Hays, John

John Hays (1768-1862) was the youngest brother of Mary and Elizabeth Hays. In the 1790s John Hays lived primarily in the family home in Gainsford Street or with John Dunkin in his large home in the Paragon (the first by that name built by Michael Searles, a friend of Dunkin and the Hays family) in Walworth. Between 1800 and 1832 John Hays lived at 9 St. George’s Place, Surrey; the second Paragon in Blackheath, near Greenwich (also built by Searles); Doughty Street, near Gray’s Inn Road; Norwood, along Camberwell Road; and in 1842 at De Crespigny Terrace, Camberwell. Like the Dunkins, he became a cornfactor in business for a time with William C. Hall in Brixton, Mark Lane, and Bermondsey. When Elizabeth Hays Lanfear's novel, Fatal Errors, appeared in 1819, John Hays was living in Doughty Street, not far from Mary Hays’s former residences in Kirby Street and Little John Street. He was joined in the novel's subscription list by his wife, Elizabeth; his sister Mary (listed as ‘Mrs. M. Hays’, a common title given to older unmarried women), living then in Peckham; and his brother Thomas, living in Bermondsey, near the old family home in Gainsford Street. Surprisingly, Sarah Hays Hills (c. 1765-1836), older sister to Mary and Elizabeth, did not subscribe to the novel. By 1821, John Hays and George Wedd (who married Mary Hays’s niece, Sarah Dunkin, in 1808) were in business together as Hays and Wedd, Corn Factors and Millers, 9 Billiter Square, Shad Thames, Southwark. They were also connected with Hills Mills at Bromley, Middlesex, part of the business of William Hills, nephew of Mary and Elizabeth who lived in Canonbury Square. John Hays also operated at one time a counting house in Riches Court, Camberwell. Like his two sisters, he was also a published writer. His Observations on Existing Corn Laws appeared in 1824 (2nd ed. in 1828, and a later edition in 1847, titled Revised Observations .... ), with the Preface to the 1824 edition located at Billiter Square, and dated 19 March 1824, but without his name, though his name does appear on the title page. On 4 May 1812 he married Elizabeth Atkinson Breese (c. 1781-12 September 1832) at St. Bride, Fleet Street, London. Children from her first marriage include Clara Breese, who married Frederick Salmon on 24 June 1830, as well as Elizabeth Breese (1803-05), Hannah Bancroft Breese (b. 1805) and Elizabeth Bancroft Breese (b. 1810). After their marriage, John and Elizabeth Hays had three children: Elizabeth, Susanna, Matilda Mary (1820-97), and Albert. Mary Hays lived with John and his family almost exclusively between 1832 and 1840, during the formative years of Matilda Mary, most likely serving as her primary tutor, much as Mary Hays had done for her older Dunkin nieces c. 1806-08. Like her aunt, Matilda Mary Hays became a writer and a radical voice for social and political reform. Her first novel, Helen Stanley, appeared in 1846, and a second novel, Adrienne Hope, two decades later. She is best known for introducing the novels of George Sand into English, her translations appearing in 6 volumes in 1847, published by Churton. Her last translation of Sand was Le Petite Fadette, which appeared in 1851. She co-founded the English Woman’s Journal in 1858. Matilda Hays was a lesbian and became widely known for her public relationships. Crabb Robinson knew her as a result of his long friendship with Mary Hays and her large extended family. He notes in his diary on 24 May 1844 that Matilda, now 24 years old, had written to him asking advice ‘about the character of a publisher of a novel she has written’ (Helen Stanley). He later adds this telling comment about her on in his Reminiscences for 1819, composed on 31 July 1859: ‘It is a curious fact, that a niece of Mary Hayes (a daughter of her Brother John,) is become an authoress, being as her aunt was, in advance of the age – if advance be the proper term, which it is to be hoped, it is not; for that implies that the age is to follow = She is the translatress of several of George Sand’s novels!!!’