William Godwin's Diary


James Mackintosh (1765-1832), a political writer and politician, was a supporter of the French Revolution and close friend of Godwin when Political Justice was first published, but by the end of the 1790s he had been converted to a Burkean view of events in France. Godwin attended two out of a series of thirty-nine lectures in a series that ran at Lincoln’s Inn over four months and was repeated in full the following year. The contents of the first lecture had been published in advance as A Discourse on the Study of the Law and Nature of Nations (London: Cadell, Davies, Debrett and Clarke, 1799), so Godwin was prepared for what was coming. He wrote to Mackintosh on the subject, correctly believing himself to be the target of Mackintosh’s tirade against ‘promulgators of absurd and monstrous systems’, but in reply was promised that the lectures would stop short of personal attacks. This was disingenuous on Mackintosh’s part; the lectures never named Godwin but he was easily identifiable throughout. Godwin attended the second and third of the lectures and evidently felt unable to continue sitting through his former friend’s attacks. His own account of the episode is given in Thoughts occasioned by the perusal of Dr. Parr’s Spital sermon (London, 1801).

See DNB; St Clair, pp. 205-6; Locke, pp. 161-66 and Political and Philosophical Writings, vol. 2.