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William Godwin, Dissenter and political philosopher, was born in 1756. His interest in radical politics was sparked off during the 1770s by the debate which surrounded the American War of Independence. The Government believed that the colonists should be subject to the Constitution; supporters of the rebels felt that far bigger issues of justice and liberty were at stake. Godwin settled in London in 1783 when he first met the artist James Barry (see nos.16-18), a radical who seems to have known Blake by the mid-1780s. Godwin was among those London radicals who hoped that the French Revolution of 1789 would stimulate parliamentary reform in Britain. 'Liberty', he wrote, 'leaves nothing to be admired but talents and virtue.'

July 1994