31 January [1793]

John Disney,1 Sloane Street, to Mary Hays, Gainsford Street, Southwark, 31 January [1793].2  


[74] Sloane Street

Janry 31.

Thursday Morng

     We have th[is instant,] dear Madam, reced your kind letter, and [request] the pleasure of seeing you & yours on Monday to dinner Please to remember the Battersea Co[ach] sets out from the Cross keys Grace church street exactly at 11 – and that it will set you down at our door (74). We will settle the appointment with Mrs Jebb3 for the afternoon. If I had had ^time^ then I cod have called my own, since the death of your dear little niece,4 I shod have reproached myself for not havg waited upon you, – but indeed I stand clear in my own conscience, as I will explain myself when we have the pleasure of seeing you. With our united kind & best respects to all your house, I am, dear Madam,

             with [paper torn]

                    yr obliged friend,

                             John Disney

Address:  Miss Hays | Gainsforth [sic] Street | Southwark

1 John Disney (1746-1816) became one of the more prominent Unitarian ministers in London between 1780 and his death in 1816.  He entered Peterhouse college, Cambridge, where John Jebb was a tutor, in 1764, and moved among the Latitudinarians during his time there. He was ordained in 1768, and a few years later joined with John Jebb, Theophilus Lindsey, and other Unitarians in supporting the Feather's Tavern Petition in 1772. He remained an Anglican clergyman until 1782, when he resigned and joined Lindsey as his assistant at the Essex Street Chapel in London. The next year he became secretary of the Unitarian Society for Promoting the Knowledge of the Scriptures. In 1793, upon Lindsey's retirement, Disney became senior pastor at Essex Street. Upon his receiving a large bequest of property (about £5000 a year) through the estate of Thomas Brand Hollis, Disney resigned in 1805 and removed to The Hyde, an estate near Ingatestone, Essex, the same location from whence Elizabeth Hays's letter to Mary Hays in 1801 is addressed. Disney was succeeded at Essex Street by Thomas Belsham. He authored numerous works and memoirs of Jebb and Edmund Law. Two volumes of his sermons appeared in 1793 and two more in 1816, all demonstrating his allegiance to Socinianism.

2 A. F. Wedd Collection, shelfmark 24.93(3), Dr. Williams's Library, London. Not in Brooks, Correspondence.

3 Ann Jebb (1735-1812) was married to John Jebb (1736-86), a fellow of Peterhouse College, Cambridge and a religious and political reformer during the 1770s and '80s. Upon their marriage in 1764, he relinquished his fellowship but remained a tutor at the college. By the 1770s Jebb had become a Socinian, and his lectures were forbidden by some of the Cambridge colleges. His pamphlet, A Short Account of Theological Lectures (1770) argued for the right of private judgment in matters of theology. He joined with Theophilus Lindsey and Francis Blackburne in forming the Feathers Tavern Petition in 1772 to end subscription to the 39 Articles for Anglican clergy. Opposition to Jebb's views were substantial, and he resigned from Cambridge in 1776, completed his studies in medicine, and opened what would become a successful medical practice in London in 1777, continuing his advocacy of political and religious reform and opposition to the war with the American colonies through his prominent role in founding the Society for Promoting Constitution Information in 1780 (the same year he was admitted as a solicitor at Lincoln's Inn) and the Society for Promoting the Knowledge of the Scriptures in 1783. During these years he attended the Essex Street Chapel led by Lindsey, and promoted the work of Joseph Priestley. Ann Jebb was the daughter of the Revd James Torkington of Little Stukely, Huntingdonshire, and Lady Dorothy Sherard, daughter of Philip, second earl of Harborough. Like her husband, she was an ardent political reformer and writer, contributing a series of letters to the editor of the London Chronicle during 1772-74 under the nom de plume Priscilla. In London she too was active in opposition to the war with America and easing or eliminating legal restrictions against Roman Catholics. After her husband's death, Ann Jebb remained a vibrant part of his circle of reformers and Unitarians, which helps explain Hays's introduction to her through Disney. She lived in Half-Moon Street in London, and never bore any children. She and her husband were buried in the Dissenter's burial ground at Bunhill Fields.

4 Either the daughter of Hays's sister Joanna Dunkin or Sarah Hills.