c. mid-April 1796

Elizabeth Hamilton,1 21 Millman Street, to Mary Hays, [30 Kirby Street], undated [possibly Friday, 9 April 1796].2


      Miss Hamilton presents her Compliments to Miss Hays, her present engagement to her guest Miss Davis puts it out of her power to accept of Miss Hays’s invitation for Saturday.

       As it is probable Miss H may not see Dr Crawford3 this week, she sends Miss Hays his address which is No 9 Guilford Street –


No 21 New Millman St

Friday Morng

1 Elizabeth Hamilton (c. 1756-1816) was a novelist and essayist originally from Belfast though her father was a merchant from Scotland, where Hamilton spent most of her youth near Stirling living with an aunt. Her brother, Charles Hamilton (1752/53-1792) became a prominent Orientalist through his work with the East India Company, living with him in London between 1788 and 1791. After his death in 1792, Hamilton lived most of the remainder of her life with or near her sister, Katherine, a widow, living at various times in Hadleigh, Suffolk, in Bath, and in Edinburgh. Her brother's death provoked Hamilton to become an author, publishing her first significant work, Translations of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah (1796), a work reviewed by Hays in a way that led to a disruption in their recently acquired friendship. Hamilton would get a modest revenge in her Memoirs of Modern Philosophers (1800), in which she attacked the Godwin circle (including Hays) for its adherence to scepticism and contemporary radical thought. Nevertheless, she shared much in common with Hays and Wollstonecraft on matters of female education, her ideas finding formal expression in her Letters on Education (1801). Like Hays and many other women writers in the first decade of the 19th century, Hamilton turned to the growing market of young readers with her Life of Agrippina, Wife of Germanicus (1804), a fictionalized biography attempting to introduce adolescent girls to important questions of ethics and morality through the study of historical personages, much as Hays would do with her Historical Dialogues (1806). Hamilton published one more novel, The Cottagers of Glenburnie (1808), before removing to Edinburgh, where she became friends with Walter Scott and Maria Edgeworth. She died at Harrogate on 23 July 1816. 

2 Misc. 2209, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 312. Godwin had  “tea miss Hayes , w. Hamilton, Blake, Christal, mrs Gregory & dr Crawford” on Saturday 16 April 1796, so this letter was clearly prior to that engagement, probably the week before. Hays may have rescheduled her tea for the following Saturday to ensure Hamilton's presence, as well as Crawford's.

3 Several possibilities exist for this Dr. Crawford. A good choice would be Stewart Crawford, who received his M.D. from Edinburgh in 1795 and arrived in London early in 1796; he would have been a classmate of Hays's friend, John Reid, who also finished his M.D. at Edinburgh that same year and came to London in late 1795. Another possibility is Stewart's father, William Crawford, a Presbyterian minister with a D.D. from Glasgow; or Stewart's uncle, Alexander Crawford, also a medical doctor. My thanks to Ed Pope's History for information on the Crawfords (see http://edpopehistory.co.uk).