Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/264

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
250
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

Coleridge were in various ways connected with the Godwin circle. Now, Godwinism, presented as the gospel of the Revolution, indicates Wordsworth's difficulty with curious precision. Godwin, of course, appeals to Reason, and in general terms Wordsworth, like every one on his side of the question, agreed. Their essential aim was to get rid of superstition and obsolete tradition. Godwin, too, held Reason to be a peaceable goddess, whose only weapon was persuasion, not force. Godwin never erred from excess of passion, and was by no means the kind of wood of which martyrs or fanatics are made. Man, he thought, was perfectible, and a little calm argument would make him perfect. So far Wordsworth might agree during his early enthusiasm. The people, freed from the domination of their false guides, were to come to their senses and establish the reign of peace and liberty. But Godwin went a step further. Reason, according to him, leads straight to anarchy. Rulers, of course, will not be wanted when men are perfectly reasonable. But, moreover, rules in general will not be wanted. Men will not tie their hands by custom or prejudice. They will act in each case for the best, that is, for the