Locating Sources for Mary Hays’s Female Biography, 1795-1803

Questions about Hays’s access to such sources for Female Biography were first raised by Gina Luria Walker in the General Introduction to her edition of Hays’s Female Biography in 2013 and reiterated in her Introduction to The Invention of Female Biography in 2018, a volume of carefully researched essays devoted to uncovering and examining Hays’s sources. Nevertheless, questions remain concerning Hays’s acquisition of this substantial body of printed materials. “How and where [Hays] gained access to the more arcane sources she used remains a mystery,” Walker ponders, “because there is no evidence that she accessed the King’s Library, given to the nation by George III, where she might have found a wealth of material.” Complicating the situation is the fact that “we have few primary documents that reveal Hays’s activities while she was producing Female Biography or provide information about where and how she obtained the 100 sources that we can document she consulted.”[4] Hays could not have accessed the slightly more than 100 titles necessary to compose 300 biographies of women by relying on her friends and family members or making purchases from her own funds. Completing her task required access not only to private libraries but also to the circulating and subscription libraries and large bookshops  in London, some of which she may have frequented since the late 1770s. For a complete discussion of her use of libraries, see Timothy Whelan, “Circulating Libraries and Private Networks: Locating Sources for Mary Hays’s Female Biography, 1795-1803,” forthcoming in The Library.


Gina Luria Walker, “General Introduction,” in Female Biography, ed. Gina Luria Walker, vol. 1 (London: Chawton House Library series, Pickering & Chatto, 2013-14), xi-xxxviii; Gina Luria Walker, “Introduction,” in The Invention of Female Biography, ed. Gina Luria Walker (London and New York: Routledge Press, 2018), 3-18. The latter volume contains 13 essays exploring both named and unnamed sources for the 300 women whose lives were depicted in Hays’s Female Biography

Examination of the Titles of Sources for Mary Hays’s Female Biography and their Locations in the Catalogues of 6 Circulating Libraries, 2 Subscription Libraries, Dr Williams’s Library, and Lackington’s and Annereau's bookshops, 1778-1829


0 titles appear in all 11 libraries 

5 titles appear in 8 libraries

5 titles appear in 7 libraries 

5 titles appear in 6 libraries

11 titles appear in 5 libraries

4 titles appear in 4 libraries

18 titles appear in 3 libraries

31 titles appear in 2 libraries 

24 titles appear in only 1 library of which 13 are only at Hookhams.

103 titles total

Five libraries:

Hookham, Lackington, Lane, Bell, and Boosey:  100 titles 

Hookham, Lane, Bell, Boosey, and DWL: 97 titles

Hookham, Lane, Bell, Boosey, and Ogilvy: 94 titles

Hookham, Lane, Bell, Boosey, and Annereau: 94 titles

Hookham, Lane, Bell, Boosey, and London Library: 93 titles

Hookham, Lane, Bell, Boosey, and London-Westminster: 92 titles


Four libraries:

Hookham, Lackington, Lane, and Bell: 96 titles

Hookham, Lane, Bell, and Boosey: 92 titles

Hookham, Lane, Bell, and Annereau: 90 titles

Hookham, Lane, Boosey, and Annereau: 90 titles

Hookham, Lane, Bell, and London Library: 89 titles

Hookham, Lane, Boosey, and London Library: 89 titles

Three libraries:

Hookham, Lackington, and Lane: 91 titles

Hookham, Lane, and Boosey: 88 titles

Hookham, Lane, and Bell: 87 titles

Hookham, Bell, and Boosey: 83 titles

Hookham, Lane, and London Library: 82 titles

Hookham, Bell, and London Library: 78 titles

Hookham, Boosey, and London Library: 76 titles


Two libraries:

Hookham and Lackington: 80 titles

Hookham and Lane:  79 titles

Hookham and Boosey: 77 titles

Hookham and London Library: 77 titles

Hookham and Bell: 75 titles

Hookham and Westminster-London Library: 68 titles

Works possibly used by Hays but not yet located in one or more of these libraries:

1.    Balzac, J. Le Socrate Chretien (Paris, 1652). 

2.   Batchiler, John. The virgins pattern, in the exemplary life and lamented death of Mrs. Susanna Perwich, daughter of Mr. Robert Perwich, who departed this life .. July 3, 1661: published at the earn[est] request of divers that knew her well, for the use and benefit of others. London, 1661.

3.   Bryant, J. A New System or Analysis of Ancient Mythology, 2 vols (London, 1774). 

4.   Buckeridge, B. An Essay Towards an English School of Painters (London, J. Nutt, 1706). Usually bound with R. Piles, The Art of Painting (London 1754).

5.   Chaudon, L. M. Noveau dictionaire historique ou, Histoire abregee de tous les hommes . . . (Paris, 1779).

6.   Du Bois, D. The Case of Ann Countess of Anglesy (London, 1766).

7.    Hopton, Susanna. A Collection of Meditations and Devotions (1717). 

8.    Kennett, W. A Sermon Preached at the Funeral of the Right Noble William Duke of Devonshire, in the Church of All-Hallows, in Derby, on Friday, September 5, 1707, with Some Memoirs of the Family of Cavendish (London, 1797). 

9.   Prude, John. A Sermon at the Funeral of the Learned and Ingenious Mrs. Ann Baynard (London, 1697). 

10.  Remond, Florimond de. History of Heresy