William Godwin's Diary


Godwin kept fastidious diary records of his personal health problems, concerns, and moments of wellbeing. He maintained discretion when recording some of the more sensitive aspects of his health, generally referring to these issues in Latin or French. Godwin has been diagnosed, at various times, as suffering from haemorrhoids and constipation, and might have also had a form of rectal cancer (see St Clair). Another frequent issue is his ‘delerium’ or ‘deliquium’, which has been described by St Clair as fits sometimes accompanied by vomiting. Latin and French words have been translated, and we have attempted to indicate using context or various sources what Godwin might have meant by some of the health phrases he utilised. Self-explanatory health issues such as ‘fever’ or ‘constipation’ have not been annotated, nor have conjectures been made about ambiguous or uncertain symptoms or treatments such as ‘syringe’ - noted on the ninth and tenth of November, 1792 - to cite one such example. NOTE: When searching for health complaints, keep in mind that Godwin often used his own sui generis methods of spelling – for example, ‘headache’ is sometimes noted as ‘head ach’ or ‘head-ach’ and sometimes ailments have been abbreviated (such as ‘constip’ for constipation’).

Deliquium: Two definitions are given in the OED: Failure of the vital powers; a swoon, fainting fit. (see also introduction to Godwin's Health); and for ‘deliquescence’, the dissolving of hard body into a liquor. Many medicines are described in this period ‘as deliquium.’ This raises the possibility that Godwin was using the term with reference to relief from constipation. Between 1809 – 1814 Godwin had about 20 attacks of this ‘deliquium’.

Deliquia tria; multa imperfecta: Possibly indicating several symptoms at once. See also entry for 'Deliquium'