13 November 1782

Robert Robinson,1 Walworth, to Mary Hays, [Gainsford Street],2 13 November 1782.3


Mr Robinson’s most respectful comps to Miss Hays. Miss Hays did indeed do R— the honour of writing to him – but it did not reach his hand till above two months after it as written. Ever since R— has intended to write and make his apology. His business happens to be very much, and very perplexed, but if it be possible he will not fail to wait on Miss Hays (for whom he entertains the most profound esteem) some time to morrow afternoon, or evening. He hopes the inaccuracies of this will be excused, when Miss H— knows it was written in a large chatting company.


Wed. Nov. 13th: 82.


Address: Miss Hays

1Robert Robinson (1735-1790), Baptist minister at St. Andrew’s Street, Cambridge, 1759-1790), had become by the late 1770s one of the more influential and controversial Baptist ministers in England, both in matters of church polity and political dissent. His close friendships in the following decade with Cambridge Socinians William Frend and Robert Tyrwhitt (both of Jesus College) and the former Particular Baptist turned Unitarian George Dyer of Emmanuel College, as well as his appreciation of the brilliant Unitarian Joseph Priestley and the yet-to-be-novelist Mary Hays, led many Baptists and former Evangelical friends of Robinson to consider him dangerously close to adopting a Unitarian position on the nature of Christ and man. An outspoken political reformer, Robinson was a founding member of the Society for Constitutional Information (1780), an important arm of the radical reform movement in England. Among his writings are Arcana: or the Principles of the Late Petitioners to Parliament for Relief in the Matter of Subscription (1774), A Plea for the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ (1776), A Plan of Lectures on the Principles of Nonconformity (1778), Christian Submission to Civil Government (1780), and The Doctrine of Toleration (1781), and Slavery Inconsistent with the Spirit of Christianity (1788). See Stephen Bernard Nutter, The Story of the Cambridge Baptists and the Struggle for Religious Liberty (Cambridge: W. Heffer and Sons, 1912); L. G. Champion, “Robert Robinson: A Pastor in Cambridge,” Baptist Quarterly 31 (1986-1986): 241-246; Church Book: St. Andrew’s Street (London: Baptist Historical Society, 1991).

2 Most likely Robinson was staying in the Walworth home (on Keene's Row) of his friend, Henry Keene, a prominent deacon in the Baptist meeting at Maze Pond, Southwark. The Hays family around 1768 to Shad Thames, along the south side of the Thames, and in 1776 to Gainsford Street, a short street running parallel to Shad Thames to the north and Tooley Street to the south and ending near Jamaica wharf. The Hays and Dunkin families attended the Particular Baptist meeting located at the end of Gainsford Street (also called Blackfields) led by John Dolman and then John Langford (the pastor during Hays’s youth), and Michael Brown after 1778. Langford published Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1766, among other publications. See Account of Dolman’s Church in Blackfields (1760), by Dolman.

3 Misc. MS. 2153, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 250.