Mary Hays: 

Life, Writings, and Correspondence

This website reconstructs the life and career of Mary Hays (1759-1843) in ways not previously known. The site allows free and open access to all pertinent materials related to Hays's familial and social circles, her writings, and her extensive correspondence. On the drop-down menu to the left readers will find

The first page of Mary Hays's letter to William Godwin, 8 March 1796, Mary Hays Material, MS MH 0016, Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

An examination of the life of Mary Hays demonstrates the importance of expanding the parameters of our knowledge of the lives, family, and social networks of women writers during the Romantic Era. A salient part of that expansion is understanding the role genealogy plays in reconstituting the literary, familial, and social circles in which a writer moves and uncovering the ways in which the religious, political, and sociological forces within those circles give shape to a writer's life and legacy. Mary Hays was, from birth to death, a devout Dissenter, and her life can best be comprehended as a "Dissenting life," from her early years in Southwark and the small Particular Baptist chapel at the end of Gainsford Street to her final years in a boarding house in Clapton near her favorite niece, Sarah Dunkin Wedd, and her closest male friend, her fellow Unitarian Henry Crabb Robinson, who would serve as her final correspondent and a pallbearer at her funeral.