue, what benefit would arise from that? I must part with all my interior consolation and all my external connections. And for what? ... I do not believe I shall find you innocent. If you succeed in perplexing my understanding, you will not succeed in enlightening it. Such is the state of mankind, that innocence when involved in circumstances of suspicion, can scarcely ever make out a demonstration of its purity, and guilt can often make us feel an insurmountable reluctance in pronouncing it guilt. (III, xiv, 257-259)
If the man Caleb calls father can approach no nearer to truth than bewilderment, we can hardly expect villainous magistrates to heed his avowals of innocence; nor can we expect them to credit his accusations against the lordly Falkland. Thus Falkland in the original ending fulfills our expectations when, with haughty assurance, he calls on the assembled gentlemen at the hearing to compare his "uniformly benevolent and honourable" life with that of his calumniated accuser. "Which of the two," he asks, "would they believe? What credit was due to the palpable mockery of oaths and asseverations, when put into competition with a life of unimpeachable virtue?" (MS. III, 109). In a narrative intent on describing things as they are, the laws of the land and the laws of prejudice can be expected to prevail over the beauty of expiatory justice. Not so, according to the rewritten version; truth will out: a single dramatic stroke submerges the political moral, the melodramatic volte-face forcing upon the doctrinal surface implications more appropriate to future utopian victories than to present inevitable defeats. The second ending at once violates the progressive logic of the novel and, curiously enough, parallels a similar contradiction in the first edition of Political Justice.
Despite Godwin's own dictum that "Nothing can be more unreasonable than to argue from men as we now find them to men as they may hereafter be found,">" I think it will be
THE CONVERSION OF CRUSOE
agreed that such arguments are not absent from Political Justice, where the tension between a critical and a utopian attitude frequently expresses itself in rhetorical postures which conform to the conscious or unconscious rhetorical aim of the moment and thereby sacrifice the consistency of the whole. His cherished doctrine of the omnipotence of truth is especially subject to exaggerated declarations, and unless we take note of the underlying rhetorical aim we will be likely to confound the incidental exaggeration with the qualified proposition. The power of truth as it properly refers to theories of progress and perfectibility is no more than a familiar appeal to the advance of science and knowledge. While it is the property of truth to diffuse itself, its apprehension is at first limited to the enlightened few and it is only with time that the truth of a proposition gains the plain man's assent;" for the obstacles which prevent any sudden diffusion consist in large measure of the prejudices fostered by what Godwin calls positive institutions, such as government, law, education, class systems-the pernicious influences of which form the basis for his criticism of society in CWo Where Godwin discusses improvements to be introduced into society by the discovery of truth-for example, in his chapters on government, revolution, resistance, property, and political association-he seldom fails to insist on the gradual nature of change. Thus Burton Ralph Pollin in a recent book on Godwin rightly warns readers that "critics who stress the instantaneous nature of the apprehension of truth which some passages in Godwin seem to imply, overlooked the factor of amenability to instruction or preparation for it that he always stipulates."28 What Pollin and other critics have failed to note, however, is that Godwin distinguishes between two classes of truth, "abstract" and "practical." Abstract truth "relates to certain general and unchangeable principles" ;29 such is the truth of science and knowledge. Practical truth is that of "particular nature" and "relates to the daily incidents and
26 A n Enquiry concerning Political Justice, and its influence on General Virtue and Happiness (2 vols., London, 1793), II, 494. Unless otherwise noted, all references are to this edition, hereafter cited in the notes as PJ.
28Education and Enlightenment in the Works of William Godwin (New York, 1962), p. 167.
29PJ, 1,231-232. Also 2nd ed. (1796), I, 309-310.
D. GILBERT DUMAS
ordinary commerce of human lif'e.?"? This distinction, workable if not satisfactory, would not detain us here but for the fact that Godwin associates with practical truth the virtue of sincerity;" or truth-telling in day to day human relations, for it is almost exclusively in reference to the virtue of sincerity that we find excessive claims regarding the power of truth to convince instantaneously;" claims which obviously contradict his view concerning the gradual progress of truth.
Because sincerity is for Godwin an axiom of ethics it is not surprising that his analysis of the power of truth-telling concentrates on future and possible benefits to be derived from its universal practice. Within such a context absolute statements concerning its power are really disguised rhetorical pleas to the reader. Insofar as the philosopher relies on empirical evidence, as he does when discussing progress, to demonstrate that the discovery of truth has helped release man from the tyrannies of the past, his calm and confident optimism regarding the omnipotence of truth logically derives from "men as we now find them." Insofar as the moralist casts his sweeping generalizations in the indisputable presentindicative rather than in the future-conditional, we may expect the rhetorical aim to have more to do with the exhortations of the preacher than with the objective analysis of the philosopher. It is noteworthy that such exaggerated claims were removed when Godwin revised Political Justice for the second edition. It can be argued of course that revision followed upon the author's weakened faith in such power, but arguments of this kind seem to me fanciful. Godwin acknowledged the inconsistencies of the first edition, attributing them to the manner of its printing and composition.s" and it seems reasonable to infer that he realized the inconsistency of certain of his claims for sincerity." His new chapter, "The Voluntary Actions of Men Originate in their Opinions," explicitly denies the earlier absolute affirmations regarding the omnipotence
31 I, 238. Also 2nd ed. I, 309-310, 329.
"e.g. "There is an energy in the sincerity of a virtuous mind that nothing human can resist." (I, 243) See also I, 240, 241-242, 368.
"I, ix-x. Also 2nd ed., I, xiii-xvii.
"In the 2nd ed. the claims of sincerity upon the individual are no longer absolute. Sincerity is recognized as a "secondary principle" and "general utility" is, consistent with Godwin's views on justice, recognized as the "paramount and original principle" (I, 350-351).
THE CONVERSION OF CRUSOE
of truth: "This proposition, which is convenient for its brevity, must be understood with limitations. It would be absurd to affirm that truth, unaccompanied by the evidence which proves it to be such, or when that evidence is partially and imperfectly stated, has any such property.">" Again: "It has sometimes been affirmed that, whenever a question is ably brought forward for examination, the decision of the human species must ultimately be on the right side. But this proposition is to be understood with allowances. Civil policy, magnificent emoluments and sinister motives may upon many occasions, by distracting the attention, cause the worse reason to pass as if it were the better."36
Now CW can be said to describe practical experience designed to illustrate general principles intended, if we are to credit Godwin's stated purpose in the novel's Preface and in his letter to the British Critic, to exhibit the "despotism" of government, especially as revealed in the "administration of justice and equity." The rewritten ending introduces a decisive shift in the novel's portrait of society and men when the illustration of law yielding to a specific vindication of innocence-a vindication which proves an exception to the rule of experience depicted in the novel. The narrative's implicit argument moves from a political generalization legitimately derived from a representative sampling to an ethical one fallaciously derived from a single instance. It is peculiarly appropriate that in abandoning the rules of logic Godwin correspondingly devalues reason and elevates feeling. Whereas, for example, Caleb in the first version of the ending relates his tale to the magistrate in a language "varied, perspicuous and forcible" (MS. III, 108), in the second he decides to "lay the emotions of my soul naked before my hearers" (III, xv, 286) and to "confess every sentiment of my heart" (III, xv, 287): in the one version hope for the successful communication of truth resides in reason, in the other, emotion.
We should note, furthermore, the prominence given in the new ending to "confidence," an implicit plea for trust and understanding between men which commands no interest whatever in the original version. Referring to his decision to
:151, 91-92. 361, 90-91.
D. GILBERT DUMAS
reveal Falkland's crime, Caleb states, "I see now that mistake in all its enormity. I am sure that if I had opened my heart to Mr. Falkland ... he could not have resisted my reasonable demand" (III, xv, 294). The plain fact is that we need not have read the novel with uncommon attention to know that Caleb did try to open his heart to Falkland; indeed Caleb in expressing such regret contradicts his assertion, stated only a moment before, that "the restless and jealous anxiety of Mr. Falkland would not permit him to repose the least atom of confidence" (III, xv, 294). Once again the novel's concluding episode underscores a doctrine which makes its appeal to the heart rather than to the head. Sentimental ethic-for Godwin associates confidence with sincerity and virtue37- coincides with sentimental style and both combine to further reduce the impact of the originally intended political lesson.
From one version of the ending to the other we pass from a Caleb victim of the institutions of society to a Caleb victim as much to his own egoism as to Falkland's persecution. His action of exposing Falkland, prompted, he states, by utilitarian principles, namely that "one person should be miserable in preference to two, that one person rather than two should be incapacitated from acting his part, and contributing his share to the general good" (III, xv, 284), is, we are now to suppose, the result of perverse self-interest. His "fine-spun reasonings" collide with his feelings of compassion for his former patron: "There must have been some dreadful mistake in the train of argument that persuaded me to be the author of this hateful scene. There must have been a better and more magnanimous remedy to the evils under which I groaned" (III, xv, 285-286). Readers who have followed Caleb throughout his years of misery and observed his developing hatred for Falkland must be allowed some astonishment at Caleb's insistence on personal responsibility and at his overflowing compassion for his persecutor. Such appeals to the heart are quite lacking in the first ending, where the young hero's final destruction by social forces he has come cynically to accept sustains the spirit and doctrinal logic of the overall fictional
371, 229, 298. Also 2nd ed., I, 306, 338, 348, 349. For the relation of confidence to sympathy see "Of the Obtaining of Confidence," The Enquirer, pp. 119-128. In the only systematic treatment of confidence in PJ, the principle is regarded as a form of blind obedience and therefore as vicious (I, 172-174; also 2nd ed., I, 229-230,234-235,239-240).
structure. In fact, there could hardly be a more compelling political statement regarding the injustice of things as they are than the first ending's image of the once ardent, idealistic, and energetic Caleb vanquished into bitterness, madness, and inertia, the final reduction of his independence', his identity, and his very humanity symbolized in his comparison of himself first to a chair-"I wonder," says Caleb, "which is the man, I or my chair?" (MS. III, 116)-and then to a stone (for Godwin the lowest form of existence) : "True happiness lies in being like a stone-nobody can complain of me-all day long I do nothing-am a stone-a grave-stone! an obelisk to tell you, There lies what was once a man!" (MS. III, 117).
The world of the first version of CW provides for no instantaneous triumphs of innocence or truth; it provides no means by which one might "change all the ideas" of such well-intentioned men as Collins so that they might not mistake vice for virtue and innocence for guilt. While Man advances toward a perfectibility thousands of years distant, men live their lives in the "vast abortion'v" of an imperfect world. In Godwin's system vice may be only error, but the pain it inflicts is real not imaginary evil. Caleb's condition at the conclusion of the first ending, in fact, anticipates in almost every detail a catalogue of evils added to the second edition of Political Justice:
Who is there that will look on, and say, "All this is well; there is no evil in the world?" Let us recollect the pains of the mind; the loss of friends, the rankling tooth of ingratitude, the unrelenting rage of tyranny, the slow progress of justice, the brave and honest consigned to the fate of guilt. Let us plunge into the depth of dungeons. Let us observe youth languishing in hopeless despair, and talents and virtue shrouded in eternal oblivion. The evil does not consist merely in the pain endured. It is the injustice that inflicts it, that gives it its sharpest sting. Malignity, an unfeeling disposition, vengeance and cruelty, are inmates of every climate.s"
The original ending's portrait of the pathetic reduction of an ambitious peasant's son would by no means have furnished readers with revolutionary messages so optimistic in implication as the following: "In the end it is Williams who triumphs
38PJ, 2nd ed., I, 457. 391, 456.
D. GILBERT DUMAS
. . . . The aristocrat goes down before simple middle-class virtue .... "40 Nor would Godwin's picture of Falkland, whose icy hypocrisy in the first ending withstands the assault of Caleb's remonstrances, have supplied a basis for interpretations which see in the new version's portrayal of Falkland "Godwin's way of doing justice to the ancien regime."41 Only Caleb's defeat by the power and arrogance of Falkland abetted by the prejudice of law can serve to sound loudly and conclusively the originally intended political lesson. An ending that gives us a triumphant Falkland, secure in position and reputation, and an insane, broken Caleb runs little risk of undermining the political doctrine beneath the story's surface or of reducing the work's propagandistic impact.
It would be characteristic of Godwin's "schizophrenic tendency"42-what I have called the tension between his critical and utopian attitudes-that he should wish, in rewriting the ending, to appeal to man's love and humanity rather than to his hate and resentment. It is further characteristic that his compulsion to illustrate ethical principles, overcoming his critical determination, should instinctively express itself in a rhetoric of emotion, for the habits of the dissenting minister were evidently not easily disciplined by the utilitarian's commitment to reason. In exchanging his role of political philosopher and propagandist for that of ethical exhorter, Godwin becomes guilty in the novel of contradictions in doctrine and style similar to those in the first edition of Political Justice. Warm appeals to love and reconciliation, sincerity and confidence, personal responsibility and selflessness, while compatible to Christian and intuitionist constructions in ethics, serve to invalidate the moral arithmetic of a cool and rational utilitarianism and suggest to the reader that the imperfections of men rather than of political and social institutions are responsible for the injustice of things as they are. At best such a suggestion would, in Godwin's ratiocinative moments, be
"Harvey Gross, "The Pursuer and the Pursued: A Study of Caleb Williams," Texas Studies in Literature and Language, I (Autumn, 1959), 410.
"P. N. Furbank, "Godwin's Novels," Essays in Criticism, V (July 1955), 218.
"Aptly termed by Angus Wilson to characterize the "nightmare dissociation between the gloomy tortured lives of Godwin's heroes and the sweet reasonableness ... of Political Justice ... " in "The Novels of William Godwin," World Review, No. 28 (June 1951), 40.
rejected by him as a dangerously misleading half-truth which makes its appeal not to reason but to what in Political Justice he terms in one place "a brute and unintelligent sympathy."43
-If I have stressed doctrine, I have done so because of the startling divergence of the alternate endings and because the new ending appears to me to betray Godwin's proclaimed purpose. Brute feeling, however, plays an enormous role in fiction, and in defense of Godwin we must remind ourselves that in writing CW he was not writing a treatise. It is surely unfair to expect in fiction-even in a so-called novel of purpose -the consistency, clarity, and precision of philosophy. Any approach to the alternate endings solely in terms of doctrine will fail to account for whatever artistic compulsions may finally have determined or contributed to the subversion of the author's purpose.
To Godwin's great credit it must be emphasized that his penetrating and flexible psychology comes close to cancelling all deficiencies. For despite inconsistencies of doctrine and purpose, CW remains one of the great seminal novels of eighteenth-century fiction. Because Godwin's delineation of Falkland's character is complex enough to allow for his collapse and confession, readers may miss or indeed ignore the novel's inconsistencies. In considerable measure Falkland's remorse, ambivalence, and basic humanity prepare for his sudden downfall. Moreover only Falkland might convince the world of Caleb's innocence, and, although he has a pact with Fame no less binding than Faust's with Mephistopheles, it is precisely because we feel that only Falkland can exonerate Caleb that the new ending may strike us as dramatically effective. The remarkable reversal in the roles of victim and persecutor, which at once destroys and elevates Falkland, is really, however, a coup de theatre, a piece of artistic witchcraft sacrificing thematic logic to dramatic immediacy. Reversals, reconciliations, vindications of innocence, convenient deaths-these common conventions of dramaturgy suggest that Godwin, in introducing them into the novel's rewritten resolution, may very probably have been heeding his literary inspiration after all and that the rewritten ending represents an effort to raise the novel from the level of propaganda and sensation to the heights of tragedy.
D. GILBERT DUMAS
While we hesitate to criticize the author for attempting to heighten the emotional impact of his story, we must regret certain unconvincing, even mawkish, effects resulting from that attempt. It must be evident from the discussion of the alternate endings above that the metamorphosis of doctrine brings with it a corresponding transformation in narrative mode. Having forsaken reason for feeling on the doctrinal level, it was perhaps inevitable that Godwin should simultaneously abandon a somewhat artificial though symbolically charged realism for outright sentimentalism. Most conspicuous, because most crucial, is the effect of Caleb's revelation of Falkland's crime: "Everyone that heard me," says Caleb, "was melted into tears. They could not resist the ardour with which I praised the great qualities of Falkland; they manifested their sympathy in the tokens of my penitence" (III, 297). Tears, ardor, sympathy, penitence-a familiar enough onslaught in the sentimental novel-are totally absent in the first version, where Caleb's words succeed only in evoking angry contempt from the magistrate and a haughty denial from Falkland. While it is probably true, as George Sherburn has claimed, that CW "is certainly the first impressive tragic novel since Richardson's Clarissa, and its tragic themes seem more modern and less special than those of Clarissa,"44 one wishes that Godwin had remained satisfied with the first ending. For its tragic theme, the utter reduction by a hostile society of a human being of considerable potential, has come to seem more poignant and "modern" than tales which relate how the mighty have fallen.
In view of the foregoing', it is not surprising that a critic with an eye for political doctrine, like Leslie Stephen, should be nonplused by Godwin's published version, while, on the other hand, a critic with an acute eye for structure and effects, like Edgar Poe, should admire the contriving of the catastrophe.v' Poe attributed what he considered to be a superb achievement to Godwin's declared method of composition, that is, first working out the denouement and then accounting for it by devising the incidents leading up to it. Indeed the inference one clearly draws from Godwin's account is that if he was certain of anything concerning CW it was how the
"Introduction to his ed. of CW (New York, 1960), p. viii.
'5"The Philosophy of Composition," Selected Poetry and Prose (New York, 1951), pp. 363-364.
THE CONVERSION OF CRUSOE
work would end. The sudden transformation of the resolution calls into question the thoroughness of Godwin's own account of the novel's composition, for it is precisely the "ultimate conclusion" that he chose to rewrite after once having finished the novel in its entirety. Why then does Godwin fail to mention so crucial a change? One inescapably suspects that he is hiding something. It is possible, as I have suggested, that Godwin was not aware that he had, in rewriting the novel's ending transformed its political nature. It is scarcely possible, however, that he should have forgotten or considered unimportant -even thirty-eight years later, when he came to describe his method of composing CW -the very fact of the rewriting. In his account of the composition, moreover, Godwin, thinking perhaps that his readers would be familiar with the 1794 Preface (which had formed part of nearly every edition of CW since the second), ignores completely his original political impulse. It is remarkable, too, that although he writes at some length on literary considerations such as unity, plot, and suspense, he neglects to consider specifically how he worked out the novel's catastrophe.
It would be altogether too simple an answer to say that the aged philosopher remained silent about the rewriting of the novel's conclusion because he did not wish to acknowledge that political fear had motivated him. His obvious intention to publish the Preface until forced by his bookseller to withdraw it, his statement of purpose to the editor of the British Critic, and the restoration of the Preface in the second edition are facts which belie political timidity. If Godwin had been convinced that his original ending was the more effective and appropriate one, he surely could have restored it along with the Preface when he revised the novel for a second editionalthough authorial vanity would argue against tampering with what was a considerable popular and critical success.w It may, in fact, be Godwin's well-known vanity that made him reluctant to admit either that the catastrophe was an aesthetic afterthought or that he had muddled the conceptual basis of
"Many revisions made in the 2nd ed., in fact, amplify old passages and add new ones emphasizing Caleb's emotional estrangement from society and, consequently, serve to heighten sentiment at the expense of politics. The present writer is preparing a critical edition of CW which will treat fully revisions made by Godwin in MS and for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th eds.
D. GILBERT DUMAS
the novel. It is fruitless, lacking sufficient evidence, to speculate at length concerning Godwin's motive for making the change. We may be confronted here with one more example of his "schizophrenic tendency," blinding him to the contradictions-common in all his novels-between a theory committing him to the realism of things as they are and a temperament urging him to the sentimentality of things as they ought to be.!"
UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA
"See B. Sprague Allen, "William Godwin as a Sentimentalist," PMLA, XXXIII (Mar. 1918), 1-29.
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