27 September [1805]

John Aikin,1 Stoke Newington, to Mary Hays, 9 St. George’s Place, Camberwell, 27 September [1805].2


      Be assured dear Madam, that nothing is further from my intention than to desert you. The delay of which you justly complain is entirely owing to my not having yet received Mrs Smith’s papers,3 though I have twice applied for them. From the manner in which Mr P promised them I cannot believe that this failure is studied, but impute it to his perpetual living a multiplicity of concerns. I shall however in a day or two go to town & insist upon having them immediately, & then I shall without delay proceed to form my judgment.

       Nothing could be a more absolute falsehood than the attorney’s report concerning what I am supposed to have said upon your claim, nor do I recollect anything that could give the smallest occasion to it. I can have no other doubt respecting the remuneration due to you than the sum. There was never any idea of desiring you to write over again the narrative part of the history; though P. does indeed talk of the necessity of abridging some part of it before it is printed. Perhaps you may have dilated too much upon the interesting themes in Elizabeth’s reign. I will, however, take every thing fairly into consideration, nor do I find in myself (what I perceive you somewhat suspect) a leaning towards the cause of your adversary.

       It will give pleasure to this family if you put into execution a design which you have hinted of visiting Newington again before winter comes on. We have no engaged day in prospect; indeed my daughter’s delicate state of health keeps her entirely at home. I remain, Dear Madam,

                                     Yours very sincerely

                                                J. Aikin


St. Newington

Sept. 27.


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

Postmark: 27 September 180[?], 2 o’clock 

Penny Post Unpaid


1 John Aikin (1747-1822) was a physician and writer, the son of the theologian and educator, John Aikin (1713-80) and younger brother to Anna Letitia Aikin Barbauld (1743-1825), a significant writer and educator in her own right. All were Unitarians by the 1770s, having been associated with the Warrington Academy for the children of dissenting families where the elder Aikin was a classics instructor for many years. The younger Aikin attended Edinburgh University in the mid-1760s but did not take a degree, continuing his studies thereafter at Manchester and London and finally completed his M.D. at Leiden in 1784, setting up his medical practice in Yarmouth. His support of the French Revolution and Dissenters in general led to a decline in his Yarmouth practice and in 1792 moved to the Broad Street Buildings in London, circulating easily among the London Unitarians and becoming a success as a writer and periodical editor (primarily with Phillips’s Monthly Magazine between 1796 and 1806, but also the Monthly Review, Annual Review, and the Annual Register) while still practicing medicine. Among his publications are Biographical Memoirs of Medicine in Great Britain (1780) and the extensive edition of General Biography (8 vols, 1799-1815). He also joined with his sister in producing the immensely popular Evenings at Home (1792-96) along with other works aimed at young readers, such as Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose (1773), Letters from a Father to his Son on Various Topics Relative to Literature and the Conduct of Life (1793) and Letters to a Young Lady on a Course of English Poetry (1804). His daughter, Lucy Aikin (1781-1864), was a successful writer in her own right and her father’s biographer (2 vols, 1823).

2 Misc. Ms. 2147, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 337-38.

3 Charlotte Smith was working with Phillips on a new project, The History of England, from the Earliest Records to the Peace of Amiens. In a Series of Letters to a Young Lady at School , which appeared in three volumes in 1806. Hays wrote the third volume and more than half of the second volume, though her name does not appear on any of the title pages nor in Smith’s preface to the third volume.