Mary Hughes: Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography of the Works of Mary Hughes

Although a Unitarian, Mary Hughes's tracts are surprisingly evangelical in their style and import; they are clearly didactic moral tracts aimed at the young and the unchurched, but she manages to insert considerable use of scripture and even overt preaching on her part. As a devout Unitarian, she seems to be more what John Julian described as an "evangelical Arian," not a Socinian.

1. William’s Return, or Good News for Cottagers (Boston: Wells and Lilly, 1820) [microfilm; copies of the book at Davidson and at Covenant College, British Library, copy from 1828], by Mary Hughes, author of The Twin Brothers. Philadelphia: Printed for the Tract and Book Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John. William Fry, Printer. 1820.

William Seymour was a day-laborer living in the Midlands of England. His father died when he was young and his mother and siblings were not particularly diligent in improving themselves. During a journey with a relation, he is converted and returns home with the news. His brothers and sister, Richard, James, and Mary, are not doing well in life. He suggests they are working for the wrong master! (8) and must give up their old ways for new ones, all of which require a turning away from the profligate pleasures of this life for spiritual pleasures (10), what William calls “vanity and idleness” (11). William calls all this his “good news” (14). William cleans the house from top to bottom amd mends the fence and other things and then proceeds to tell them how he came to know the good news (16). While he was gone he and his young friend, George, had stayed in the home of a Mrs. Wilmot, with her father and family, and she began to teach them the ways of Christianity (she does not cook on Sundays, but prepares everything the evening before! [23]). William’s heart was changed and he soon wanted to become like Christ. He then learns about the history of the Wilmot family. Old Mr. Wilmot led a bad life for many years (he drank too much), but his daughter was always virtuous (25). His wife died and he remarried a slutty woman and they have children but she hates his daughter, Margaret. Margaret, however, loves them all in Christ. Eventually one of Mr. Wilmot's children dies and several are sick, including his wife (35). Margaret's testimony eventually softens his heart and he is converted to lead a new life. He becomes ill and during his illness his wife dies, nursed by Margaret (37). Mr. Wilmot goes blind and Margaret continues to take care of him and his family while working for the kind Mr. Wright and his wife. God blesses Mr. Wilmot's family even in his blindness and he never wishes again for his former life. When a kind lady, Mrs. Martin dies, she leaves a legacy to Margaret which will provide for all of them the remainder of their lives (46-47). After hearing the story of the Wilmots, William’s mother realizes that God is the new master they are all to serve (49) and they all pray to become like Christ (50). They become a happy family after all, choosing the blessings of heaven over the pleasures of the world. Hughes closes with an appeal to her readers to emulate William and his family, not those who seek worldly pleasures (58).

2. The Twin Brothers, or Good Luck and Good Conduct [Google book] [British Library], by Mary Hughes. Philadelphia: Printed for the Tract and Book Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John. William Fry, Printer. 1819.

Robert (healthy) and Charles Waring (not so healthy) live in a relatively poor family. They are set to work at a young age, and they attend a Sunday School, but Robert learns little while Charles applies himself (5). Their teachers, a woman volunteer, understands the value of such schools in “implanting the principles of rectitude and a sense of early piety in the hearts of the rising generation, before they are contaminated by a long association with a world, where, I grieve to own, though we call ourselves Christians, vice and profaneness present their hateful forms on every side” (5). Christ is presented as the Saviour who lived the perfect life and is thus our “perfect example of conduct” to follow (6). When the boys are 13 this teacher dies, and Charles is devastated. Robert finds a wallet full of money belonging to a wealthy merchant in the town, and Charles warns him not to keep it but to be honest and return it, but Robert considers it a stroke of good luck and keeps it anyway! (9). Their mother Susan sides with Robert and Charles finds himself an even further outcast than before. Charles informs his mother that he will tell Mr. Hammond if they will not, and he is threatened not to do so (12). She and Robert work on Charles but he resists, noting that he should not do evil so that good may come (13). She tells him he must leave the house forever if he tells Mr. Hammond, but he will do so regardless of the consequence.

Susan decides that she and Robert should go instead of Charles, and when they present the wallet Mr. Hammond decides to reward them both, but they say nothing of Charles. Robert is sent to a fine school with new clothes by Mr. Hammond, and he never says anything to anyone of Charles. Charles becomes ill and cannot work, but a Mr. Stanley, an apothecary, decides to take him into his own house and let him work for him there, which he does. He quickly learns the business is wages rise steadily as does his value and esteem in the eyes of Mr. Stanley (29-31). Robert begins earning a large salary but wastes all of it on riotous living and accumulates debt, does not wish to see his mother or Charles. Charles decides to meet with him anyway just to converse, but really to try to bring him into the Christian fold. Their mother grows ill and becomes an invalid, and Charles asks Robert to help him take care of her, but he claims he has little money for charity. This goes on for five years, Robert seeking “pleasure” and Charles “rectitude (44-45).

Robert eventually elopes with Miss Hammond, Mr. Hammond’s niece, primarily to secure her fortune so he can live comfortably thereafter once he becomes Mr. Hammond’s partner (51). Charles, of course, is horrified. Mrs. Waring has a stroke after hearing the news, but Charles remains faithful to her (54) until she dies shortly thereafter. Mr. Hammond is outraged at Robert’s actions and refuses to bestow his largess upon them. Two years after his marriage Mr. Stanley dies, leaving Charles the business and the wish that he would watch out for his wayward son, William Stanley (61). Charles is very successful in the business and puts money away for retirement, but Robert sinks further into debt. He commits forgery and writes a long letter to Charles confessing his faults and sins and informing him that he is attempting to flee the country incognito or else be hung (70).

Charles decides to take into his own home his brother’s wife and child, and Mr. Hammond learns of his existence from a letter by Robert. He is hesitant to believe that Charles can do all this, and is wary of Charles’ intention to make sure his niece learns first of the school of piety. He assures Hammond that she will not be taught any “enthusiastical tenets,” but the simple teachings of Christ, “the pure, practical religion of the Gospel” (77). His brother’s wife dies six months later, without any true repentance (81). He raises little Lucy, and sees to the needs at times of Mr. Stanley’s son and his family and continues to believe that his brother has reformed himself in his new life abroad. Hughes closes with the moral lesson, which is which is better, “Good Luck, or Good Conduct. The first is not in our own power; is given in a high degree to few; and, as we have just seen, may be rendered of no use or value if it is not attended by the second. But good conduct, which is within the reach of every one, can seldom fail to answer largely even in this life” (88). The lesson: “be just and kind in all your dealings” (88).

3. An Affectionate Address to the Poor (Boston, 1820), in Tracts Designed to Inculcate Moral Conduct on Christian Principles, vol. 3 (Boston: Wells and Lilly, 1820). [British Library, copy from 1824; microform]

In this work Hughes uses the generic term “the writer,” which deflects her sex and allows her to employ the tone and persona of the godly teacher, aka “preacher.” She addresses the poor through a series of questions, beginning with, “Are you happy” (4). Since God is sovereign, he can change our circumstances at any time. He also controls our future destiny as immortal beings, of which life is our school and training ground for eternity. As a Unitarian, she stresses the “sleep” of the soul until the resurrection, and the belief in “one God” by Abraham (8). She discusses the importance of the 10 Commandments (10), using the apostrophe “O reader!” on occasion (11). Do not choose sin over heaven, death over life (17). “O wretched man, whoever thou art, that doest this! though I detest the ingratitude and hardness of heart which prevents thee from adoring the living God, and following the bright example set thee by his beloved Son; yet I pity thee!” (18). She evens warns the reader of hell and the dangers of being lukewarm or worldly or careless as a Christian (21), stressing the importance of living a “holy” life (23). Nothing really to do with the poor in this Address, however!

4. Friendly Advice to the Unlearned (Boston, 1820), in Tracts Designed to Inculcate Moral Conduct on Christian Principles, vol. 3 (Boston: Wells and Lilly, 1820). [Amherst College, Trinity College, Dublin; and National Art Gallery, London (1836)]

Very much like a sermon here, for she goes through the first 12 verses of the Sermon on the Mount (23). Her first point is “that we are required to believe ... that there is a being who created all things, and that he will bring to glory and happiness, all those who strive to find out his holy will, and diligently endeavour to perform it” (4). She is definitely not a Unitarian Universalist!!! She believes in salvation, heaven, hell, Christ the saviour, the resurrection, and holy living and evangelism! Yet she is Unitarian in the belief in “One Supreme God” (4) but evangelical in stressing that we must “diligently seek him” (5). We must also seek to know God’s will in our lives, especially concerning salvation through belief in Christ, the Saviour and glorious Son of God (6). [No hint anywhere here of Arianism or Socinianism, so very much an Evangelical Unitarian.] She believes God is looking for those who are “poor in spirit,” not those who are worldly, and for those who are willing to seek after him. She writes, “I entreat thee, reader, whoever thou art, carefully to examine thine own heart. Art thou a humble and earnest searcher after the divine will; and dost thou diligently and constantly strive to practise all that thou knowest of it? to do this is to ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness’; and if this be the happy path which thou hast chosen, go on thy way rejoicing: redouble thine efforts; press forward towards the mark, that ‘the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according tot the grace which god hath bestowed upon you’” (14). She also praises the “merciful” (15) and the “pure in heart” (16) and those who are willing to “take up thy cross” for God (18). She exhorts with great force in her closing pages (23-25), referring now not to the “reader” but to her “Christian brethren” (24). But once again, this seems to have little to do with the title being addressed to the “unlearned.”

5. The Sick Man’s Friend (Boston, 1820), in Tracts Designed to Inculcate Moral Conduct on Christian Principles, vol. 3 (Boston: Wells and Lilly, 1820). [British library, 1826]

Another sermon like tract in which sickness can be sent from God to chastise or beckon us to attend to our spiritual needs, not just the physical. “O reader, whoever thou art! waste not the time and means given for the glorious purpose of attaining eternal blessedness, in a foolish pursuit after the enjoyments of a life which a few years must take from thee, and which may be called for in a single hour” (4-5). Very much the preacher with an emphasis upon holy living and a denial of the pleasures of this world. She warns about the agonies of the death bed of the wicked man! (6), including here a “sinner’s prayer” (6-7) to be raised from the bed of sickness. Her admonitions to the newly converted (healed) are (1) cease to do evil (10), such as cursing and swearing, drinking (not to be indulged in at all!) (13), dishonesty, She is creating a kind of evangelical, Unitarian spin-off of Franklin’s “Way to Wealth,” only this is the way to holy living by means of being “diligent, sober, and strictly honest” (18). God also uses sickness to get the attention of the worldly-minded Christian, who has been putting too much emphasis upon this life and not the next. Her last vignette (35-42) is that of the true Christian saint suffering affliction, noting that it is important as well for the Christian to bear sickness in a proper manner and with true Christian virtue and fortitude (cp. Annajane Blatch!), and as a means of chastening to make us better (34).

6. Village Dialogues, Parts I-III [British Library, copy from 1839] [Part V at Northwestern U. (1822); Parts 1 and II on microform at U of Florida], by Mary Hughes, author of “William’s Return,” “The Twin Brothers,” “Henry Goodwin,” etc. Philadelphia: Printed for the Tract and Book Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John. Joseph Rakestraw, Printer. 1822. [This is contained in a volume, from which some of the tracts above are included, from the collections at the University of Michigan Library.]

In this work Hughes employs the same technique used so effectively by Hannah More: the dialogue form of imparting knowledge and exploring certain social issues and religious doctrines. The widow lady, Isabella Mansfield, in these dialogues is always the voice of reason and Christian love and compassion, devoted to duty and to moral virtue, and pays little attention to any worldly concerns. Each day must be employed properly (part 3, p. 49). Hughes does not create a male voice as the vehicle for teaching Christian doctrine and virtues to unbelievers, but usually a single woman, either spinster or widow, who quotes verses from the bible frequently.

Part I: Once again, Christ is our “example,” not someone who dies in our stead but rather one whose life is to be emulated by our lives. A young girl loses her father, a minister, at 12, but she has been raised to be a devout believer (4). Then the girl dies, but the mother endures with true Christian grace (5) and begins to minister to the poor and sick in her community and to evangelize them, which she attempts to do in a dialogue with an elderly man named Thomas. He blames others for his faults, but she says he could have done much more himself and he must repent of his own errors first (9), but he thinks he is too old to repent. But she says he can and the gospel is open to everyone who believes (11), and if he does, it will transform his life (12). He is very grateful to her for her words to him (she is much like the preacher here) but thinks he is too bad and too old, but she says he is not. “If you forsake your sins, and come to him with all your heart, he will not only freely pardon what is past, but still hold out the mighty prize of eternal life, as within the reach o the truly penitent” (14). She tells him that the main thing God wants from us is “to love our Creator with all the powers which he hath bestowed upon us, and to strive earnestly to do good to our fellow creatures” (15). He repents and strives to become a good Christian. He blesses her for coming to him to “enlighten [his] mind, and show [him] the danger of the careless and sinful life which I have hitherto led” (18). They pray together at the end and she leaves.

Part II: Continues story of the widow from above. She visits the summer house where she and her family had often gone before the deaths of her husband and daughter. She renews her vows to God. She goes for a walk and drops in on Sarah, who has been arguing with her neighbor. She tells the lady her sad story of her youth which involved the telling of many falsehoods and lies. She now wants to serve God but does not know how. The lady informs her that the way to spiritual success is to be “content with your hard condition,” be kind and faithful as a wife, attentive to her children, and diligent in her work (36). She also tells her she must be reconciled with her neighbor and seek to reform her husband! She must also maintain a strict observance of Sunday (42).

Part III: She begins with another address to the reader: “Look into thine heart and conduct, and answer this momentous question – ‘Is the life thou art now leading, such as will prepare thee for the pure enjoyments of heaven? or art thou trifling away thy time and talents in thoughtlessness, worldly mindedness, or what is still worse, in indulging any of those sinful habits which degrade thy nature, and sink thee below the level of the brutes that perish!’” (45). In this dialogue, she engages in conversation with Thomas’s wife, Jane. Jane notices the change in her husband now (he has been converted) and does not understand what has happened. The widow will enlighten her. She now turns to the gardener’s wife, Mrs. Bennet, to get help for Sally and David Williams. She has been frugal and relatively moral woman but never truly exemplified Christian principles and benevolence and duty (55). She was very hands off concerning the Williams family, but the widow wants her to become proactive and develop a loving heart. She is too proud and high-minded (57). She visits Thomas again and he has been guilty of a fitful rage against his wife and is very downcast, but the widow encourages him (61). Thomas is thrilled that he met her and she has become his friend, but Jane remains somewhat sceptical that he has truly changed his character (64). Sarah Williams is doing her best to make a friend of the proud Mrs. Bennet and to get her children to church and Sunday School and to be an example to her husband. Before she leaves for a time to assist a relation of her husband at Shrewsbury, she sends Thomas a letter of encouragement.

7. Village Dialogues, Parts IV-VI by the author of “William’s Return,” “The Twin Brothers,” “Henry Goodwin,” etc. Philadelphia: Printed for the Tract and Book Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John. Joseph Rakestraw, Printer. 1823.

Part IV: Mr. Mansfield, her uncle, was not a believer and now the widow must attempt as part of her nursing of the man to convert him as well before he dies. He soon recovers his health and takes lodgings in town. He does not understand her notion of benevolence and wealth. He also thinks Christians to be melancholy sour-faces who never have any fun. She sees them as ministering angels. She enlightens him on the virtues of Christianity, which consists of “love of God” (12), faith in the attributes of God, the truth of scripture, and the life and work of Christ (15-16). Her words have an effect on him, but not enough yet to get him to convert. His health continues to improve and she now wishes to return home, but he wants her to stay with him for a time at Bath (19). Before leaving Shrewsbury, he attends church with her and she makes him promise to attend twice on Sunday and he makes her promise to pray for him (21). She returns home thankful for the opportunity to witness to her uncle. Hughes tells the reader that all can be like this widow. All can be benevolent and learn to live with cheerful submission in times of trial (25). She meets Jane who tells her that Thomas is becoming more Christ-like each day, after which the widow expatiates on the virtues of the Christian life for those of the lower and middling orders: “From a scene of discontent and misery, of poverty and wretchedness, it is become the abode of peace and comfort. Even in these hard times the profits of a poor man’s labour, if he has constant work, will support his family; and if his wife does her utmost to assist him, and is as frugal in spending as he is industrious in getting, they may even lay by a little against sickness and old age” (29). Her benevolence, though, always has a portion of paternalism as well, with her poor neighbors often viewed in child-like terms of ignorance and inability too (29-30).

Part V: She picks up again with Sarah who is taking her three children to church and trying to work on improving her husband and becoming friends with Mrs. Bennet. She is growing in her new faith and happier than ever, even though her husband is still not responding very well to her new faith. She is trying to become useful to everyone she meets, which the widow describes as “active” benevolence (35), which pays no attention to rank or status. She hears from her uncle who tells her that his relation (a cousin) has sold his estate in Jamaica, freed his slaves, and is returning to England with his family, something he thinks is folly but which the widow sees differently (38). She, of course, like Hughes, is very much the abolitionist, but the uncle thinks freeing the slaves not practical and renounces his relation. She writes back to him and wishes he would reconsider and see things from a different perspective, especially slavery (42). She feels, however, that her letter is too much full of “sentiment and feeling” and not enough “argument,” but she is “no skilful pleader,” and has sent “an artless petition” to her uncle (45). Meanwhile, Thomas comes by and gives her an update on his activities, and he is now trying to become useful to others in the community as well by teaching reading and writing to some young boys in his kitchen in the evening. As she notes of the change in Thomas’s life in three months, “who would then have thought of the happy change that has now taken place in your mind and conduct; which enables you not only to give comfort and frugal plenty to your own household, but to stretch out your hands to those around you, and guide them into the heavenly way! How plain a proof are you to yourself and others, that a man may do much good, without being either rich or learned! Nothing but active piety is wanting to make the poorest man a faithful servant of Christ, and a humble helper with him, in working out the salvation of mankind” (49). Her uncle is angered by her letter concerning his young cousin, and he sends her £30 for the poor but does not want her to come see him now. She distributes the money among the poor in her neighborhood, which gives her great “delight” (52). She then witnesses to David Williams, Sarah’s husband, especially about his drinking too much. After their conversation, she comments on the dangers of young women marrying men who are not of good character: “There are few things more to be deplored than that young women should rashly marry men with whose principles and characters they are little acquainted, and even that little which they do know, perhaps not to their advantage; unaware of the degree of danger and misery which they are too probably bringing upon themselves” (60).

Part VI: Mrs. Mansfield continues to relish in her meditations about godly living, her prayers for her neighbors, and her benevolent actions towards them. Sarah drops by to tell her about Mrs. Bennet. She had a fall and was senseless in the road and Sarah took her to her home and got her well, and refused to be paid by Mrs. Bennet for her help (she is the Good Samaritan). Mrs. Bennet is so touched that she offers to take in Sarah’s oldest daughter as her servant and teach her what is necessary to get a good position as a domestic later, and Mrs. Bennet will do the same for Sarah’s other daughters. Thus, Sarah’s conversion has led to a dramatic change in her domestic situation as well as her attitude toward God and life (71). Mrs. Mansfield gets sick while helping a sick woman and begins to show signs of the final decline. Sarah comes to stay with her to the end, and Thomas calls twice a day (84). Mr. Mansfield’s cousin arrives to see his relation, whom he has never met (he is the one from Jamaica). He tells her that the elder Mr. Mansfield has reconciled with him because of the letter she wrote to him earlier. They all gather to witness the final scene of this angelic saint! She has final benedictions for those present as she prepares for heaven. This is the typical drawn-out deathbed scene of the dying saint. They all wish to be able to emulate her life and death. Mr. Mansfield promises to build a monument in her honor and sends a £100 note for the poor, informing his younger cousin that he wishes to do as much benevolence as possible before he dies (96).

Hughes has some final comments to make on all this as well, some of them aimed at single women of independent means, like the widow Mrs. Mansfield. She advises them to avoid extravagance, wasting time, and not aiming at a life of active service like that of Mrs. Mansfield (98). Final admonitions come through the voice of Mr. Grey, the local minister, a voice created by Hughes, of course.

Other titles by Mary Hughes:

Henry Goodwin, or the Contented Man [copies at Princeton and Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA, British Library, copy from 1829] [copy at Northwestern (1825)]

Advice to Female Servants: In Letters from an Aunt to a Niece (Christian Tract Society, 1825) (posthumous)

A True Friend, or the Two Nurse-Maids

Sick-Room Dialogues

The Sunday Scholar [British Library; copies also at Northwestern, Harvard, and Trinity College, Dublin (1826)]

The Good Grandmother

Family Dialogues, or the Sunday Well-spent (Parts I and II) [microform at U of Florida; copies at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary; Trinity College, Dublin; and British Library (1823)]

Address to Sunday-school Teachers [British Library, 1828; Trinity College, Dublin; Oxford]

Periodical Contributions:

Mary Hughes contributed a letter dated 12 September 1818 to the Monthly Repository 13 (1818), 615-16. She appears to have made many contributions to the Repository, including a letter dated 3 February 1823, from Bristol, that appeared in February 1823 (vol. 18), 97-98, about an anti-slavery convention held in the US that she supports.

Other copies of her tracts can be found in the first two volumes of Tracts Designed to Inculcate Moral Conduct on Christian Principles (1811-13), one belonging to the Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.