Skip to main content

Series of 22 letters from Charles Lamb to William Godwin

 Single Item
MS. 23682
Held in our offsite storage facility

  • Request

Series of 22 autograph letters written by Charles Lamb to William Godwin between 4 December 1800 and [26 July 1827]. The earliest letter can be seen as an example of Lamb's flippant humour. Later that month, he discusses their collaboration on Godwin's play Antonio, for which Lamb wrote the epilogue. In this letter, dated 11 December, Lamb suggests cuts to the epilogue, and on 14 December (the day after the play's disastrous opening night), he proposes abridgements to the play itself. Two long letters written in September 1801 make extensive suggestions for Godwin's proposed new play(which was to be loosely based on Defoe's Roxana), advising him to draw on the life of Richard Savage. In a further group of letters composed in November 1803 Lamb apologises for not being able to write a review of Godwin's Life of Chaucer. On 14 March 1806 Lamb offers his apologies following an argument. Three letters from March and April 1808 strongly object to Godwin's proposed cuts to Lamb's children's book Adventures of Ulysses. The remaining letters concern visits, his health, and literary works.


  • Creation: 4 Dec 1800-[26 Jul 1827]


0.08 Linear metres

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 23682].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.


MS. 23682

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 23682


22 letters from Charles Lamb (1775-1834) to William Godwin (1756-1836), 4 Dec 1800-[26 Jul 1827].

Biographical / Historical

Charles Lamb (1775-1834) was an essayist, poet, and antiquarian, best known for his Essays of Elia and for the children's book Tales from Shakespeare, co-authored with his sister, Mary Lamb (1764–1847). Further details of his life and work can be found in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

William Godwin (1756-1836) was a journalist, political philosopher, and novelist, best known for his An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams. His first wife was Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), a writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights. One of his children was Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Further details of his life and work can be found in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

It was William and Mary Godwin who suggested to the Lambs that they begin writing for children. Their Tales from Shakespeare (1807) and Adventures of Ulysses (1808) were immensely popular.

Custodial History

Previously in the possession of 8th Baron Abinger (cited in the 1975 edition of the Letters), later sold by Sotheby's on 23 July 1987 (lot 85).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Christie's, 10 January 2024.

Related Materials

The Bodleian holds other papers related to Charles Lamb, among them a holograph of his Dream Children at MS. Facs. b. 7.

The letters used to form part of The Abinger Papers, now in the Bodleian under the shelfmarks MS. Abinger b. 1-6; c. 1-31, 31*, 32-92; d. 1-38; e. 1-69.

Catalogue of 22 letters from Charles Lamb to William Godwin
Margaret Czepiel
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
First edition

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom