The letters in this volume have been transcribed as closely as possible to the way they appear in the original manuscripts, or in a few instances, from printed sources where the original letter no longer exists. Except for single letters belonging to collections at the British Library, the University of Kentucky, and the Pennsylvania Historical Society, and some material related to Hays in the Godwin papers belonging to the Abinger Collection, Bodleian Library, the manuscripts from which these letters have been transcribed belong to the following archives: A. F. Wedd Collection, Dr. Williams's Library, London; the Fenwick Family Correspondence MS 211, New York Historical Society; and the collection of materials related to Hays, Godwin, Wollstonecraft, and Fenwick at the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, New York Public Library, New York. Footnotes inform the reader of the pages of the letters as they appear in The Correspondence of Mary Hays (1779-1843), British Novelist, ed. Marilyn Brooks (Lewiston, ME: Edwin Mellon Press, 2004), as well as any letters that appear in other printed sources, such as The Love-Letters of Mary Hays (1779-1780), ed. A. F. Wedd (London: Methuen, 1925); The Fate of the Fenwicks, ed. A. F. Wedd (London: Methuen, 1927); The Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft, ed. Janet Todd (London: Allen Lane, 2003); The Letters of William Godwin, ed. Pamela Clemit, Vol. 1: 1778-1797; Vol. 2: 1798-1805 (Oxford: OUP, 2011); The Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb, ed. Edwin W. Marrs, 3 vols (Cornell: Cornell UP, 1975-78); and The Collected Letters of Robert Southey (Romantic Circles edition), gen ed. Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford, and Ian Packer.
In the manuscripts, abbreviated words, such as Sr, Jr, Mr, Mrs, Messrs, ye (the), yn (then), yt (that), wch (which), dr (both ‘dear’ and ‘doctor’), etc, have been retained, as have all superscripts, ampersands, and frequent dashes. Alterations to the text have been kept to a minimum, but in some instances corrections have been necessary. Some have been added silently, others noted at the foot of the page. Spelling variants that have the most probability of suggesting the presence of a typographical error to the reader have been standardized. Spellings such as ‘greif’, ‘breif’, ‘yeild’, etc., have been silently amended to ‘ie’. Where words have been inadvertently left out by the writer or are missing due to a damaged text and a reasonable guess can be made, the missing words have been inserted in square brackets. Explanatory notes appear numerically at the foot of the page. Wherever possible, interpolations and mark-throughs in the manuscripts have not been note. Missing quotation marks have been inserted in brackets and placed in the text at the place that seems most likely to be the author's intended location. In a few instances, missing periods and commas have been added, and sometimes a comma has been deleted, in order to maintain a clear context for the reader. Otherwise, the actual punctuation of the letters has been reproduced as accurately as possible. Archaic and idiosycratic spellings and punctuation (many are found in the Hays-Eccles letters and are peculiar to the transcriber of those letters, most likely Hays’s friend, Mrs Collier) have been modernized include the following: fryday, endevor, begining, seting, cuting, seperate, persuit, unluckyly, tryal, occured, dispise, truely, triffling, cruelity, untill, disipation, falshood, cloaths, ornimant, interceed, and least (when intended to be “lest”). Days of the week often appear in lower case, which was not unusual for the time. Words ending in “se” that today are usually spelled “ze” have been left in their original form. Words ending in “ant” or “ance,” though usually spelled “ent” or “ence” today, have been left alone, as have words beginning in ‘in” that today are spelled with “en.” Occasionally, “than” has been changed to “then” and sometimes “then” has been changed to “than” to maintain a proper context. Those words or words that are impossible to read have been noted in the final text by the use of < >, and when a deletion cannot be read, it has been denoted by <–>. Authorial deletions in the manuscripts denoted by ellipses have been retained as they appear in the original; deletions made by the editor have been denoted by an ellipsis in square brackets.