17 December [1802]

Eliza Fenwick, Penzance, to Mary Hays, 20 Hatton Garden, 17 December [1802].1

Penzance   Decr 17th

    Most grateful & exhilirating to my temper & feelings my dear, dear friend was your long expected letter, for when Autumn faded from us & the Cornish winter of perpetual rain set in & deprived me of my pleasures in viewing a fine country I began to feel most forcibly & despondingly that three hundred miles spread between me & every human being whose habits tastes & sympathies were in unison with mine Then your silence appeared the result of indifference & I have by me a large sheet of paper nearly filled with complaints of the untowardness of my own fortunes & reproaches of your neglect. A latent sense however of the justice I might be doing you & the pain I should inflict on one but too familiar with suffering caused me to delay from time to time sending that letter. And glad indeed I am it was delayed; your vindication is so entire to my affection that I should have been most unhappy to have added such a weight to the cares that already beset you.

    Do not suffer one moments anxiety respecting the dedication.2 I feel my triumph in your friendship just as forcibly without it. I confess I was most highly gratified by your distinction^ ^intention^ & could not forbear naming it to one or two persons yet I was not so vain <–> ^but I^ perceived it was a distinction I had no way merited with the world & that the enquiry of Who is this Mrs Fenwick? might produce answers not quite pleasing to my pride. To the persons who heard from me of this testimony of your regard I must explain it as I cannot endure they should suppose I am less to you than I was or than I believed myself to be. I depend on your promise of sending me your work by the first waggon after its publication When I think of it I can have but one thing to regret – that you are so ill for your talent & labour.

    No, my barren imagination & still more barren situation, will not furnish any hint towards a second work for you. Literature must be pursued either from necessity, from appetite, or for pleasure. From the first & last my present situation equally exclude me & the appetite I fear God did not bestow on me & if I have too little confidence in my powers ever to foster such an appetite though I have seen how successful it rendered our good friend Miss Plumptre3 who I think had not more talent than myself. – I can neither think for you nor act for myself.

    My comforts here are very greatly extended by the renewal of an intimacy mistake had interrupted between Mr T F & a Mr Vigurs4 of this town which has introduced me to the bride of Mr V— an elegant pleasing & accomplished woman. She was born & educated in France where her father carried on some mercantile concern & lived splendidly. The revolution destroyed <–> ^the chief of^ his property & drove the family to England. Herself & Sisters to leave the parents all the comforts of their narrowed income dispersed themselves one went as Governess to Lady Caroline Galway sister to the Marchioness of Blandford, another as companion to Lady Dashwood but Miss F. Clarsie ^now Mrs V^ who loved independence preferred the offer of a man of fortune in this neighbourhood who had received many favors of ^in^ france of her Father & proposed establishing ^her^ here as a Millener. With that Gentlemans protection & introduction she succeeded well & was received into the genteel circle ^here^ (the proudest of human beings) who corresponded with their pride by saying Miss Clarsie was a Gentlewoman before misfortune made her a trades-woman. Six months ago however she made a dreadful blot in her excrutcheon by marrying Mr S Vigurs a tall pleasing young man who reads much, draws well from Nature, & writes agreable verses but whose parents while they made his stupid dolt of a brother a bookseller & printer made him a tallow Chandler. Miss Clarsie’s patron immediately withdrew the money he had lent her business. Her elegance & taste in regulating their dresses preserves her still their ^business &^ outward civility ^of the genteel people^ but the hue & cry against her at every assembly & card table was loud, while she exchanged & proudly too her cards of invitation for a fond husband & all the delights of a happy home.  To this pair I am indebted for attentions that appear like the zeal of friendship. Without confessing that they understand the privations & little discomforts of this house they almost daily find pretences that cannot be rejected to bring me to theirs where comfort presides. They have the same taste for the beauty of nature that I have & on a Sunday we often ramble a whole day carrying our provision with us & dining in a Cottage. Even Winter allows us sometimes this pleasure for a fine day here has all the warmth & clearness of spring. I well know this little narrative will please you.

    I was always apprehensive your removal would not increase your conveniences. I long for you to have a house. I wish I could be sheltered under the same roof & had some regular & quiet pursuit which could provide my subsistence & allow us generally to join our hours of recreation. I really contemplate (only to myself remember) Eliza and I coloring prints together for a living in some cheap lodging I know the respect that several people hold me in would bring me those attentions that would prevent the solitude & obscurity from gnawing upon my heart. I confess to you, but to you alone, that some such combination presents itself whenever I think of happiness.

    Eliza has been at Falmouth since the beginning of Novr She is well & happy. I sent her your message & she writes that with thanks for your hint she begs you will send her some instructions how she is to pursue the study. She has often wished to learn botany but I know nothing of it. If you can purchase any elementary books & will send them for her with yours I have a little fund from which I will gladly pay you. Lanno grows fast & is very, very lovely. He makes no use of this house but to sleep in & not always that. He roams from place to place & a young man in business here has so won him by his fondness that he passes whole days & nights with him. No father child cd dote more on a child than this very young & very handsome man does on yr boy. Others court him as much apparently but none succeed as well.

    I have arrived at the limits of my paper without naming many subjects in yours in which I feel an interest I must defer them all.

    Remember me to Mr Frend5 & tell me if he is recovered. Tell me as many minute circumstances that concern yourself as you ^can^ & do not defer writing for the purpose of waiting for a frank. From the little fund above named I will purchase joyfully your letters. I am terribly teized with a fatiguing Rheumatism. I almost <–> ^case^ myself in flannell (till I did that I was very bad) yet I cannot wholly withstand the influence of the rainy weather & a cold damp ill accomodated house but Cornish air & exercise have given me very good looks & revived my former strength. I walked 16 miles last Sunday & I can bear a gallop of 25 miles to dinner at Falmouth very well Adieu Adieu! truly yours  

                    E Fenwick


Address: Miss Hays | 20 Hatton Garden | London.

Postmark: Illegible


1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, NY Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 13-14; not in Brooks, Correspondence.

2 Hays had contemplated dedicating her soon-to-be-published Female Biography to Fenwick, but at some point altered that intention, either by her own decision or that of the publisher, Richard Phillips (probably the latter). Fenwick was flattered by the offer yet graciously accepts the reality of the situation. 

3 For Anne and Annabella Plumptre, see their entry in the Biographical Index.

4 Two possibilities exist for Mr. Vigurs: A Thomas Vigurs, victualler, and a John Vigurs, Gentleman, a member of the Common Council (Universal British Directory 1791, 4.283-84. Reference here appears to be his son and his bride, Miss F. Clarsie. 

5 Another reference to Hays's continued relationship with William Frend.