3 September 1792
Hugh Worthington, Leicester, to Mary Hays, Gainsford Street, 3 September 1792.1
Leicester Sepr 3, 92
Having just heard of a private conveyance I gladly seize ye opportunity of answering yr excellent letter, wch came to Leicester while I was at Nottingham; But yr request of a long letter in reply cannot be granted, for when a man is on a journey, & daily moving to different places to see his old acquaintance, there is very little leisure to wield that mighty weapon, a pen. I could indeed double ye length of this, but then yr valuable sister must go without any letter at all; & as it is, I am afraid, my worthy Brother Mr Butcher2 will not come in for a single line at present.
How luckily did my last enter yr dwelling? The waves were rising but a little oil allayed & quieted them. I might have used another similitude, but thro’ fear of offending; it wd have borrowed from ye practice of Sailors, when they see a cloud ready to break in water spouts. Don’t be angry. – I congratulate you on closing ye grand controversy wth ye Hardwareman. Shd it be printed, remember, I have a share in ye profits. It was happy for him that fever had lowered yr mettle; but jokes apart, it much concerned me to hear you had been so ill.
You archly quote a passage from David, when ye mirror convinced you, that “yr beauty had consumed away like a moth.”3 As I read it, a question rose in my mind, whether this complaint indicates present humiliatn, or past self-complacency? Again you will say, I am insufferably saucy. Well, take another draught of Enfields excellent Philosophy,4 & you will be able to bear, I hope, forgive me.
Whether you ever publish or not a certain work, do something at it daily, for present amusement & mental benefit. The less you think of ye Press, ye more free, easy & perfect will be ye work. Hereafter to use ye language of Printers, we may handle ye Devil & not be hurt.5
I heartily thank you for wishing to provoke my Jealousy by ye names of Frend, Disney, Wolstonecraft,6 &c, that you may be assured of a place in my Esteem. That place you have, & a large one too, respecting both yr head & heart, conversation & writing, genius, temper & life. But no great names can ever move my Jealousy; I move in a Sphere much below them; I see many fine wits & learned persons disappointed, soured & unhappy. Could I preach every sabbath to farmers, labourers & mechanicks, my ambition wd by gratified sufficiently.
With 1000 wishes dictated by Esteem & Regard I am
Yr much obliged Friend
Address: Miss Hayes | Gainsford Street | Southwark
1 A. F. Wedd Collection, shelfmark 24.93(15), Dr. Williams's Library, London; Brooks, Correspondence 275-76.
2 The letter was hand delivered, most likely by Mr. Butcher who appears to have been visiting Leicester. If so, then a likely choice is either John or William Butcher, who operated a brewery in Stoney Street, Southwark, not far from Gainsford Street. See Universal British Directory (1791), vol. 1, part 2, 94.
3 Taken from Psalm 39:11.
4 William Enfield (1741-97), like many of the Unitarian ministers in the 1790s, was raised an Independent and attended Daventry Academy during the tenure of Caleb Ashworth. In 1763 he began his ministry at Benn’s Garden Chapel, Liverpool. In 1770 he removed to the Cairo Street Chapel in Warrington, serving at the same time as a tutor at the Warrington Academy. After the closing of the academy in 1783, Enfield remained for two years before removing to the prestigious Dissenting congregation in Norwich meeting in the Octagon Chapel, where he remained until his death in 1797. Enfield was an advocate for political and religious reform, but was never as vocal a proponent as some of the more controversial Unitarians like Joseph Priestley. Among his writings are An Essay toward the History of Liverpool (1774), Institutes of Natural Philosophy, Theoretical and Experimental (1783), The Speaker (1774), Exercises in Elocution (1780), and numerous periodical essays, many of which appeared in the Monthly Magazine, the same place in which many of Hays’s periodical pieces appeared as well between 1796 and 1801. From his days in Warrington, he grew especially close to the physician John Aikin and his sister, the poet, writer, and educator, Anna Letitia Aikin Barbauld. The reference above is most likely to Enfield's Institutes of Natural Philosophy.
5 The "printer's devil" was a young boy, not yet an apprentice, who performed various errands in the print shop, one of which involved handling ink. This left black stains on the boy that became associated with the "devil," as did some superstitious beliefs that these boys were at times in league with the devil as a way of explaining a variety of mischiefs that occurred in the shop. Many famous individuals began work as a printer's devil, including Benjamin Franklin.
6 Hays's new friends, William Frend, John Disney, and Mary Wollstonecraft.