Over the course of his long life Godwin had carefully built up an extensive archive of correspondence and literary manuscripts in anticipation of his survivors tracing his life through his papers, and satisfying thereby his own passion for fame. He had composed a number of autobiographical fragments covering his early years, and methodically maintained his diary. In this note written in 1819 he imagines the posthumous life of his archive.
I feel the pen dropping from my hands. The fingers that trace these lines will very speedily be void of sense & motion. The mind that dictates to the fingers will soon cease to animate my frame, & will live only in the speculations I am now delivering to my fellow beings. Other men will read them, will weigh, consider & examine their justness & their use; but the author who first digested them, will have finished his task, & rested from his labours.
William Godwin; (bequest, 1836) Mary Shelley; (bequest, 1851) Sir Percy and Lady Shelley; (bequest, 1889) Lady Shelley; (bequest, 1899) Shelley Scarlett (later 5th Baron Abinger) and/or Robert Scarlett (later 6th Baron Abinger); (bequest, 1917) Robert Scarlett, 6th Baron Abinger; (bequest, 1927) Hugh Scarlett, 7th Baron Abinger; (bequest, 1943) James Scarlett, 8th Baron Abinger; (bequest, 2002) James Scarlett, 9th Baron Abinger; (purchase, 2004) Bodleian.