28 March 1801
Eliza Gregory, Low Leyton, to Mary Hays, 22 Hatton Garden, 28 March 1801.1
My dear Miss Hays
The uneasiness I felt on perusing your melancholy letter on Saturday was increased by the necessity I was under of dispatching your messenger without a line in return. But I was fully occupied, & had an appointment on business to which I was compelled to attend; & the subsequent fatigue & care of removal have left me no leisure for writing since we arrived here. I am sincerely pained at the despondency you express, for however we may differ on some opinions, there are many more in which I feel self-elation in believing we agree, & if, as I am gratified by your assurance, my good opinion is still far from indifferent to you, rely upon my cordial sympathy in every happy, or every disastrous event that can befal you. No defence of your conduct can be necessary to me, nor to any with whom you are acquainted; & if in vindication of Miss Hamilton I urged anything that bore such an implication, I must have widely deviated from my meaning. I meant not, I could not possibly mean to wound you in the slightest degree, but to exculpate her as in similar circumstances I would exculpate you from the suspicion of being actuated by the diabolical spirit of revenge. Of this I am convinced she is incapable. She considered, what I believe was generally understood, the novels of Emma Courtenay [sic], & the Victim of Prejudice as systematic productions, composed for the purpose of exhibiting the evils which resulted from certain opinions & practises established in the world, & sanctioned by it. These she considered as salutary checks upon the vicious propensities of mankind, & every attempt to destroy them as calculated to have an injurious operation upon the best interests of society. With these sentiments the virtues or talents of those who opposed them must have been so far from an argument to withold her vindication that
anythey nev ^must have had a directly contrary^ tendency & must have enforced the necessity of endeavouring to expose what she conceived to be pernicious & erroneous opinions, when sanctioned by such authorities. In endeavouring to exemplify the principles of what has been called the “new philosophy” reduced to practise, she has I am convinced, intended no personal attack & would be extremely pained at the idea of wounding you. Indeed my dear Miss Hays you must pardon me for saying that this supposition is not consonant to your usual kindness & candour, in which I have never known you surpassed. Miss Hamilton, tho’ hurt by your review of the Rajah2 (wch you have conceived the foundation of this affair) ascribed not to you any motive but zeal for the opinions you had embraced. Is not the same allowance to be made for her? I have urged the more in vindication of Miss Hamilton because I hoped what I had to urge, might have some effect in persuading you, that however bad the world might be, wanton malevolence was not the certain consequence of an intercourse with those who were not entitled to the appellation of tried friends. That you should ever have experienced malignity I lament, but still more do I grieve at the keen sense you entertain of it. Most however of what has pained you is discredited3 by all, even probably by the person from whom it issued, & if still rememberd it can only be so as an effusion of that party spirit with which all who dissent from established opinions should expect an attack. Instead of courting solitude let me advise you to come into general society which you may benefit, but from which you will receive no injury. You need not shrink from the display of your heart & conduct. Rally your spirits there is I trust much of happiness remaining for you, & that every good, present & future, may be your portion is the earnest wish of one who conceives that the want of a perfect conformity of opinion is no impediment to the assurance that she is sincerely your friend
As I fear to trust the MSS pr post I will return it the first opportunity that occurs
Address: Miss Hays | No 22. | Hatton Garden
Postmark: 30 March 1801, 12 o’clock
Penny Post Unpaid
1 Misc. Ms. 2177, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; not in Brooks, Correspondence. For Gregory, see her previous letter to Hays, dated 29 July 1796.
2 Hays's review of Elizabeth Hamilton's Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah appeared in the Analytical Review 23 (1796), 429-30. It provoked a bitter response from Hamilton to Hays; see above, Hamilton to Hays, 13 March 1797. Gregory was a friend of Hamilton and was attempting in this letter to mediate between the two novelists' ongoing feud, fueled by Hamilton's recent caricature of Hays as Miss Bridgetina Botherim in Modern Philosophers (1801), exposing the deficiencies of the Godwinian philosophy Hamilton believed Hays had espoused in her novels, Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796) and The Victim of Prejudice (1799). The MSS Gregory mentions in her postscript is not known, but possibly something Hays wrote that never appeared in print or, if it did, without her name affixed to it.
3 discreditted] MS