Using false names, Shelley sent copies of The Necessity of the Atheism to ‘men of thought and learning’, including bishops and clergymen. Here, writing as ‘Jennings Stukeley’, he sends 'a tract' to William Godwin, expressing his hope that, if correct, it will 'festinate' the impact of Political Justice. This unusual word, meaning to hasten, is typical of the learned pose Shelley adopts. He makes no mention of his youth, and on another occasion, when sending a copy of The Necessity of Atheism to the Rector of Redmarshall, he assumed the role of 'Charles Meyton', a well-to-do elderly clergyman.
Shelley wrote this letter with a hard-pointed stylus, using a carbon-paper process recently supplied to him by the inventor Ralph Wedgwood, a member of the Wedgwood family of potters.
Altho’ unacquainted with you otherwise than by your writings, I am nevertheless induced by the spirit of liberal investigation, & ardency for the rights of humanity which they breathe, to address you, to lay aside all bondages of etiquette, to address you as a common friend to Nature, Justice & Reason. I enclose you therefore, a tract, which I have compressed from much prolix reasoning, & which I believe to come near to the truth, which I submit to your inspection. Your opinion, or the reasons which induce you to think any part of the enclosed reasoning incorrect, [?unclearre], or false will much oblige me; the truth of it if established would very much festinate the approach of that period, when mankind shall see the truth of, & be actuated by the morality of "Political Justice."
I do not add more, but after an attentive perusal, perhaps you will favor me with a letter containing your opinions relative to it’s comparative truth or fallacy.
Mr Mundays, Printer
The book is not, & I fear cannot be published.
William Godwin; ? (bequest, 1836) Mary Shelley, via Mary Jane Godwin; ? (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.
B. C. Barker-Benfield, ‘A spoof letter to William Godwin’, Bodleian Library Record, vol. XXI no. 1 (for April 2008, publ. 2009), pp. 112-15.