23 May [1811]

Eliza Fenwick, [Vauxhall], to Mary Hays, at Thomas Hays, Esqr, Wandsworth Common, Thursday afternoon, 23 May [1811].1


Thursday afternoon

May 23d 

    If your participation in my feelings were not a solace to me, I should almost regret that I had given you the pain of knowing the circumstances I mentioned in my last. Every line of your letter excites strong emotion in my mind & will do so no less with Eliza. Would she deserve all this kind solicitude from you, if she were capable of calling your excellent advice officious? No. No that is not possible. She will, on the contrary, to the very utmost of her power follow it. She has already announced to her father & Uncle her positive determination never again to yield to such a measure & has expressed in rather strong terms her opinion of the total want of principle ^& feeling^ that could dictate such a request to her, & take advantage of the surprise & confusion naturally attending so unlooked for a demand to urge her to instant compliance. Her Uncle has promised to provide for ^the payment^ it. I confess I do not rely upon him, since he could, to spare himself, throw such a burthen upon her shoulders. He has no more confidence than I have in any exertions or frugality on the part of Mr F— & therefore with right feelings, as such a sum is nothing to him, he wd have paid it at once, rather than have advised Eliza to such a measure. She has already changed her lodging[.]  Her father has not the address, has never asked for it & neither violently irritated at the resolution sho she has declared seems inclined to drop all further intercourse. His misrepresentations are so shocking and he talks with such fervor of his worth & sacrifices as a parent that people who know ^nothing or^ very little of us may easily believe that we are monsters, and on that account an avowed concealment of her abode from him might be injurious. If he drops her, it will be the best mode of freeing herself; if he does not, I will add my influence to yours and she shall at all hazards totally remove herself from his knowledge. Letters she cannot shut out because they are sent to the Theatre & there put into her hand.

     Mr Kemble2 is the most cold hearted man existing – All Kembles except Stephen & poor Mrs Mason,3 are the same. He would not listen to me beyond what immediately belonged to Eliza’s situation in the Theatre, & Mr F.s drunkenness is as well known to him already as it is to me. Henry Harris4 is over Kembles head. He has the larger share of the Theatre. Kemble has points to maintain which makes him zealous to yield in little matters to Harris entirely. Mrs H. Johnson5 lives with Harris & Kemble though he hates her in his heart, fawns upon her with the grossest adulation. Whoever is likely to rival Mrs H. J. with the public is kept down, or put out of their course. Miss Booth would never have got so forward there, but that her diminutive person forbids her from attempting that line Mrs H. J. wishes to keep to herself. That Lady rules supremely. I am convinced I could do no service in this case by seeking an interview with Kemble, because I know the importunity would be a pretext for his taking offence, because he would not be able to excuse with any sort of decency the total violation he has been guilty of, of the promise he gave on engaging Eliza namely – “putting her forward on every possible opportunity and patronizing her with as if she were his own daughter.” At the same time I owe such deference to yr judgment that I will re-canvass the matter with Eliza, and if she shd receive a discharge at the end of the season, I certainly will then go to him; & try the persuasiveness you think I possess.

    Believe me my dear Mary I will not let my present situation go if I can help it, till Orlando is secure in his destination; and, that I will do all that is possible towards maintaining it for that express purpose. I have not the remotest reason to believe that I am not considered as the most valuable person they could have, but successive disappointments, have changed a naturally sanguine temper & I am now teized with the constant apprehension of some suspended calamity. I therefore as I said before keep in mind possibilities that should such an evil befal me I may not lose resource in astonishment. The dismissal of the french Master was the only cause I had or have of fear, & Mrs M. having several times said that she hopes I shall stay to educate the baby (15 years at least) augers well as to their opinion of my exertions. But then people are mutable Children perverse & parents partial, and if I do dwell on the supposition I assure you it neither takes from my intention to remain nor impedes my efforts. On the same principle that I would make exertions & sacrifices to maintain inviolably my engagements for Orlando, will I take as much care as I can of my health. From your care of & counsel to my boy a new hope may spring in his excellence & fair prospects that may gild with a bright beam my latter days.

    How is it possible for me to describe the feelings your active kindness creates. You offer precious boons & I can easily accept but not easily thank you. Eliza will I am sure gladly follow the line you point out. I have wished it before, but knew not where she could make a beginning. It will indeed be gratifying & advantageous to begin under Mrs Francis’s patronage6 & they would I am fully persuaded suit each other. She is (Eliza) is always most liked when most known & Mrs Francis has a sweetness of manner & a delicacy that would at once inspire Eliza with confidence & aff attachment. I hope nothing will occur to impede this most desirable arrangement. Eliza teaches singing & drawing here & with a success, that considering her pupils & inexperience, often surprises me. It is gratuitous here, entre nous, in order to augment my value, to the family, & to render her frequent visits ^considered^ rather a favor to them than an indulgence to me, but it has the advantage of putting her into the way of givin adapting what she knows to the purposes of instruction. It is most probably that Mrs M. will by & by make her some present as she is delighted at the progress her girl has made in singing. Eliza does not consume all her time, she always devotes some portion to study & lately has been preparing to resume her drawing which will materially forward the plan you recommend. Latterly her fathers affairs has deprived her of most of her leisure, but that interruption being at an end she will I know adopt the systematic observances you point out. I shall give her your letter on Saturday. She looks very ill & has had a violent sore throat. I hope by Sunday week she will be able to tell you of the application you advise. With respect to Mrs Collier, I am embarras’d, for Miss Lamb7 took up my plan & I join’d in recommending her interest to Mrs C— she was to engage with Mrs C—s youngest daughter. This seems an insurmountable obstacle in that quarter. Yesterday morning as Eliza was setting out to come here, a note was given her, from Miss Benjer8 to Miss Beetham9 asking Elizas address, enquiring whether she would sing on Saturday at a musical party & what remuneration she would expect. This may lead to some advantage. Eliza will call on Miss Benjer today & it is very likely that Miss B— may be able to recommend her as an instructress. I shall understand by the conversation that passes between them whether or not I may appeal to Miss B in Eliza’s behalf.

    On Sunday week then, unless forbidden by any accident Eliza & I will see you & your protegée Meanwhile God bless you and give you health and peace.

                   Yrs affectionately    E F


Address: Miss Hays | T. Hays Esqr | Wandsworth Common

Postmark: Illegible



1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 33-36; not in Brooks, Correspondence

2 Henry Stephen Kemble (1789-1836), an actor who had been romantically involved with young Eliza Fenwick the previous year. His father, Stephen Kemble (mentioned by Fenwick in the next line), managed several traveling acting companies at that time, and in 1818 served as the manager at Drury Lane for one year. 

3 Mrs. Mason was an actress in Dublin when the Fenwicks were in Belfast; apparently Eliza Fenwick came to know her at that time. 

4 Henry Harris and his father, Thomas Harris, were involved with Covent Garden Theatre at this time, along with John Philip Kemble, the theatre's manager since 1803. 

5 Mrs. H. Johnson was another actress featured often at Covent Garden at that time. In October 1805 she performed with John Philip Kemble, Charles Kemble, and Miss Mason in Shakespeare's As You Like It

6 Elizabeth Dunkin Francis, Hays's niece who was apparently operating a school at that time and considering hiring young Eliza Fenwick as a singing/drawing instructor for young girls. 

7 Mrs. John Dyer Collier and Mary Lamb, friends of Fenwick, Hays, and Crabb Robinson. 

8 Benjeo] Wedd, Fate. Elizabeth Benger (1775-1827) was a writer and popular literary figure in London at that time. For more on Benger, see her entry in Biographical Index. 

9 Matilda Betham (1776-1852), another writer known to Fenwick and Hays. For more, see her entry in Biographical Index.