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Godwin's Reputation

In 1825, Hazlitt described some of the fluctuations which the reputation of William Godwin had already experienced: "˜during his lifetime,"™ he had "˜secured to himself the triumphs and the mortifications of an extreme notoriety and of a sort of posthumous fame."™ Godwin"™s inspirational role to younger writers and radicals, combined with the vilification of many, after the emergence of An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice in 1793, had placed him in the peculiar category of being regarded in the past tense, even whilst he carried on the seemingly endless production of writings of all sorts that would continue to appear until his death in 1836. "˜He is thought of now"™, says Hazlitt, "˜like any eminent writer of a hundred-and-fifty years ago, or just as he will be a hundred-and-fifty years hence."™ It would seem unlikely that Godwin has maintained the level of eminence that Hazlitt accords him

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He was ignored during his own life as if he was long dead. And then when long dead, ignored more than that. Sigh.

Elliot Temple on December 12, 2007

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