chapter  Chapter XVII
23 Pages

Social Justice

Withv Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft

The more serious, but certainly less entertaining, apostles of social reform in fiction were, most importantly, William Godwin, and in a lesser way, his friend Thomas Holcroft, and Godwin’s wife, better known by her maiden name of Mary Wollstonecraft. Self-educated, and working successively as hostler, shoemaker, and strolling actor, Holcroft had no exalted view of social and political make-believe. Godwin’s fictions must be approached with some idea of one of the great documents in political and social liberation—his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, published in 1793. In Political Justice Godwin had already taken the position that law is itself a fetter upon liberty, since it cannot be administered in the spirit of humanity, but only through the weaknesses and class interests of time-servers and corrupt instruments of privilege. In this sense, Caleb Williams is obviously a sort of appendix to the doctrine of Political Justice.