14 December 1796

Mary Wollstonecraft to Mary Hays, Little John Street, Grays Inn Lane, undated [Wednesday, 14 December 1796].1

 

      Mary telling me that you could not decide, whether you could come to morrow, or next day, and Mrs Robinson’s2 servant calling to day, I have fixt on friday, and shall expect you. I could not wait for your answer, so that if I receive a letter from you to day, saying you will come to morrow, I shall nevertheless expect you on Friday.

                        Adieu!

                                         Mary

 

Wednesday Morning

 

Address: Miss Hays. | Corner of Little John Street. | Grays Inn Lane.



1 MS MW 0038, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 310; Todd, Collected Letters 384. 


2 Mary Robinson (1756/58-1800) was born in Bristol where her father, Nicholas Darby (c. 1720-85), was a merchant. Mary attended the school in Park Street operated by the sisters of Hannah More. In 1768 her father's fortune was greatly diminished and led to a separation from his wife, which resulted in Mary and her brother removing to London for further education. In 1771 her mother opened her own school in Chelsea, and used Mary as an assistant for a time before being sent to another school in Marylebone to finish her education. Shortly thereafter, she turned to acting and the London stage. Her stage debut, however, was delayed by her meeting with Thomas Robinson (d. 1802), whom she married on 12 April 1773. He fell into debt and was committed to Fleet prison in May 1775, with Mary staying with him during his incarceration. He was released a year later, and now the stage was their only hope for earning money. Robinson made her stage debut at Drury Lane on 10 December 1776, and would be a star of the London stage for the next four years, ending her career on 31 May 1780, amid considerable talk of her romantic affairs. Her role as Perdita in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale caught the attention of the Prince of Wales, and their subsequent affair (which contributed to the end of her career) affixed that name to her thereafter. Though it was a short-lived affair, it changed her life thereafter. She had many affairs after the Prince, including Colonel Tarleton and Charles James Fox, and led a busy and extravagant social life. Her health suffered in the summer of 1783 (possibly a stroke) and her debts led her to remove to France the next year, returning to London in January 1788. She spent the final decade of her life as a partial invalid but an active poet, dramatist, novelist, and reviewer and contributor to The Oracle (1790-93) and The Morning Post (1797-1800). She published volumes of poems in 1791 and 1794; her novels included Vancenza (1792), Hubert de Sevrac (1796), Angelina (1796), and Walsingham, or, the Pupil of Nature (1797).  Among her friends and correspondents at this time were Eliza Fenwick, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays, William Godwin, Coleridge, and others associated with the Romantic movement. She separated from Tarleton in 1797, ending a ten-year relationship. At various times between 1798 and 1800 she lived with her daughter at Englefield Cottage, near Egham, and she died there on 26 December 1800, only in her early forties. Among her final publications was the pamphlet, A Letter to the Women of England on the [Injustice] Cruelties of Mental Subordination (1799).