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Caleb Williams (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

William Godwin , Pamela Clemit
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Feb 2009 Oxford World's Classics
'He appears to be persecutor and I the persecuted: is not this difference the mere creature of the imagination?'

Caleb is a guileless young servant who enters the employment of Ferdinando Falkland, a cosmopolitan and benevolent country gentleman. Falkland is subject to fits of unexplained melancholy, and Caleb becomes convinced that he harbours a dark secret. His discovery of the truth leads to false accusations against him, and a vengeful pursuit as suspenseful as any thriller.

The novel is also a powerful political allegory, inspired by the events of the decade following the French Revolution. This new edition reproduces the original novel of 1794, which captures the raw indignation and sense of injustice felt by victims of British law. It includes the startlingly different manuscript ending, and selected variants in the second and third editions reflecting changes in Godwin's political and philosophical thinking.
ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; New edition (12 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199232067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199232062
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Pamela Clemit has previously edited Godwin's St Leon for OWC and is the editor of a multi-volume forthcoming edition of Godwin's Letters for OUP. She is also contributing to the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to British Literature of the French Revolution, 1789-1800.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
My life has for several years been a theatre of calamity. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'the empire that man exercises over man...' 30 Aug 2010
By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
'Caleb Williams' has one of the most powerful beginnings I've ever read:

'My life has for several years been a theatre of calamity. I have been a mark for the vigilance of tyranny, and I could not escape. My fairest prospects have been blasted. My enemy has shown himself inaccessible to entreaties and untired in persecutions. My fame, as well as my happiness, has become his victim. Every one (...) has refused to assist me in my distress, and has execrated my name. I have not deserved this treatment.'

Would you not, as I did, feel compelled to read on and find out how this sorry state of affairs came to be for Caleb Williams? What follows is a tale of passionate feelings (guilt, rage, jealousy, envy, ...) told with gusto by Caleb Williams himself. Written as a first person-narrative, Caleb Williams not only chronicles what happened to him but also how it came to pass and, specifically, his feelings, doubts, emotions, misgivings, ... at the time. Therein lies both the attraction and the weakness (if that is the correct word) of this novel.

The 'what' is an absorbing story indeed, with Caleb Williams falsely (that is, if you consider him to be a trustworthy narrator) being accused of theft, his imprisonment and escape attempts, his flight from jail and ultimate confrontation with 'his enemy'. However, before you place your order on this site or rush out to the bookstore be aware that there is more to this book than an adventure story. As I said earlier, Caleb Williams also describes (often at great length) how and why he came to do what he did, the feelings he fell prey to at the time, thoughts on the social mores that allow innocent people to languish in prison, etc. etc.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moral story of secrets, vengeance and justice 20 Nov 2011
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Written by William Godwin, husband (briefly) to Mary Wollstonecraft, and father to Mary Shelley (who dedicated Frankenstein to him), this is a novel not read much now, even in universities, but is definitely worth it.

Caleb Williams is a young man who takes a job with the charismatic landowner Falkland, but he is puzzled by his employer's secrets, and his sudden fits of melancholy, and almost psychotic anger. Endlessly inquisitive (like Frankenstein), he strives to find out what lies hidden at the heart of Falkland's life - and finds himself pursued by a man whose vengeance seems to know no bounds.

Beneath the slightly gothic trappings, this is actually a very moral story with political overtones and - mostly - a pessimistic idea of human nature. The ending is one which modern readers might perhaps find both unsettling and unsatisfying, a nice example of how cultural artefacts are historically-situated.

This isn't, perhaps, the important book that Godwin set out to write, but it's an interesting read.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK. 1 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Overall, this book is an OK read. I bought it as a part of my university reading. I found the story to be a little bit boring and felt it was dragged out too long. I intially enjoyed the beginning of the book but felt I couldn't really attach myself to the character of Caleb.
This book would be great for anybody who has a specific interest in Victorian writing with a male perspective.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My review 29 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I look forward to reading it, lots of books to read so will let you know when I have read it
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's okay--like a soap opera that never end seems to end. 2 July 2014
By Joseph Ferrerosa - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I keep trying to read this, but I find myself not being able to get through it. I mean the first-half is sooo long and dully repetitive I'd feel more at home reading "Pamela" or "Clarissa."
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