William Godwin's Diary


James Ogilvie (1760-1820), a schoolmaster, friend of Jefferson and champion of Godwin’s ideas in America, came to London and had extensive contact with Godwin and other members of his circle, notably Hazlitt, between 1817 and 1819. His recitations of poetry and lectures on oratory had been received well in America – newspaper advertisements claimed his audiences ‘repeatedly exceeded 900’ – and he came to London hoping his energetic, digressive style would bring him success as a lecturer. Under the general title ‘The Rostrum’ he lectured at the Freemasons’ Tavern, Queen-street, on various topics in 1817, Godwin hearing him speak on duelling (28 June) and on oratory (2 August), the latter illustrated with quotations from Milton and Scott. When Godwin heard him in November 1818 he was lecturing on oratory at the Surrey Institution. He later became addicted to laudanum and, in September 1820, committed suicide in Aberdeen.

SeeMorning Chronicle, 23 June 1817, 30 July 1817 and 16 November 1818; St Clair, pp. 423-24 and Stanley Jones, Hazlitt: A Life: from Winterslow to Frith Street (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989).