20 June [1804]

John Aikin, Stoke Newington, to Mary Hays, 9 St. Georges Place, Camberwell, 20 June [1804].1


Dear Madam,

       The success of the work you propose will, of course, depend upon the manner of its execution, as there can be no novelty in the matter. I believe there have been some upon a similar plan, though not in dialogue.2 The “Annales de la Vertu” by Mad. de Genlis3 is meant to instruct by historical example, & contains some good writing, though the spirit is far from being truly philosophical. That work will be worth your seeing, and you may also consult one entitled (I think) “Beauties of History.”4 Biographical dictionaries will also suggest characters & facts. I may recommend that in which I am engaged, as far as it goes.5 The French “Nouveau Dictionnaire Historique”6 will supply abundance of content & you may have recourse to the histories of the countries to which they belong for minuter information.

       We shall be happy to see you at Newington after our return from a tour of two or three weeks which we propose to begin next Monday.

       With respect to the business with Mr Phillips, I have no reason to doubt that the work will really be printed, if it is not so already; for he has desired me to let him have the ^your^ manuscript prepared, as I undertook to do it, for the press, which has accordingly been delivered to him. When printed, I shall get him to settle the balance according to the original conditions.

       I remain, Dear Madam, with sincere respect,

                         Your faithful friend & servnt

                                    J. Aikin

Stoke Newington

June 20th


Address: Miss Hays | 9 St George’s Place | Camberwell

Postmark: 20 June 1804, 7 o’clock

1 Misc. Ms. 2148, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 338-39.

2 Reference here is to Historical Dialogues for Young Persons, 3 vols (London: Printed for J. Johnson, St. Paul’s Churchyard; and J. Mawman, Poultry, 1806-08). The interval between the letter and the eventual date of publication indicating the considerable time Hays put into these volumes. They would prove her most successful work during her lifetime, continuing to be printed and widely sold by Mawmen into the early 1820s.

3 De Genlis’s Les annals de la vertu was translated by Elizabeth Mary James and published in Bath in 1794 as A Selection from the Annals of Virtue.

4 William Dodd, The Beauties of History (London: Vernor & Hood, 1795; 2nd ed., 1800).

5 General Biography: or Lives, Critical and Historical, of the Most Eminent Persons of all Ages, Countries, Conditions, and Professions, Arranged According to Alphabetical Order. Chiefly Composed by John Aikin, M.D. and the late Rev. William Enfield, LL. D. (London: G. G and J. Robinson [. . .], 1799-1815).

6 Nouveau dictionnaire d'histoire naturelle, applquée aux arts appeared in France in 1803; the first English translation appeared in 1810.