H. J. Jackson
The value attributed to the notes that famous authors have made in books depends on more than mere association: we are disposed to believe that their annotations reveal something about their mental lives and about the sources of the creative process. But if marginalia contribute to the creative process, perhaps the practice should be encouraged in all aspiring writers. Examples are taken from books owned by British, American, and Canadian writers from the seventeenth century to the twentieth, ranging from Milton through Coleridge and Keats to T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf, with special prominence given to Northrop Frye, Walt Whitman, John Adams, Hester Piozzi, and William Beckford.
William Godwin was a leading radical political philosopher, novelist, and social thinker of the British Enlightenment. He was the author of Political Justice, a founding text of philosophical anarchism, and of the novel Caleb Williams. He was committed to the Dissenting belief in the duty of ceaseless inquiry and revisited the same preoccupations throughout his writing life. His work is full of ambiguities and contradictions. Critical tropes surface periodically in Godwin criticism, motivated by the search for consistency. The best critical studies take an encompassing view and place his writings in relation to the changing politics of his own times. Criticism now extends over his entire body of writings. Growth areas include his politics, pedagogical writings, historiographical writings, plays, and his diary and letters. To immerse oneself in Godwin’s wide-ranging body of texts can still be an expression of dissent from “things as they are.”