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Caleb Williams - Things as They Are

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  3,059 Ratings  ·  146 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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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.
Bookdragon Sean
This was intense, passionate and completely gripping. The power of the narrative is entirely enthralling. Caleb has a story to tell and he beckons you to heed his words. I’ve heeded them myself three times because this was just that good. This novel is entirely underrated on this website, and drastically overlooked. But most literature of the Romantic era tends to be outside academic studies. Such a shame, this has just as much literary merit as any Victorian novel. I sincerely recommend that yo ...more
Henry Avila
Caleb Williams was from a humble family in rural England (set and written in the 1700's ) , his father a hard working, shrewd farmer, with a small piece of land, still young Caleb is an intelligent boy , and promptly noticed by amiable Mr. Collins, the steward of a squire much loved by the locals, wealthy, respectable Ferdinando Falkland. He receives a good education needed to become Mr. Falkland's secretary, what looked like an excellent, unexpected opportunity to advance in life, instead, will ...more
Paul Bryant
Nov 17, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classic novel fans
Shelves: 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
Nancy Oakes
Jan 22, 2017 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 18th-century
According to Ian Ousby, author of Bloodhounds of Heaven: The Detective in English Fiction from Godwin to Doyle, this book is the first in English fiction to "display a sustained interest in the theme of detection," and that the book's hero, the titular Caleb Williams, is "the first important detective in the English novel." Well-known British writer Julian Symons also noted that this book was important in the history of crime fiction, saying that it is in this novel that "The characteristic note ...more
Dec 05, 2014 Issicratea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 1700-1800
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
Jun 13, 2009 Marcus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

And the audio version at LibriVox.


The reputation of WILLIAM GODWIN as a social philosopher, and the merits of his famous novel, "Caleb Williams," have been for more than a century the subject of extreme divergencies of judgment among critics. "The first systematic anarchist," as he is called by Professor Saintsbury, aroused bitter contention with his writings during his own lifetime, and his opponents have remained so prejudiced that even
Jul 16, 2012 Quirkyreader rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished this book minutes ago.

Read this book! Read it now!

When this book was written it was the "Fugitive" of it's time.

Also, reading this book I a reminded of the story of Job.

The writing was very descriptive and picturesque. When the events in the story were happening, I felt like they were happening to me.

This book needs to be rescued from obscurity, and put on English Lit required reading lists.
Things As They Argh!

William Godwin’s Things as They Are, or: The Adventures of Caleb Williams actually reminded me of Charles Brockden Brown, and that is a very ambivalent, although all in all little flattering thing to say. However, I think my comparison is justified in that there are at least three similarities between Brown’s novels and Caleb Williams.

For starters, both Brown and Williams are generally considered to be pioneers in their respective country’s literature. Whereas Brown is one of
Apr 04, 2013 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nikolay Nikiforov
Dec 20, 2013 Nikolay Nikiforov rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Книга в разные моменты имеет сходство с самыми разными другими книгами: тут умный политический триллер Грэма Грина (The Power and the Glory), тут приключенческий триллер Джона Бучана (The Thirty-Nine Steps), тут "выживательный" Джеффри Хаусхолд (Rogue Male), тут поздний Толстой ("Воскресенье" и "После бала"), тут Достоевский, в одном из вариантов концовки — прямо-таки Беккет.
И в сравнении практически со всеми этими авторами Годвин выигрывает.
Книга, в принципе, построена на тезисе, что политичес
Jason Mills
Mar 08, 2012 Jason Mills rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of indignation and outrage
Shelves: fiction, classics
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
Sep 14, 2011 Brittany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 24, 2012 Falina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Marts  (Thinker)
Dec 02, 2012 Marts (Thinker) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Acquiring some most unfortunate knowledge regarding his employer, young Caleb Williams must suffer hardships throughout his life... Here he relates these affairs.
Jan 02, 2016 Arukiyomi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Godwin’s tale of the persecution of the poor by the rich is a socialist polemic that is a product of the influence of the French Revolution on English society. It’s a very readable narrative for sure with plenty to keep the pages turning, but as a comment on society and morality, I’m not sure Godwin was that successful.

Caleb Williams finds himself party to a secret about his wealthy employer which, after being sworn to secrecy, turns into a curse. Mr. Falkland, said employer, turns against anc p
Nov 22, 2010 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Carla Bull
I really, really enjoyed this! With a few caveats that I am going to elaborate on here.

So, Caleb Williams, or 'Things as they Are'. Firstly, historical context. Oh boy. That this was written during a time of political turmoil in both England and France is evident. It burns across every single page. This is without doubt a story of class struggle. It is the story of how individuals with vast fortunes and titles control and destroy the lives of those beneath them. It is a story of abuses of power
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
Sep 19, 2011 Jade rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Horrible horrible book. This took me an age to finish. Caleb Williams was the most pathetic narrator I've ever had the misfortune to read about. Every time I went back to this book it was with a sense of acute dread. God, it was so dense. What could have been said in about 200 pages took 330.
And Caleb's whole sympathy/love for Falkland was ridiculous. Why would you admire someone who made your life hell? I don't get it. And then he blames himself for Falkland's death. Good riddance!
One thing I
Dec 30, 2014 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 04, 2015 Helen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Godwin's political ideology is the principle reason that he wrote this text, and that can sometimes obscure the plot. This work is not as accessible as other pieces of Gothic fiction because the political themes that it constantly harps on are not necessarily resonate with today's readers, particularly Americans. I suggest at least reading Godwin's Wikipedia page to understand a little bit of his background and what he was trying to accomplish before launching into this text. If you want to actu ...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
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Goodreads Librari...: inaccurate co-author 2 18 Nov 26, 2012 04:18PM  
  • The Adventures of Roderick Random
  • Love in Excess
  • Amelia
  • The Man of Feeling
  • Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus
  • Camilla
  • Vathek
  • The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia
  • The Female Quixote
  • Castle Rackrent
  • Zofloya
  • Clarissa Harlowe; or the history of a young lady - Volume 1 (of 9)
  • Roxana
  • Hyperion oder Der Eremit in Griechenland
  • The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
  • A Tale of a Tub and Other Works
  • The Unfortunate Traveller and Other Works
  • Marius the Epicurean
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...

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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!” 18 likes
“Sure I arn't a cabbage, that if you pull it out of the ground it must die.” 2 likes
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