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James Marshall


  1. Extract from Volney's Ruins of Empires translator
  2. The ruins, or a survey of the revolutions of empires, by M. Volney. Translated from the French translation has other edition translator



James Marshall was an editor, translator and lifelong friend of William Godwin, becoming his amanuensis. They first met at the Dissenting Academy in Hoxton run by Andrew Kippis. After resigning his ministry in 1781, Marshall decided to take up a literary career, persuading Godwin to do likewise and briefly sharing a house as well as exploring the option in 1784 of moving to St Vincent and Grenadine islands together. In May 1793, Marshall sent Godwin his opinion on the first draft of 'Caleb Williams', "If you have the smallest regard for your own reputation or interest, you will immediately put the enclosed papers in the fire. I was strongly tempted to have done this friendly office for you, but that I recollected, I had placed myself under a promise to return them". In 1800, Godwin left the care of his daughters Mary (later Shelley) and Fanny (Imlay, adopted) with Marshall while he travelled to Ireland. In 1807, Marshall helped Godwin set up the Juvenile Library. Other work translated by Marshall includes, Johan Brandes, 'The German Hotel' (1790), and Jean-Louis-Giraud Soulavie, 'Historical & Political Memoirs of the Reign of Lewis XVI' (1802, G & J Robinson), with Miss Pickard and Alexander Walker. See G.E. Bentley, 'Copyright Documents in the George Robinson Archive' (1982, Studies in Bibliography, vol.35), p.93 & 106. Godwin's daughter Mary Shelley left this character sketch of Marshall in her unpublished 'Life of William Godwin' (written between 1835-39), "And there was another man, a fellow student, & an aspirant to authorship and the honors of literature – the booksellers of London of his day knew him well – & many a contemporary author, fallen on evil days, & many a widow & an orphan had cause to remember the benevolent disposition, the strenuous exertions & the kind & intelligent countenance of James Marshall. His talents not permitting a higher range, he became a translator & index maker, a literary jobber. But though he had not genius for original composition, in a thousand ways he was useful to Godwin [who]… often found the more sociable & insinuating manners of his friend of use in transactions matters of business with editors & publishers. Often they shared their last shilling together & the success of any of his friend’s plans was hailed by Marshall as a glorious triumph. Godwin whose temper was quick (& from an earnest sense of being in the right & without knowing it somewhat despotic on occasions) assumed a good deal of superiority & some authority. Marshall sometimes submitted, sometimes rebelled, sometimes he was wrong, sometimes right, but they were always reconciled at last & the good humoured friend was always at hand to assist to the utmost with untiring patience & labour of hand & foot". (p.111-12) See Mary Shelley, 'Life of William Godwin' (1999, University of Sydney), and the relevant entries in the digitized Godwin diary, http://godwindiary.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/people/MAR01.html#MAR01-notes. Due to the general paucity of information about Marshall, his date of birth has been speculatively identified as the same year as William Godwin since they both attended Hoxton Academy together.