April 1842

Mary Hays, Clapton, to Henry Crabb Robinson, [Russell Square], April 1842.1

Clapton April 1842

    Most concerned I am my dear Friend, that it is not in my power to comply with your request. Some time before I left Camberwell,2 Mrs Martineau3 took my friend Miss Lindley to make a call on the late Mrs Godwin,4 who shewed to them some proof prints of Mr Godwin, which she said had been presented to her by the Engraver, that she might gratify some of her Friends by presenting them. She then gave one to Mrs Martineau, and turning towards Miss Lindley5 asked her if she thought Mrs Hays would be gratified by having one. My friend, with great animation, assured her that I should, and received the Print from Mrs Godwin to present to me. The next morning, she brought it to me at Camberwell, and I very naturally promised it to her at my decease. But amid the uncertainties of life, it is very possible, though not probable, that John may survive Miss Lindley. I will in that case, request her to will it to John.6 But as this is uncertain, I will when we meet, present to John a little memento of my friend Mr Robinson of Cambridge, a Pioneer in all the great events which have succeeded him, his Plan of Lectures in Nonconformity, which was presented to me by himself. It was taken to the House of Commons, and read by a member there, as a proof of the disaffected spirit of the Dissenters. This great and good man was the awakener of my mind, and the Preserver of my life by rousing me by the energies of his genius from the morbid effects of a deep rooted grief. Never was eloquence so touching as his. “Severe the precepts, though the speaker charmeth, He bore his high commission in his look, And sweetly tempered all, & softened all he spoke.”7

                                    Mary Hays8 

1 Crabb Robinson Archive, DWL/HCR/5/14/154a, Dr. Williams's Library, London This letter is a copy, and is not in Hays's hand. See also Brooks, Correspondence 581-82.  HCR has written on the back: 'April 1842 | Miss Hays | with Robert Robinsons | Catechism'

2 Previous to her recent move to Clapton and the boarding house of the Misses Farrell, Hays had lived the better part of a decade in the home of her brother, John Hays, in Camberwell.

3 Harriet Martineau (1802-76) was a member of a prominent Unitarian family from Norwich that included her brother, the Rev. James Martineau (1805-1900). She was a prolific writer, best known for her Illustrations of Political Economy, 9 vols (1832-34), her novels Deerbrook (1839) and The Hour and the Man (1841), various collections of stories for children, and Life in the Sick-Room(1844) and Household Education (1844), as well as pamphlets on slavery and other social issues. These interests resulted in such publications as Letters on Mesmerism (1845), Eastern Life, Past and Present, 3 vols (1848), History of the Thirty Years’ Peace, 2 vols (1849-50), Complete Guide to the Lakes (rival to Wordsworth’s Guide) (1855), and numerous contributions to Dicken’s Household Words. Her later religious views moved toward agnosticism, as expressed in Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development (1851), letters that passed between her and Henry Atkinson. For more on Martineau, see her entry in the Biographical Index.

4 Mary Jane Godwin, Godwin's second wife, died in 1841 (see Mary Jane Godwin to Hays, 30 November 1837). 

5 Miss Lindley is most likely a relation of John Lindley (1799-1865), who became Assistant Secretary to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1822 and Chair of Botany at University College, London, in 1829, a position that led to an acquaintance (if they did not previously know each other) with Crabb Robinson and his other friends associated with the College. Given the suggestion in the above letter about Miss Lindley not surviving John Hays (he was born in 1768), it suggests that she is possibly Lindley's elder sister or even an aunt, and thus her age would have been closer to that of Mary Hays. John Hays was also a friend of Dr. Lindley and Miss Lindley (see Crabb Robinson Diary, 13 April 1838). The Lindleys, like the Martineaus, were originally a prominent Norwich family. 

6 Hays's brother, John, father of Matilda Mary Hays. 

7 Robert Robinson (1735-90) was the celebrated Baptist minister at Cambridge who, during the 1780s, was influential in shaping Hays's religious beliefs, especially in regard to Unitarianism, through their correspondence and friendship, which continued through her friendship with Robinson's daughters. The work mentioned here is Robinson's A Plan of Lectures on the Principles of Nonconformity (London: J. Buckland, 1778), a foundational work for many of the radical Dissenters in the late 1780s and 1790s, such as Hays and Benjamin Flower, the newspaper editor at Cambridge in the1790s. The exchange of this slim volume by Robert Robinson from Hays to her brother may have provoked Crabb Robinson to publish his reminiscences and thoughts on the famed Baptist minister in a two-part essay titled "Robinsoniana" that appeared in the The Christian Reformer in February and June 1845, pp. 8-92 and 347-52. It should be noted that Hays's memory is slightly clouded at this point. The work of Robinson's from which portions were read in the House of Commons by Edmund Burke was A Political Cathechism (London: J. Buckland . . . and W. Lepard, 1782). An account of Burke's reading can be found in the The Parliamentary Register, vol. 27 (London: J. Debrett, 1790), 179-88.

8 Signature is that of Hays, so the letter was copied in her presence or at least given to her to sign prior to mailing.