William Godwin  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

William Godwin (3 March 17567 April 1836) was an English journalist, political philosopher and novelist. He is considered one of the first exponents of utilitarianism, and one of the first modern proponents of minarchist philosophy. Godwin is most famous for two books that he published within the space of a year: An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, an attack on political institutions, and Things as They Are: The Adventures of Caleb Williams, which attacks aristocratic privilege, but also is virtually the first mystery novel. Based on the success of both, Godwin featured prominently in the radical circles of London in the 1790s. In the ensuing conservative reaction to British radicalism, Godwin was attacked, in part because of his marriage to the pioneering feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft in 1797 and his candid biography of her after her death; their child, Mary Godwin, later Shelley, authored Frankenstein and married the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Despite attacks on his reputation, Godwin wrote prolifically in several genres (novels, history, demography) right up to his death. With his second wife, Mary Jane Clairmont, he wrote children's primers on biblical and classical history, which he published along with such works as Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales From Shakespeare. While Godwin is sometimes seen as the founder of philosophical anarchism, he also has had considerable influence on British literature and literary culture.

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