14 August 1803

Elizabeth Hays, Ingatestone, Essex, to Mary Hays, 9 St. George’s Place, Camberwell, 14 August 1803.1

August 14th 1803


Dear Mary

     Both my mind, & my feelings have for some months past been occupied by a subject which, till entire “certainty was mine,” I did not like to mention to any one but my mother, but I now feel ^my self^ at liberty to communicate to you, what I trust your friendship for me will enable you to read with pleasure. In short I have at present the prospect of a <–> change in my situation, which on the maturest reflection & deliberation entirely meets with my approbation – Perhaps you may have heard Mrs Palmer2 speak of her accidentally taking me while I was with her one morning into Cheapside where we saw, & spake to Mr Lanfear.3 The next day Martha4 called on me in Aldermanbury & gave me an invitation to Islington by ^I have since found^ her uncle’s desire. I did not go – the invitation was repeated by Mr L himself whom I again met by accident one morning at Mr Francis’s5 at whose house I called to enquire after his health. Since then Mr L has tried every means in his power to be introduced to my acquaintance, & gain an interest in my esteem; & last friday morning he prevailed on me to consent to devote the remainder of my days to him & his. Yes, I will endeavour to do my duty perform every duty, & love those boys whom he so seriously, & so pathetically recommended to my attention.

     Mr L appears to be a man of virtuous principles, liberal sentiments & good, though not a pollish’d understanding but if I am not deceived ^in him^ he possesses what is still dearer to me, an excellent temper, & great sensibility of heart – goodness seems to be his characteristic, as I believe it is that of every branch of his family, to all of whom, Mrs J Dunkin6 & Martha Lanfear in particular, I feel more than ever inclined to attach my self.

     But enough on this subject & more perhaps than I ought to indulge my self with, in writing on to you who with my mother are at present much on my mind. My mother who thank God is much ^greatly^ recovered in her health expresses her self as pleased with my prospects, & would not suffer any considerations on her account to interfere with my final determination –

    Remember me to all friends, & to my sister Dunkin7 in particular, to whom I wish you to show this letter, though I do not wish the subject of it to be yet made public. I shall at some future day tell Mr L that he is indebted to Mrs Dunkins8 recommendation for some of the first serious & favourable thoughts which I bestowed on him.

     And now my dear Mary what can I say to you. [W]ould to God that you were happy – calmly rationally happy, it is an alloy to my own ^satisfaction^ that you are not so. My heart is too full of complicated & various emotions to permit me to say any more


                                 Elizh Hays

Address: Miss Hays | George Row | Camberwell. 

Postmark: none. 

1 Misc. Ms. 4077, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 485.  Ingatestone was just to the southeast of Chelmsford, where her 1801 letter was composed. At that time she was living with her brother John, but she appears to be merely visiting friends at the time of this letter, for it seems more likely that Mary was living with her brother in Camberwell at this time, and that most likely Elizabeth and her mother were once again living in the family home in Gainsford Street. By 1805, John and Joanna Dunkin would be living to the east of Chelmsford at Woodham Mortimer, near Maldon. It appears that Elizabeth’s future husband, Ambrose Lanfear, already had a family connection with John Dunkin.

2 Joanna Palmer of 12 Aldermanbury, Cheapside, wife of Nathaniel Palmer and a niece of Mary and Elizabeth Hays. Nathaniel Palmer (1774-1840), like John Dunkin, was a successful cornfactor and known to Crabb Robinson.  He was the brother of Samuel Palmer (1775-1848), a Baptist bookseller and lay preacher and father of Samuel Palmer (1805-81), the painter and son-in-law of John Linnell, the artist and friend of William Blake. At one point Mary Hays c. 1796-97 lived in the home of Edward Palmer (c. 1771-1831), brother of Nathaniel and Samuel. Edward Palmer’s first wife was Marianna Hays (1773-97) (youngest sister of Mary and Elizabeth Hays) on 4 June 1796. By December 1796 Mary Hays was living in the Palmer home in Little John Street near Grays Inn Road. Marianna died (probably due to complications from a pregnancy) in early December 1797, and shortly thereafter Hays returned to her quarters in Ann Cole’s house in nearby Kirby Street. Joanna Palmer would purchase 6 copies of Fatal Errors in 1819.

3 Elizabeth Hays married Ambrose Lanfear (c. 1750-1809) at Maldon, Essex, on March 14, 1804. They resided at 4 Upper Terrace, Islington (he is the only Lanfear listed in Holden’s 1805 Directory). He may be the same Ambrose Lanfear who was a freeman of the Cordwainer Company, operating as a haberdasher at 32 Cheapside during the 1780s and 1790s.  His first marriage was to Sarah Smith on June 7, 1781, a marriage that produced one son, also named Ambrose (1787-1870). After the death of his first wife, Lanfear married Sarah Stanfield (Stanfeld) (c. 1767-1802) on July 21, 1792. During their ten years of marriage, they had one son, Joseph (b. 1795). In 1809, Joseph Lanfear received a grant from the King to take his mother’s name of Stanfeld and assume the family’s properties in Middlesex.  Elizabeth’s avowal in the 1803 letter that she was ready “to love those boys” is a reference to Ambrose, Jr., and Joseph. Ambrose Lanfear committed suicide in 1809 as a result of a “commercial embarrassment,” according to Crabb Robinson (Diary, vol. 1, f. 416).

4 Martha Lanfear, niece of Ambrose Lanfear.

5 Henry Francis (1781-1857) of Aldermanbury, London, the "Mr. Francis" mentioned earlier in the letter, married Elizabeth Dunkin (1787-1825), daughter of John Dunkin, at St. Giles, Camberwell, on 17 May 1803, a few months before the above letter. In 1819, the Francises would join with William and Marianna Dunkin Bennett (Elizabeth Francis’s sister) in moving into large homes in Maze Hill, Greenwich, the same location where Mary Hays would move (Vanbrugh Castle) in 1823. After his wife’s death in 1825, Henry Francis was joined in 1826 by William and Emma Hills and George and Sarah Wedd (two more sisters of Elizabeth Francis) and by Sarah Hills, sister to Mary Hays and Elizabeth Lanfear. Henry Francis would live at Maze Hill until his death in 1857.

6 This is not Mrs. John Dunkin, which would be Elizabeth’s sister Joanna; instead, this is Mrs. John Hays Dunkin (1775-1858), eldest son of John and Joanna Dunkin and Elizabeth Hays’s nephew who had settled at Beeleigh, near Maldon, Essex, c. 1800.  She was the former Sarah Francis, the sister of Henry Francis (see previous note).

7 Joanna Dunkin, Lanfear's sister. The Dunkins had not yet removed from Champion Hill, Camberwell, to Mortimer Woodham in Essex.

8  Possibly the elder Joanna Dunkin, but most likely this is the wife of John Hays Dunkin.