William Godwin's novel Things As They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams, published in 1794, explores the vast range of human relationships and institutions that fail to reconcile two states: "things as they are" and "things as they might be." The language of sentiment and feeling that Godwin employs may at first seem foreign and difficult, but the human situation this language expresses can readily be understood.
Falsely accused, framed, and mercilessly hunted and treated like a monster by society, the protagonist, Caleb Williams, is a recognizable figure to modern readers. Forced to forgo any comfortable relationship to "things as they are," Caleb is driven into a nightmare world where good and evil, legitimacy and illegitimacy are confused. To survive, he questions everything he has been raised to believe in. Caleb must resort to behavior and meet individuals that challenge the reader to test his or her own preconceptions about "things as they are." In modern terms, Caleb Williams can be seen as an antihero of an existential drama.
Though cloaked in the language of feeling and sentiment, Caleb Williams explores the mystery of human motivation. Like Falkland did before him, Caleb gazes into the heart of darkness and the abyss of human depravity. The challenge for readers is to examine what they themselves see when looking into "things as they are."
Volume I, Chapters I–XII Caleb Williams, born to a poor family laboring on the estate of the wealthy Ferdinando Falkland, is raised to be honest and virtuous, with an active mind and healthy body. Though of limited means, Caleb learns to read and write. Mr. Collins, the chief administrator of Mr. Falkland's estate, notices Caleb's progress, and, after the death of Caleb's parents, Collins recommends Caleb for service to Mr. Falkland. Mr. Falkland, though a cultivated and not unkind master, has a reserved and distant manner and at other times seems to be possessed by “paroxysms” that cause him to retreat into “a solitude upon which no person dared intrude.” He employs Caleb as his amanuensis, and Caleb thus finds himself frequently in the company of Falkland. During his employment, Caleb surprises Mr. Falkland at some mysterious activity concerning a locked chest in the library. Mr. Falkland, “sparkling with rage,” accuses Caleb of being “a spy” and terrifies Caleb by his irrational outburst. Though Mr. Falkland later expresses regret and gives a gift of money to Caleb, Caleb confides his confusion about the day’s events to Mr. Collins who then narrates the story of Mr. Falkland.
Ferdinando Falkland’s aristocratic lineage was not wasted on him. He cultivated his mind, body, and virtues and brought them all to bear upon improving the general welfare. He was active in executing the requirements of good governance and good management, respecting the structures by which his culture distributed in equitable fashion the fruits of individual labor. He found expression for this gallantry in the stories of Italian epic poets such as Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso. However, he was also exposed to the darker side of such codes of chivalry as practiced by the Italians—namely, the use of duels and assassination to rectify perceived slights to one's honor. In one instance, he acquits himself, through the use of reason and straightforward talk, of a charge of seducing the Lady Lucretia away from her betrothed, Count Malvese. Thus in a display of Falkland’s genius, he expresses an understanding of “things as they are” concluding to Count Malvese, “Let us...learn to avoid haste and indiscretion, the consequences of which may be inexpiable but with blood.”
This incident is ironic since it bears so much on the turn of events that take...
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place when Falkland returns to England. His aristocratic neighbor, Barnabas Tyrrel, exercises all the freedoms that property and position have given him and few of the responsibilities. Fierce in defending his own prerogatives, Tyrrel tramples on the rights and needs of any of his dependents who violate his sense of his own privilege to do exactly as he wants. He is a bore in the society of his equals, but due to his rank, he is generally accepted into their gatherings and, indeed, because of his physical prowess, is looked upon as a good catch for their daughters by many local families. The arrival of the physically smaller but otherwise gifted and well-mannered Falkland overshadows Tyrrel, and thus finding himself eclipsed by the grace and abilities and charms of Falkland, Tyrrel develops a hatred for him. Those among the lower classes whom Tyrrel has oppressed turn to Falkland for assistance; the ladies who once humored Tyrrel now favor Falkland; and society speaks glowingly of Falkland's accomplishments.
In one instance, an independent-minded farmer, Hawkins, is thrown out of his tenancy by a neighbor of Tyrrel's, and to spite his neighbor, Tyrrel sets Hawkins up on a farm on his estate. When Hawkins crosses Tyrrel, Tyrrel allows the full weight of his malevolence to fall on his tenant, destroying his crops, closing up access to public roads through his property, and eventually having Hawkins’s son imprisoned on trumped up charges.
In a final incident of cruelty, Tyrrel, who is the guardian of a poor female cousin, Emily, attempts to force her into a union with his tenant Grimes, and eventually develops a scheme whereby Grimes will rape Emily, thus forcing her into a marriage with him. All of this comes about because Falkland had saved Emily and three quarters of a neighboring village from a fire, after which Emily praised the strengths and virtues of Falkland. Falkland happens to be nearby when Grimes attempts to rape Emily and thus once again rescues her. Tyrrel, thwarted in his plans, has Emily arrested and carried off to jail on the charge of owing a debt for room and board, and Emily, exhausted, eventually sickens, even though Falkland once again comes to her aid, and she dies. At the county Assembly where all members of the local aristocracy take a seat, Tyrrel is castigated and his privileges withdrawn. Enraged, Tyrrel forces himself forward, and just as the assembled members begin to waver in their intent, Falkland arrives and with a stirring denunciation of Tyrrel’s behavior, drives him from the Assembly. An hour later, Tyrrel returns, very drunk, and beats Falkland, who falls under the blows he receives. Soon afterward, Tyrrel's murdered corpse is found.
The conclusion to Volume I consists of a transcription of Mr. Collins’s account of the aftermath of the murder and the court documents relating to the trial. It is generally believed that the gravity of the insult of being beaten is motive enough for murder, and Falkland is arrested. Defending himself on the basis of his own good reputation, Falkland refuses to call any witnesses to his defense since all present know how he has lived his “life in acts of justice and philanthropy.” He argues that the mere imputation of murder is so foul that he would give up his life simply to be free of the charge. Finally, he argues that had he been guilty he would have used the freedom he had to flee but instead is desirous to preserve his reputation. Falkland is acquitted of the crime, and eventually, Hawkins, once ruined by Tyrrel and aided by Falkland, is found in possession of part of the knife that killed Tyrrel. Hawkins, so it is held by some people, also confesses to the murder. Hawkins and his son are both executed, and Collins describes how Falkland’s lack of joy, his solemnity, and his fits of irrationality date to this event.
Volume II, Chapter I In Volume I, Caleb recounts events of Falkland’s history and the trial’s outcome based on the stories Mr. Collins has told him. In Volume II, Chapter I, Caleb begins to inhabit the history in a more fundamental and personal way. He expresses how Falkland’s history has had an impact on him. Though Caleb’s sympathies lie with Falkland, upon further examination of the events, he begins to have an element of doubt and suspicion about Falkland. He rationalizes his curiosity by explaining a compulsion that propels him to research Falkland’s story, and to question, to observe, to conclude what drives Falkland’s strange behavior. In an extended piece of self-analysis, for which Godwin’s contemporaries praised the novel, Caleb explains how and why he has now become “a spy upon Mr. Falkland.” He describes how familiarity has emboldened his relationship with Mr. Falkland and how his own “simplicity” and professed innocence of the world allow him to test the waters, so to speak, of Falkland’s guilty conscience. Caleb perversely concludes that Falkland’s liberal and open manner with him is an attempt on Falkland’s part to disguise his guilt and shame about the murder of Tyrrel, which would sabotage any interaction with Caleb or people in general. To support this conclusion, Caleb recounts a discussion he has with Falkland concerning the character of one of the ancient world’s most famous heroes, Alexander the Great. The gist of the debate is whether Alexander was a great liberator of human kind and builder of civilizations, as Falkland argues, or a kind of madman who forced his will on others, unleashing destruction, mayhem, and even murder in his wake, as Caleb counters. At the mention of the word “murders,” Falkland’s countenance grows pale and then the blood “rushed back again with rapidity and fierceness.” With this, Caleb grows more certain in his suspicions of Falkland’s guilt.
Volume II, Chapters II–XIV Caleb’s researches into Falkland’s guilt lead him to discover a letter from Hawkins to Falkland describing the final stages of his family’s ruin at the hands of Tyrrel. The letter reveals Hawkins’s courage and provides a “very interesting picture of a blunt, downright, honest mind.” Caleb ponders the mystery of how such a person could also be a murderer and then places the letter where Falkland will find it. In a subsequent conversation with Falkland, Caleb argues that the good qualities in a person could be used to work injury and concludes that “innocence and guilt are too much confounded in human life.” Knowing Falkland has probably read Hawkins’s letter, Caleb reminds Falkland of a story about a falsely accused man who is spared from death only because the true murderer is sitting on the jury and prevents it. This creates a paroxysm in Falkland who wishes he could “crush the whole system into nothing.” Falkland’s response continues to feed Caleb’s fatal curiosity and soon after this exchange, Falkland asks Caleb if he had read Hawkins’s letter which he has found. Now that he is aware that Caleb is pursuing a line of reasoning in regards to the murder, Falkland presents a kind of apologia to Caleb: “As soon as I was capable of choice, I chose honour and esteem of mankind as a good I preferred to all others.” He tells Caleb that the accusations have thwarted him in his ambitions to do good and that Caleb’s inquiries are merely “sporting with his feelings.” Caleb feels ashamed of his suspicions, and having been taken into the confidence of Falkland, he expresses devotion to his master.
But Caleb’s restlessness returns, and he contrasts his own situation with that of Falkland. In a remarkable analysis, Caleb suggests that the unknown gratifications waiting at the end of his researches will more than compensate him for any pain he might endure in arriving there. Here is another example of Godwin employing the language of reason to describe drives and impulses that we recognize today. Caleb determines that Falkland is not innocent, but he has a hard time accepting and proving that Falkland is guilty. In the meantime, Falkland’s strange behavior and fits and starts drive him from the house, and Falkland is to be found wandering among scenes of Nature in its more violent and sublime aspects, its rocks, precipices, and torrents. Caleb upon being sent to bring his master home, and observing his behavior, finds convincing evidence that “[s]urely this man is a murderer.”
Convinced of Falkland’s guilt, Caleb seeks proof and looks forward to an upcoming trial of a peasant accused of murdering a neighbor at which Falkland will preside: “Murder is the master-key that wakes distemper in the mind of Falkland.” In this case, the man accused reflects the story of Falkland’s own relation to Tyrrel, and what ensues is a tale of the accused constantly harassed by a bullying fellow whose final insult is such a breach of honor that in one blow, the defendant kills his opponent. Falkland, in a state of great agitation, leaves the courtroom and later acquits the peasant. The dead man’s brother, however, takes his complaint through an appeals process, and a less-forgiving judge eventually sentences the peasant to death. Caleb feels he has seen Falkland’s life pass before him at the trial, and finds this proof enough. While passing to and fro in a nearby garden expostulating to himself out loud and wondering what to do with his information, Caleb catches a glimpse of a shadow and is convinced Falkland has overheard him.
A fire breaks out in Falkland’s house, and in the rush to remove valuables, Caleb finds himself compelled by the confusion to enter the library and break open the chest in which he thinks the evidence of Falkland’s guilt is hidden. Falkland enters and sees what Caleb intends, seizes a pistol, and almost shoots Caleb on the spot. Restraining himself, Falkland relocks the chest and rushes out to fight the fire. Later that evening, Falkland calls Caleb into his presence and confirms Caleb’s suspicions. All the particulars fit with Caleb’s understanding save how Hawkins came into possession of part of the knife used to kill Tyrrel. Perhaps he passed by and assisted Tyrrel in his death throes, Falkland suggests. Having gratified his curiosity, Falkland says, Caleb must live with the consequences: “To gratify a foolishly inquisitive humour you have sold yourself.” He requires Caleb’s compliance and threatens him with “death or worse” should Caleb divulge information. Caleb feels all the remorse of having transgressed and “the ease and light-heartedness of [his] youth were for ever gone.”
About this time, the half brother of Falkland, Mr. Forester, appears. He serves as a complement to Falkland. While Falkland might represent the flourishes and charms of education and art, Forester is blunt and matter of fact. As Caleb observes, he was “one of those men who, with every seeming requisite for the discovery of important truth, are all their lives in subjection to the most contemptible prejudices.” Unimaginative and pragmatical and unmoved by irony, nevertheless, his unadorned style of talking is “forcible, perspicuous and original.” He takes up “correspondence” with Caleb because his half brother is inaccessible. However, Caleb suspects Falkland is jealous of his sociability and desires him to carry into perpetuity “an eternal penance” as Falkland does himself. This causes friction, and Caleb reflects upon his determination to commit himself to his own pursuits and interests, and the more Falkland attempts to limit his behavior, the more rebellious he becomes.
One day as Caleb returns from an errand for Falkland, he deviates from his path and winds up at Forester’s house. Caleb expresses his desire to leave the service of Falkland, but when he fails to answer Forester’s inquiries about the cause, Forester observes ruefully, “There is mystery in it; there is something you cannot prevail upon yourself to disclose.” However, Forester agrees to accept Caleb under his roof if he requires it, at which point Falkland bursts into the room having previously arranged to meet at a local inn to go over business. He is highly suspicious of Caleb’s presence “in an intercourse which had been so severely forbidden” and orders him to go home under the guard of a groom. Caleb reflects that “I was a victim at the shrine of conscious guilt that knew neither rest nor satiety.” Upon his arrival home, Caleb composes a letter to Falkland indicating his desire to quit Falkland’s service. The next day, after reading the letter, Falkland calls Caleb into his presence and warns Caleb that he has the power to destroy Caleb. With this threat, Caleb says to himself that this treatment will only strengthen his resolve, and he realizes that his desire to live independently is “more energetic” a director than Falkland.
Departing in the dead of night, he makes it to a nearby market town where his departure is delayed by inconvenient coach schedules, and later he finds that Falkland has sent out his servant, Thomas, to make inquiries concerning Caleb’s whereabouts. Thomas presents Caleb with a letter from Forester, who asks Caleb to return and clear his name and if he does so with a clear conscience, Forester will see to it that Caleb is allowed his freedom. Upon his return, Forester proposes a mock trial at which Falkland can level his charges against Caleb and Caleb can defend himself to an impartial judge, Forester himself.
At the mock trial, Falkland accuses Caleb of stealing jewels and banknotes from the chest he had broken into during the fire. He thus begins to build lies upon factual basis and continues to explain that Caleb’s odd behaviour, his uneasiness and restlessness, his reserve all point toward a “certainty of guilt.” Falkland also says that upon finding Caleb plotting to escape to Foerester’s protection, he searched Caleb’s possessions and found some of the stolen articles. In his defense, Caleb announces his innocence and claims that Falkland lies. This “insolence” shocks Forester who reprimands Caleb. Caleb continues his defense by denouncing Falkland and accusing him of planting the stolen articles in his personal effects. This continued ad hominem attack on Falkland exasperates Forester who reminds Caleb that it is in his interest to “[d]efend yourself as well as you can, but do not attack your master. It is your business to create in those that hear you a prepossession in your favor.” In arguing his case, Caleb continues to antagonize Forester who states, in regards to the false facts presented by Falkland, that “the exterior of innocence will, stagger the persons who may have the direction of your fate, but it will never be able to prevail against plain and incontrovertible facts.” Falkland pretends to be unmoved by Caleb’s attacks and expresses forbearance. This only places Caleb in a worse light, which Forester can only interpret as further evidence of the demonic in Caleb, and he overrules his half brother and commands that Caleb be sent off to jail at once. In a final image of Falkland before Caleb is sent away, Caleb compares his countenance to “a copy of what monarchs are, who reckon among the instruments of their power prisons of state.”
Thus is Caleb sent to prison, and Godwin through the eyes of Caleb writes an analysis of the contemporary prison of his time. In this fearful dungeon, the inhabitants are a mix of the guilty, the innocent, and the hapless. Their suffering is dealt with in some detail, though one character stands out, a soldier named Brightwel, who has lost everything in the wars and has been falsely accused of stealing a paltry sum of money. After his case is postponed for six months, he grows very ill and dies. Caleb adapts to prison life by retreating into his mind and employing other techniques to assuage the privations of prison. He devises a way to ingratiate himself with the jail keeper, accumulates some tools and attempts an ingenious escape, but is captured and punished more severely. Thomas, Falkland’s groom who had originally been the instrument of Falkland’s vengeance, visits Caleb in prison and is shocked at his treatment. He smuggles some tools to Caleb with the hope that he can escape. Using the tools, Caleb bides his time and realizes his plans and makes his escape. Volume II concludes with Caleb’s flight into the neighboring fields.
Volume III, Chapters I–XV Finding himself in the open fields surrounding the place of his imprisonment, Caleb secures a hiding place in a shallow but dark recess in the ground. As soon as he accommodates himself to its dimensions, he hears footsteps. His escape has been discovered, but his pursuers fail to find his hiding place. He remains in the cavity for a day and part of the night, emerges, and flees. He compares his elation with that of “young roe upon the mountains.” Avoiding human settlements, he passes through the fields, but at the edge of a wood, Caleb runs into a gang of thieves who manhandle him. Finding he has nothing of value, they demand his clothes. When Caleb resists, he is attacked by a man called Jones, who wounds him with his cutlass and abandons Caleb in a ditch. Not long afterward, Caleb calls out for help to a man passing nearby, who then assists Caleb and carries him to the ruins of a castle-like enclosure and places him in the care of an old woman of horrible appearance. After Caleb’s wounds have been taken care of, a rough group of men appears—the very gang of thieves he had met earlier. Caleb then realizes he is in a den of thieves and the good Samaritan who had saved him earlier is their Captain. However, when Caleb’s protector finds that one of the thieves, Jones, is responsible for injuring the hapless Caleb, the Captain denounces Jones as needlessly cruel and brutal and a dishonor even to a company of thieves. Mirroring lawful organizations, the Captain argues that Jones has trespassed against the rules by which even thieves must operate and then votes to expel Jones from the group. The others concur, and Jones is expelled. Caleb remarks to himself on the camaraderie he observes among these men living as they do in the moment, fearless of future torments if captured. Caleb adjusts to his new surroundings, finding himself far better taken care of than within the confines of the county jail. He recounts his history to the Captain, who does not fail to see how the innocent Caleb has been depicted as a criminal by the so-called administrators of justice. Secure in his present situation, Caleb observes with ironic satisfaction that the area surrounding the robber’s den is perceived by the neighboring peasants as haunted and visited by “a carnival of demons.”
However, all is not well, and eventually the thieves return one day with a posted advertisement offering a reward for the capture of Caleb. The Captain, Mr. Raymond, points out the evils and contradiction of such double dealing among thieves. Why, he asks, would they who defy the law then employ the law to ruin one of their own? To do so, he argues, is to accept the authority of the law, which, carried to its logical conclusion, would be the end of their present enterprise. He defends Caleb, painting his actions as reasonable where everyone else has only perceived guilt and rebelliousness. Though he is moved by Raymond’s defense, Caleb is troubled by the life Raymond leads. Using a rational conclusion drawn from the universality of an instinct for self-preservation, Caleb argues with the thieves that their present course of life exposes them much more to destruction with little impact on the betterment of the general welfare than were they employed in a legitimate line of work. Though Raymond is impressed by Caleb’s reasoning, free as it is from the usual religious moralizing, Raymond states that he must continue to live as he does, since human justice requires the sacrifice of the wrongdoer no matter how virtuous a life he might live between the commission of a crime and his arrest.
Since Caleb is unable to embrace the life led by his benefactor, he chooses to leave his company. However, the old woman's animosity for Caleb has proceeded unabated because she sees him as the chief cause for the expulsion of her favorite, Jones, and she attempts to murder him in his sleep, and failing in that, she rushes away to report his presence to authorities. Caleb is thus forced to abandon his hideaway and disguise himself as an Irish beggar.
During his wanderings, Caleb escapes the notice of Falkland himself who passes in a carriage, and taking a meal at a tavern, hears people talking of the notorious “Kit Williams” and his exploits. Finding that the hostess of the tavern has taken a liking to “Kit,” Caleb finds some diversion in this turn of events. However, he sees the necessity of departing England and makes his way to a seaport, booking passage on a boat bound for Ireland. However, after setting sail, the boat is boarded in the harbor by bounty hunters who arrest Caleb because they think he resembles one of two men who robbed a mail carriage. They take Caleb for arraignment before a local justice. Caleb provides adequate evidence that he is not the man they are looking for, but due to his suspicious disguise and the money in his possession, the justice feels that Caleb is guilty of something and places him in the custody of the contractors who then transport Caleb to a distant town to determine his guilt. Realizing that Caleb did not rob the King’s mail and that they will receive no reward for his apprehension, Caleb’s custodians strike a deal to release him for the fifteen guineas in his possession. Caleb bargains for his freedom, and is left to fend for himself in the open country. Evading his pursuers who realize Caleb is wanted after all, he escapes them and arrives in London. He carefully hides the traces of his arrival by disguising himself, not as an Irishman this time, but as a Jewish inhabitant of London’s East End, having admired the mimicry of one of the thieves he met in the robbers’ den who happened to be Jewish. In need of a livelihood, Caleb turns to publishing and translates and writes stories about infamous robbers of the past. Rarely venturing out, he relies on an elderly female neighbor, the good Mrs. Marney, to carry his manuscripts to and from the publisher.
Meanwhile, Jones, the thief who had tried to rob Caleb and was expelled from Mr. Raymond’s gang, has taken up the occupation of bounty hunter, using the expertise gained from being a thief. Jones’s ingenuity allows him to pick up Caleb’s trail and follow it to London’s East End. There he happens to have a brother who works for the publisher of Caleb’s stories who talks to Jones about the mysterious writer who sends stories of robbers by means of an elderly female. Suspecting Caleb is the author, Jones watches out for Mrs. Marney and attempts to follow her to Caleb’s lodging. Noticing that she is being followed, Mrs. Marney baffles Jones and tells Caleb about this incident, allowing Caleb to escape detection.
Disguising himself as “twisted and deformed,” Caleb takes lodgings next to Mr. Sprurrel who befriends Caleb and assists him in earning a little money. Taking a walk one day, Caleb discovers another pamphlet published by Jones offering a reward for the capture of the notorious Caleb Williams. Alarmed, Caleb immediately goes to the London docks looking for passage to the Continent but must wait a day before the next sailing. Later that night, Spurrel, tempted by the reward, betrays Caleb to Jones who then places Caleb in his custody. Arraigned once again in front of magistrate in Bow Street, Caleb denounces Falkland as a murderer and asserts his own innocence. However, Caleb has no proof and no witnesses to the murder of Tyrrel and finds, once again, that the magistrate is uninterested in his accusations and in his assertions of innocence. He remands Caleb to the custody of Jones who takes Caleb back to appear before the court in his home county.
Determined to free himself from prison and proceed as he had in the past, Caleb is surprised that he is brought immediately before a judge who, in a bizarre anticlimax, dismisses the charges against Caleb because his accusers fail to show up in court. Free, Caleb revisits the places of his fugitive days when he first escaped, only to be kidnapped by Jones and another man and carried away for an encounter with Falkland. Falkland, appearing haggard and hollow cheeked, commands Caleb to recant in writing his accusations and tells Caleb he had always tried to protect Caleb in prison and by failing to show up at the trial of Caleb, thus saving him from the gallows. Caleb refuses to perjure himself, and Falkland repeats that he will eventually crush Caleb into atoms.
The interview completed, Caleb departs and is met by Thomas who earlier had helped Caleb escape from prison. However, Thomas now abhors Caleb as ungrateful to Falkland, and presses a twenty-pound note, a gift from Falkland, into Caleb’s hand. After weighing the right and wrong of accepting much needed money from his enemy, Caleb considers where to settle himself and decides to eschew disguise and live openly but in an out-of-the-way place. He decides on a market town in Wales as suitable for his chosen way of life. In this rural place, he finds a lack of pretense among the population; he occupies himself as a watchmaker and school teacher, sharing these tasks with the local lawyer. But after a short time, he finds the population shunning him and discovers that he is being shadowed by Jones, who is now in the pay of Falkland and has been given the task of following Caleb from place to place and spreading his notorious history.
Caleb decides to write his own history to counteract Jones’s “Wonderful and Surprising History.” While once again changing towns, Caleb encounters Mr. Collins, who has been managing one of Falkland’s estates in the West Indies and whose health has deteriorated. Caleb appeals to Collins, but Collins refuses to accept Caleb’s assertions as the truth and states that he cannot assist Caleb in his vindication. At the denouement to this interview, Caleb, now without any protectors, prepares “to encounter all the evils that were yet in store.”
Determined to leave England once and for all, Caleb inquires about boats to Holland, and choosing one, he stays at an inn to wait for the ship's departure. He is alarmed when Jones encounters him and explains the “rules” of the system by which Falkland has determined Caleb must abide. He must not attempt to cross the “salt sea” or, otherwise, Jones suggests, Caleb will be murdered or end up on the gallows. Caleb now understands the nature of tyranny ruling him and compares the rule of the emperors Nero and Caligula and the reach of Roman power into the remotest corners of the world to the deeds of Falkland. He thus redoubles his efforts to make his story known and sets out for his home county. Upon his arrival, he convinces a reluctant magistrate to summon Falkland to court on the charge of murder. With only a few days left to live, Falkland rises from his death bed for one last attempt to retain his reputation.
At this point in the narrative, Godwin had originally composed a very different ending for Falkland and Caleb. In the manuscript ending that did not appear in the published novel, Falkland employs Caleb’s own need to confess the secret murder as evidence that Caleb seeks revenge on Falkland—certainly a motive for Caleb to invent the confession. To this line of reasoning, the magistrate (as all magistrates readers have met in the novel up to now) completely agrees, and Caleb’s deposition is considered of little consequence in determining the guilt of Falkland. Caleb is then remanded to the watch of Jones, who happily carries out his grim business of preventing Caleb any peace of mind. Caleb tragically settles into a kind of madness and depression, and, in another manuscript fragment, writes to Collins that “[t]rue happiness lies in being like a stone...an obelisk.”
However, the published manuscript ends triumphantly for Caleb who, truly moved by Falkland’s debilitated state, uses reason and aroused sensations of compassion to expostulate on the intertwined lives of Falkland and himself. Having experienced and felt the wellsprings of Falkland’s ideals, Caleb argues that had he appealed to Falkland’s reason and to his heart, Falkland would have realized that the only safety for his secret was in “conciliation” rather than “inexorable cruelty.” Caleb expresses how a universal sympathy is the only cure for the divisiveness among human beings. “I came hither to curse, but I remain to bless. I came to accuse, but am compelled to applaud.” The novel and its opposing endings allow the modern reader to enter into the conflicts of Godwin’s time and thus, depending on which ending a reader chooses, to speak volumes about their own attitudes, outlooks, and imaginative solutions to the “things as they are.”