Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Friday, January 30, 2015

Frankenstein Sundae, 91

For his children’s books, Godwin employed several pen names, one of which both clutters the tongue and arouses amusement: Theophilus Marcliffe. Godwin put Marcliffe’s name on The Looking Glass (1805), and The Life of Lady Jane Grey (1806). “Edward Baldwin” appeared on a number of other volumes, including The History of England (1806), The Pantheon (1806), and The History of Rome (1809).
He also used yet a third name—William Frederic Mylius (sometimes just W. F. Mylius)—which appeared on a few titles, some of which are not positively identified as Godwin’s work, including Mylius’s School Dictionary of the English Language (1809—a volume that would go through numerous editions) and The Poetical Class-Book; or, Reading Lessons for Every Day of the Year, selected from the Most Popular English Poets, Ancient and Modern (1810).
We know that his daughter Mary was among the first readers of many of these works—and that he was surely thinking of her—and of other children like her—when he conceived and composed them.
The last one he wrote as Edward Baldwin (or as anyone else other than William Godwin) was History of Greece, a book he began in 1809 but did not complete until 1821. I discovered just now in my files the folder I’d set aside for this book. I have a photocopy of the entire thing, a copy I’d made during one of my numerous Shelley-related trips down to the Cleveland Public Library, which has an 1822 edition of the book on microfilm. History of Greece, I see on the title page, cost five shillings at the time.
I think how research has become so much easier now. I just checked online and found several digital copies of the book. Were I working on this project now, I would not have to leave my house, drive to the Shaker Rapid on Green Road, ride down to Tower City, walk to the Cleveland Public Library, request the microfilm, load it on a reader, drop a dime into the machine for each page I wanted to print, walk back to Tower City, ride the Rapid to Green Road, drive home. No, nowadays I could just print it right where I sit—maybe catch up on Facebook while the printer is churning out the pages—that is, if I even wanted a physical copy of the book. No need, really. In fact I just this moment downloaded and saved on my desktop a .pdf of the entire book. Took under thirty seconds.[1]
Anyway, in his preface (writing in the voice of Baldwin), Godwin says he now takes his final leave of the class of young persons, for whose amusement and instruction his publications were intended. He ends with a touching sentence: He well knows the motives, warm and inextinguishable as they are in his heart, from which these works have derived their being …. He’d written those books for money, of course—but also for his own children—and, in some ways, especially for Mary. His preface is dated November, 1821.
But by that time his beloved daughter Mary, now in her mid-twenties, had left his home and had shattered his heart.

[1] All of Godwin’s books are now in digital form. Check this website: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/

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