You can listen to Episode 8 of Season 2 of the WPHP Monthly Mercury, "Mary Hays, Mapped," on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and other podcast apps, available via Buzzsprout.


Mary Hays (1759-1843) was a religious Dissenter in London, and a prolific author of her period, publishing in a wide range of genres from history to education to essays to novels. In 1803, she published the six-volume work Female Biography, a substantial work of scholarship that relied on more than one hundred sources to write biographies about more than 300 hundred women. (Read Amanda Law’s spotlight about Hays and Female Biography here.) But how did Hays, a Dissenting writer of moderate means, access all of those books?

To find out, we invited Dr. Timothy Whelan to talk all things Mary Hays, but especially her literary environs, which included relationships with Dissenting booksellers, connections with the Godwin circle, a number of the biggest and most successful circulating libraries of the time, including the Minerva Press and Hookham’s, and residences across London that were never more than a five-minute walk from a library or a bookshop. And we meander through London itself, where Dr. Whelan tracked more than just where Hays’ likely found her sources for her History: he mapped Hays’ residences, the residences of her large extended family, the booksellers and circulating libraries around her locations, Dissenting booksellers, and the chapels of Dissenters in London—a variety of networks that, as it turns out, are far more interwoven than one could have anticipated without the help of Dr. Whelan’s seven-by-seven foot map. (You can see some of this mapping on his website, here.)

Dr. Timothy Whelan is a Professor of English at Georgia Southern University. He works in the area of women’s studies and at the intersection of religion and literature in the lives of British and American Nonconformist women writers between 1650 and 1850, with a particular focus on various Romantic writers, both men and women, and their interaction with religious Dissent. He was the general editor for Pickering and Chatto’s eight-volume collection of Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720–1840, and some of his recent publications include an article in Publishing History called, “Mary Lewis and her Family of Printers and Booksellers, 1 Paternoster Row, 1749-1812” and an article in Women’s Writing called “Room[s] of her Own”: Libraries and Residences in the Later Career of Mary Hays, 1814–1828.” To learn more about his work on Mary Hays, you can visit his website, and to learn more about his work on Non-Conformist women, including booksellers, visit his website



Produced by: Kate Moffatt, Kandice Sharren, and Michelle Levy

Mastered by: Alexander Kennard

Music by: Ignatius Sancho, “Sweetest Bard”, A Collection of New Songs (1769) from, and played by Kandice Sharren


WPHP Records Referenced:

Hays, Mary (person, author)

Female Biography (title)

Fenwick, Eliza (person, author)

Memoirs of Emma Courtney (title)

The Victim of Prejudice (title)

Macaulay, Catharine (person, author)

Wollstonecraft, Mary (person, author)

Richard Phillips (firm, publisher)

Stuart, Mary [Queen of Scots] (person, author)

Roland de la Platière, Marie-Jeanne (person, author)

Bradstreet, Anne (person, author)

Ann Cole (firm)

Godwin, William (person, author)

Thomas Hookham, Hookham's Library (firm, publisher and bookseller)

William Lane, Minerva Library (firm, publisher and printer)

Martha Gurney (firm, publisher and bookseller)

Joseph Johnson (firm, publisher and bookseller)

John Aikin (person, author)

Charlotte Smith (person, author)

The History of England (title)

Charles Taylor (firm)

Taylor, Jane (person)

Taylor, Ann (person)

George Cawthorn (firm, publisher and printer)

Thomas Knott (firm, bookseller)

William Button (firm, bookseller)

The Brothers; or, Consequences (title)

John Robinson (firm, publisher and bookseller)

Mary Lewis (firm, bookseller and printer)

Timothy Priestley (firm, publisher)


Works Cited:

Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, 8 vols, general editor Timothy Whelan (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011). Vols. 1-2, volume editor Julia ; vols. 3-8, volume editor Timothy Whelan.

Walker, Gina Luria. The Invention of Female Biography. Routledge, 2019.

Whelan, Timothy. “Mary Lewis and her Family of Printers and Booksellers, 1 Paternoster Row, 1749-1812." Publishing History, vol. 85, 2021, pp. 31-67.

Whelan, Timothy. “Room[s] of her Own”: Libraries and Residences in the Later Career of Mary Hays, 1814–1828." Women's Writing, DOI: 10.1080/09699082.2021.1995312.

Further Reading:

Chen, Li-ching. “"Like the Lion in His Den": Mary Hays, Solitude and Women's Enfranchisement.” European Romantic Review, vol. 32, no. 3, Routledge, 2021, pp. 335–54,

Hays, Mary, et al. The Idea of Being Free : a Mary Hays Reader. Edited by Gina Luria Walker. Broadview Editions, 2006.

Waters, Mary A. “"The First of a New Genus": Mary Wollstonecraft as a Literary Critic and Mentor to Mary Hays.” Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 37, no. 3, 2004, pp. 415–34.

Timothy Whelan. “MARY HAYS AND DISSENTING CULTURE, 1770–1810.” The Wordsworth Circle, vol. 50, no. 3, 2019, pp. 318–47,

Whelan, Timothy. “Piety and Print: Dissenters and Evangelicals in Eighteenth-Century Book History.” Bunyan Studies, vol. 24, 2020, pp. 114-18.


This podcast draws on research supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.