Mary Hays was born on 4 May 1759, possibly in the Greenwich-Woolwich area south of the Thames during the time her father, John Hays (1729-74). He worked primarily as a ship’s captain, as did his father-in-law, Capt. Thomas Hills. Both men would die in 1774. Mary’s mother was the former Elizabeth Judge (c. 1730-1812). Previous to Mary, two sisters had already been born: Joanna Hays in 1754 and Sarah Hays in 1756.


Elizabeth Hays is most likely born in this year (d. 1825, in her 59th year); she was Mary Hays’s favorite sister.


John Hays is born (d. 1862), Mary’s brother.

John Hays, Mary’s father, first appears in the Poor Rate Books for St. John’s Parish, Southwark, this year (unfortunately, no rate books remain for 1760-67). Mary Hays refers in a letter to John Eccles about having spent time in and around Greenwich as a child, so it seems likely that the move to Southwark occurred near the year 1768 and the birth of John Hays. The Hays family and that of John Dunkin, Sr. (d. 1809) were living at that time in Shad Thames, the street running along the south edge of the Thames and just above Gainsford Street. Also living on Shad Thames was the family of Joseph Judge, whose daughter, Elizabeth, was married to John Hays; the family of Benjamin Webster Seymour, whose wife was the former Joanna Judge, sister of Mary Hays’s mother, and whose son, Benjamin, Jr. (c. 1775-1817), will correspond with Mary Hays in the 1790s; and the family of John Lepard, a member of a prominent Baptist family that appear often in Hays-Eccles correspondence and in the Hays-Robert Robison correspondence. Living in Gainsford Street in 1760 was John Dolman, pastor of the Blackfield’s chapel, and William Hills, Sr. (c. 1715-65).  The eldest son of John Dunkin, Sr., John Dunkin, Jr. (1753-1827, will marry Joanna Hays (1754-1805), Mary’s eldest sister, in 1774; Thomas Hills (1753-1803), son of William Hills, Sr., will marry Sarah Hays (1756-1836), Mary’s second eldest sister, in 1776. Thomas’s brother, William Hills, Jr., will attend J. C. Ryland’s Baptist Academy at Northampton in the late 1760s together, along with Dunkin’s younger brother, Christopher, and their friends, Benjamin Flower and William Button. The Dunkin, Hays, and Hills families were all attending the Blackfields Particular Baptist chapel at the end of Gainsford Street. In 1768 only a few houses had been built on Gainsford Street, with most of the land between Gainsford Street and Shad Thames being open fields (hence the name “Blackfields” for this area of Southwark just to the east of Horsleydown).


Thomas Hays is born (d. 1856 in his 84th year).


Marianna Hays is born (d. 1797 in her 25th year). Marianna has only recently been identified as a member of the Hays family; given the nature of her marriage certificate, it would seem likely she was the youngest sister, and one, for whatever reason, not particularly close to Mary Hays (they were separated by almost a generation); it is possible she was a cousin and the daughter of the James Hays who was living in Shad Thames in 1776, near the family of the now widow Elizabeth Hays; he may have been deceased by 1796 (the year of Marianna’s marriage to Edward Palmer), and thus could not have signed the marriage certificate. But since the signatures are only that of John Dunkin, Jr., Joanna Dunkin, Thomas Hays (Mary’s brother), Nathaniel and Sarah Palmer (brother and sister of Edward), it seems likely she was a member of the John Hays family, but this cannot be known at this time with absolute certainty. The certificate notes that she was living at the time of her marriage in the parish of St. George the Martyr, the same parish that the Dunkins and Palmers were living in at that time, so it seems likely she may well have been living with Mrs. Hays in the home of John Dunkin prior to her marriage to Palmer, and upon her removal to Little John Street and her fatal pregnancy, found her close proximity to Mary Hays of great convenience to her during that time.


John Hays, Mary’s father, dies, as does her grandmother’s second husband, Thomas Hills, both men having worked in the shipping business, although John Hays appears to have begun working as a cornfactor on Shad Thames and Gainsford Street shortly before his death. That same year John Dunkin, Jr., married Joanna Hays. 


In August 1776 Sarah Hays marries Thomas Hills, son of William Hils and most likely a nephew of the Thomas Hills who died in 1774. The Hills family will eventually settle in the Minories, where he will work as a cornfactor. 

John Eccles arrives in London from Fordingbridge in 1777 and by August is living in Gainsford Street in the home of the Ludgaters, close neighbors to the Hays, and working for a Mr. James, a cornfactor like John Dunkin. Eccles attends the Blackfields Chapel at the end of Gainsford Street and soon becomes attracted to Mary Hays. Their friendship begins to flourish in the spring of 1778, and by fall the courtship is in full swing, though  without parental blessing. They persist nevertheless, and finally that blessing comes, but only a short time before John Eccles dies of a fever in August 1780. Their highly charged, sentimental courtship is preserved through some 130 letters that passed between them in 1779 and 1780. 

1780, 23 August   

John Eccles dies at Salisbury, on his way home to Fordingbridge, of a fever, shattering Mary Hays’s dream of a marriage with a true soulmate. 


Hays collects the letters that passed between her and Eccles and has them transcribed into fair copies by her friend, Mrs. Collier, and inserted into two bound volumes which are kept by Hays and passed on to her niece, Sarah Dunkin Wedd, after which they find their way into the hands of Wedd’s granddaughter, A. F. Wedd, who published them in 1925. Only one volume remains extant. 

Her first publication appears this year:

Invocation to the Nightingale.” The Lady’s Poetical Magazine, or, Beauties of British Poetry (London:  Harrison, 1781), vol. 2, 464-65.


Hays begins a lengthy correspondence with the celebrated Baptist minister at Cambridge, Robert Robinson; it leads to a friendship between Hays and the minister and two of his daughters, Ann and Mary (the latter will marry Samuel Brown, a wine merchant, and settle in London where they move in the Hays-Godwin circle during the mid-1790s).  Her correspondence began partially as a result of her despair over the loss of Eccles and also over her growing interest in writing, literature, and theology, especially the kind of liberal dissenting theology Robinson was advocating at that time, an interest she would maintain the remainder of her life. During these years she remains with her mother and siblings in the Gainsford Street home, from which Mrs. Hays operates a wine business. John Dunkin, Jr., lives next door to the Hays family in Gainsford Street from the late 1770s through 1792, when he removes to a much larger home in the Paragon. 


John Dunkin published The Divinity of the Son of God, and the Complete Atonement for Sin . . . in a Letter to a Friend (London: Printed, for the Author by J. Brown, and sold, for the Benefit of a Widow, by Mr. Otridge, in the Strand, J. Johnson, St. Paul’s Church Yard, and at the Printing Office, Fair Street, Horsley-down, Southwark, 1783); a 2nd ed. appeared the same year. Dunkin’s pamphlet was response to Joseph Priestley’s An Appeal to the Serious and Candid Professors of Christianity (1783) and was a strong defense of traditional Particular Baptist positions on the Trinity and the Deity of Christ, two doctrines opposed by Priestley and soon to be downgraded as worthy of contention by Hays’s new correspondent, Robert Robinson, a minister Dunkin had a high regard although there would have been much disagreement between them by the mid-1780s. Nevertheless, the orthodox Dunkin still subscribed to Robinson’s posthumous Ecclesiastical Researches in 1792. 


Hays begins her literary career by sending the following poems and prose pieces to The Universal Magazine

Observations on The Sorrows of Werter, To the Editor of the Universal Magazine,” signed “M. Hays,” The Universal Magazine 76 (December 1784), 317-18. 

A Sonnet: by Miss Hays,” The Universal Magazine 77 (1785), 329.

Ode to her Bullfinch: By the Same,” The Universal Magazine 77 (1785), 329.

The Hermit; an Oriental Tale,” signed “M. Hays,” The Universal Magazine 78 (April 1786), 204-09 (part 1); May (1786), 234-38 (part 2).


In 1790, Hays joins her brother-in-law, John Dunkin, Jr., in subscribing to Robert Robinson's History of Baptism. During these four years, Mary Hays enters into correspondences with a host of Unitarian ministers in London, engaging them regularly in theological discussions in their correspondence and meeting them for meals and social gatherings in their homes or at her home in Gainsford Street and later at the Dunkin home at the Paragon. Her engagement with these ministers reflects both her stature as an emerging voice within Unitarian circles at that time and the openness of the Unitarians at that time to engage with and promote women writes addressing issues affecting dissenting religion and politics. Though no letters remain between Hays and Joseph Priestley, some of the letters at this time reveal a definite friendship with the famed minister, scientist, and political writer. Among her known correspondents are the ministers Theophilus Lindsey, John Disney, Robert Winter, Hugh Worthington, Jr., and John Evans, as well as two Unitarian writers of some note at that time, William Frend and George Dyer. 


Mary Hay’s first significant publication appears this year, Cursory Remarks on an Enquiry into the Expediency and Propriety of Public or Social Worship: inscribed to Gilbert Wakefield, B.A., late fellow of Jesus-College, Cambridge (London: T. Knott, No. 47 Lombard Street. 1792). This short polemical work was an outgrowth of her interest in and study of dissenting religion, especially the Unitarians, among whom she had begun to worship by 1791. In 1792 she and her sister Elizabeth broke with the rest of the Hays family and joined the Unitarian congregation at Salters’ Hall under the ministry of Hugh Worthington, Jr., one of her many Unitarian ministerial correspondents. During this time Hays composes her essay, Appeal to the Men of Great Britain (London: J. Johnson; and J. Bell, 1798), but would hold it from publication until 1798 because of the appearance of Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792. She meets Wollstonecraft for the first time this year in the home of Joseph Johnson, and will renew her friendship with Wollstonecraft upon her return to London in 1795 after her time in France and travels in Scandinavia and ill-fated relationship with Gilbert Imlay. In 1792 she also subscribes, along with John Dunkin, Jr., to Robert Robinson's posthumous Ecclesiastical Researches


Mary Hays’s second significant work appeared this year, Letters and Essays, Moral, and Miscellaneous (London: T. Knott. 1793), a series of short prose works about a variety of social, intellectual, and religious topics. Included in this volume are two tales by Elizabeth Hays, her first appearance in print. 


In October of this year Hays commences her famous correspondence with the controversial political philosopher and former Dissenting minister, William Godwin; portions of these letters (by her and to her) appear as part of the fictional text of her first novel Emma Courtney. At some point late in this year or early in the next Hays leaves her family's home in Gainsford Street and lives in the spacious new home of John and Joanna Dunkin, her sister and brother-in-law, at 2 Paragon Place, Walworth. 


Her correspondence with her Unitarian ministerial friends ends by March of this year, replaced by her growing friendship with William Godwin and, by way of that friendship, to several individuals who would form a part of the Godwin circle during the next few years, including Mary Wollstonecraft, who is re-introduced to Godwin by Hays in her home and whose first letter to Hays appears at the end of this year. Only one of two letters to Hays that have survived from 1795 that are not to or from Godwin On 14 May, Godwin visits Hays at John Dunkin's residence at the Paragon in Walworth for dinner, joined by William Friend, George Dyer, Stephen Weaver Brown, Mrs. Brooke, and many members of her immediate family, including her mother, John and Joanna Dunkin, and her sister, Elizabeth, and brother, Thomas, a remarkable achievement on her part and a stunning display of the diversity and sociability within London's Dissenting community at that time, for around the table were orthodox Baptists, Unitarians, and one sceptic. In October, Hays makes her bold move away from her family in South London for a new residence in Kirby Street, across the Thames. She had been living for some time in the home of John Dunkin at the Paragon in Walworth, but now she was taking rooms in the home of Ann Cole, who had recently taken over her father’s business after his death in 1794. Hays would be a tenant of Cole’s in Kirby  Street and other locations at various times for the next 25 years. 


Hays’s friendship and correspondence with Godwin continues to flourish, along with the addition of letters to and from Wollstonecraft and some new figures, such as Elizabeth Hamilton and Eliza Gregory, and the beginnings of her longest female friendship with another woman writer, Eliza Fenwick. 

After a ten-year hiatus, Hays returns to periodical writing with the following reviews and prose pieces, including a slightly critical review of Elizabeth Hamilton's early novel, a review she did not take lightly and would be avenged, to a degree, in her later novel, Modern Philosophers (1801) (see especially the letter by Eliza Gregory to Mary Hays, 28 March 1801:


Review of G. Walker’s Theodore Cyphon: or, the Benevolent Jew. A Novel [unsigned]. 3 vols. Crosby, 1796.  Analytical Review 23 (June 1796), 600-01.

Letter to the Editor, Monthly Magazine 1 (June 1796), 385-87. “Reply to J. T. on Helvetius.” Signed “M. H.” 

Review of  Elizabeth Hamilton's Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah; written previous to, and during the Period of his Residence in England. To which is prefixed a preliminary Dissertation on the History, Religion, and Manners of the Hindoos [unsigned]. 2 vols. Robinsons. Analytical Review 24 (October 1796), 429-31.

Hays made a significant mark on the fiction of the 1790s in 1796 with her first novel, The Memoirs of Emma Courtney (London: G. G. & J. Robinson, Paternoster Row, 1796), attracting some unwanted criticism, however, over her use of portions of some letters that passed between her and Godwin and her first lover since John Eccles, the former Cambridge mathematician and radical political writer, William Frend. 

By early fall 1796, Hays had moved from Ann Cole’s house in Kirby Street to that of Edward and Marianna Hays Palmer in nearby Little John Street (near Gray’s Inn Road), assisting her youngest sister in her new home and during her first pregnancy, which may have been a difficult one from the beginning, necessitating Hays’s assistance in a meaningful way. Mary Hays would find herself assisting various family members during domestic crises often during her long life, and she never appears to decline such offers. 

Thomas Hays, Mary’s youngest brother, marries his cousin, Elizabeth Dunkin, and will soon join the family business as cornfactors.


Mary Reid of Leicester and Thomas Holcroft appear as new correspondents this year, with the continuation of her friendships with Godwin and Wollstonecraft, and correspondence with Hamilton and George Dyer. Hays is greatly affected by the death of Wollstonecraft in September of this year, and discovers in the aftermath that her friendship with Godwin will suffer as well because of this tragic event. 

This year was by far Hays’s most successful in terms of her periodical contributions, most appearing in Richard Phillip’s new periodical, the Monthly Magazine (Phillips was originally from Leicester and was a personal friend of Hays’s friend, Mary Reid), including a short obituary of Wollstonecraft in September which Hays identified as her own work in the October issue: 

Letter to the Editor, Monthly Magazine 3 (January, 1797), 26-28.  "Defence of Helvetius." Signed "M. H." 

Review of A Gossip’s Story, and a Legendary TaleBy the Author of Advantages of Education. [signed 'V.V.']. 2 vols., Longman, 1796. Analytical Review 25 (January 1797), 25-26. 

Letter to the Editor, Monthly Magazine 3 (February 1797), 141. "Original Poetry of the Late Mrs. Brooke." Signed "M. H."    

Letter to the Editor, Monthly Magazine 3 (March 1797), 193-95.  "Improvements Suggested in Female Education." Signed "M. H."

Letter to the Editor, Monthly Magazine 3 (May 1797) 358-60.  "Are Mental Talents Productive of Happiness." Signed "M. H."

Review of J. Fox, Santa Maria: or, The Mysterious Pregnancy [signed 'V.V.'], 3 vols, Kearsley, 1797.  Analytical Review 25 (May 1797), 524.

Review of The Inquisition [signed 'V.V.']. 2 vols. Vernor and Hood, [n.d.]. Analytical Review 26 (June 1797), 77-78. 

Letter to the Editor, Monthly Magazine 4 (September 1797), 180-81.  "On novel-writing."

Letter to the Editor, Monthly Magazine 4 (September 1797), 232-33. Obituary on Wollstonecraft [unsigned].

Letter to the Editor, Monthly Magazine 4 (October 1797), 245. Hays affixing her name to the previous obituary on Wollstonecraft [signed "Mary Hays"]. 

In December 1797, Hays’s youngest sister, Marianna Hays Palmer, dies, and shortly thereafter Hays returns to her old rooms with Ann Cole at 22 Kirby Street. Her sister was experiencing a fatal pregnancy at the same time that Wollstonecraft would experience the fatal consequences of her pregnancy, two domestic hardships that must have taken a tremendous toll on Hays, especially given the fact that she was living apart from the rest of her family at that time.


During this year the feminist work, Appeal to the Men of Great Britain (London: J. Johnson; and J. Bell, 1798) appeared anonymously. The work fits the philosophy and style of Hays and has generally been attributed to her, although that cannot yet be conclusively established, despite the fact that no other names have surfaced as rivals to her authorship of this work. Hays produced three periodical pieces this year, all reviews; she was also working on her lengthy biographical notice of Wollstonecraft, work that foreshadows her soon-to-be overriding interest in women’s biography which would culminate in 1803 with her monumental work, Female Biography. Much of Hays’s creative energy during this year was spent on her second novel, The Victim of Prejudice.

Review of M. De Florian's Estelle, with an Essay upon Pastoral. Translated from the French [signed 'V. V.'].Translation by Mrs. Susanna Cummins.   2 vols. Wright. Analytical Review 27 (January 1798), 203.

Review of Calef: a Persian Tale [signed 'V.V.']2 vols. Hookham and Co., 1798. Analytical Review 27 (February 1798), 297-98.

Review of The Castle of the Rock, or Memoirs of the Elderland Family. By the Author of Derwent Priory [Signed, “V.V.”].  3 vols. Symonds, 1798.  Analytical Review 27 (March 1798), 418-19.

Among her correspondents this year are more women writers: the Plumptre sisters, Anne and Annabella, and Eliza Fenwick, beginning a correspondence that will continue into the late 1820s. Her correspondence with Godwin had essentially ended by this time, though she would continue to visit him for some time. 

This year is also marked by troublesome and unfortunate interaction and harassment as a result of her friendship with Charles Lloyd, a young poet and friend of Coleridge, Southey, and John Reid, the brother of Hays’s friend, Mary Reid. This ridicule she receives as a result of this experience, coupled with the criticism she receives as a result of her friendship with Mary Wollstonecraft, whose private life becomes widely known as a result of a memoir of her written by Godwin, and her inclusion in Richard Polwhele’s Unsex’d Females (1798). 

During this year, the Dunkins leave the Paragon in Walworth and move to a palatial home in Champion Hill, near Camberwell. In what will be a steady parade of marriages of her numerous nephews and nieces, Joanna Dunkin (b. 1780) marries Nathaniel Palmer (1774-1840) on 21 June 1798. 


Her correspondence this year is dominated by her new friend, Eliza Fenwick. It is in March of this year that she first meets a young Crabb Robinson, thus beginning a friendship that will last the remainder of her life.

The residue of the Lloyd affair will continue throughout 1799, plaguing Hays’s reputation as a Godwinian-Wollstonecraftian libertine for years thereafter and creating one of the primary reasons for her retirement from the literary circles in which she had moved so fluidly the previous five years. She even contacted her friend, William Tooke, that spring to see if she might be entitled to take legal action as a means of “punishing these assassins of private character,” including some recent comments in the Anti-Jacobin Review.

This year Hays’s second novel appeared, The Victim of Prejudice (London:  J. Johnson, 1799).

John Hays Dunkin (1775-1858), Hays’s eldest nephew, marries Sarah Francis on 16 May 1799.


During the first half of this year, Hays moves into the new residence of Miss Cole (previously in Kirby Street) at 30 Hatton Garden, a street still known today for is jewelry shops; the address also appears in the Charlotte Smith letter of 26 July 1800, with a final reference in May 1803. Among her neighbors were her friends, Mary and John Reid, and her publisher, Richard Phillips. 


Hays had another successful year of periodical contributions, including her lengthy biographical account of Wollstonecraft; a brief public discussion about insanity with her friend, Dr. John Reid; and her own comments about the celebrated sermon by Robert Hall of Cambridge, successor to her old friend and correspondent, Robert Robinson:


“Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft.” The Annual Necrology, for 1797-8; including, also, various articles of neglected biography. London: Richard Phillips, 1800.  411-60.

Letter to the Editor, Monthly Magazine 9 (July 1800), 523-24. "Remarks on Dr. Reid on Insanity."

Letter to the Editor, Monthly Magazine 10 (September 1800), 135-36. Hays on Robert Hall’s Modern Infidelity


Among her correspondents is the important poet and novelist, Charlotte Smith (1749-1806), as well as Eliza Fenwick and the last known correspondence between Hays and Godwin. According to a Fenwick letter of early August, Hays was preparing to visit the Dunkins at their Champion Hill home, and was contemplating a visit to Windsor. 


Still living with Ann Cole in Hatton Garden, Hays began researching and composing the biographies that would culminate in Female Biography; thus, in 1801 she produced only one periodical work, her last effort in this field of writing: 

“Mrs. Charlotte Smith.” Public Characters of 1800-1801. London:  R. Phillips, 71 St. Paul’s Church Yard, 1801. 42-64.

Her sister, Elizabeth, was living with her brother John in Chelmsford (John was still unmarried). Eliza Gregory and Eliza Fenwick appear among her correspondents, with one new one, Thomas Richard Underwood. Crabb Robinson had left the previous year for Germany, and soon Hays would enter into an important correspondence with the young literator.  As Fenwick's letter of 19 September 1801 reveals, Hays engaged in an extended visit in Essex with John and Elizabeth, doing considerable writing (most likely on Female Biography) during her stay there. 


Hays’s correspondence is limited this year to her two most stalwart friends: Crabb Robinson (still in Germany and writing about German writers at Jena and Weimar) and Eliza Fenwick, in Penzance working for her inlaws.  Her literary effort was focused on her forthcoming Female Biography.


A momentous year for Hays, both for her literary career and her personal life. In the spring of this year, Mary Hays quit her rooms with Ann Cole in Hatton Garden and set herself up in a house at 9 St. George’s Place, Camberwell, a short row of houses along Albany Road  near Kent Road situated at the dividing line between Camberwell to the south and Walworth to the north. In this house Hays brought to fruition her dream of living as an "independent" woman. She had one servant and paid her bills from her small legacy and the money she was earning through her publications, most of them with Richard Phillips. Hays renews her correspondence this year with her lawyer friend, William Tooke, who will later become a colleague of Crabb Robinson during the early years of the London University and University College. A new correspondent is Robert Southey, who answers her questions about literary pursuits. Her sister Elizabeth’s letter announces her forthcoming marriage to Ambrose Lanfear.


Hays publishes what may be her most lasting literary legacy, her monumental six-volume series, Female Biography (London: Richard Phillips, 1803), a major achievement in historical research for anyone, let alone a single woman of limited financial means and access to resources. Nevertheless, she completed the task in a limited time due to a work ethic that may be hard to fathom in our own time.  


Her sister, Sarah Hays Hills, joins her mother, Mrs. Hays, as a widow this year. Mary Hays’s niece, Elizabeth Dunkin (1787-1825), marries Henry Francis (1781-1857) of St. Aldermanbury, London, at St. Giles, Camberwell, on 17 May 1803. His sister, Sarah, married John Hays Dunkin in 1799.  Mrs. Hays moves away from Gainsford Street at this time, but her whereabouts are not known for sure. During this year a John Hays arrives in Peckham, very close to the Dunkins in Champion Hill, and it may be her son John, with whom she may live until she removes to Islington, most likely in 1809 after the death of Ambrose Lanfear. 



Hays continues to live on her own in Camberwell. After the publication of Female Biography, and in some respects, ever since 1800 and her biographical accounts of Wollstonecraft and Smith, Hays turned her literary focus toward creating didactic works of historical importance, with special emphasis on reconstructing the lives of significant women from the past as well as the present. She would continue these efforts through her final work in 1821, but in 1804 she added a new genre to her artistic repertoire, a moral fiction tale for young readers titled Harry Clinton. A Tale for Youth (London:  J. Johnson, 1804), a work that would prove to be one of her most popular efforts in this genre. Hays dedicates her Harry Clinton to her grand-nephew, Henry Hays Dunkin (b. 14 March 1800), first child of her nephew, John Hays Dunkin (1775-1858), living, she says in her dedication, at that time at Champion Hill, which was the home of John Dunkin, Jr. 


A new correspondent is William Aikin, whose connections with her old acquaintance, the Barbaulds, had existed for some years, bolstered now by her friend Mary Reid; and and Crabb Robinson (still in Germany) are her primary correspondents this year. Her sister, Elizabeth, marries this year, and the Dunkins leave Champion Hill for country life at Woodham-Mortimer Lodge in Essex, probably due to his wife’s failing health but possibly for business reasons as his property holdings in Essex were extensive. 



No publications this year for Hays, still living in St. George's Place, but she does begin her work for Charlotte Smith, agreeing to write one of the volumes in her History of England series. As she was with her Female Biography, Hays is assiduous in her research, composing enough to complete one volume of Smith’s series and most of the material for Hays’s next work, Historical Dialogues.

Her eldest sister, Joanna Dunkin, dies early this year, not long after her move to Essex, leaving John Dunkin with three young daughters still at home with incomplete educations. Mary continues to live on her own in Camberwell, with her sister now settled in Islington. According to a letter by George Dyer, Lanfear was assisting in a school there, most likely that of her neighbor, Alice Flowerdew, a schoolmistress, poet, and fellow Unitarian and attendant at John Evans’s congregation in Worship Street. Mary’s aunt, Sarah Hills, may still be living in Gainsford Street or with Mary and her mother in Camberwell. It is also possible that by this time John Hays had also returned from Essex, either to the family home in Gainsford Street or to live in a house in Great Coram Street. 

Only three letters from 1805 have survived, two from John Aikin (concerning her financial agreements with Richard Phillips and her work on Smith’s History) and one from her sister, Joanna, just after her arrival in Essex near several relations of her husband and possibly her son, John Hays Dunkin, and his family, and her younger brother, John Hays.  Hays’s niece, Anne Dunkin (b. c. 1785), marries John Lee on 17 October 1805. 

After his return from Germany in 1805, he tries to visit Hays at 9 St. Georges Place on 7 December, but misses her, though he stays for a while and writes a letter to his brother, Thomas Robinson, from her house. They meet on 10 December and spend 2 hours together. He writes again to Thomas on 22 December about Hays: “Miss Hays lives in retirement, an highly respected character. She pursues literature as a profession; she does not estimate her productions above their value; she is content to be a useful writer and does not lose feminine excellence and virtues while she seeks literary fame….” 


Hays resolves her issues with Phillips and her work for Charlotte Smith appears as volume 3 of her History of England, from the Earliest Records to the Peace of Amiens. In a Series of Letters to a Young Lady at School, 3 vols (London: R. Phillips, 1806).  Previous to the History appearing that spring, by mid-February Hays told Crabb Robinson that the first volume of her Historical Dialogues had just been printed. The remaining two volumes will appear in 1807 and 1808, all three volumes printed for Joseph Johnson, St. Paul's Churchyard, and Joseph Mawman, Poultry.

This is a pivotal year in Hays’s life in several ways. She attended Lord Nelson's funeral in January, and during the first two weeks of February moved into a house at 3 Park Lane, Islington (Hays refers to the address as Park Street, which it became known as in 1807). Park Street ran to the west of Upper Street for about two blocks before stopping at what is now Liverpool Street but at that time was Park Place, a row of very fashionable town homes. Just to the west and north were large open fields, providing Hays with a welcome respite from city living yet close enough to several friends and family members.  Hays's house initially appears on the rolls of the Rate Book under the name of John Hays, who returned to London from Essex prior to this date, possibly living for a time in Peckham, near John Dunkin in Champion Hill in 1804-05. Sometime in 1806, he moves to 54 Great Coram Street, near Brunswick Square, not too far from his two sisters in Islington. As she did in Walworth, Hays occupies the Park Street house by herself and a servant, once again attempting to realize her dream of living as an “independent” woman, having her name entered into the Rate Book in 1807. Her sister, Elizabeth Lanfear, lives nearby in Upper Terrace, a short section of Upper Street between St. Mary's Church, Islington, and Park Street. 

Eliza Fenwick also returns to London at this time and the two women writers renew their close friendship, though Fenwick’s life is much harder at this time due to her husband’s alcoholism and financial failures. Hays’s correspondence for the year is restricted to these two friends, all of whom are intimate with each other by this time and with many members of Hays’s extended family.

Crabb Robinson returns from Germany and lives with the family of his friend from the 1790s, John Dyer Collier, in their home at 3 Little Smith Street, Westminster, and makes frequent visits to Hays in Islington during the next three years, as well as to the Fenwicks. By the time of his first reference to Hays this year (15 March 1806), she has already moved into her residence in Islington. He drops by but she does not hear him at the door. He returns on the 19th and they chat for a couple of hours, finding her “comfortably situated.” He has tea with her again on 28 March, a “pleasant visit.” He visits again on 26 April, and on Sunday 4 May, when, after church, he eats at Hays’s home and one of Ambrose Lanfear’s sons is there, but which one is not clear. On 21 May he meets Hays and Robert Bloomfield at an exhibition at Royal Institution. The next day (22 May) he goes to see her at Islington and drank tea with Mr. Lanfear and then HCR and Hays walked to Copenhagen House, a 17thcentury house once the home of the Danish ambassador and where the grounds, called Copenhagen Fields, was a popular meeting place for radical demonstrations in the 1790s. It has since been replaced by Caledonian Fields. On 7 June he calls again on Hays. On 11 June he goes with Hays to Newington to see Mrs. Barbauld. On 28 June he drops by for a few minutes to see Hays. On 20 July he walks to Islington to see Hays for an hour. He visits her on 2 August, misses her at home on 13 August, and on 1 September see Hays at Mrs. Fenwick’s. On 3 September he see the young Eliza Fenwick perform at an amateur theatre, though he was not impressed. He has tea with Hays in Islington on 10 September. On Sunday 5 October he sees the Fenwicks at Holcroft’s house. On 27 November he sees Godwin at the Fenwicks’. 


As an outgrowth of her work on Smith’s History of England, Hays converts a large portion of left over material into one of her most successful works, Historical Dialogues for Young Persons, 3 vols (London: Printed for J. Johnson, St. Paul’s Churchyard; and J. Mawman, Poultry, 1806-07). These volumes would continue to be widely sold and advertised as an important educational volume for adolescents into the 1820s by Joseph Mawman, the primary seller, and is probably her primary pecuniary resource from her pen during her time in Islington and probably for several years thereafter.

Hays’s mother appears to have taken over Hays's old house in Camberwell, leaving the Gainsford Street home to Thomas Hays and his family; Mary's sister, Sarah, is still living with her children in the Minories. John is living at 54 Great Coram Street. To assist her financially and probably repay a debt he owes Hays for her previous assistance with his children, John Dunkin sends his three youngest daughters to live with Hays in Islington at some point during this year, completing their education and establishing ties to to their aunt that will remain thereafter. 

Hays’s correspondence for this year is dominated once again by her ongoing disputes with Phillips, with Hays now getting legal advice from her old friend, William Tooke. Letters from Fenwick and Southey are joined by one from John Dunkin and one to Crabb Robinson, who spends most of the year away from London as a special correspondent for the London Times in Altona, covering the Peninsular War.


Hays’s correspondence includes eight letters for this year, with several from Fenwick, who, through the efforts of Hays and Crabb Robinson, receives a financial gift at the beginning of the year that helps sustain her during one of her most difficult periods working essentially as a single mother with two children. John Dunkin sends two letters, mostly about family matters, his three daughters at Islington, and his religious reading; and one letter each to Hays from two old friends from the previous century, Mary Robinson Brown (daughter of Robert Robinson of Cambridge, Hays’s mentor and correspondent in the 1780s) and Mary Reid of Leicester and, by that time, mostly London. Hays’s niece, Sarah Hills (b. 1777) married William Wheeler at Islington on 21 April 1808. He will soon become a partner with his wife’s brother, William, as cornfactors in the Minories. Hays pays her niece, Ann Dunkin Lee, a visit at their farm in Essex in the spring of this year.

On Sunday 31 January 1808, he has tea with Hays, but she is very ill and tells him the history of her illness, most likely over news of Frend. On 20 February 1808 he visits her again and she is improved. He visits her again on 17 March 1808. It is at this time that he is trying to collect monies for Mrs. Fenwick. On 14 April he visits Hays with Mrs. Collier and her daughters and they walk to Copenhagen House. On 11 July he visits Hays and Barbauld and received a fine farewell from them, he says (HCR getting ready to leave for his overseas work for the Times). In a few days, Robinson leaves for Corunna, Spain, on another assignment as foreign correspondent for the Times


No correspondence remains from this year, but early in the year the three Dunkin girls return to their father in Essex, their education completed. Hays may have decided that maintaining the Islington house after their departure would be a strain both on her time and income, and thus leaves Park Street in March and moves in with her brother Thomas and his family (at least 8 children by this date) now living in a large home on Wandsworth Common, adjacent to Clapham and to Spencer Park. Hays will remain with her brother through 1813, when she departs for Mrs. Mackie’s school in Northamptonshire. 

Hays’s departure from Park Street occurs just after the suicide of Ambrose Lanfear, Hays’s brother-in-law, due to financial failure, leaving her sister Elizabeth as a widow with two young boys. The next year she will move into a house in Church Street, Islington, and remain there until her death in 1825. Hays’s niece, Mary Dunkin (1786-1855), marries Peter Wedd (1782-1817) on 29 June 1809 at Maldon, Essex, forming a familial connexion for Hays through their marriage with the families of Crabb Robinson, John Towill Rutt, and William Pattisson. 

Crabb Robinson returns to England in early 1809, and visits Hays, still at Islington, on 11 February. He sees again on 23 February and learns of Ambrose Lanfere and his suicide after bankruptcy (he makes note of this in his 1809 Reminiscences as well). He visits again for tea on 26 February with Mrs. Collier. He sees her at the Westminster Library on Saturday 4 March, and then again on 9 March at her home. He sees Fenwick on 17 March, and visits Hays for the first time at Wandsworth on 15 April, where she is now living with Thomas Hays and his family. He walks there again on Saturday, 29 July 1809 for lunch. He walks there again on 14 December but does not stay for dinner.


Hays’s two surviving letters from this year are from Eliza Fenwick, soon to be working as a governess for the Moses Mocatta family in Vauxhall and placing her son, Orlando, in a school in Wandsworth not far from the home of Thomas Hays, where Mary is living and where Orlando spends many weekends, so much that Hays becomes his surrogate mother during this time. At the end of this year, Emma Dunkin, one of the three daughters of John Dunkin who lived with Hays in Islington, marries her cousin, William Hills (b. 1784), eldest son of Sarah Hays Hills, on 7 December 1810. 

Hays continues her domestic duties and teaching duties for the young children in the family of her brother Thomas; her mother is most likely living with Elizabeth Lanfear, both women widows now, in Church Street, Islington. Fenwick's letter of July 1810 implies that Hays's departure from Islington was precipitated by some domestic issues, possibly caused by her mother's arrival, but Fenwick provides no details, but uses the word "calamities" to describe what happened. All of these concerns appear to reduce Hays’s time as a writer to the lowest point in her career to this date. No titles appear under her name between 1807 and 1815. 

On 28 February 1810, Crabb Robinson walks to Wandsworth for lunch with Hays. On 27 March he dines with Hays at Wandsworth, and again on Sunday, 29 April. He sees Eliza Fenwick on 11 June, and on 5 November walks to Wandsworth and eats with Hays and “her sister” (most likely, Elizabeth Lanfear).  He sees Fenwick again on 14 November and 18 November. 


Hays’s correspondence with Fenwick flourishes during this year with 14 letters surviving, all from Fenwick (the fate of Hays’s letters to Fenwick, which she would have religious kept with her, have never been recovered and most likely were destroyed by Fenwick’s granddaughter). Most the correspondence concerns Fenwick’s experiences as a governess of five children with the Mocatta family and her desires for finding a place for Orlando with a company or in the military; she is also concerned about the future of her daughter, Eliza, who works as a singing and drawing teacher for Elizabeth Dunkin Francis, Hays's niece, and her school while also pursuing her career as an actress (by June her contract with Kemble at Covent Garden will not be renewed). Thomas Hays will attempt to find a patron for Orlando that would gain him entrance into a military academy, but his efforts fail. After their marriage, Emma Dunkin and William Hills, Hays’s niece and nephew, settle in a new townhome in Canonbury Lane, a part of what would become the fashionable Canonbury Square. 

Crabb Robinson visits Hays often at Wandsworth (and will continue to do so until she leaves in 1813 for Northamptonshire) and both appear at social gatherings of Hays’s recently married nieces and nephews and those of her two brothers, for Robinson is now a member of Hays’s extended family. He sees Hays on 30 April, with Christopher Dunkin and wife, and Thomas Dunkin at dinner (at Thomas Hays’s home in Wandsworth). He goes to Wandsworth again on 11 November 1811 and Hays excuses him for not coming to see her very much that year. Robinson mentions that John Hays is about to marry and notes that the females of the family (Mary and Elizabeth, most likely) have relied heavily upon him for assistance (Robinson also mentions that the family is not keen on his marrying Breese, who has children of her own from her first marriage).


As with the previous year, Hays’s surviving correspondence are the 13 letters she received from Eliza Fenwick, the latter working as a governess in central London until summer, when she took a position as governess with the Honnor family at Lee Mount, County Cork, Ireland. Hays was still living with her brother, Thomas Hays, in Wandsworth, with Orlando still attending a boarding school nearby. 

Three significant events occur this year. John Hays (1768-1862), Mary’s youngest brother, married Elizabeth Atkinson Breese (c. 1781-1832) (she had been previously married and brought several children into the marriage) on 4 May 1812 at St. Bride, Fleet Street, London. He will move his new family into a spacious home at the Paragon, Blackheath, where the Hays family will reside into 1819.

During the summer, Mrs. Hays died, being buried in her original parish of St. John, Horsleydown, Southwark, on 5 August. Previous to her death she had moved to Islington (her will lists here as a widow of Islington), possibly immediately after or just prior to John’s wedding in April, for if he had been living with her in Camberwell, she would have been left alone and would not have lived that way at her age, certainly not with single or widowed daughters available with whom she could live. Most likely she moved to Islington the previous year or maybe as early as 1810, to live with her daughter, Elizabeth, now a widow with two young boys left in her care.  Mary received a legacy of about £800, which she will invest and, along with her small annuity from her father’s estate and savings from her royalties, believed was sufficient to allow her to live apart from the environs of London for the first time in her life, a desire she will put into action in 1813.

About the same time as the death of Mrs. Hays, Sarah Dunkin (1793-1875), another of Hays’s nieces who had lived with her in Islington, married George Wedd (1785-1854) at Hazeleigh Church, Maldon, 20 August 1812, forming the second link with Crabb Robinson, for George Wedd is the younger brother of Peter Wedd, who married Sarah’s sister, Mary, in 1809. 

Crabb Robinson visits Hays at Wandsworth on 2 April 1812 and they talk about young Eliza Fenwick, now in Barbados.  On 5 September he goes to see George Wedd and family (at Mill Street, Bermondsey) and dines there not long after his marriage to Sarah Dunkin, Hays’s niece. Harriet Wedd is mentioned as Sarah’s sister, but most likely she is George Wedd’s sister. Mary Hills is there, another niece of Hays, along with Williams Hills, Mary’s brother, and Ambrose Lanfear, Mary Hills future husband (they marry in 1826). Mordecai Andrews and his sister, Eliza Andrews, nephew and niece of John Towill Rutt and now relations of both Crabb Robinson and Mary Hays, are present as well. On 7 September Robinson walks to Wandsworth to see Hays and they walk together with Thomas Hays’s children in Spencer’s park, adjacent to the Common, and visit the church there. Elizabeth Judge Hays, Mary’s mother, has recently died and Hays has now £800 from her mother and £300 from her initial legacy from Dunkin via her father, and with her earnings from her writings, will now live from the proceeds of that money the rest of her life.  This day is mentioned in his Reminiscences, in which he adds that Hays was rejected by Frend in 1808 primarily because she did not have any wealth (and Blackburne’s daughter obviously did). 


Of the eight surviving letters concerning Hays this year, six are from Fenwick in Ireland and two are from Hays’s future landlady, the former Bluestocking socialite, Penelope Pennington of Bristol. Only a few months after Hays began her brief tenure as a boarder at Mrs. Mackie’s school at Tansor, near Oundle, Northamptonshire, a move that failed to produce the social or intellectual benefit Hays was seeking (and what she may have found had she been allowed to live with the Southey’s at Greta Hall, Keswick), Hays began corresponding with Pennington about becoming a boarder in her large townhome in Dowry Square, Hotwells. 

During this year, Sarah Hays Hills leaves the family home in the Minories and moves with her daughter, Mary, to Felix Terrace in Islington, not far from her sister, Elizabeth, in Church Street and her son, William, in Canonbury Lane. A John Wheeler, most likely a relation of her son-in-law, William Wheeler (business partner with her son William), lives nearby in Park Street. John Hays is still at the Paragon, Blackheath, where Hays spends some time living prior to her removal to Oundle (see Fenwick to Hays, 8 February 1813).

Crabb Robinson, now beginning his career as a barrister, continues to pay visits to Hays at Thomas Hays’s home in Wandsworth until her departure that fall for Northamptonshire.  Ten references to Hays appear in his Diary for this year. On 8 March 1813 he visits the George Wedd’s again and Esther and Wedd Nash from Royston are there, along with John Hays, Mordecai and Eliza Andrews, and a Mr Austin, the law student. Mary Hays is not present. On 22 March 1813 he visits Mary Hays at Islington in the home of William Hills in Canonbury Lane (Southey has recently denied her request to live at Greta Hall). On Friday, 7 April, he visits the Hills again but Hays is not there. On 16 April he walks with young Austin to John Hays’s home in Blackheath at the Paragon, where William Tooke and family are visiting as well, along with Mr Atkinson (most likely this is John Hays’s father-in-law). George Wedd and his wife are there as well, and Robinson rides back to Town with them. On Sunday, 9 April, he returns to John Hays’s home at the Paragon and dines again, this time with William Panter, an attorney and broker, Mr. Austin, and some others. On 11 June he is given a note from Hays by Charles Lamb and he answers her the next day. On 1 September he goes to Hazeleigh, Essex, near Maldon, and sees Mary Hays there, along with Mrs. Joseph Wedd; Hays has letters from Mrs. Mackie in Northamptonshire and appears ready to go there as a boarder. By 3 November Hays is at Oundle and already complaining to Robinson about the lack of newspapers (this letter from Hays is not extant); he gets her old newspapers from Anthony Robinson and writes to her (also a lost letter). On 14 November he sees the publisher Shoberl to enquire about a book for Hays to translate (for pay). On 14 December he writes to Hays about a work to translate (this letter also lost). In his Reminiscences for 1813 he mentions his visits to Blackheath and John Hays’s home and meeting John Austen there.


Fifteen letters to and from Hays have survived for this year, with the majority (10) composed by Penelope Pennington at Bristol, ending just prior to Hays’s removal there in the fall of 1814. Two letters from Fenwick in Ireland are joined by her first letter to Hays from Barbados. After a brief stay in London in June 1814 (her last visit to her homeland and the last time she will see Hays), Fenwick departed for Barbados with Orlando (he had been attending a boarding school in Cork during her time in Ireland), where her daughter, Eliza, had previously been working for an acting company but, along with her new husband, Mr. Rutherford, had agreed to form a school for the girls of West Indian traders, a school that her mother would now join and for which she would become the primary teacher and operator. One letter to Crabb Robinson and one from her new pastor, the Unitarian minister John Prior Estlin of Lewin’s Mead, rounds out the correspondence for this year. 

Elizabeth Lanfear is still living in Church Street, Islington; Sarah Hays Hills in Felix Terrace, Islington; Thomas Hays is still in Wandsworth though his business (he is in partnership with George Wedd, his nephew) is now located in Mill Street, Dockhead, Bermondsey, where he will eventually move his family; John Hays still at the Paragon, Blackheath; and John Dunkin still at Woodham-Mortimer Lodge. Hays returns from Oundle and Mrs. Mackie's school by April and reestablishes herself in Thomas Hays's home in Dockhead.

On 19 February Crabb Robinson sees a Mr Hunter in St Paul’s Church Yard who informs Robinson he has turned down Hays’s MS, which he then takes to Mawman (this would be either the translation or maybe The Brothers, which appears in 1815 but is published by Button, not Mawman). Robinson writes to Hays on Sunday, 1 March about these matters (another lost letter). On 5 June he walks to Wandsworth and sees Hays there at her brother’s home; Hays is now returned from Oundle and has already decided to go to Bristol and the Penningtons. Hays tells Robinson that Fenwick is returning to London from Ireland to get Orlando a situation before she goes to Barbados. On his way home Robinson stops to see the ailing (now dying) Thomas Mullett at his residence along Clapham Road. 



Hays finds her creative energy returning during her time in Bristol, even though she is almost immediately disappointed with her host, Penelope Pennington. Other boarders, especially a Miss Smyth, formerly of Ireland, and others, as well as her new church community at Lewin’s Mead, provide ample compensation, enough that Hays will spend two years in the West Country and find the time both restorative to her health and productive to her literary career. She appears to get involved with the Prudent Man’s Friends Society in Bristol, a benevolent society that has as one of its prominent members the writer Susanna Morgan of Clifton. As a result of her situation in Dowry Square, Hays produces her first publication since 1807 – The Brothers; or, Consequences: A Story of What Happens Every Day; Addressed to that Most Useful Part of the Community, the Labouring Poor (London: Button and Son, 1815), published by William Button, Hays’s acquaintance from the 1760s and former classmate of John Dunkin and probably his pastor and that of his family in the 1790s at Button’s Particular Baptist congregation in Dean Street, Southwark. Button also operated a bookshop/printshop for many years in Paternoster Row. The Brothers brings Hays back to her earlier work, Harry Clinton, and the genre of moral and didactic literature designed for young readers and new readers among the working poor of England. 

Only three letters survive for this year, two from Fenwick in Barbados and one from Crabb Robinson in London.  Elizabeth Lanfear is still living in Church Street, Islington; Sarah Hays Hills in Felix Terrace, Islington; Thomas Hays in Mill Street, Dockhead; John Hays at the Paragon, Blackheath; and John Dunkin still at Woodham-Mortimer Lodge. 

On 26 February 1815 Crabb Robinson writes to Hays at Bristol (his letter is dated the 27th). On 7 May he walks to Blackheath and visits John Hays, reading Wordsworth’s poems to him. Mary Hays has returned from Bristol  for a short visit in London and is visiting her brother John at this time; she appears to be doing better in Bristol. 


Only two letters to Hays, both from Fenwick, have survived for this year, and both were sent to the home of Hays’s niece, Joanna Palmer, in Aldermanbury, one in September and the other in November. The second letter is most poignant, for it details the final illness and death of Fenwick’s son, Orlando, from yellow fever. It may be that Hays had returned to London by September and was living for a time with the Palmers, or it may be that she had told Fenwick in her previous letter not to send any more letters to Bristol, knowing that she was soon to leave the West Country, and provided her with the Palmer’s address as a safe place for the letters to reside until she returned to London. It is also possible that Hays was still living in Bristol. In November, Crabb Robinson writes two letters to Hays about her desire that he find a publisher for it (this would be Family Annals) and she responds back to him (all these letters are lost). Once again, it cannot be ascertained with certainty whether Hays was in Bristol or London. Given the nature of his diary entries, it seems unlikely she was in London, for Robinson would surely have visited her if she was within walking distance and recorded the visit in his diary, but no such entries exist for this year. As Robinson’s comments make clear, however, Hays had spent her last year in Bristol continuing her literary resurgence, adding another work of moral-didactic literature to her resume for publication the following year.

Elizabeth Lanfear is still living in Church Street, Islington; Sarah Hays Hills in Felix Terrace, Islington; Thomas Hays in Mill Street, Dockhead; John Hays at the Paragon, Blackheath; and John Dunkin still at Woodham-Mortimer Lodge. 

During most of 1816, Hays is still living in Bristol, though it appears she returns to London in early fall for a few months, living with her niece, Joanna Palmer, in Aldermanbury (two Fenwick letters from September and November are addressed there). This may explain Robinson's interactions with her that November, for she appears to have brought the MS of Family Annals with her and sought Robinson's assistance in finding a publisher. Robinson writes to her on 4 November, having received a letter from her reproaching him about his handling of the MS (she had originally sent it to the Colliers unannounced). On 8 November Hays replies and apologizes for her comments for she had wanted him to present her MS to a publisher. On 20 November 1816 he writes to her (another lost letter) to inform her the MS had been sold to a publisher (Simpkin and Marshall). During 1815-1816, Robinson acts as Hays’s literary agent, a task he is not especially trained for but one he handles with considerable efficiency.


Once again, only two letters have survived from this year, one in May from Fenwick, still in Barbados but without an address page, and one from her fellow boarder at the Pennington’s in Bristol, a Miss A. Smyth of Lismore, Ireland, in November, addressed to Hays at the home of Thomas Hays, now living in Mill Street, Dockhead, Bermondsey, not far from the old Hays home in Gainsford Street. Thomas Hays had been in business for several years now with George Wedd, and by November 1817, both men were living near their businesses in Mill Street, Dockhead, Bermondsey, and Shad Thames. Robinson dines with Thomas Hays and family on 30 November 1817, now living in Mill Street, and wonders if his move from Wandsworth Common to a more business location near the wharves on the Bermondsey side opposite Gainsford Street (across the narrow water inlet from the Thames) is the result of prudence or “reverse of fortune,” though with eight children at this point, Robinson notes, prudence is not a bad choice. Having left Bristol for good, Hays stays at Thomas Hays’s home for a time, but will soon be going to Peckham to live with the Fenn family and hopes once again to make her way by literary employment, but Robinson is wary of that future


Nevertheless, Hays publishes another work this year for young or new readers among the working classes, Family Annals, or The Sisters (London: Printed for W. Simpkin and R. Marshall, Stationers’ Court, Ludgate Street, 1817).   


In September, Marianna Dunkin, the youngest of the nieces who lived with Hays in Islington c. 1806-08, married William Bennett. They moved to Greenwich in 1819, along with her sister, Elizabeth Dunkin Francis, both families living on the same street in Maze Hill near Vanbrugh Castle.

In August, Hays shares in the grief of her sister, Elizabeth, who witnesses the death of her eldest son, John Hays Lanfear, who had just turned twelve the previous April. Lanfear is still living in Church Street, Islington; Sarah Hays Hills in Felix Terrace, Islington; Thomas Hays in Mill Street, Dockhead; John Hays at the Paragon, Blackheath; and John Dunkin still at Woodham-Mortimer Lodge. 


Hays receives two letters this year: the first is from her Bristol friend, Miss Smyth, at that time on a visit to her homeland of Ireland, addressed to Thomas Hays’s address in Mill Street, Dockhead; the second is from Fenwick in Barbados, in which Fenwick with deep sincerity thanks Hays for dedicating her most recent publication, Family Annals, to her. 


Early in 1818, Mary Hays moves out of her brother’s home in Mill Street and seeks her own rooms as a boarder in a school in Peckham Lane, South London, operated by the Fenns, a dissenting family with ties to the Baptist congregation meeting in Maze Pond, Southwark. As with her time at Mrs. Mackie’s in Oundle, Hays does not teach in the school; she merely boards and has her time to herself. Hays was still attempting to find work from her pen that would pay her, especially translating works from French to English, though whether she ever succeeded in these ventures remains unknown. If she was still composing anything in the moral-didactic genre for young readers, nothing has ever surfaced that can be attributed to her from these years. Elizabeth Lanfear is still living in Church Street, Islington; Sarah Hays Hills in Felix Terrace, Islington; Thomas Hays in Mill Street, Dockhead; John Hays at the Paragon, Blackheath; and John Dunkin still at Woodham-Mortimer Lodge.


As usual, Crabb Robinson visits her several times during her stay in Peckham, usually walking there from his rooms in Essex Court, Temple, in the city of London. On 30 April Robinson writes that he had recently given Serjeant Rough a letter of introduction for one of Hays’s nephews. On 19 May he walks to Peckham to see Mary Hays at the Fenns (Mrs. Fenn keeps a preparatory school there, so once again Hays is associated with a teacher and school, though not teaching herself. She will do this three times – Oundle, Peckham, and Greenwich). On 26 June Robinson sends Hays a note with some books for her to read and use, and two days later, on Sunday, 28 June, he dines with John Hays in Blackheath at the Paragon, where the Atkinson family are dining with him and Mary Hays. He rides back to town in the carriage of Mr. Atkinson. His son has been in Spain, he says, a place Robinson knows well. Robinson goes again to Peckham to see Hays on 5 December 1818 but they are interrupted by a call from some of her relations. It is at this meeting that Mary Hays talks about Eliza Andrews and her affair with George Flower, something widely known in their circles by this date. Hays apologizes for Miss Andrews, but Robinson says nothing in response, for he was horrified by Andrews’s actions. On 9 December Robinson sends Hays his copy of Lady Morgan’s most recent novel, deciding that it was not worth his time to read any further in it.



Six letters have survived from 1819: three from Fenwick in Barbados; one from Miss Smyth, now in Bath; one from a new correspondent, Miss M. A. Starling [later Hookham], daughter of a friend of Hays in London; and one letter by Hays in February to Crabb Robinson, too far away from her rooms in Peckham Lane to walk there in person. Hays will remain at Peckham until early August, when she removes to 1 Upper Cumming Street, in Pentonville, back on the north side of the Thames once again and within easy walking distance of her two remaining sisters, Elizabeth and Sarah, both living just to her north in Islington. Her landlady once again is the same Ann Cole from her time in Kirby Street in the mid-1790s. About the same time as Hays moves to Pentonville, her brother, John Hays, suffers some financial losses and is forced to leave his large home in the Pentagon for a smaller home in Doughty Street, not far from Hays and not far from her earlier homes in Kirby Street and Little John Street. 

Fenwick’s letter of 14 August is most poignant, for she and her daughter (her husband had deserted her the previous year) had decided to move their school to England, a dream come true for Fenwick, who had long missed her country and her friends, especially Hays, her soulmate. She hoped to establish her new school somewhere in the West Country, with the hope that Hays might join her in the endeavor. Hays responded (her letter is now lost) by putting a slight damper on the scheme, only because she was doubtful the West Indian planters would keep their word and allow their children to go to England rather than remain in a boarding school in Barbados. 

Though Mary Hays does not publish during this year, her sister finally produces the Jacobin novel she had written in 1797 and passed around in manuscript form to several within the Godwin circle, including Mary Wollstonecraft. Her feminist novel, Fatal Errors; or Poor Mary-Anne. A Tale of the Last Century. In a Series of Letters (A. J. Valpy, [1819]), appeared with an important subscription list of family and friends, and was primarily printed for them, for no reviews of the novel have been found. Her novel appeared anonymously on the title page, but was signed “E. Lanfear” in the Preface, but given the failure of many writers on Hays to follow the fate of her sister Elizabeth, the novel remained unknown until recently identified in the British Library by Tiimothy Whelan. 

Crabb Robinson records thirteen meetings with Hays during this year. On 7 February 1819 he drops by to see Hays at Peckham and has tea with her and learns that she is once again looking for a new residence in or near Islington (a wish, most likely, to be near her two sisters and other friends). He visits her again at Peckham on 31 May and learns she has found rooms in Kentish Town (most likely this is the 1 Upper Cumming Street location, actually in Pentonville and with Ann Cole once again). By 25 August he writes that she is now living in her new rooms in his “neighborhood.” He visits her at Pentonville on 30 August and learns from Hays about Fanny Imlay’s death by suicide. Robinson visits Hays again on 5 September and meets her brother there (but which brother is not clear, but most likely John, who either has or will soon move nearby in Doughty Street). Robinson drops by on the evening of 23 September and says Hays is not as sentimental as she was. He says she has made a new friend, the wife of an attorney who permitted her unmarried daughter to travel more than a year alone with a friend of the family over 40 (which Robinson takes offense to as suggesting men over 40 are completely innocent!), though Robinson knew the man, a LeMaitre who was thinking about immigrating to America. Robinson says Mary Hays would have done the same at one time but probably not now, and even he finds himself sympathetic to such aversion to custom. On 3 October he calls on Hays for about half an hour with his brother, Habakkuk Robinson. He visits Hays again on 12 October and she talks about Frend again though Robinson believes she is now completely recovered from her attachment. On 2 November 1819 he visits again, having received a letter from her about his “yawning” too much on his last visit! On Sunday, 7 November he leaves his card at John Hays’s residence in Doughty Street, between Russell Square and Gray’s Inn Road. Later that day he calls on Mary Hays and stays for two hours. Robinson calls again on 27 November 1819 and shares with Hays a letter from Eliza Fenwick about the hurricane in Barbados. On 10 December he calls on Hays but says he is fatigued with her conversations because of the lack of “variety.” Nevertheless, he calls again on 21 December. 

During this year Elizabeth Lanfear was still living in Church Street, Islington; Sarah Hays Hills in Felix Terrace, Islington; Thomas Hays in Mill Street, Dockhead; John Hays now in Doughty Street; and John Dunkin residing at Bath Hampton, a small village about two miles from Bath. During 1819, the families of two of Mary Hays’s nieces, Elizabeth Francis and Marianna Bennett, move to large homes on Maze Hill, adjacent to Vanbrugh Castle and Greenwich Park. 


Hays remains with Ann Cole at Upper Cumming Street, Pentonville, for the entire year. During the year Hays receives two letters from Fenwick in Barbados; two from her young admirer, M. A. Starling, with the second letter coming after her marriage to Mr. Hookham; and one from her old Bristol friend, Miss Smyth, still residing in Bath, not far from Hays’s brother-in-law, John Dunkin, at Bath Hampton. Fenwick’s letter of 1 February 1820 reveals the accuracy of Hays’s predictions concerning the behavior of the parents of Fenwick’s West Indian students. Most changed their minds, forcing Fenwick to admit to Hays in the opening line of her letter that “her delicious dream is at an end,” language reminiscent of Edna Pontellier’s in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Fenwick will now turn her thoughts to relocating to America.


No publications appear this year from Hays, but she is most likely working on her last work, biographies of famous queens. Elizabeth Lanfear, Sarah Hays Hills, and William and Emma Hills nearby in Islington; Thomas Hays in Mill Street, Dockhead; and John Hays still in Doughty Street, where Matilda Mary Hays is born on 8 September and christened at the Old Church, St. Pancras.  Crabb Robinson pays frequent visits to Mary Hays, often on his way to visit Charles and Mary Lamb, and at one point Hays contemplates leaving Miss Cole and moving in with her old friend, Mary Reid, now living in Hampstead, but for whatever reason, her offer, much like the earlier one to Robert Southey, does not materialize. Had she lived with Reid, a woman of considerable wealth and literary attainments, Hays’s latter years might well have produced more literature and certainly an ability to travel (Reid was an avid traveler), but as it is, Hays remained close to her own family members (this now included Crabb Robinson) the rest of her life, devoting her final years to assisting in the care and education of the younger members of her extended family network.


Seventeen references appear this year concerning Hays in Crabb Robinson’s diary. On 31 January 1820, Robinson calls on Hays, that day being the procession of King George IV; Hays is not at home and so he goes by John Hays’s home in Doughty Street but he is not home either. There is a clear suggestion at this time in some of Robinson’s entries that Elton Hammond was known to William Hills, for it is his servant who collects Hamond’s belongings after his suicide. On 12 February he takes a copy of Ivanhoe (given him by John Gurney) to Mary Hays. On 21 February he visits Hays again for an hour and a half. On 27 February he leaves a card at “Hays,” so not sure if Mary or John. He has tea with Hays on 29 February and learns that Mary Hays is about to spend a month in the country, most likely at John Dunkin’s home (at that time living near Bath) or one of her relations, but possibly Reid or some other woman friend we do not know about. Robinson has tea with John Hays on 21 May, and Nathaniel and Joanna Palmer are there, along with Mr and Mrs Atkinson (possibly John Hays’s stepson or his wife’s parents). He describes Joanna Palmer as “a lively pretentious woman,” and Nathaniel as “a shewy and I should think a sensible man.” He says that Palmer is “a solicitor of eminence in the city – quite out of my way certainly.”  On 25 May he dined with John Hays, but Mary Hays is not there because of bad weather. Elizabeth Lanfear and her son were there, however, and he is not pleased with her because she is too “radical.”  On 27 May 1820, Robinson calls on Mary Hays, in low spirits because of her sentimental monotony, and saddened by news that Fenwick will not return to England after all. On 3 June 1820 Robinson calls again and she is still in low spirits, mainly because her brother John is not treating her well at this time because he is letting her do the arranging of affairs between himself and his brother Thomas, who controls much of her property. At that time her property consisted of about £70 in annuities from her father's estate and from her brother-in-law, John Dunkin, a sum connected with her brother’s business, and about £800 from her mother’s estate now in her brother Thomas’s hands, which she is trying to turn into an annuity and have her brother John serve as the surety. [It will not be long before HCR will take over her money and invest it for her.] On 19 June and 25 June Robinson calls on Hays. On 13 November 1820 he calls on Hays and notes she is a violent partisan of the Queen. He writes that she afterward made him send her MS of the life of the Queen to Simpkin & Marshall for publication, but they turned it down, he says. [It was published by T. and J. Allman instead.] On 6 December 1820 Robinson calls on Hays and they talk about money that she wants him to invest for her. On 8 December 1820 Robinson talks to Hays again about money matters and takes £80 to invest for her at Mr Keyman’s Winchester Street. On 22 December 1820 he meets Mary Hays at Keyman’s; she has a French certificate and she goes with him to a notary and gives him a power of attorney to receive dividends. [Robinson will manage her money thereafter.]  He meets Mary Hays at her brother Thomas’s house in Mill Street, Bermondsey and draws up the agreement that Thomas signs, in which Mary Hays lends her brother £900, £500 on interest and the other £400 an annuity of £40 for life [thus at this point she now has two annuities worth £80 a year.] Thomas gives her a bond and as collateral, places the lease on his property into her hands and assigns to her his insurance policy, which, as Robinson says, before the lease is at an end will be worth much more than the money. He then walks back to her house with her in Pentonville and they have tea. On 29 December 1820,  Robinson calls on George Wedd and family (says he has not called on them in some time) but when he arrives Mary Hays is also there and while he is there Thomas Hays calls too. They talk business, and they decide to forego the bond for Mary Hays’s loan or annuity, believing that his insurance policy should be made out to her as beneficiary and that she would take the lease of the property as security. Robinson writes up the agreement and gets it done the next day by Davis (apparently an attorney).



Hays leaves Upper Cumming Street in late February or early March and moves into a boarding house at 41 Cross Street, Islington, just off of Upper Street and only a short walk to visit her sister Elizabeth Lanfear in Church Street, Sarah Hills in Felix Terrace, and her niece Emma Hills in Canonbury Lane. 


Hays’s final publication, Memoirs of Queens: Illustrious and Celebrated (London: T. and J. Allman, Booksellers to Her Majesty, Prince’s Street, Hanover-Square, 1821), appears this year, another tribute to Hays’s now twenty-year effort in reconstructing women’s lives through works of biography aimed at both young and old readers cutting across all social orders. 


Three letters from Fenwick arrive from Barbados, one in April, another in July, and one in December, the latter one declaring Fenwick’s hope that Hays might come with her to America and assist her with a school there. This offer will not come to fruition, another, and is some ways, the final disappointment in Fenwick’s long cherished dream of reuniting with Mary Hays. 

Eight references to Hays appear in Robinson’s diary this year. On 21 January 1821, Robinson calls on Hays and learns she has been ill. On 31 January, he calls on Hays and learns she is leaving the house at 1 Cumming Street, Pentonville. On 11 and 12 March, Robinson calls on Hays at her new residence at 41 Cross Street, Islington. He notes there are several persons boarding there and they pay 70 Guineas a year. Hays is well respected there and likes the society. On 18 May, Robinson and Charles Lamb call on Hays. On 14 June Robinson calls on Hays and sits as well with some of the ladies in her boarding house, what he calls “ordinary beings.” He thinks Hays will soon tire of the situation. On 25 July, Robinson calls on Hays after lunch, and they have an “unfriendly contest about her life of the Queen, which I too roughly attacked.” On 2 November he sits an hour with Hays, who is glad to see him and thankful for his services to her in regard to her money. He says she is not happy in her situation there and complains about the “inattentions of her relations,” most likely her sisters who live nearby, for which Robinson tells her that literary talent is not always “a recommendation to the kindness of commonplace genteel people.” 


Three letters from 1822 have survived: one from John Dunkin, now living at Taplow Hall, Buckinghamshire addressed to Hays at the Islington home of her sister, Sarah Hills, and loaded with family news (Hays was still living in the boarding house nearby in Cross Street); one from Fenwick, now at her new school in New Haven, Connecticut, still hoping Hays might come join her or least come visit her (neither will happen); and one by Hays to a previously unknown correspondent, a Miss Lydiard of Picaddilly, with whom Hays was going to go on a “journey” that week, leaving in the evening, but the whereabouts of the journey was not specified. 


Crabb Robinson dutifully visits Hays, sometimes staying and walking with her for lengthy periods of time. Hays would not produce any more publications after 1821, though her sister, Elizabeth, would publish a volume in 1824.  Sixteen references to Hays appear in his Diary. On 3 January he takes a two-hour walk with Hays in Islington. Mrs and Miss Tooke were at her lodgings when he arrived. On 5 February he calls on Hays for an hour’s chat, then on to Miss Lamb. On 16 February he calls on Hays about preparing her annuity bond and they talk about personal matters – “always agreeable with old acquaintances.” On 19 February Hays give him £85 to invest in American Stock, but it is not sufficient for that fund, so he adds to it to bring it to £110 and purchases French stock instead, and takes it to Keymer, his agent.  On 20 February he purchases £120 of stock and calls on Hays that evening for a short time. On 5 March 1822 he goes to Keymer’s and pays the balance for the French stock for Hays. The next day he leaves her an account of the stocks he had purchased for her. He calls again on 14 April but she is not at home. On 28 October he delivers the bond from Thomas Hays to her, but she is in low spirits. On 3 November he works on Hays’s affairs over breakfast, noting that, after delivering the bond, she was upset that he did not stay with her that evening.  She sent him a note about it and he responded somewhat harshly. On 5 November he calls on Hays and they walk for an hour and he notes (in shorthand) that after their quarrel she received him “cooly, but became cordial at last. I think I was to blame in writing to her a very strong letter because she reproached me for not staying with her in the evening.” On 7 November he goes to the City to see about purchasing American stock for Hays but is told to wait and sell the French stock now and repurchase it later after it reaches bottom. On 24 and 30 November, and 10 and 23 December, He calls on Hays for about an hour each time, sometimes going for a walk during his visit.  



Only one letter survives from this year, a letter dated 1 August from Fenwick in New Haven to Hays, sent to her address at Cross Street, but too late to know, on Fenwick’s part, that by that date Hays had moved back across the Thames to Greenwich and Maze Hill, an area that may have been very close to where she was born (although this cannot be known with certainty).  Hays had moved into rooms in the stately Vanbrugh Castle (it still remains an occupied home to this day), now being used as a school by Robert and Mary Brown. Hays no doubt learned of the situation at the Castle through her two nieces living close by, Elizabeth Francis and Marianna Bennett. Once again, Hays is not doing any teaching, merely occupying a room and assisting the Brown’s in paying the rent for the premises. Ironically, what Fenwick so desired of Hays if she would remove to America – live with her in her school and help defray the costs of the rent and operating expenses – Hays was now doing once again, only in Greenwich, not New Haven. 


Thirteen references by Robinson appear this year. On 10 January he calls on Hays who is still concerned about matters with her brother (presumably Thomas and the bond). HCR comments that Hays still has problems being around people and that she would “soon wear me out. In February he goes for a walk with Hays and notes that “her <querulous> habits render <conversation with her very tiresome>” On 23 February he calls on Hays on his way to Hackney and finds her in good spirits but thinking “of leaving the house in which she is <on account of an> anonymous <letter she has received which she thinks may proceed from some of the family>” On 29 April he calls on Hays but she is gone. On 2 May 1823 he dines with George Wedd and family in Southwark (he walked there with William Pattisson, who was related to the Wedds). Mary Hays, very melancholy, was there, along with the Bennetts, a Mr. Shooter, Mrs. Thomas Noon Talfourd, and the two Miss Rutts (also related to George Wedd). Talfourd himself arrives late, and Robinson leaves early to see Esther Nash, who had been talking to George Wedd about Robinson’s sister-in-law, the wife of Thomas Robinson. On 10 May he calls on Hays and makes arrangements to see her brother Thomas. On Sunday 18 May he calls on Hays and they go to see her brother Thomas at Bermondsey, partly riding and partly walking from Islington and they arrive early and walk along the wharves to Rotherite. He says “we had quite a family dinner.” Thomas Hays’s house, he notes, has sunk because of the weight of the warehouse that had been built next to him. He and Hays take a hackney coach home. On 9 June he writes a letter to Hays about her financial affairs (letter is lost).  On 11 June he calls on Hays but she is not at home.  On 16 June he calls on Hays and finds she has made arrangements for having a security made to her [brother] which his attorney was to do, and so I was relieved from a business which I thought might perplex me.” On 9 July Robinson goes to Greenwich to see Hays in her new residence in Vanbrugh Castle and walks for about two hours in the Park with her. He also notes the nearby presence of her nieces, Mrs. Bennett and Mrs. Francis. On 9 November he visits Hays again in Greenwich and finds her looking well and in good spirits. On 21 December he dines with the Browns in the Castle and talks about them. Mrs. Brown’s sister, a Miss Tuck, is her assistant.  The Browns have two sons still at home. On 28 December he walks to Greenwich again and see Hays for an hour then on to the Beneckes.



The final literary effort by the Hays sisters, Elizabeth Lanfear’s valuable volume of essays and tales, Letters to Young Ladies on Their Entrance into the World; to which are added Sketches from Real Life (J. Robins and Co., 1824; 2nd ed. 1828), appears this year. By the end of the year it is apparent that Lanfear is dying of cancer, projecting a devastating loss upon Mary Hays. 


This year also sees a new writer emerge within the Hays family. John Hays, a cornfactor now for more than twenty years, publishes an important critique of the ongoing controversy over laws protecting corn and grain in England and its benefits titled Observations on the Existing Corn Laws (London: Printed by the Author, and sold by J. M. Richardson, 23 Cornhill, 1824).


One letter from Fenwick, still at New Haven, to Mary Hays has survived, informing Hays of her intended removal to New York City and offering her condolences concerning Lanfear’s cancer and making references to several of Hays’s nieces and nephews, many of whom Fenwick knew personally during her years working in London.  


Only three references in Robinson’s diary for this year. On Sunday 25 April Robinson takes the stage to Greenwich and calls on the Beneckes, the Kays, and Hays, who, he says, has made up her mind as to the disposition of her property. On 2 November 1824 he writes to Hays about her investments (another lost letter). On 7 November 1824 he walks to Greenwich and sees Hays who is very distraught over her sister’s illness with cancer. 



Two letters from Fenwick arrived this year, both from New York City, where Fenwick has set up a boarding house on Broadway, first at 663 and then at 643. Hays is still living at Vanbrugh Castle with the Browns and within a short distance of her nieces, Marianna Bennett and Elizabeth Francis.  

Robinson visits her on 1 January in the home of William Hills in Canonbury; Lanfear is still alive but dying. Robinson visits Hays on 6 February at Greenwich and learns that, though Lanfear is barely still alive, Hays’s niece, Elizabeth Francis, has just died on 22 January. A few weeks later, Elizabeth Lanfear dies and is buried at St. Mary's Church, Islington, on 25 February, leaving behind a surviving son, Francis, who will only survive his mother by five years. These two losses greatly dampen Hays's spirits.  On 6 May Robinson sees a Mr. Whittaker about Hays’s Female Biography, but no explanation is provided as to why he has done so. On 19 June Robinson calls on Hays and chats with her till 3 pm. On 15 December he walks to Greenwich and finds Hays “as usual – very querulous and uncomfortable” due to some problems the Browns were experiencing and the recent deaths in her family. 


Once again, Hays receives two letters this year from Fenwick in New York City, still operating a rooming house in Broadway. Hays had lost her sister and niece the previous year, but her spirits revived somewhat when Emma Hills, one of the three nieces who had lived with her in Islington, moves with her family to Maze Hill to join Henry Francis, now a widower with a large family, and the Bennetts, all watching over their aunt and close neighbor, Mary Hays. Along with William and Emma Hills comes Sarah Hays Hills, Mary’s sister, who takes her own house on Maze Hill. 


One of the main reasons for Sarah Hills removal from Islington to Greenwich is the fact that her youngest daughter, Mary (1792-1832) finally marries, to none other than Elizabeth Lanfear’s stepson (and thus Mary’s cousin by marriage), Ambrose Lanfear, Jr. (1787-1870). Lanfear had been preparing for a move to America for some time, and shortly after their wedding, they depart for New York City, where they will remain for several years (Mary will die there in 1832), after which her husband removes to New Orleans, where he establishes himself as a banker. With no children remaining at home and her nearest relations now living in Greenwich, Sarah Hills follows her son’s lead and takes a house of her own in Maze Hill. By this time, John Hays had left Doughty Street and was living in Norwood Lodge, below Camberwell in Surrey. Thomas Hays and the Wedds were still living in Dockhead, Bermondsey.  On 28 May Robinson walks to Greenwich to see Hays who has been ill. On 26 November he walks to Greenwich after breakfast and called on Hays and they walk together for a time. Along the way he leaves his card at the home of Joseph Wedd, a relation of George Wedd. He finds Hays “querulous” but in good spirits.



Hays still living in Vanbrugh Castle, surround by five nephews and nieces and her sister, along with many grandnephews and nieces, all escorting the aging though still agile Hays on long walks in Greenwich Park or in the Vanbrugh Fields just behind their homes on Maze Hill. 


No letters have survived from this year. After breakfast with his brothers on 10 June Crabb Robinson walks to Greenwich where he spends an hour with Hays in Greenwich Park. On 17 June he walks to Greenwich and sees Hays and they walk in Westcomb Park, which belongs to Sir Gregory Turner. On 18 November after breakfast Robinson walks to Greenwich and finds Hays in good health and spirits; he says she is going to move into her sister’s house (Sarah Hills) on Maze Hill. 



Only one letter remains from this year, and that is the final letter by Fenwick to Hays, now living at 11 Bond Street in New York City, and attempting to raise her four grandchildren after the death of their mother and Fenwick’s last surviving child, Eliza Fenwick Rutherford. The letter closes another chapter in Fenwick’s life, all previous ones having been meticulously depicted in her letters to Mary Hays beginning in 1798.  Fenwick will eventually move to Toronto and finally to Providence, Rhode Island, where she dies in 1840, having ceased her contact with Hays and other London friends for the final decade or so of her life, despite attempts by Hays to write to her (see Hays to Mary Shelley, 30 November 1836). 


Lanfear’s Letters to Young Ladies continues to find readers, and a second edition is published this year, with Fenwick wondering in one of her letters when the volume would make it to America. 


During the spring of this year, Hays moves out of Vanbrugh Castle and moves in with her sister, Sarah Hills, in her house just down the street. Hays will remain with her sister through the end of the year. 


Crabb Robinson walks to Greenwich on 10 April 1828 and visits Hays, now living with her sister, Sarah Hills, on Maze Hill. He was going to dine with Wilhelm Benecke but changed his plans and walks with Hays to the Beneckes' home and they chat for a few hours, though Wilhelm was not at home. HCR returns with Hays to Mrs Hills’s home and dines with William Hills and young Wheeler, the son of his partner. Hays still very disputatious and rude at times. Robinson catches the 10 oclock stage and arrives in town at midnight but too late to take tea at the Athenaeum!  On 5 July he leaves his card at Hays’s and rides back to town in a boat. On 7 December he walks to Greenwich and see Hays and admits that her discontent is primarily because of her superior mind, which makes others who are inferior not so comfortable around her. Her main topics are still “the injustice of men towards women in the general system of laws and the notions generally entertained on matters connected with marriage – the superiority of North Americans to Europeans and the benefits to arise from the march of intellect etc &c …”



No surviving letters from these three years. Hays leaves her sister and lives for the first three months of 1829 in Pimlico, where she is visited by Crabb Robinson, but he does not say with whom she lives nor is the exact address known. By April she is back at her sister’s home in Maze Hill, Greenwich, and by 1831 returns to the Brownes in the Castle. 

On 14 January 1829 Robinson visited Hays, now living at Pimlico and largely an invalid.  On 27 January he calls on Hays and she is not doing well. On 19 April he takes the stage to Greenwich and visits Hays, who has returned to her sister, Sarah. On 13 June, his last day in England prior to his extended travels in Italy, he sends a goodby note to Hays (now lost). On 8 October 1831, just back from Italy, he calls on Hays at Greenwich, and learns that she has returned to the Browne’s in the Castle. She looks poorly but did not seem uncomfortable. He meets Sarah Wedd while he there (the Wedds live on Maze Hill too) and says “she looks still handsome and is the mother of a large family” and “is on friendly terms with Mrs Hays – her husband has had misfortunes which have perhaps been rather advantageous than otherwise to their characters – he is doing well now.”


For several years, John Hays has been living at Norwood Lodge, just to the south of Camberwell. His wife, Elizabeth, becomes ill and dies on 12 September 1832. During his wife’s final illness, Mary Hays leaves Vanbrugh Castle and lives with her brother to assist with his young children and the cares of the house, even though Hays is 73 at this time. Her sole surviving letter (addressed to Crabb Robinson) from this year reveals that, as her brother sorts out his affairs after his wife’s decease, Hays performs some domestic duties in the home of one of her favorite nieces, Sarah Wedd, who has just given birth to the father of A. F. Wedd. After assisting the Wedds (now living in Clapton, near Hackney), Hays returns to her brother John and his family of four young children (all under the age of 13) in South London and will live with them until c. 1841, serving as a tutor and mentor to Matilda Mary Hays, John’s talented daughter who by the mid-1840s will emerge as a radical feminist writer herself, continuing a tradition of active women writers in the Hays family that will span more than 100 years.  

Crabb Robinson walks to Greenwich to see Hays on 14 February but Hays is so unwell he cannot see her. On 23 March he writes to Mr. Hall (husband of Sarah Mullett, daughter of Robinson’s old friend, Thomas Mullett) in America about all their old acquaintance, including Fenwick and Hays. On 7 April he calls on the Wedds who were going away and he lends Miss Wedd, one of the  daughters, some Italian books. George Wedd arrives while he is there, looking depressed. Robinson soon sees Mr. Hays (not sure which one) who tells him George Wedd has once again stopped payment. On 11 April 1832 Robinson takes the stage to Greenwich but finds Hays too ill to come down from her room. She seems near death and her constitution is broken. On 11 May he goes to Greenwich and sees Hays only for a few minutes, her health still very poor. On 11 August Robinson, after visiting J. T. Rutt, stops on his way back in Clapton at Rutt’s old house, now inhabited by George Wedd and family! This is where Mary Hays stays for a time [she refers to it as “Homerton” in her 30 September letter to Robinson] after spending some time with John Hays in Norwood Lodge prior to his move to Camberwell. At this time, however, she is still living at the Brownes, Robinson notes, but she will soon move in with the Wedds for a few months. 



No letters have survived from this year. On 20 January Crabb Robinson walks seven miles to Norwood to see John Hays. He says he had not been to Norwood since Elton Hammond’s suicide in 1820. Many new houses, he says, have been built there. Mary Hays is living with her brother now; she is mostly an invalid. John Hays has recently suffered a commercial failure, but is back in business once again (he was never a declared bankrupt). The Browns were there, most likely the teachers from Greenwich. John Hays’s wife has died the previous year, and he will soon leave Norwood for a house in Camberwell. On 10 March he walks to Hays’s new house in Camberwell at 11 Grosvenor Place. On 12 March he dines with John Hays and has a four-hour conference about his treatment by his step-children. On 16 April he sees John Hays again for tea and they talk for two hours; Mary Hays is doing better. On 23 December he has tea with John and Mary Hays; though she is still unwell, Robinson thinks she is fortunate to be able to live with her brother at her age.


No surviving letters again. Robinson still very active in Hays’s life. On 5 and 9 February he calls on Hays. On 30 March he intends to visit John Hays but the rain keeps him from traveling. On 3 April he visits John Hays in the afternoon and says that Mary Hays is “now quite the old woman but she was mild and amiable and I enjoyed the gossip with them.” On 19 June he walks to John Hays and finds “My old friend Mary H: unchanged in ultra radicalism She and Mr. J: T: Rutt seem quite parallel in their political and religious stationeriness.” On 20 July,  on his way to the Athenaeum, he meets John Hays and he accompanies him to Mrs. Brown’s where he finds Mary Hays. [Most likely this is the Mrs. Brown, schoolteacher, a widow now.] On 14 December he walks to Camberwell to call on Hays and learns that Mr. Atkinson, before his death, had been reconciled to Hays and given some of his estate to Hays’s children.  


Another year without any letters. Robinson continues to assist Hays in her investments and other concerns. On 15 February he walks to Camberwell and calls on Hays, who, he says, looks old but the family is comfortable and ‘the girls please me,’ he adds. One of the girls, of course, is Matilda Mary Hays. On 27 March he sees Hays who, he says, is “declining” but still as “confident and obstinate as ever” in her opinions. On 2 April Robinson leaves some books at the Counting House of John Hays. On 16 April he wants to see Hays but the night is too bad so he stays in town. On 17 April walks to see John Hays and Mary and they have a pleasant chat. On 9 July he walks to John Hays’s and has tea with Mary Hays and they chat on “family matters and the old Unitarian liberalism to which Miss H: is as exclusively attached as ever.” He thinks Dr. Sprague in America would not displease her. 


Two letters have survived from this year, one from Mary Shelley to Hays, informing her of her decision to return Hays’s letters to Godwin that are in his collections, and a gracious reply from Hays to Shelley. These letters that would form a significant part of the Hays correspondence that would be handed down to Sarah Wedd and on to A. F. Wedd and eventually to the Pforzheimer Collection in New York in the 1970s. 


Crabb Robinson continues to see Hays. On 14 February he has tea with Hays whose mind “has long been stagnant” but who is still his “old friend.” On 16 February he leaves books for John Hays at his counting house in Riches Court and learns that young Tomalin is working there. On 1 May he takes tea at John Hays’s home and sees Mary Hays, who gives him three letters for Sprague – one by Wollstonecraft, one by Mary Robinson, and one by Holcroft (all are now at the Pennsylvania Historical Library); she also shows him the letter from Mary Shelley promising to send her all her letters to Godwin. On 23 October he takes tea with John and Mary Hays, who “grows old and is more and more querulous, foolishly attached to America and the Unitarian philosophy of her youth – The young people are amiable - He is a sensible man and an excellent man.”



Only one letter has survived from this year, and it is from Mary Jane Godwin, Godwin’s widow, seeking to visit Hays in Camberwell in the spring to renew their old friendship and even to inquire about the whereabouts of Eliza Fenwick, who had once worked for the Godwins in their Juvenile Library. It appears Mrs. Godwin may have been the last of Fenwick’s London friends to have heard from her prior to her death in 1840.


Crabb Robinson visits Hays on 7 March for tea but she has to stay in her room and is “greatly emaciated – she has had the influenza and her life in great danger – She is 75 years old and is the very old woman – She was glad to see me and we talked on old times comfortably – I am glad to find that Mr. H’s children will not be unprovided for should he dye.” On 19 August he takes the Omnibus to Camberwell and visits friends at Denmark Hill and the Manning’s at Grove Hill and then sees Mary Hays on his way home. He sees Mrs Brown there and she has remarried to a Mr. Mallow (an old friend of HCR and the Crabb family). 



No letters from this year. On 6 February, after dinner, Robinson walks to Camberwell to visit Hays, not having seen his old friend for some time. “Of course she is a partisan of the Canadians & of all other ultra radicals opinions.” On 16 March Robinson dines with the Hayses in Camberwell, and present is Mr and Miss Lindley of the Adelphi, old friends, he says, of Mary Hays, and a young Mr. Wainewright. Hays is now 79 and very “anxious about the safety of her money vested in the Louisiana bonds of which I have some – I think at all events they will last her time – Mine perhaps I ought in prudence to dispose of.” On 27 May he walks to Camberwell and has tea with the Hayses.  On 11 November 1838 he walks to Camberwell to see Hays.” My old friend Mary H: is what she always was a fanatical lover of the Yankees. She is old and therefore one tolerates, what would in a younger person offend – After 2 hours of polemical chat de omnibus – I went to the Athen: where I went on reading Oliver Twist which is now published in the form of a novel.”  


No letters from this year have survived. Robinson walks to Camberwell on 7 April (although now he refers to it as Walworth) and they chat for some time. On 19 April Robinson writes a letter of introduction on behalf of a Mr. Brown, a clerk and most likely the son of the Mrs. Brown, former schoolteacher at Greenwich at the Castle.  


No letters from this year. On 27 January Robinson walks to Clapton and calls at the Misses Farrells boarding house there but finds that Hays, no longer living with her brother in Camberwell, is too ill to see him. She had been confined for 2 weeks to her bed and the servants believe she is dying. HCR fears that he will “never see her again and one other of the links connecting my early with my present life will be broken. She is an estimable woman, but belongs to the last age. Like Mr. Rutt she is a Unitarian, a lover of the Americans and thinks all political improvement depends on the increasing the power of the people. …” On 17 April he walks to Clapton and sees Hays, now in her 80th year “and a very old woman – quite infirm – She says she finds it a great trial to live and wishes for death -  yet she enjoys reading – She still reads without glasses. She was pleased to see me and I may call again but it will not be often.” On 15 June Robinson learns that his nephew has just died; after writing a series of letters, he goes to Clapton to see Mrs. Henry Rutt and he dines with the family. [Henry Rutt was a great-nephew of J. T. Rutt; his wife was the former Rachel Kent, the daughter of Elizabeth Kent, who was the daughter of Mary Lincolne, Crabb Robinson's cousin from Witham]. After this meeting Robinson calls on Hays. He notes that “She talks of dyeing and is yet anxious about her property. She loses in her income by not living with her brother who would have allowed for the £40 per ann she lost by his failure. She was very warm in praise of Mrs George Wedd.” [thus, it appears that John Hays has had another financial setback at this time, enough to warrant her leaving over financial matters.] On 10 December Robinson calls on Hays and finds her “very infirm and complaining,” and talks of death but only recently as “taken to glasses.”


Hays final surviving letters are both written to her long-time friend, Crabb Robinson, from March and April 1842, less than a year before her death. At this time she is still living in a boarding house in Clapton operated by the Farrell sisters, of whom Emma Farrell signs as one of the two witnesses to Mary Hays will. Hays was living at this time not far from her close relations, George and Sarah Wedd, and close enough for Crabb Robinson to still walk to her place to see her. She informs him of her burial site in the Abney Park Cemetery, and of some keepsakes she wishes for her brother, John, to have after her death.


Robinson calls on Hays on 16 April 1841 but she is unavailable. On 4 March 1842, he walks to Clapton and sees Hays, who had written him to come see her. “I found her very infirm rather than very ill – She was sitting in an arm chair which she finds very inconvenient. She wants to have a new one made according to her fancy and me to take the old one and pay the difference. I at once said I would take the old one & and pay for new – and afterwards I introduced Mrs Henry Rutt to her, and when the new chair is made she is to send to the Rutts and they will pay. I have a pleasure in rendering this petty service to my old friend – It will last but a short time. She is very weak and life is a burthen to her. She is 83 years old. I called first on Mrs H: Rutt and invited myself to dine – most kindly received – Mr Rutt was coming home to dine. After dining at 3 and introducing Mrs R: to Miss Hayes I took a walk with Mrs R: to upper Clapton and called on old Mr R: on our return.” On 24 March he adds this note in his diary: “Then at the Athen: where I wrote a number of letters. Mary Hayes had written an over grateful letter for my readiness to take her old armchair and pay for a new one for her – I wrote to her in answer and also to Mrs Rutt begging her to see to the payment of the chair.” On 3 May he gets a letter from Mrs. Rutt. “My chair has been sent from Clapton which did belong to Miss Hays which I take, paying £4/11/e for a new one which has been made for her.” On 6 May Robinson walks out to Clapton to see Hays but for the second straight day could not get past Islington because of the rain. On 8 May he tries to walk again to Clapton but has to return again because of the rain. Later that day he makes it to Clapton and sees Hays, who is “very infirm, but was enjoying something like ease in the new chair which I have paid Mrs Rutt 24/11/7 for I afterwards called on Mrs Rutt & took ten with her and her husband.” On 23 June he takes the Omnibus to Clapton and sees the Rutts and Kents and Procters and then Mary Hays. On 8 July he notes that a Miss Longdill calls to enquire whether Mary Hays wants to translate a German book. “I could not receive her very cordially considering that she has not been kind to her aunt in her troubles.”  [So, apparently Miss Longdill is a greatniece of Mary Hays.] On 5 October Robinson takes the Ominibus to Clapton to see Hays, who has written him about her money. “She wants to raise a little money and I have advised her to sell out her £600 3 percents and buy Long Annuities She may thus obtain an income of £40 instead of £17 per ann: and have a sum for her present wants. She wished to sell out her Louisiana Stock which I have dissuaded her from. After a short chat with the old lady, who is very infirm and will not long suffer these embarrassments (and who informed me that her brother John had recently failed on the Corn Exchange as well as her nephew Mr Hill)  I called on the Procters.” 



Mary Hays died on 19 February 1843, and was buried in the Abney Park Cemetery, Newington, on Saturday, 25 February 1843. Her attendants were Crabb Robinson, her brothers Thomas and John Hays, and her nephew and husband of her favorite niece, Sarah Dunkin Wedd. On 20 February he learns of the death of Mary Hays, one of his oldest friends. The next night he writes in his Diary: “A very worthy woman in her day she had a sort of popularity, that is with those who could tolerate a warm friend of Mrs Wollstonecraft. She was very liberal in her opinions and had stuck fast in them like good Mr Rutt - especially in her love for the Americans. She had for many years sunk in obscurity and lived in a boarding house at Lower Clapton. I had for many years seen but little of her, but I retained a regard for her & her death puts an end to all memorials of my residence in London before 1800. She had ex­pressed a wish that I should attend her funeral next Saturday of which Mr Hays informed me but which I have been forced to decline on account of the Univ: Coll: Council Meeting. I wrote both to Mr Hays and to Mr George Wedd. …” On 25 February he meets John Hays, George Wedd, and Thomas Hays at Hays’s boarding house and they accompany the hearse to Abney Cemetery in Newington for burial. Along the way they talk much of Joseph Wedd, who had lost some £700 of money given him by George Wedd but who, when George was in deepest need, would not loan him £100 to save him. Wedd Nash was also spoken ill of. 

In his Reminiscences for 1843, Robinson provides a brief account of Hays’s death and family: 

“But I shod now add that John We Hayes who lived near me then, soon after left the neighbourhood And I lost sight of him – One of his daughters is now known as a translator of Geo: Sands works – Otherwise a respectable person – An ultra liberal And friend of Mrs Geo: Stansfeld Junr but I have not fallen in with her – nor with any of the party –

            But I should add that not long since I met at Byles’s a son of Geo: Wedd, praised as a man of exemplary virtues – integrity industry & disinterested benevolence – So said the Byles’s –

            But now to add a concludeding word of Mary Hays – She illustrated the Proverb Dans le royaume des Aveugles, les borgnes sont Rois – At the close of the 18thCent: she was a woman of letters In this generation she would not have been listened to at least her books are not read She might have progressed with the Age She was early an admirer of Robert Robinson but of R: R: the all but Unitarian of his last years – The avowed friend of MrsWolstoncraft – She was the object of scorn to puritans – without meriting their reproach – She was employed by Phillips – Sir Richard afterws  It was through her I became acquaintd with Dr Reid, Miss Tooke &c but all this I must have written before – She thought herself ill treated by Frend, And she was, if he were bound to remain a attached to her when he discovered her to be a bore – My latter acquaintance with her but as I was no lover, little was required of me And that little I could still  retain the show of –”


In his Diary, he continues to follow the daughter of John Hays, the future writer Matilda Mary Hays, writing on 23 May 1844 “Wrote to Miss [Matilda Mary] Hays, niece of my old friend who enquired about the character of a publisher of a novel she has written (Bently).”  

Many years later, on 31 July 1859, when composing his 1819 Reminiscences, he writers about Matilda Mary once again:

^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 !!!^


Matilda Mary Hays’s first novel, Helen Stanley (London: Churton, 1846), appears this year, following in her aunt’s footsteps.


Mary Hays’s brother, John, brings out another volume on the Corn Laws, Remarks on the Late Crisis in the Corn Trade; With some Suggestions arising therefrom, particularly on the probable advantages of a fixed permanent duty (London:   Printed for the Author, by W. Jeffrey, 7 Mark Lane, 1847).

The first six volumes of The Works of George Sand, translated into English by Matilda Mary Hays, and assisted by Eliza Ashurst and Edmund Larken, are published in London by E. Churton in 1847. Other volumes continue to appear through 1851.

The Last Aldini. By George Sand. Translated by Matilda M. Hays, author of “Helen Stanley.” London: E. Churton, 26, Holles Street. 1847.  Vol. 1 

Simon. By George Sand. Translated by Matilda M. Hays, author of “Helen Stanley.” London: E. Churton, 26, Holles Street. 1847.  Vol. 2 

André. By George Sand. Translated by Eliza A. Ashurst. Edited by Matilda M. Hays, author of “Helen Stanley.” London: E. Churton, 26, Holles Street. 1847.  Vol. 2. 

The Mosaic Masters; The Orco: A Tradition of the Austrian Rule in Venice; and Fanchette. By George Sand. Translated by Eliza A. Ashurst. Edited by Matilda M. Hays, author of “Helen Stanley.” London: E. Churton, 26, Holles Street. 1847.  Vol. 2 

Mauprat. By George Sand. Translated by Matilda M. Hays, author of “Helen Stanley.” London: E. Churton, 26, Holles Street. 1847.  Vol. 3 

The Companion of the Tour of France. By George Sand. Translated by Matilda M. Hays, author of “Helen Stanley.” London: E. Churton, 26, Holles Street. 1847.  Vol. 4 

The Miller of Angibault. By George Sand. Translated by The Rev. Edmund R. Larken, M.A. Rector of Burton by Lincoln, and Chaplain to the Rt. Hon. the Lord Monson. Edited by Matilda M. Hays, author of “Helen Stanley.” London: E. Churton, 26, Holles Street. 1847.  Vol. 5 

Letters of a Traveller. By George Sand. Translated by Eliza A. Ashurst. Edited by Matilda M. Hays, author of “Helen Stanley.” London: E. Churton, 26, Holles Street. 1847.  Vol. 6  


Matilda Mary Hays’s last translation appeared this year: Fadette. A Domestic Story. From the French. By Matilda M. Hays (New York: Putnam, 1851).


Matilda Mary Hays’s last novel appeared this year: Adrienne Hope (London: T. Cautley, 1866).