Susanna Morgan (1772-1856)

Susanna Morgan (1772-1856) was the daughter of Edward and Susanna Morgan of Bristol. Her father was a customs officer for Bristol and they lived in the 1790s in Guinea Street. Susanna Morgan never married, but she enjoyed close and lasting friendships with many members of the Wedgwood family. In 1801 she joined the Unitarian congregation in Lewin’s Mead and thereafter was close to many in that congregation, including the minister, John Prior Estlin, and his family, which included his son, John Bishop Estlin, a surgeon, and his son-in-law, James Cowles Prichard, also a Bristol physician. She also knew Thomas Beddoes (1760-1808), the proprietor of the Pneumatic Institute in Bristol. Morgan gained considerable public recognition for her work in the founding of the The Prudent Man’s Friend Society in 1814, a society that emerged largely as a result of her anonymous pamphlet published in 1812 titled Hints towards the Formation of a Society for Promoting a Spirit of Independence among the Poor, printed in Bristol by Edward Bryan (husband of Mary Bryan) and sold by Bartholomew Barry. In 1823 William Tyson, a Bristol printer and local chronicler, identified the author as Susanna Morgan of Clifton, a philanthropic socialite who published two more pamphlets during Hays’s time in Bristol. Based upon the objectives provided by Morgan’s Hints, a group of men and women from Bristol organized the society in December 1812, with John Prior Estlin among the founding members. Governing committees for male and female members were established, with Morgan serving as the Society’s general secretary and a Miss Barry (most likely the daughter of Barry the bookseller) serving with Morgan on the women’s committee. Morgan also wrote the annual reports of the Society that were published each year after 1813. Morgan was an activist for several other social and civic concerns in Bristol during Hays’s residence there, publishing besides her Hints in 1812 three other short works: The Gaol of the City of Bristol compared with what a Gaol ought to be. By a Citizen (1815); A Letter to the Editor of Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal, May 4, 1816, on the Advantages of the Panopticon Plan for the intended Prison (1816); and An Appeal to the Good Sense and Humanity of the Inhabitants of Bristol and Clifton on the Expediency of Forming an Institution for the Cure and Prevention of Contagious Fever (Bristol: Browne and Manchee, 1819). Morgan’s Hints was reviewed along with Hays’s The Brothers in the Gentleman’s Magazine 86 (September 1816). 251-52. Morgan also served for many years as secretary of the Girl’s Lancastrian School Society in Bristol. As Michael Whitfield has noted, by the 1820s she was living a 1 Gloucester Row; near the end of her life she spent most of her time at Parkside Cottage near Stone, Staffordshire, where she died in 1856.

Marie Mulvey-Roberts first introduced Hays’s connection with the Society in “Female Radicals in Bristol: The Three Marys and Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘The Cave of Fancy,” in Exploring the Lives of Women, 1558-1837, ed. Louise Duckling, Sarah Read, Felicity Roberts, and Carolyn D. Williams (Barnsley, Yorkshire: Pen & Sword History, 2018), 60-61. Madge Dresser has also commented on the Society, although not in relation to Hays. Dresser notes that the men’s and women’s committees of the Prudent Man’s society eventually merged, and by 1820 fourteen of the 32 members were female. Morgan also served on the management committee of the Savings Bank, which by 1830 numbered five women amongst its 25 managers. See Dresser, “Bristol Women in the Long Eighteenth Century c. 1660,” in Women and the City: Bristol 1373-2000, ed. Madge Dresser (Bristol: University of the West of England, 2000), 83; see also William Tyson, The Bristol Memorialist (Bristol: William Tyson, 1823), 222. The best biographical account of Morgan is found in Michael Whitfield, “The Anonymous Miss Susanna Morgan.”

Copies of the First Report of the Prudent Man’s Friend Society (1813) and the State of the Prudent Man’s Society for the years 1814-16 can be found at the British Library, 8275.aa.(3.), joined by a copy of Morgan’s Hints and Rules . . . of the Prudent Man’s Society, 2nd ed. (Bristol: Printed by Mary Bryan, 51 Corn Street, and sold by Bartholomew Barry in High Street, 1813). Copies of the State of the Society for 1814-18 can be found at the Bristol Central Library, B9180, B9181, B18915, B18916.