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Collection Overview

Hayley, William, 1745-1820
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
William Hayley Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1


Consists of selected correspondence and poetical manuscripts of English poet William Hayley, the biographer and friend of William Cowper.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection consists of selected correspondence, poems, and epitaphs of Hayley. Included are a letter (1789) from Charles Davy; one letter from Joseph Hill (1807) about William Cowper; one letter (1812) to Cadell and Davies, the London publishers, regarding books he did not receive and their response written on the same letter; one letter (1810) to a friend ("Clara"), with a long crisscrossed letter to Clara from Mrs. Hayley on the verso; one letter from A. Flaxman (1819) mentioning John Flaxman; one letter of thanks (1808) to William Hersee; one letter (1800) from Sir Francis Milman regarding Hayley's son's health; one letter (1811) to Tom Payne, bookseller in London, asking him to take over a failed transaction with another publisher; one letter (1806) to "Mrs. Rawlinson" thanking her for sending him a portrait of Darwin painted by his friend George Romney; two letters (1811, 1819) from John Singer Sargent; one letter (1806), with an epitaph, to Charlotte Mary Smith about the death of her mother; one letter (1797) to Lord Spencer asking him to consider offering a job to his friend Samuel Rose and informing him of the death of Mrs. Cowper; one letter (1775) by John B. Thornton; a letter of thanks (1801) to "Mr. Waldron"; one letter (1792) by Joseph Cooper Walker; one letter (1791) to "Sir" which includes a short poem beginnning with "Tho not a stranger ... "; and one letter (1799) to an unidentified recipient about Hayley's son's illness. Hayley signed several of his letters "Hermit."

In addition, there are several poetical manuscripts: an epitaph (1802?) on George Romney, a poem (1811) "To Clara," and a sonnet ("Let Exultation bless the hallow'd Hour . . . ") which is included in a letter (1808) to an unidentified friend about the health of the friend's father.


Folders are arranged in alphabetical order by correspondent and then chronologically.

Collection Creator Biography:

Hayley, William, 1745-1820

William Hayley was an English writer, best known as the friend and biographer of William Cowper. Hayley won the fame he enjoyed among his contemporaries by his poetical essays and epistles, including a Poetical Epistle to an Eminent Painter (1778), addressed to his friend, the painter George Romney. In 1800 Hayley lost his natural son, Thomas Alphonso Hayley, to whom he was devotedly attached. He had been a pupil of John Flaxman, to whom Hayley's Essay on Sculpture (1800) is addressed. Flaxman introduced Hayley to William Blake who engraved the illustrations for the Life of Cowper. This, Hayley's best known work, was published in 1803-1804.

Collection History


Letter to W. Hersee was a gift of Charles Ryskamp on Nov. 13, 1961 .

Letter dated 1799 concerning Hayley's son's illness was a gift of Charles Ryskamp in honor of Wanda Randall on. August 8, 1977 .

Letter to J. Thornton was a gift of A. D. Wainwright on June 16, 1984 .

Custodial History

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Dina Britain on August 11, 2006. Finding aid written by Dina Britain on August 11, 2006.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

William Hayley Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184