In December 2015 a novel by Elizabeth Hays (c. 1765-1825) that has eluded scholars of women novelists of the 1790s for more than a century was finally discovered in the British Library. Fatal Errors was written in the late 1790s by the sister of Mary Hays, but not published until 1819 under her married name, Lanfear, and has therefore been completely overlooked until now. There has been considerable interest in the missing novel, since we know that Mary Wollstonecraft read and commented on a version of the manuscript in 1796, but it was presumed never to have been published. Now this missing piece of the conversation of the Hays-Wollstonecraft-Godwin circle has been located this modern critical edition of Fatal Errors contributes both to our knowledge of this network of radical writers and thinkers, and to our understanding of the trajectory of women’s fiction and the Jacobin novel.
Note on the Text
Text: Fatal Errors; or Poor Mary-Anne (1819)
A. Elizabeth Hays’s Contributions to Mary Hays’s Letters and Essays, Moral, and Miscellaneous (1793)
1. No. X. Cleora, or the Misery attending Unsuitable Connections.
2. No. XI. Josepha, or the Pernicious Effects of Early Indulgence.
B. Selections from Elizabeth Hays Lanfear’s Letters to Young Ladies on Their Entrance into the World; to which are added Sketches from Real Life (1824)
1. INTRODUCTORY LETTER.
2. LETTER II. On the Motives for Female Improvement.
2. LETTER III. On the Motives for Female Improvement (continued).
3. LETTER VII. On the Single Life.
4. SKETCH I. Louisa the Indulged.
C. Letters of Elizabeth Hays Lanfear
1. Elizabeth Hays, Gainsford Street, to Mary Hays, 30 Kirby Street, Wednesday morning, undated [c. January 1796].
2. Elizabeth Hays, Chelmsford, Essex, to Mary Hays, 22 Hatton Street, Holborn, 4 February 1801.
3. Elizabeth Hays, Ingatestone, Essex, to Mary Hays, 9 St. George’s Place, Camberwell, 14 August 1803.