Victoria & Albert MSL/1876/Forster/223

Godwin’s first full-length novel was published in three volumes under the title Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams on 26 May 1794. The work was composed between 24 February 1793 and 10 May 1794. It was begun just ten days after the publication of Godwin’s An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice. Godwin revised Caleb Williams for a second and a third edition, which appeared in 1796 and 1797 respectively, and for its reissue in a single volume in 1831, in Bentley’s Standard Novels series.

S-GA contains the sole surviving manuscript of Caleb Williams (MSL/1876/Forster/223), which also served as the printer’s copy. It comprises 161 leaves containing the holograph manuscript of Caleb Williams, including revisions made as the work progressed and a cancelled ending. The manuscript was originally written on loose leaves. On Godwin’s death in 1836, the manuscript was auctioned, along with fourteen others, in the sale of his library. The guard book in which the manuscript of Caleb Williams is now mounted was commissioned by its first purchaser, Dawson Turner. The manuscript was described as having ‘a few leaves wanting’ at the time of sale.

For bibliographical details, including further information about provenance, paper, watermarks, and sequence of composition, see Pamela Clemit, ‘Caleb Williams: A Description of the Holograph Manuscript’ (2017).