Mary Hays was born on 4 May 1759, mostly likely on Shad Thames, where her father, John Hays (1729-74), where he worked as a ship’s captain, as did his father-in-law, Capt. Thomas Hills (d. 1774). John Hays also appears to have been in business as a cornfactor by the time of his death, a business that others in his family would continue. Mary’s mother, the former Elizabeth Judge (c. 1730-1812), had already given birth to two daughters: Joanna (1754-1805) and Sarah (1756-1836).


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


John Hays, Mary’s brother, was born this year. Mary’s father first appears this year in the Poor Rate Books for St. John’s Parish, Southwark, living on Shad Thames, along the banks of the Thames (unfortunately, no rate books are extant for 1760-67, so the residence of the Hayses during those years cannot be known with certainty). Mary Hays implies in a letter to John Eccles that she spent time in and around Greenwich as a child, so it may be that the Hayses moved to Southwark in the early 1760s, but that cannot be confirmed. The family of John Dunkin, Sr. (d. 1809) was also living at that time on Shad Thames, just above Gainsford Street, joined by the family of Joseph Judge, whose daughter, Elizabeth, was Mary Hays’s mother. Living nearby was Mrs. Hays’s sister, Joanna Judge, who had married Benjamin Webster Seymour. Their son, Benjamin Seymour, Jr. (c. 1775-1817), corresponded with Mary Hays in the 1790s after his removal to New England. Not far away in Southwark lived the family of William Lepard, the leader of a prominent Baptist family whose daughter, Ann, appears often in the Hays-Eccles correspondence (William Lepard appears as well in the Hays-Robert Robinson correspondence). The Hays and Dunkin families were joined by other relations of Mary Hays, the family of William Hills, Sr. (c. 1715-65) in attending the Baptist chapel in Gainsford Street (also called Blackfields). The congregation’s pastor in the 1760s and 1770s was John Dolman, who also lived in Gainsford Street. John Dunkin, Jr. (1753-1827, the eldest son of John Dunkin, Sr., married Joanna Hays, Mary’s eldest sister, in 1774; Thomas Hills (1753-1803), son of William Hills, Sr., married Sarah Hays, Mary’s second eldest sister, in 1776. Thomas’s brother, William Hills, Jr., attended J. C. Ryland’s Baptist Academy at Northampton in the late 1760s with John Dunkin, Jr.’s, younger brother, Christopher, and their friends, Benjamin Flower (1755-1829 and William Button (1754-1821).



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.


John Hays, Sr., and Thomas Hills, Sr., die; John Dunkin, Jr., marries Joanna Hays. 


Sarah Hays marries Thomas Hills, son of William Hills and most likely a nephew of the Thomas Hills who died in 1774. They move to the Minories where he works as a baker for many years.  About the same time as her marriage, John Eccles arrives in Gainsford Street from Fordingbridge; he lives across the street from the Hayses in the home of the Ludgaters and works for a Mr. James. Most likely both families also attend the Baptist chapel in Gainsford Street, where Eccles attends and where he first meets Mary Hays.  


Courtship of Mary Hays and John Eccles occurs during these years, preserved through some 130 letters that passed between them during that time. On 23 August, 1780, John Eccles died at Salisbury, on his way home to Fordingbridge, of a fever, shattering Mary Hays’s dream of marriage with her true soulmate.


Hays collects the letters that passed between her and Eccles and has them transcribed into fair copies by a friend and inserted into two bound volumes which are kept by Hays and passed on to her niece, Sarah Dunkin Wedd, after which they came into the possession of A. F. Wedd, who published them in 1925. Only one volume remains extant .


In 1782 Hays began a lengthy correspondence with the celebrated Baptist minister at Cambridge, Robert Robinson; a friendship developed between Hays and the minister and two of his daughters, Ann and Mary (the latter married Samuel Brown, a wine merchant, and settled in London where they moved in the Hays-Godwin circle during the mid-1790s).  Mary Hays’s correspondence with Robinson began partially as a result of her despair over her loss of Eccles and also as a result of her growing interest in becoming a writer and a student of 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 lived with her mother and siblings in the Gainsford Street home, from which Mrs. Hays operated a wine business. John Dunkin, Jr., lived next door to the Hays family in Gainsford Street from the late 1770s through c. 1792, when he removed to a large home in the Paragon, Walworth, near Surrey Square.


John Dunkin, Jr., 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 in response to Joseph Priestley’s An Appeal to the Serious and Candid Professors of Christianity (1783). Dunkin offered 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.


Mary Hays begins her literary career in this year, sending two poems and two proses pieces to The Universal Magazine:


During this year Mary Hays began corresponding with a host of Unitarian ministers in London, engaging with them in theological discussions as well as social gatherings and church attendance. Her involvement with these ministers reflects both her stature as an emerging voice within Unitarian circles and the openness of the Unitarians to engage with and promote women writers. Though no letters remain between Hays and Joseph Priestley, some of the letters reveal a friendship with the famed minister, scientist, and political writer. Among her correspondents were Theophilus Lindsey, John Disney, Robert Winter, Hugh Worthington, Jr., and John Evans, as well as two Unitarian lay writers of some note, William Frend and George Dyer.


Mary Hay’s first significant publication, 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), is published under the nom de plume “Eusebia.”  This short polemical work was an outgrowth of her involvement with the Unitarians, among whom she had been worshiping since 1791. In 1792 she and her sister Elizabeth officially left the Particular Baptists and joined the Unitarian congregation at Salter’s Hall under the ministry of Hugh Worthington, Jr., one of her correspondents. During this time Hays composed her essay, Appeal to the Men of Great Britain (London: J. Johnson; and J. Bell, 1798), but withheld it from publication until 1798 because of the appearance of Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman.


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 Hays commenced her famous correspondence with the controversial political philosopher and former Dissenting minister, William Godwin (1756-1836).


Her correspondence with her Unitarian ministerial friends ends by March of this year, replaced by her growing friendship and correspondence with William Godwin and, by way of that friendship, to several individuals who would form a part of the Godwin circle in which Hays was an active member, including Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) and William Frend (1757-1841), the latter becoming her first love interest since her engagement to John Eccles. Wollstonecraft was re-introduced to Godwin at this time in Hays’s apartment in Kirby Street (she moved there that October), reviving at the same time her correspondence with Hays (they had first met in 1792). Prior to her move across the Thames, Hays had been living in the home of John Dunkin, Jr., at 2 Paragon Place, Walworth. In Kirby Street she lived in the home of Ann Cole, who had recently taken over her father’s business as a print seller after his death in 1794. Hays would be a tenant of Cole’s at various times for the next 25 years.


By January 1796 Hays’s affair with Frend had come to an end, but her friendship and correspondence with Godwin continued to flourish, portions of which would appear (along with some of her correspondence with Frend) that year as part of the fictional text of her first novel, Memoirs of Emma Courtney. Hays also continued her friendship and correspondence with Wollstonecraft as well as several other figures, including Elizabeth Hamilton and Eliza Gregory. During this year she met Eliza Fenwick (1764-1840), another woman writer with whom she would correspond into the late 1820s. After a ten-year hiatus, Hays returned to periodical writing with reviews appearing in the Analytical Review and the Monthly Magazine. Sometime in late autumn of 1796 (certainly by December), Hays had left Ann Cole’s house in Kirby Street and moved in with Edward and Marianna Hays Palmer in nearby Little John Street (near Gray’s Inn Road). It appears that Hays was assisting her youngest sister in her new home and remained until December 1797. In 1796 Thomas Hays, Mary’s youngest brother, married his cousin, Elizabeth Dunkin; he would soon join the family business as a cornfactor. 


Hays’s friendships with Godwin and Wollstonecraft continue, joined now by two new correspondents, Mary Reid of Leicester and the dramatist Thomas Holcroft. Hays was greatly affected by the death of Wollstonecraft in September, an event that damaged her friendship with Godwin. During this year Hays’s published often in a new periodical, the Monthly Magazine. The owner was Richard Phillips, who was originally from Leicester and was a personal friend of Mary Reid). In December 1797, Marianna Hays Palmer died, about three months after the death of Wollstonecraft, possibly from the complications of a pregnancy, but that cannot be known with certainty. Hays returned to her old rooms with Ann Cole at 22 Kirby Street.


Appeal to the Men of Great Britain (London: J. Johnson; and J. Bell, 1798). Hays also produced three periodical pieces this year (all reviews) and began working on her biography of Wollstonecraft, a work that foreshadows her interest in women’s biography that would culminate in 1803 with her monumental work, Female Biography. Hays’s creative energy during this year was focused on her second novel, The Victim of Prejudice. Several new women writers appeared this year as correspondents: Anne and Annabella Plumptre, and Eliza Fenwick. Her correspondence with Godwin had ceased during this year, though she would continue to visit him for some time. This year is also marked by Hays’s troublesome and unfortunate friendship with Charles Lloyd, a young poet and friend of Coleridge, Southey, and John Reid, the brother of Hays’s friend, Mary Reid. The ridicule Hays received as a result of this friendship was worsened by criticism of her friendship with Wollstonecraft. One result was Hays’s inclusion in Richard Polwhele’s Unsex’d Females (1798). By the end of 1798, the Dunkins were living in a palatial home in Champion Hill, near Camberwell. That June, Joanna Dunkin (b. 1780) married Nathaniel Palmer (1774-1840), the brother of Edward Palmer, now a young widower, and Samuel Palmer (1775-1847), the father of the Romantic artist Samuel Palmer (1805-81).


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 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, married Sarah Francis on 16 May 1799.


In the early months of 1800, Hays moved into the Hatton Garden residence of Miss Cole (she had previously lived in Kirby Street); Hays would remain there until early summer 1803. During this year Hays published her biographical account of Wollstonecraft and continued to write for the Monthly Magazine. Among her correspondents was the poet and novelist, Charlotte Smith (1749-1806).


While in Hatton Garden, Hays began researching and composing the biographies that would culminate in Female Biography; as a result, she only completed one article for Richard Phillips, a short biographical account of Charlotte Smith. Elizabeth Hays was living at this time with her brother John in Chelmsford (John was still unmarried). Eliza Gregory and Eliza Fenwick appear among Hays’s correspondents, along with Thomas Richard Underwood and Crabb Robinson, the latter now studying in Germany. 


Hays continued her work on Female Biography and her correspondence with Robinson (still in Germany) and Eliza Fenwick (at that time in Penzance).


Hays’s correspondents this year included William Tooke, John Aikin, Mary Reid, Robert Southey, and her sister Elizabeth, who became engaged to Ambrose Lanfear late in the year. Hays publishes what may be her most lasting literary legacy, her monumental six-volume series, Female Biography (London: Richard Phillips, 1803), a major achievement for a single woman of limited financial means and access to resources. Her sister, Sarah Hays Hills, joined her mother, Elizabeth Judge Hays, as a widow this year. It appears that by summer 1803 Mary Hays had left Ann Cole in Hatton Garden and taken up a new residence at 9 St. George’s Place, Camberwell, using the proceeds from Female Biography to establish herself for the first time as an independent woman.


After the publication of Female Biography, Hays, now living as an independent woman in Camberwell, turned her literary focus toward didactic works of historical importance for young readers, beginning with Harry Clinton. A Tale for Youth (London:  J. Johnson, 1804), a work that is little known today but establishes Hays as a major figure in this genre. John Aikin and Crabb Robinson (still in Germany) were her primary correspondents this year. Elizabeth Hays married Ambrose Lanfear and settled in Islington, and John Dunkin, Jr., and his family leave Champion Hill for country life at Woodham-Mortimer Lodge in Essex. His primary reason may have been his wife’s failing health, as well as the management of his extensive properties and mill in Essex.   


Still living in Camberwell, Hays began work on Charlotte Smith’s  History of England, composing part of volume 2 and all of volume 3. Some of the extraneous material became the basis for Hays’s next project for young readers, her three-volume set, Historical Dialogues. Hays’s eldest sister, Joanna Dunkin, died early in 1805, leaving John Dunkin with three young daughters in need of completing their educations. Elizabeth Hays works for a time in a school in Islington, and attends the Unitarian congregation at Worship Street and later joins at Newington Green. After his return from Germany in 1805, Crabb Robinson visits Hays in her home in Camberwell, reigniting their friendship after his five-year stay in Germany.


Hays work appears (without attribution by name) in Charlotte Smith’s 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). Early in 1806 Hays moves into a house at 3 Park Street, Islington, a property initially put into the name of her brother, John, who returns to London from Essex at this time and takes up residence in Great Coram Street.  Hays occupies the house by herself, fulfilling her desire to live as an independent woman. Profits from her writings declined, but her income was bolstered most likely by John Dunkin, Jr., who sent his three youngest daughters to live with Hays and receive their finishing education from her.  Elizabeth Lanfear lived nearby in Upper Terrace, Islington. Eliza Fenwick returned to London and renewed her close friendship with Hays; Fenwick endured many trials at this time due to her husband’s alcoholism and financial failures. Crabb Robinson made frequent visits to Hays in Islington, as well as to the Fenwicks.


As an outgrowth of her work on Smith’s History of England, Hays converted a large portion of her 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, 1807). These volumes would continue to be sold and advertised as educational volumes for adolescents into the 1820s by Joseph Mawman, the primary seller. This work was probably her primary source of revenue during her time in Islington and for several years thereafter. Hays’s correspondence for this year was dominated once again by her ongoing disputes with Richard 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 spent 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 helped sustain her during one of her most difficult periods working essentially as a single mother with two children. John Dunkin inquired about his three daughters living with Hays in Islington, and letters from Hays’s old friends, Mary Robinson Brown and Mary Reid, appeared as well.


Early in the year the three Dunkin girls returned 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 by March she was living with her brother Thomas and his large family (at least 8 children by this date) in a large home on Wandsworth Common, near Clapham and adjacent to Spencer Park. Hays remained with her brother through 1813, when she departed for Mrs. Mackie’s school in Northamptonshire. Crabb Robinson returned to England in early 1809 and once again renewed his visits to Mary Hays. Hays’s departure from Park Place occurs just after the suicide of Ambrose Lanfear, Hays’s brother-in-law, leaving her sister Elizabeth a widow with two young boys. The next year Elizabeth would move from Upper Terrace into a house in Church Street, Islington, and remain there until her death in 1825. At some point Mrs. Hays moved in with her daughter, for she was living in Islington at the time of her death in 1812.


Hays’s two surviving letters from this year are from Eliza Fenwick, working now as a governess in a home in central London. Her son, Orlando, was attending a boarding school in South London not far from Mary Hays, still living in the home of Thomas Hays continued her work as an educator, this time with her brother’s eldest daughter. Domestic duties appear to have reduced Hays’s work as a writer to the lowest point in her career. No titles appear under her name between 1808 and 1815.


Hays’s correspondence with Fenwick flourishes during this year with 14 surviving letters, all from Eliza Fenwick (Hays’s letters were kept by Fenwick but later destroyed by Fenwick’s descendants). Most the correspondence concerns Fenwick’s desires for finding a place for Orlando with a company or in the military, and the future of her daughter, Eliza. Thomas Hays attempted to find a patron for Orlando for entrance into a military academy, but to no avail. 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 as well as those hosted by her two brothers.


Three significant events occur this year. John Hays (1768-1862), Mary’s youngest brother, married Elizabeth Atkinson Breese (c. 1781-1832) on 4 May 1812 at St. Bride, Fleet Street, London. He moved his new family into a spacious home at the Paragon, Blackheath, where they 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, most likely to live with Elizabeth Hays Lanfear, now a widow with two young boys to care for.  Mary and Elizabeth received a legacy of about £800 each. Mary Hays invested the money and used the interest, along with her small annuity from her father’s estate and some savings from her royalties, to live on her own for most of the remainder of her life. Hays continued to correspond with Eliza Fenwick, the latter working as a governess in central London until the summer of 1812, 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, where Crabb Robinson visited Hays on several occasions.  


During this year Hays lives outside of London for the first time, becoming a boarder (not a teacher) at Mrs. Mackie’s school in Tansor, near Oundle, Northamptonshire. She will only stay for about two terms, discovering that she does not fit well in that environment. She had first sought to become a governess to Robert Southey’s children at Greta Hall, Keswick, but he declined her offer. While still at Mrs. Mackie’s school, Hays began corresponding with a former Bluestocking and friend of Anna Seward, Penelope Pennington of Bristol, with whom Hays would be living by the end of 1814. During 1813, Sarah Hays Hills left her home in the Minories and moved with her daughter, Mary, to Felix Terrace in Islington, not far from her sister, Elizabeth, in Church Street and Sarah’s son, William Hills, in Canonbury Square. John Hays is still living at the Paragon, Blackheath, and John Dunkin, Jr., in Essex. Crabb Robinson visits or meets with Hays some ten times before her departure for Tansor.


Hays continues her correspondence with Penelope Pennington, which eventually leads to her removal late in 1814 to the Hot Wells, Bristol, where she will live for the next two years or more in the home of the Penningtons in Dowry Square. During this year Eliza Fenwick leaves Ireland for Barbados, where she joins her daughter and establishes a school there. Her brief visit to London will be the last time she sees Hays and England in her lifetime. Prior to her removal to Bristol, Hays sees Crabb Robinson at her brother’s home in Wandsworth, where she stayed for a time after her return from Tansor. 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.


Hays recovers her creative energy during her time in Bristol, even though she quickly becomes disenchanted with Penelope Pennington. Other boarders, especially a Miss Smyth, formerly of Ireland, as well as her new church community at Lewin’s Mead and her activities as a member of the Prudent Man’s Friends Society in Bristol provide new avenues for Hays to pursue as a writer. In 1815 she publishes The Brothers; or, Consequences: A Story of What Happens Every Day; Addressed to that Most Useful Part of the Community, the Labouring Poor, published by William Button, Hays’s acquaintance from the 1760s and a 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 of moral fiction, Harry Clinton, and her audience of young and new readers among the working classes of England. Hays continues to correspond with Fenwick and Crabb Robinson. 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 at Woodham-Mortimer Lodge.


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 sent Hays two letters concerning her desire to find a publisher for her last work of fiction (Family Annals). Robinson’s make clear that Hays had spent her last year in Bristol continuing her literary resurgence. During 1815-1816, he acted as Hays’s literary agent (he was also her financial advisor).


Hays had returned to London and was living with family members, primarily her brother Thomas, who was now living in Mill Street, Dockhead, Bermondsey, not far from the old Hays home in Gainsford Street. Thomas had previously lived in Wandsworth, where Mary Hays had lived as well for most of 1809-13. Thomas Hays was in business with George Wedd, who had married Mary Hays’s niece, Sarah Dunkin. The Wedds were also living near the business premises in Mill Street, Dockhead (Bermondsey), and Shad Thames. Crabb Robinson dined with Thomas Hays and his family on 30 November 1817 and notes that Thomas has eight children at this time. That August, John Hays Lanfear, son of Hays’s sister, Elizabeth Lanfear, died at the age of 12. Hays’s Family Annals, or The Sisters appeared this year, published in London by W. Simpkin and R. Marshall, in Stationers’ Court, Ludgate Street.   



Hays receives letters from her Bristol friend, A. Smyth, at that time on a visit to her homeland of Ireland, both of which were addressed to Thomas Hays’s address in Mill Street, Dockhead; Hays also receives a letter from Eliza Fenwick in Barbados, in which Fenwick thanks Hays for dedicating Family Annals to her. Sometime in the spring of 1818, Mary Hays leaves her brother’s home in Mill Street and acquires 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 in Maze Pond, Southwark. Peckham was not far from Blackheath, where John Hays was living at the Paragon. As with her time at Mrs. Mackie’s in Tansor, Hays does not teach in the school; she merely boards and keeps largely to herself. Hays hoped to earn some income by translating works from French to English, but whether she succeeded in this is not known. Crabb Robinson visits Hays in Peckham and at the home of John Hays on several occasions in 1818.


Hays receives letters from Fenwick in Barbados; one from A. Smyth, now in Bath; one from a new correspondent, Mary Ann Starling [later Hookham], daughter of a friend of Hays’s in London; and one letter by Hays in February to Crabb Robinson. Hays remained at Peckham into August, when she removed 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 the north in Islington. Her landlady once again was Ann Cole, with whom she had boarded in 1795 when she first left her Southwark home and came to central London. Hays’s move to Pentonville coincided with John Hays’s move from the Paragon in Blackheath to a home in Doughty Street, next to Gray’s Inn Lane and not far from Hays in Upper Cumming Street. Though Mary Hays does not publish during this year, her sister finally produces the Jacobin novel she had written c. 1796-97 and which was critiqued by Wollstonecraft. Her novel appeared as Fatal Errors; or Poor Mary-Anne. A Tale of the Last Century. In a Series of Letters (A. J. Valpy, [1819]), signed “E. Lanfear” in the Preface. Crabb Robinson met with Hays on thirteen occasions during this 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 in Doughty Street; and John Dunkin at Bath Hampton, a small village about two miles from Bath. 


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, Mary Ann Starling, with the second letter coming after her marriage to Thomas Hookham, Jr., the publisher; and one from her old Bristol friend, A. Smyth, still residing in Bath, not far from Hays’s brother-in-law, John Dunkin, at Bath Hampton. Mary Hays does not publish during this year, but most likely was working on her final publication, another compilation of women’s biographies, this time of famous queens. Matilda Mary Hays was born on 8 September in the Doughty Street residence of her father, John Hays, and christened at the Old Church, St. Pancras.  Crabb Robinson pays frequent visits to Mary Hays (she was living closer to him than at any time since 1799).


In June Hays moves from Ann Cole’s house in Upper Cumming Street to a boarding house at 41 Cross Street, Islington, near Upper Street and only a short walk from her sister, Elizabeth Lanfear, in Church Street. Her older sister, Sarah Hills, lives nearby as well in Felix Terrace, and Hays’s niece, Emma Dunkin Hills, lives in Canonbury Square. Hays’s final publication, Memoirs of Queens: Illustrious and Celebrated, appears this year, published by T. and J. Allman, Booksellers to Her Majesty, Prince’s Street, Hanover-Square. This is the capstone to her twenty-year effort in reconstructing women’s lives through works of biography aimed at both young and old readers within all social orders. Hays receives three letters from Fenwick during the year, the latter one declaring Fenwick’s hope that Hays might come live with her in America and assist her with a school there. Eight references to Hays appear in Crabb Robinson’s diary for the year. Concerning her new residence at Cross Street, Islington, Robinson notes there are several persons boarding there and they pay 70 Guineas a year.”


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 settled at her new school in New Haven, Connecticut; and one by Hays to a previously unknown correspondent, a Miss Lydiard of Piccadilly, with whom Hays was going to go on a “journey” that week. Crabb Robinson dutifully visits Hays (sixteen references to Hays appear in his diary for this year).  


Only one letter survives from this year, a letter dated 1 August from Fenwick in New Haven to Hays, sent to Hays at Cross Street, though by that date Hays had already moved back across the Thames to Maze Hill, Greenwich. She had taken rooms as a boarder in Vanbrugh Castle (it still remains an occupied home to this day), at that time being used as a school by Robert and Mary Brown. Hays had two nieces living close by, Elizabeth Dunkin Francis and Marianne Dunkin Bennett. Thirteen references to Hays appear in Robinson’s diary for 1823.  


Elizabeth Hays Lanfear publishes a volume of essays and tales, Letters to Young Ladies on Their Entrance into the World; to which are added Sketches from Real Life, with a 2nd edition appearing in 1828. John Hays 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). Fenwick writes to Hays about her removal from New Haven to New York City.  Hays appears on three occasions in Robinson’s diary for this year, the latter occurring on 7 November 1824 when he notes that Elizabeth Lanfear was dying of cancer.


Eliza Fenwick writes twice from New York to Hays in Greenwich. In February Elizabeth Lanfear dies from cancer, leaving behind a surviving son, Francis, who survives his mother by five years. That same month, Hays’s niece and neighbor, Elizabeth Dunkin Francis, also dies.  Robinson visits Hays on four occasions in 1825.


William Hills and his wife, Emma Dunkin Hills, a nephew and niece of Mary Hays, move to Maze Hill to join Henry Francis (now a widower) and the Bennetts, all now living a short walk from Mary Hays in Vanbrugh Castle across from Greenwich Park. Sarah Hays Hills, Mary’s surviving sister, will soon move as well to Maze Hill. Sarah’s daughter, Mary, marries Ambrose Lanfear, Jr., the stepson of Elizabeth Lanfear. They emigrate to America where Mary will die in 1832. John Hays was now living at Norwood Lodge, on the southern edge of Surrey. The families of Thomas Hays and George Wedd were still living in Dockhead, Bermondsey.


Hays is now surrounded by her sister and five nephews and nieces (George and Sarah Dunkin Wedd are also now living in Maze Hill), and their growing families. Crabb Robinson visits Hays on three occasions in 1827, noting that Hays was planning to live for a while with her sister.


Eliza Fenwick’s final letter to Hays arrives this year, from her home at 11 Bond Street in New York City. Fenwick will eventually move to Toronto and finally, with her granddaughter, to Providence, Rhode Island, where she dies in 1840, having lost contact, it appears, with Hays for the final decade of her life. A second edition of Elizabeth Lanfear’s Letters to Young Ladies is published this year. Sometime that spring, Hays moves in with her sister, Sarah Hills, in her house on Maze Hill; Hays will remain with her sister through the end of the year, being visited on two occasions by Crabb Robinson.


No surviving letters to or from Hays have survived from these years. Hays 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, but she will soon return to her quarters in Vanbrugh Castle.


Elizabeth Breese Hays, the wife of John Hays, becomes ill during this year and dies on 12 September 1832. Shortly before her death, Mary Hays leaves Vanbrugh Castle and lives with her brother to assist with his young children and some of the domestic duties in the house.  She also assists her niece, Sarah Dunkin Wedd  (now living in Hackney), as she prepares for the birth of s son. By the end of the year Hays had returned to her brother John and his family of young children with whom Mary Hays will live to sometime in late 1840 or early 1841. During this time, she serves as an influential tutor and mentor to Matilda Mary Hays (1820-97), John Hays’s talented daughter who by 1846 will become a writer herself, continuing a tradition of active women writers in the Hays family that will span more than 100 years. Crabb Robinson, though past 60, still takes long walks to Greenwich to see Hays at Norwood Lodge (about seven miles from where Robinson lived at that time).



No letters have survived from this year. By March John Hays had moved his family and Mary Hays to a new residence in Grosvenor Place, Camberwell. Crabb Robinson visited her often during this year. 


No surviving letters again for these two years, but details about Hays’s life at her brother’s home in Camberwell continue to surface in Crabb Robinson’s diary as a result of his frequent visits to see 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. Hays is still living with her brother in Camberwell and receiving calls from Crabb Robinson, who is on close terms with John Hays.


Hays receives a letter this year from Mary Jane Godwin, William Godwin’s widow, hoping to visit Hays in Camberwell in the spring to renew their old friendship and to inquire about the whereabouts of Eliza Fenwick, who had once worked for the Godwins’ Juvenile Library. Crabb Robinson visits Hays twice, in March and August.


No letters from these three years have survived, but ten references to Hays in Robinson’s diary provide some important details about her life for that year, especially her move in early 1840 to Lower Clapton, where Hays lives in the boarding house of the Misses Farrells. 


Hays final letters are written to her long-time friend, Crabb Robinson, during March and April 1842, both from the boarding house in Clapton where she lives. less than a year before her death. At this time she is living in a boarding house in Clapton where Robinson will visit her or mention her in his diary eight times this year.


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 the husband of her favorite niece, Sarah Dunkin Wedd. The details of her death and burial emerge from entries in Crabb Robinson’s diary and his Reminiscences for that year.


In his Diary for this year, Crabb Robinson continues to follow the daughter of John Hays, the writer Matilda Mary Hays. He notes 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 would write 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, as she followed in her aunt’s footsteps.


Mary Hays’s brother, John, reworks his earlier work on the Corn Laws and publishes a second title, 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). Matilda Mary Hays brings out several volumes of English translations of The Works of George Sand, assisted by Eliza Ashurst and Edmund Larken.  Volumes 1-6 were first published in London by E. Churton in 1847. Another volume would appear in 1851.


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