Marianna Hays [Palmer] 

Marianna Hays (1773-97) has only recently been identified as a member of the Hays family. E. F. Kell, author of the 1844 “Memoir” of Mary Hays, notes that Mrs. Hays, after the death of her husband, was left with the care of seven children. Only six have been identified prior to this online edition.1 The seventh was Mary Hays's  youngest sister, Marianna. Though not named by A. F. Wedd in her introduction to Love Letters (1925), she also notes (maybe derived from Kell's memoir or possibly from other family sources she could easily have had access to among the papers she inherited relating to Hays, her great-great aunt) that Mary Hays in the early 1790s was living in the family's Gainsford Street home with her mother and two younger unmarried sisters (the other sister was Elizabeth) (2). On 6  June 1796  she married Edward Palmer (1770-1831), her marriage certificate signed by John Dunkin, Jr., Joanna Dunkin, Thomas Hays (Mary's brother), and Nathaniel and Sarah Palmer, brother and sister of Edward (Nathaniel would marry Joanna Dunkin niece of Mary Hays, in 1798). At the time of her marriage, Marianna was living with the Dunkins (and probably her mother) at their home in the Paragon, in the parish of St. George the Martyr, Southwark. John Dunkin had been serving as guardian since 1774, when Mr. Hays died, becoming, in essence, Marianna's surrogate father, even naming his youngest daughter, Marianna, after her. 

Most likely Marianna Hays met Edward Palmer at church, much like Mary Hays and John Ecles. The Palmers attended the Baptist congregation at Dean Street during the ministry of Dunkin’s old classmate at Northampton, William Button; by 1796 the Dunkins and the Hayses had left the Baptist Chapel in Gainsford Street and were most likely worshiping with the Palmers at Dean Street.  Her marriage to Edward Palmer also suggests that Marianna remained orthodox into the 1790s, as did her mother, her two eldest sisters, and the Dunkins.  One important source about Marianna comes from the diary of John Dunkin's step-mother, Mary Summerhays Dunkin (1740-1806), who writes on 4 March 1798 about the death of Marianna Hays Palmer the previous December, addressing the note to her children, several of whom were still living at home:  "O my dear children! the Lord sees fit to send you warning after warning December 5, it pleased God to remove by death, your acquaintance and much respected friend, Mrs. Palmer, aged 24" (John Townsend, The Christian’s Life and Hope, a Funeral Sermon for Mrs. Mary Dunkin [London: Williams and Smith, 1806], 67). Her use of the word "friend" would be appropriate for her younger children, since Marianna would not have been their blood relation. 

Edward Palmer was the son of Christopher Palmer (1741-1808), a hatter and feltmaker in partner with the firm Moxon (his father-in-law, for his wife was the former Sarah Moxon), Palmer, and Norman at 40 Cannon Street, London, and in an adjacent property at 2 Martin’s Lane. For much of his adult life, Christopher Palmer lived at 19 Crosby Row, Walworth, not far from his Baptist friends William Giles in the Apollo Buildings and John Dunkin at Paragon Place in the early 1790s. Edward became a druggist in the City of London, mostly working and living in Throgmorton Street.  After their marriage in June 1796, Edward and Marianna Palmer moved into a house in Little John Street, near Gray’s Inn Lane and what is now Theobald Road. Mary Hays moved into the house in late fall of 1796. This address first appears in a letter to Mary Hays dated 14 December 1796 and the last mention is in a letter dated 26 September 1797. Marianna died early in December 1797 and was buried on 9 December, in her 25th year (Burial Book, St. John Horsleydown, Bermondsey, 1797). [She would have had her 24th birthday prior to her death, which would put her birth year as 1773.] No information is provided about the cause of death, but most likely it was related to a pregnancy, but no record of a child being born or dying, however, has been found. After Marianna’s death, Mary Hays returned to her rooms at Miss Cole’s in Kirby Street. Edward Palmer may have remained for a time in Little John Street. He remarried in 1799, this time to Elizabeth Bates, daughter of Benjamin Bates of Stockwell, in whose home she died in 1812. All his children from his second marriage were baptized at St. Bartholomew, Exchange, which suggests that Edward may have conformed (or returned, given when he became a Baptist) to the Church of England after 1800.  

Edward Palmer had two brothers, Nathaniel and Samuel, and two sisters, Sarah and Mary (the latter never married). Nathaniel Palmer (1774-1840) married Joanna Dunkin (c. 1777-1864), eldest daughter of John Dunkin, Jr., on 21 June 1798 (she was living at that time with her parents in Champion Hill), after which the couple moved to Surrey Square, not far from the Paragon, and later to 12 Aldermanbury, London, in 1803. Nathaniel Palmer, a corn factor, was the rate payer at 42 Surrey Square from 1798 to 1803, when it passed to William Giles the younger (13), his brother-in-law (William married Sarah Palmer, the same Sarah who had signed Marianna’s marriage certificate in 1796, in 1799). From 1811 to his death in 1840, Palmer was a partner in the firm of Scott, Garnett and Palmer, corn factors, at 12 Aldermanbury (they owned a large granary in Rotherhithe). The Palmers lived nearby, for the address listed in the subscription list to Elizabeth Hays's Fatal Errors in 1819 was  in whether they lived in that neighborhood or elsewhere is not clear, but some evidence in the letters suggest that they did). The Palmers appear at the home of John Hays, Mary Hays’s brother, for tea on 21 May 1820 where Crabb Robinson attends as well, along with a Mr. and Mrs. Atkinson, relations of the wife of John Hays. Concerning the conversation over tea that day, Robinson writes, “Mrs P. a lively pretentious woman – He a shewy and I should think a sensible man. The Atkinsons have nothing remarkable (about) them.  Conversation about law and lawyers.  P. is a solicitor of eminence in the city – quite out of my way certainly” (the designation "solicitor" seems incorrect, an unusual error for Robinson).  The Palmers also appear in a letter to Robinson by Hays on 26 November 1814, when she tells him she has left him a pacquet of materials at N. Palmers, No. 12 Aldermanbury, Cheapside, his place of business. Joanna Palmer purchased 6 copies of Elizabeth Hays Lanfear’s novel, Fatal Errors, in 1819.

The other brother of Edward and Nathaniel Palmer was Samuel Palmer (1775-1848), at various times a bookseller, teacher, and lay Baptist minister in Southwark and places outside London and father of the Romantic painter and friend of Blake and Crabb Robinson, Samuel Palmer (1805-81).The elder Samuel appears to have left the congregation in Dean Street and joined the Baptist meeting at Carter Lane in April 1797. A few years later he would join the small congregation meeting in East Street during the ministry of Joseph Jenkins (1743-1819), a minister Palmer would become extremely loyal to for the next two decades before leaving the church over Jenkins's dismissal in 1819. During these years, Palmer was a deacon in the church and an occasional lay preacher; he also joined the Camberwell Bible Society in 1813 and remained an active member into the 1820s. Samuel Palmer married Martha Covell Giles (1778-1818) in October 1803; they probably spent their first year of marriage in the home of his father in Crosby Row. His brother-in-law, William Giles, moved into the former home of Nathaniel and Joanna Palmer in Surrey Square in 1803. According to the Poor Rate Books for the parish of St. Mary Newington, by November 1804 Samuel Palmer was living in a small home in Beckford Row, just across from Keene’s Row along Walworth Road and very close to his father’s residence at Crosby Row and the church in East Street.  He would remain at that address through the rate books for 1809, but is gone by 1810. At that time, it appears the Palmers moved across the Thames to Houndsditch, though they remained active members of the Baptist church in East Street for another nine years. 

Though biographers of Samuel Palmer the artist have always noted that he was born and lived his early life in Surrey Square (there is a blue plaque there in his honor), he did not live in that home. Apparently he was born in that house, as the birth certificate entered at Dr. Williams's Library suggests, but there may have been legitimate reasons for being born in the home of his aunt and uncle, but it is clear from the Rate Books that he did not grow up in the fashionable townhouses of Surrey Square but rather the much more modest dwellings at Beckford Row (now no longer in existence), a fact that has escaped all his previous biographers. In 1810, Samuel Palmer Sr. moved his family to Houndsditch where he worked in a cheap clothing establishment (a ‘slop shop’) run by three brothers, Thomas, Joseph and Sargent Smith. It appears he also may have operated a bookshop across the street, living in Duke Street and working across the street and using that as his official address.  Palmer continued his bookshop there to the end of 1819, when he moved his bookshop to 10 Broad Street, Bloomsbury, remaining there until his retirement in 1827. 

The Palmers retired to Shoreham, living off an annuity/allowance provided him by his brother Nathaniel, who by this time was very successful and wealthy.  He was recommended by Joseph Jenkins of Walworth to preach at Otford, near Shoreham, at some point, and Blake visited the two Samuel Palmers at Shoreham and had conversations with the elder Palmer in 1827. Crabb Robinson had already met the Palmers and Blake through the Baptist (at that time associated with the Baptist church in Keppel Streel) artist John Linnell (1792-1882), the younger Samuel Palmer’s eventual father-in-law, and frequent references to all three appear in his diary during the mid-1820s. During the mid-1820s, the young artist Samuel often visited with Joanna Palmer during her visits to her sisters living in Greenwich, which included Marianna Bennett, whose husband, William, purchased some of Samuel Palmer’s earliest paintings c. 1825, as well as Mary Hays. For more on Samuel Palmer, see Alfred Herbert Palmer, The Life and Letters of Samuel Palmer, Painter and Etcher (London: Seeley & Co., 1892); Geoffrey Grigson’s Samuel Palmer: The Visionary Years (London: Kegan Paul, 1947); Raymond Lister, Samuel Palmer: His Life and Art (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987); and, more recently, William Vaughan, Samuel Palmer: Shadows on the Wall (New Have: Yale UP and Paul Melon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2015). My thanks as well to Julie Clulow, who has done extensive research on Samuel Palmer and who was instrumental in the discovery of the marriage of Marianna Hays and Edward Palmer, without which the other pieces in her life and that of Mary Hays would still be incomplete. 


1The absence of the church book for Gainsford Street and Dean Street, and the fact that, as Baptists, the Hays children were never christened, creates significant difficulties in ascertaining exact birth records.