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Caleb Williams - Things as They Are

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  1,936 ratings  ·  99 reviews
Godwin is one of the first exponents of utilitarianism and modern minarchist philosophy. His two most famous works are An Enquiry concerning Political Justice and Things as They Are: The Adventures of Caleb Williams. Caleb Williams is the first mystery novel in which the aristocratic lifestyle is attacked. Caleb is the secretary to a Squire. He unearths a terrible secret a ...more
Paperback, 364 pages
Published November 8th 2007 by Book Jungle (first published 1794)
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Jul 25, 2013 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classic novel fans
Shelves: hidden-gems, novels
William Godwin was a guy who scores a perfect 10 on the the Coolometer - anyone's Coolometer, doesn't matter what model, even ones where the batteries are low, he is going to score a 10.

Well, he was an anarchist and wrote giant attacks on the political establishment; but also, he married Mary Wollstonecraft who was a great feminist genius and wrote Vindication of the Rights of Women; and between them they had a iddle bitty baby girl who wrote Frankenstein when she was 21 - ha! - and married the
I don’t often read eighteenth-century novels but I generally enjoy them when I do; they’re such curious hybrids, foreshadowing the modern novel in some ways, but with one foot still firmly in earlier narrative traditions, like romance and allegorical fiction. Caleb Williams has sometimes been hailed as a prototype of modern thrillers and mystery novels, and there seems some truth in that claim. It has strong elements of picaresque about it, though (self-referenced at one point, when the protagon ...more
Caleb Williams is part philosophical novel, part thriller and part vocabulary lesson.

Usually the book is cited as being anarchic, but it isn't directly so. It doesn't suggest an alternative to the existing government, it's not pro-capitalism or pro-syndicalism but it does hold to the most basic principles of moral anarchy which are non-violence and non-coercion. It is extremely critical of "monopolists and kings." In Godwin's own words: "law [is:] better adapted for a weapon of tyranny in the h
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
I'd expected a novel by William Godwin to be politically charged; what I didn't expect was that it would be such a gripping and sophisticated narrative.

Caleb Williams is a young, naive and bookish man from a humble family. He is hired as a private secretary and librarian by a local country squire, Ferdinando Falkland. Falkland seems to be the best of men - a cultivated, humane, liberal and kindly man. But a shadow hangs over him - years ago, his rival, a neighbouring squire called Tyrell, a vain
I’m slightly disgusted with myself for having become a fan of Downton Abbey. The show is okay, and by general standards a wonderful reprieve from the ordinary fare. Still, the show is often irritating, and not just for some of its hopelessly absurd plotting, but because it quietly encourages us to sympathize with maundering aristocrats as they go about their idiotic lives attempting to hold onto petrified ideals and a generally hoity-toity posture of disconcerting unconcern for everyone who does ...more
Chiara Pagliochini
« Ma la legge non ha occhi né orecchie né viscere di umanità e trasforma in marmo i cuori di coloro che sono imbevuti dei suoi principi. »

Una sola forza mi ha spinto ad arrivare in fondo a questo romanzo: la sadica soddisfazione di attribuirgli una stellina. Questa stella – davvero polare – io la ringrazio e continuo a inseguirla.
Non c’è niente di più spiacevole per un lettore che leggere (per dovere) qualcosa che lo ripugna. E “Caleb Williams”, in molti modi e momenti, mi ha ripugnato sommamen
Bill  Kerwin

This is an excellent early English novel, and deserves a wider readership. It is at once a detective novel, a suspenseful tale of pursuit and escape, a psychological study of obsession, a political exploration of class, a savage indictment of English law and English prisons, and an inspiring story of tragedy and redemption. Not to mention being a big influence on his daughter's masterpiece, "Frankenstein."
Jason Mills
Mar 31, 2012 Jason Mills rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of indignation and outrage
Shelves: classics, fiction
A brief summary, which actually gives away less than Godwin's own preface: Caleb Williams is a young man from a poor background, self-educated and with a lively mind. Squire Falkland employs him as his secretary, and Caleb learns the troubled history of his much-admired master's bitter feud with a neighbour, which ended disastrously. Compelled by a fatal curiosity, Caleb pursues the secrets of this conflict. This wins him the enmity of Mr Falkland and Caleb finds himself persecuted to the limit ...more
This novel, titled "The Adventures of Caleb Williams, or Things As They Are" is a forgotten gem of Eighteenth Century literature. Neither a romance nor a travelogue, this is the story of a faithful servant. Caleb Williams idolizes his master, Lord Falkland. In an effort to become as much like his hero as possible, Williams reads some of Falkland's private papers, and learns that Falkland is secretly a criminal--one who framed innocents for his crime and allowed them to be executed. In a misguide ...more
Why don't I want to give this book any stars? Not because I don't think it deserves them but because I think sometimes this star-allocating business isn't appropriate.

William Godwin wrote this book in 1794. The author is best known (now) for having been married to the feminist Mary Wollstencraft, and engendering a daughter who would elope with Shelley and then write Frankenstein. But in his time, Godwin was a famed and impassioned reformer, above all seething with anger at the law as it operated
Famous for being the first ever Gothic novel, Godwin (fathe rof Mary Shelley) was a political activist in the late 1700s who was concerned about the manipulation and mistreatment of the poor and the corruption of the rich - he used the suspense of the Gothic novel to intensify the call for change he wanted to see. The story centers around the false accusation of Caleb by his employer Falkland (the corrupted rich) who is hiding a dark secret and hot on Caleb's heels as he flees for freedom and fi ...more
"with Caleb Williams, Godwin invented crime fiction, and that he was the first noir author"

Although my previous encounters with William Godwin (1756 – 1836) were in the form of references to his being the father of Mary Shelley and the husband of Mary Wollstonecraft (which does speak well of him), according to wikipedia he is considered one of the first exponents of utilitarianism, and the first modern proponent of anarchism. He wrote this novel to popul
Caleb Williams is a gothic novel about consequence and how it differs according to class. Godwin, being the immaculate writer he is, was able to turn his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice into a thrilling novel that captured the attention of people worldwide. In his philosophical attempt to define a mainstream oppression in fiction, he promted the interest of individuals and society, enabling a spark in revolution.

William Godwin exemplified the views he portrayed in Political Justice through
Stephen Fothergill
I read "Caleb Williams" in the process of researching the life of William Godwin. My reading was voluntary, but despite this, I expected nevertheless that the book would be a typically turgid example of a long-forgotten work of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century fiction. In fact, though Godwin's writing style is unmistakably archaic, it is not excruciatingly over elaborate (unlike some of his contemporaries). The plot revolves around the exploits and misfortunes of a young, lower class ...more
You have a suspicion that your master, the man you previously thought to be the pinnacle of excellence, intelligence, and nobility, is, in fact, a murderer. You are a poor working-man's son who has been accepted into service in this great man's household. This great man has 6,000 a year and is widely acknowledged to be, shall we say, a Righteous Dude. So, instead of quitting or quietly going about your business, what do you do? Did you answer, "Ferret around, arouse suspicion, let the guy know y ...more
There are ubiquitous reviews here that will give a synopsis of the plot, characters, etc. I will spare any reader of this that experience. Godwin's work is great for many reasons. One that stands out is the psychological level of entry one is allowed into Caleb's head. Such access is revealing and deft in the workings of the novel. Aside from the great adventure story that this is on its own, the political philosophy examined is interesting and was significantly marginal for its time. This one I ...more
CW was assigned for two classes I am taking: the Craft of Writing and a seminar on sympathy and passions in Enlightenment literature.

This is a book very much worth reading, especially in terms of studying plot. Jam-packed full of misery, adventure and melodrama. Read it, for the consistent threat of one character to crush another "into atoms."

I find most classics kind of boring and depressing; Caleb Williams is oddly uplifting (despite ending the way most classics tend to end). In particular, I find Chapter XII of Volume 2 really inspiring. This book has a lot of great lines, and would definitely be a good re-read.
Caleb Williams is a much overlooked novel these days, though when reading it, it's impossible not to see it's influence on modern crime drama--especially the "innocent accused" motif. Aside from that obvious influence, the novel as well as the author went on to influence a wide range of writers, from classic Victorian novelists to the modern thriller writer (even if some weren't aware of it). But influence alone is not always a good reason to read something.
One word I've heard quite often to des
Godwin said in his preface: " I said to myself a thousand times, 'I will write a tale that shall constitute an epoch in the mind of the reader, that no one, after he has read it, shall ever be exactly the same man that he was before."

I believe he was successful in that purpose.

I had a difficult time putting this one down. Written in 1794, it illustrates the abuses of the law perpetuated by the wealthy and influential upon those without such influence and reminded me of protections against such
Although the story was entertaining enough I couldn't get into it. I was asked to read this for an English Novel class and would not have chosen to read it on my own. The purpose of this novel was written as an entertaining prose in response to his Political Justice treatise. With a creative cover more people would be compelled to read his viewpoints.

Caleb Williams was painful for me to read because of Godwin's writing style. He's often self-indulgent on his cause of a perfect society and indi
Philip Lane
Difficult to review this without spoilers because it was quite shocking in terms of the morality portrayed. It is well written and has very realistic adventures if not such realistic characters. Or are they so unrealistic?? - it depends how cynical you are about the mutability of a person's character. It poses questions about whether or not one should ignore wrongdoing in high places because of the difficulty of being taken seriously and ending up persecuted for trying to see justice done. Got m ...more
In the midst of a dispute about what is most important in a work of fiction between the object of the narrative and the way in which that object is narrated, I found myself reading this late eighteenth century novel, as not attractive in style, as powerful and intense as to the object (could anyone blemish the old Godwin to write as a eighteenth-century writer?) In short, I came out of the novel exhausted for the intensity of the story as for the heaviness of the style, and before concluding wit ...more
Richard Ward
The novel is interesting and entertaining. Some say it is the first detective novel. I would not call it one at all, though it does include criminals, victims, courts, and jails. Reminded me of Les Miserable and of Wilkie Collins' novel Basil. The novelist was Mary Shalley's father, I believe, though this is nothing like Frankenstein. It is a commentary on the classism and injustice of his day: tyranny is a word he uses over and over again.

The more things change, the more things stay the same,

This story starts incredibly slowly. The first few chapters are so poorly written it's almost a joke, like Godwin wrote them with a thesaurus in his other hand. To choose a line at random: "The general affliction, therefore, was doubly pungent upon the present occasion." I have to believe that even in 1794 the English language flowed a little better than that. To his credit, the story picks up about halfway through the first volume, and either the writer toned down his literary extravagance, or ...more
Jason Katz
How is this book not better known? It's epic. It's thrilling. It's very clearly an inspiration for the novel Frankenstein, probably in the questionable reliability of the narrator, and definitely in the twisted, symbiotic relationship between the two main male protagonists. Others on this thread have already commented on the brilliance of this novel, so I'll just add this: in the depths of oppression and darkness and entrapment that Caleb falls, the novel almost takes on a supernatural bent - it ...more
I picked this up at random from the choice of 1001 books to read before you die. I'm very surprised that it's not more well known within the 'classics' region. It's split vaguely into 3 sections, with the first offering a story within a story that sets the scene for Caleb's turmoils in the following section. It offers an insight into the class divisions of the high (Mr Falkland) and the lowly (Caleb Williams), with poignant reflections regarding how money and status can achieve the immoral and h ...more
As a piece of social commentary showcasing the absurdity of the degree to which masters had control over the lives of their subordinates, I suppose it's alright. Even today, of course, it can be very difficult for someone without power to get a fair hearing and be judged fairly against someone who does have power, but it did seem a bit heavy-handed, going so far as to have Caleb himself apparently buy in to the shocking immorality of calling out his master on his shitty behaviour. Throughout the ...more
Lee (Rocky)
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a political satire from the 1790s. I didn't know if the language would be intelligible to me or if the politics that it satirized would be unrecognizable. As it turned out, there was no reason for concern. The language is a little old timey but nothing too hard to understand. And as it turned out, the political and social structures that it satirized were tall too familiar: a system of justice and a society that allow the wealthy to brutalize the poor. The ...more
Erika S
This should be renamed _The Unfortunate Misadventures of Caleb Williams_, because that's all that happens.
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Goodreads Librari...: inaccurate co-author 2 18 Nov 26, 2012 04:18PM  
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in 1756, William Godwin was born in England, the son and grandson of strait-laced Calvinist ministers. Strictly-raised Godwin followed in paternal footsteps, becoming a minister by age 22. His reading of atheist d'Holbach and others caused him to lose both his belief in the doctrine of eternal damnation, and his ministerial position. Through further reading, Godwin gradually became godless. He pro ...more
More about William Godwin...
Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Modern Morals and Happiness St. Leon: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century The Anarchist Writings of William Godwin Lives of the Necromancers

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“Strange that men, from age to age, should consent to hold their lives at the breath of another, merely that each in his turn may have a power of acting the tyrant according to the law! Oh, God! give me poverty! Shower upon me all the imaginary hardships of human life! I will receive them with all thankfulness. Turn me a prey to the wild beasts of the desert, so I be never again the victim of man, dressed in the gore-dripping robes of authority! Suffer me at least to call life, the pursuits of life, my own! Let me hold it at the mercy of the elements, of the hunger of the beasts, or the revenge of barbarians, but not of the cold-blooded prudence of monopolists and kings!” 9 likes
“Sure I arn't a cabbage, that if you pull it out of the ground it must die.” 1 likes
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