Gentleman's Magazine (1816)

Gentleman’s Magazine 86 (Sept. 1816), 251-52.  Review of Hays’s Brothers.

 

The Brothers; or Consequences. A Story of what happens every day. Addressed to that most useful Part of the Community, the Labouring Poor. By Mary Hays. pp. 71. Button & Son.

 

Of the origin of this well-timed and sensible publication, Miss Hays thus unaffectedly speaks:

 

“Circumstances, principally connected with my health, having induced me to fix my residence for a time at the Hot-Wells, my attention was attracted by a benevolent institution, entitled ‘The Prudent Man’s Friend Society,’ formed at Bristol, for the purpose of promoting provident habits and a spirit of independence among the poor – That is, ‘an exemption from reliance upon others for support.’ With this spirit, forethought, prudence, and industry are necessarily connected. A principal object of the Society in Question is ‘the establishment of a poor man’s bank, in which he may safely lay up his savings to accumulate by interest, -- but with the power of drawing them out when wanted.’ ‘This bank is guaranteed by men of known property and respectability.’ The Society has also raised by subscription a fund, from which small sums, generally within five pounds, are advanced to poor persons under temporary embarrassments, to be returned by small weekly or other payments. Habits of consideration, punctuality, and integrity are by these means formed. No interest is exacted for the loans, nor are they renewed but at certain fixed intervals. Every borrower must bring with him vouchers for his character, and a friendly surety. Thus other excellent moral consequences are likely to be produced. – Another object of the Society is the suppression of mendacity, in which the character is found or made corrupt, and the discouragement of indiscriminate alms-giving, and all charities which, by their direct or indirect tendency, may prove injurious to the industry or independent habits of the poor. Various other advantages of a similar nature are comprehended by the institution, for a more particular account of which the reader is referred to a small book* published in connection with the Society at Bristol, entitled ‘Hints,’ &c. (as above.) In this little work, the production of a lady to whom the Society is greatly indebted both for its plan and formation, the most admirable principles are stated and developed, with a spirit of enlightened and sound philosophy, a perspicuity and a comprehensiveness, that would reflect credit upon our best writers on political economy. ‘The time (observes the Author) is, perhaps, not far distant, when statesmen and political economists will perceive and acknowledge, that the stability of a government, and the strength and happiness of an Empire, depend not upon a numerous, degraded, and half-starved population; but on one in which, from the prevalence of a spirit of virtuous independence, the necessaries if not the comforts of life are enjoyed by all; and where, from early formed habits of industry and prudence, the firmest foundation is laid for the superstructure of a highly moral and religious national character.’ The whole business of the institution, in which the writer above quoted takes, with a respectable female friend, under the title of Secretaries, a leading and active part, is managed and carried on with the utmost regularity and precision. Every case is registered. Thus the books of the institution become [252] the records of the history and characters of the poor. – In these dialogues it was my purpose to exemplify and illustrate the leading principles of a Society, in the views of which I felt solicitous, in some respects, however humbly, to cooperate – And also, while giving a public testimony of respect and esteem for t hose principles of active benevolence and enlightened charity upon which the institution is founded, to recommend them to general imitation.

                                    “Mary Hays.”

 

The scene of the Dialogues is laid in humble life; and the language of them, though simple, is far from being vulgar. The whole production shews evidently a cultivated understanding, and a good heart. Such, indeed, is our opinion of the work, that we could wish a copy of it to be introduced into the family of every labourer in the kingdom. It would be infinitely more serviceable than the miserable trash which is ostentatiously obtruded on them by the intemperate zeal of illiterate enthusiastic visionaries, under the misnomerof Religious Tracts. 

 

The note is missing, but the reference is to the work previously cited on the same page as Hays’s review: Hints towards the Formation of a Society for promoting a Spirit of Independence among the Poor. The review does not provide the author’s name, though Hays discusses her work.