25 August 1793

George Dyer, at W. Hammonds, Stanton, Hunts., to Mary Hays, Gainsford Street, 25 August 1793.1

 

Dear Madam

      Agreeably to promise I scribble you a few lines amidst as much business, as if I was in town, indeed more: you must therefore forgive me, if I am short. – I delivered your letter to Miss Robinson,2 who is well; & will send a letter by me on my return. Mr Frend you must forgive. His hands are full, and he will do himself the pleasure of writing you an epistle soon, which I shall bring with me to town. I am now at Stanton in Huntingdonshire, quite retired, and leading just such a kind of life as is agreeable to me among books and trees, & one or two Friends. I walked here, and, shall probably walk to Bedford. In about a weeks time I shall leave Stanton. If therefore you favour me with a line, please to direct it to me as usual in Bride Lane, it will be sent with my other letters & proof-sheets franked by a friend. I have written to Mr Johnson about yr book. I hope at least, it will be in his next Review.3 I saw Mr Beloe4 before I left town. He is pleased wth yr Essays, & we mean to do ourselves ye pleasure of coming to drink tea with you on my ^& his^ return to London. How do you & the muse and you agree this fine weather? They have quite forsaken me. I have so much complaing and prosing, that a I <> have not had a rhyme pass through my organized matter a long time. Farewell. With my best compts in which Mr Frend unites, I remain, dear Madam

                                    yrs sincerely

                                                G. Dyer.

at W. Hammonds Esqr5

Stanton, Hunts.

25 Aug. 1793.

 

P.S. Mr Frends Trial, & my Complaints ^2nd Edit^ will be out in about three weeks.6  I wish to make up a little sum for one or two cases of distress, that have fallen in my way.  If, therefore, you know any persons of yr Friends as who are likely to want any of my books, youll thank me by lettg me know.

 

Address: Miss Hays | Gainsford Street | Horsley Down



1Misc. Ms. 2166, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 283-84; Wedd, Love Letters 226.

2 Ann Robinson, Hays's friend and correspondent.

3 Reference is to Joseph Johnson's Analytical Review and the suggestion that a review of Hays's Letters and Essays would appear in the periodical, which it did in the August issue that year. See Analytical Review 16 (1793), 464-47.

4 William Beloe (1756-1817) founded the British Critic in 1793. In his posthumous reminiscence, The Sexagenarian; Or, the Recollections of a Literary Life. 2 vols. 2nd ed. (London: F. C. and J. Rivington, 1818), in chapter 53 of the 1st volume, he writes about a group of women writers surrounding Helen Maria Williams, Wollstonecraft, Plumptree, and Hays. He wishes to bring "this class of females . . . together and get rid of them at once. Recollection does not regard them with complacency. Indeed, they were so amiable on [360] first acquaintance, (and if the expression may be allowed, they so degenerated afterwards) that memory is oppressed with looking back upon them" (359-60). He writes of Hays that she was ‘lively’ in the beginning, and 

ingenous, innocent, and interesting. It is not pretended to say who or what perverted her principles, but she was a friend of the Wolstoncraft school, a follower of Helvetius, and a great admirer of Rousseau.

    As ill luck would have it, she must needs write a novel, and as her evil genius prompted, was induced to publish it. What thinkest thou gentle reader, was the outline of the story? Why this: 

    The heroine, Emma Courtney Hight, falls in love, desperately in love, with a youth whom she had never seen at length, she encounters him – worse and worse! – Passion now boils over, and she exercises every female artifice to captivate his affection in return. But it will not do; all her efforts prove ineffectual. What’s next to be done? Why take him by storm; or, which is much the same [361] thing, she voluntarily offers herself to live with him as his mistress. 


                        Make me mistress to the man I love.


But this will not do; he heart proves made of impenetrable stuff: at length, the heroine, compelled by dire necessity, marries, contrary to her inclination, a man she dislikes exceedingly. But still she retains her first passion; and what is more, disregarding the obligations of duty imposed by her new character, she attends on his dying bed, the man for whom she first suffered love. The consequence is almost ludicrously disastrous:  the husband attaches himself to a female domestic, and to conclude and complete the catastrophe, he finally shoots himself through the head.

    But after all, things might have been yet worse, with respect to this same M. H. She might, like her friends, Mesdames W. and H. M. W. have emigrated to France, and disgraced herself and her country.

    She had the prudence to stay at home. She might have written other still more mischievous, and still more foolish things. It pleased Providence to remove her, and, as we earnestly hope, to forgive her. (360-61)

5  William Hammond of Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire, was a friend of both Dyer and Frend. Dyer spent much time in the 1780s living (and teaching for a time) in nearby Swavesy. Dyer dedicated his Poems (1792) to Frend and noted that he had composed many of the poems in his volume at the home of Mr. Hammond, "their mutual friend" (Poems, iii).  Most likely William is the father of John Hammond, a friend and correspondent of Frend who was an Anglican minister and who, like Theophilus Lindsey, resigned his living because he had become a Unitarian, like Dyer and Frend.

6 Reference is to Frend's The Trial of William Frend, M.A., and Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge (Cambridge: Hodson, 1793) and Dyer's The Complaints of the Poor People of England (London: J. Ridgway and H. D. Symonds, 1793).