24 December 1795

Benjamin Seymour, Boston, to Mary Hays, 2 Paragon Place, Southwark, 24 December 1795.1


Boston Decembr 1795


Esteemed Cousin

       Your favour of the 11th May, I duly read and felt myself, both instructed and gratified on a perusal – from  [the]publication I enjoyed a renewal of the like feelings, and desirous that some of my American friends should participate,lent this book to, one of the most respectable (Josiah Quincey Esqr)2 a part of his letter on sending back your miscellany, Ithink proper to communicate – “It has long since been demonstrated that literary taste and eminence was not the soleprerogative of our sex. Mrs Hays has furnished new and convincing evidence that whatever superiority we profess, isattributable to superior education, not a higher nature, in lofty flights of fancy, in delicate conceptions and sublime sentiments, the palm may lawfully be contested with us, by the female world. [Y]our friend has laid her claim effectuallyto literary honour; a claim which I sincerely wish successfully and universally  asserted as I firmly believe the dignity ofthe male sex, is never more surely consulted, than by elevating the female to that respectability to which nature hasentitled them” – it gave sincere pleasure to hear of the health  of your mother and sisters, and hope the enjoyment of a tranquil retirement, will contribute much to its continuance. am concerned to inform you that your friend Dr Priestly3 hadbeen much imposed on in the purchase of land, could have wished the respectability of his character, would have been ashield sufficient to guard him from the base arts of the designing. I must inform you of the change in me, no longer a romantic wanderer. I have evidenced that the real enjoyments of life are, only to be attained by stability. I live in thecountry; and am become habituated to the mode of life pursued by my neighbours; you would smile to see me morning and evening, with my bucket in my hand going to feed my pigs: ridiculous and unnecessary pride is in this place wholly abolished, I frequently see a Judge, a man of sound understanding, respectability, and fortune, marching home with a leg ofmutton suspended by the knuckle in his hand, while his servants at home, are employed in their domesticconcerns. determined by every means that I can devise, (consistent with honor), to acquire property, I am really active andindustrious and find my efforts attended with success, and am happier than I ever was in my life. resolved to do justice tomy own feelings when possessed of the power, I hope one day “to render to Caesar the things that are Caesars.”4 amconnected in some capital works situated on a fine stream of water not above half a mile from the sea, and reap anadvantage from three branches of manufacture,  which I am exerting myself to extend. my time is wholly employed, andwhat sweetens life, is the enjoyment of domestic felicity. I have a daughter in England,5 at present with her aunt atSittingbourne Kent: should your brothers at any time pass that way, I should be gratified if an enquiry was made forThomas Tatham at whose house she resides, and as I have the natural affection of a father am extremely interested in herwelfare, am desirable that she is not in want of anything, & suppose her aunt Mrs Tatham would be offended at such a presumption; but receive a pleasure from every information I obtain; intend sending for her in about twelvemonths. amextremely obliged to Mr John Hays6 for the trouble he has taken on my accot to procure from the Mansion house, theModel detained there. probably the present Lord Mayor7 has more sense than his predecessor in office, who in thatparticular instance found himself to be (at least) as ignorant as vigilant. to obtain a model of an engine, erected in Russiaand another of the same kind subsequently erected in the Dock yard at Portsmouth, after the inventor was out of the kingdom carries absurdity upon the face of the act. I am in want of a good Wilton Carpet about 14 feet square, and if Mr J Hays is disposed to oblige me, I beg the favour he will procure it, the pattern should prefer, rather neat than gaudy, and the size ratherless, than to exceed the dimensions, at the same time wish for 4 yds of chamber carpeting for the side of a bed – I have anumber of singular incidents to relate which have occurred to me in the course of my life, some of which I shall hereaftercommunicate; as I am surprised after writing so long, to find I have said (or wrote) so little. Feeling the most sincere regard, and unfeigned affection for your mother and family I subscribe myself

                                                Your affectionate Cousin

                                                            Benjn Seymour


I request a continuation of your valuable correspondence. shall forward some American literary productions for yourentertainment, by no means for your improvement.



Address:  Mrs Hays No 2 Paragon place | Surry Road | London | pr the Ship Charleston | Capt Oliver | for Eusebia

Postmark in England: 29 February 1796, at Penzance

1 Misc. Ms. 2212, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 479-81. Hays was no longer living with the Dunkins by December 1795, but her cousin in America would not have known. Her letter was obviously delivered by her sister to her new address.  

2 Josiah Quincy III (1772-1864) was a member of the prominent Quincy family of Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard in 1790 and was admitted to the bar in 1793. He served in the House of Representatives from 1805 to 1813, and as a Massachusetts state representative and senator from 1813-22. He served as mayor of Boston, 1823-28, and President of Harvard, 1828-45. Quincy Market in downtown Boston was named in his honor. 

3 Priestley arrived in America on 4 June 1794 and by mid-July had arrived in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, where he would remain until his death in 1804.

4 Matthew 20:21. 

5 Seymour had married Naomi Seely in 1793 in England. She would join him in America in 1796, bringing with her their first child, a daughter named Frances (b. 1794) (mentioned above).

6 John and Thomas Hays were already employed, mainly through the assistance of John Dunkin, as cornfactors working out of the Dunkin and Hays warehouses along Shad Thames. John Hays, along with his brother-in-law Thomas Hills, and the two Dunkins, Sr. and Jr., provided considerable assistance to Seymour during the early 1790s after his return from Russia as he sought to promote his invention that would twine heavy rope mechanically. For more on this, see the entry on Seymour in the Biographical Index.

7 The Lord Mayor for 1795 was Sir William Curtis, who had succeeded Thomas Skinner. The mayor Seymour had previously had issues with in 1792 was Sir James Sanderson.