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’).

Linseed Poultice, 9 days: Rheumatism was among the illnesses that a linseed poultice was meant to relieve. Linseed poultice acted as an emollient and was applied to a variety of ailments. It could be applied to abscesses to encourage them to burst, and in A Dictionary of Practical Surgery it is recommended to help the healing of gunshot and lacerated wounds. See Samuel Cooper and David Meredith Reese, A Dictionary of Practical Surgery (London, 1836), p. 244.