30 November 1836
Mary Hays, 11 Grosvenor Place, Camberwell, to Mary Godwin Shelley, 30 November 1836.1
My dear madam, the papers you had the goodness to transmit to me, were received in the chamber of weakness. Hence my tardy acknowledgment! I ought to feel, as I do feel, honoured & gratified, that your late father considered them as worthy of preservation, & not be surprised that some are missing. Among these is a brief memoir of the events & sentiments of a certain period of my life, written in confidence & intended only for the perusal of him to whom it was addressed. When separated by circumstances, I never claimed these papers, lest, by the delicate mind to which they were confided, such a claim might be construed into distrust. My confidence was, I trust, understood, & led to the destruction of the papers – Nor is my confidence less entire in the mind & principles of the daughter of my friend. The circumstance would not indeed have been noticed by me, but from the bare possibility, that the papers might have been separated from the others, &, if so, yet come to hand.
Be assured, dear madam, that when able to look over my letters, I should find any from your father that might be available to you, they shall be carefully transmitted -- & much honored should I feel to have my name go down to posterity so associated.
But, perhaps, you are not aware, that the engagement between your father & me – He high in repute & I a merely, self-taught, obscure young woman – was, that I was to write to him as to “my genius in the moon,” & he was to reply to me in person.2 Hence I was favoured but by few of his letters & some brief notes.
I am tempted, now, to hint, dear madam, that I have formed a design upon you, referable to a future & uncertain period. Your course is in its meridian – mine is nearly run. May you long, very long, after my decease, be spared to your friends & to the world! I have materials, rather copious than select, which, in your hands, might form a memorial, useful & perhaps interesting to some minds. My friendship with, & letters to your father, would I perceive, in looking them over, be among the best & most interesting of these materials. I am, I am sorry to say, very immethodical in my papers, which I shall leave in the hands of a beloved niece, who is to me as a daughter.3 She knows my wishes on the subject, & would sit & communicate with you in any mode which you thought proper. I hope it would be personally, for though she is not intellectual, you would, I am sure, be interested by the sweetness of her manners & by her exemplary character. She is the mother of a large family. Perhaps, when you return to London, you will gratify me by an interview, though you will find in me but the wreck of my former self. Might I hope for that favour, you will, I trust, have the goodness to announce it by a previous line, as I meditate a change of residence.
I most sincerely hope, that you have found in your present situation the health you sought for, & which is so important to your pursuits. Do not think me impertinently curious, if the sincere & lively interest I take in your welfare favor me with a few lines, you would speak to me more of yourself, of your son, who, with such a descent, cannot fail, in future to become distinguished. Is he intended for the Senate or for the Bar? Does his grandfather take pride in such an heir, & does he respect, as he ought to do, the talented & accomplished mother of that heir? Pardon, in respect to its motive, the liberty I take; excuse this long & desu[l]tory letter, & believe me actuated by feelings of high respect & esteem!!
Address to me. Mrs M. Hays, a title I have long adopted My brothers daughter is now Miss Hays.4
Have you, or Mrs Godwin, ever learned the fate of my friend & yr mother's friend, Mrs Fenwick? After the death of her daughter, her mind seemed broken up. She ceases to answer my letters & all my enquiries respecting her proved fruitless.
1 MS. Abinger c. 49 (old shelfmark Dep. c. 768), Bodleian Library, Oxford, ff. 52-53; Walker, Idea of Being Free 300-02; not in Brooks, Correspondence.
2 See Godwin to Hays, 7 May 1795.
3 Sarah Dunkin Wedd (1793-1875).
4 Matilda Mary Hays (1820-97).