Caleb Williams by William Godwin is considered one of the early Romantic novels. Its author, Godwin, was the father of Mary Shelley and an important political thinker who affected and took part in the development of Romantic philosophical and political thought. Originally a dissenting minister, Godwin read widely in Enlightenment philosophy and eventually became an atheist and political radical opposed to all forms of monarchy and tyranny.
Although the plot of Caleb Williams includes elements of a detective story, Godwin includes many of his social concerns in the novel, including the injustices of the English penal system and the corrupting nature of power. As with many Romantic heroes, the protagonist of Caleb Williams is an outsider, mistreated by the powerful in society and misunderstood, whose ethical and political commitments are founded on his own inner certainties and his own reason, rather than following accepted social and religious norms.