27 November 1811

Eliza Fenwick, [5 Tavistock Square], to Mary Hays, Wandsworth Common, Wednesday night, 27 November 1811 [postmark 28 November 1811].1


Novr 27th 1811

Wednesday night

Dear Friend

    Your kind invitation has this moment ^evening^ come to hand for which I sincerely thank you & Mrs Hays, but I fear it will not be possible at present for me to come to Wandsworth. Mr Whitaker2 whom I saw last week accidentally has promised to apply to Smith the Banker and East India Director3 in Orlandos behalf and at the same time invited me to dine with them last Tuesday This was not in my power as Mrs M. was going out so I fixed this coming Sunday. It is time I would much rather be at Wandsworth, but as I have not been at Mr Whitakers since I first went to Kennington & as he has ever shewn an earnest zeal to serve me & mine I believe I ought to consider it a duty not to break my engagement with him. Thank Mrs Hays for me, and when all your visitors have ended their visitations I shall most gladly bring you my dull-self for a day and a night if you will receive me.

    Would you suppose that your letter gave me half an hour of violent heart beating & alarm. A note so short made me conclude it came with hasty news & Lanno ill of a fever, or Lanno in disgrace & penance was all I could think of. Twice I read your lines & concluded that the haste with which your invitation was made confirmed my fears. He was not mentioned – You enclosed no letter from him, and I had to reason with myself some time before I had composure enough to begin this reply. I really now believe my alarm was foolish & groundless, yet it is not so wholly over, but that I must beg you will answer me by return of Post to say whether any thing is or is not the matter. Pity my weakness, but allow for it. I have ventur’d one of my hopes on a hazardous speculation and I cling to the other with a watchful apprehensive fondness. If any thing is amiss with him tell me candidly. If all is right forgive me the trouble I put you to. You know not how I shall watch for your letter. Taking it for granted that my apprehension is groundless I enclose a note to my boy.

    I am very well and take constant exercise – Not a breath of wind shakes my window at night but I am haunted with evil dreams. I awake with opprest & agitated spirits & though I forbode nothing from these chimeras of fancy they affect the nervous system exceedingly. And to this state probably is owing what passed in my mind on the receipt of your letter. Two days I have been looking for a letter from you. You have been a long time silent.

    We still are surrounded by Work People. I hope I shall never go into a new house again for I am weary of the bustle.

    Surely you will let me hear by return of Post that all actually is as it should be. How much I am altered. How I used to smile at poor Miss Braddocks perpetual apprehensions arising out of nothing and I am now as bad.

    No more news from Eliza. She is gone and report talks of great numbers of Privateers abroad. Do not write me such scraps of letters. You always give me patience & fortitude when you recommend them. With best Compts to Mrs Hays & yr Brother

                I am yrs most truly    

                                    E Fenwick


Address: For | Miss Hays | Wandsworth Common

Postmark: 28 November 1811




1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 50-51; not in Brooks, Correspondence.

2 John Whitaker (1776-1847), a popular songwriter, was a partner at that time with S. J. Button, son of William Button, Hays's old Southwark acquaintance who had been minister to the Baptist congregation in Dean Street since 1775 and became a bookseller/publisher in Paternoster Row about the same time. Because of his Baptist connections, it is probable that Whitaker was a Baptist at this time as well, but if not, most likely an Independent (Congregationalist). The formed their partnership in 1807 and set up their business at 75 St. Paul's Churchyard, next door to Rowland Hunter, a bookseller who was the father-in-law of Leigh Hunt.  For more on Whitaker, see Kenneth Neill Cameron, ed., Shelley and his Circle 1773-1822 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1961), 2.695. 

3 John Smith (1767-1842), a wealthy London Banker who served as MP for Wendover from 1802-06, Nottingham from 1806-18, Midhurst from 1818-30, and Buckinghamshire from 1831-35. In May 1811 he married (his third time) the daughter of Sir Egerton Leigh. See his obituary in The Gentleman's Magazine 171 (June 1842), 666-67.