24 November 1812

Eliza Fenwick, Lee Mount, Ireland, to Mary Hays, Wandsworth Common, 24 November 1812.1


Lee Mount Novr 24th 1812

         The extraordinary delay of my letter, of which you speak alarms me for the fate of those I have so forwarded to Eliza. How could it happen that a month all but two days shd elapse before mine reached ^you^. I have thought I would not again use the same conveyance but I venture once ^more^ hoping that some absence of Mr Robinson2 might retard the delivery of your packet while the other went forward in its accustomed course.

         My dear friend I should not have dwelt so much upon the term gratitude had you not explicitly reproached me with the want of gratitude for your efforts to serve me. I have again looked at the former letter and such is the expression of your reproof. I acknowledge and with pain that my silence had no just excuse in the late instance, for that torpor & inactivity which feasts upon brooding thought; and enjoying its own feeling, neglects the claims of others is inexcusable. But my dear Mary even greater severity than you have now used will not [a]waken equal self reproach for the former silence. It is not possible for you, of almost all the people I know, to form an estimate of my then situation. Your afflictions paramount as they were, had an elevation of character and a dignity in their sorrowings. Every iota of your suffering tended to the expansion of feeling to its ^choicest^ requirements and to a powerful though agonizing energy and activity of mind. Your life was regular and consistent, you had no little expedients everlastingly to hunt after to forward little plans. No puzzling uncertainties in the morning of what would be the event of the evening, no catering with a last shilling doubtful if another would be raised for the morrow: you had no submission to practise in order to live, to insolent and ignorant authority, no burning resentments of that kind to struggle with and subdue. No pantings after a removal yet dreading to attempt it for want of means; and alarmed by the consciousness that your own silly want of judgment had betrayed you to vexation & might even betray ^you^ to greater – without enumerating half the petty but constant annoyances which I endured from morning to night & hated to communicate I ^merely need^ say that your grief were ^was^ great yet grand – mine ^constant various & all^ tending to bitter distraction of thought and debasement of character. My friend: you can no more judge of my situation than I can at this moment say what is your occupation. I can look with awe at what you have felt – I dare not pretend to appreciate your sufferings. Excuse me my dear Mary if I say I will not send your letter to Barbadoes. I hold myself sacredly bound not farther to interfere between Eliza and her wishes. Her thoughts suggested what you have expressed – I am sure of it from the contents of one sweet and pensive letter I received but did not copy for you on account of its length and not liking to give detached parts of such a letter – She speaks of a reproach which her aching heart sometimes suggests – that she ought to have lived for me and Orlando alone, and shrinks from an appalling idea that calamity may follow this departure from a duty – She must decide for herself. I cannot suspect her of being vey lightly caught. She did not shew haste to be married or she might have taken Mr Mudge; he had youth a good person, was not a fool and had fair though not splendid prospects. He even re-offered himself by letter since she went to Barbadoes which I at his request forwarded to her. If then mere girlish inclination to be married has not helped in this chosen match I must leave it to the event of time and her decision. I made a solemn appeal to the exercise of her Judgment when I answered her & Mr R—s first letters on the subject. God knows whether she has received them that letter or any other since I came to Ireland for I have no acknowledgement of any. Her last date was August the 5th and I have not had a line from her since. She was then involved in a thousand perplexities – quite undecided what plan to adopt, and <–> I have no clue to <–> imagine what she has done or even where she is. I confess I am completely miserable. Night and day do I lament that I ever urged her to adopt her profession or having adopted it that I offer persuaded her to accept Mr Dykes offers. The case you put to obviate my anticipated self approach is dissimilar. You persuaded me to come to Ireland for a certain advantage – the very addition I wanted to my means of support for my boy; and beside that a fair prospect of great encrease of comfort – while you urged me to accept such advantages you were inflicting pain & privation on yourself to forward ^my interest & happiness. But^ when I impatient of Mr F—s ill treatment & excesses sought quiet and repose under another roof I left Eliza to endure the brunt of that from which I fled. I left her to loneliness & discomfort – wretched at home, humiliated by her situation at Covent Garden and uncertain whither at the end of the Season she must go. I did indeed consider myself and not her. A little more resolution on my part, & little longer perseverance in my other plan and we might now have been living together on the fruits of our mutual industry – The very day after I decided on going to Kennington I had your offer of a pupil at Wandsworth I immediately followed the whole family of Mrs Colliers sister at Islington & within the week two pupils from Miss Beetham. I could not in honor retract though my heart ached with forebodings – We should have done well together and I should never have lost the daughter so dear to me – Indeed indeed my dear Mary I have been the contriver of the misfortunes that have or that may befall her. I never made the exertions for her that I have done for Orlando – I was always weakly relying on Mr F.s plans & weakly undecided how to set for myself. All the valuable part of her character grew out of the privations & struggles she shared with me. The early part of her life was embitter’d by her fathers caprices & embarrassments – her early youth by the oppression of those from whom she earned her subsistence and alas have I by an error of judgment prepared woe for her Maturity? Oh my dear friend do not prophecy [sic] thus again. If you knew the pangs I have undergone you would soothe & pity ^me^ – no indeed I cannot suppose she could be more respectable as any Mrs than she might have been as Miss. I only ventur’d to hope she might be happier. She has no family connections to look to for old age. Miss Lamb ^says^ that marriage has fewer disadvantages than old maidenhood & she seems glad that Eliza escapes marrying a west India planter with purse proud pride & narrow liberality. She things thinks that equality of condition, concordance of pursuit, mutual exertion and decided preference is the choicest number to draw in the lottery of marriage.

         This delay of letters is very harrassing to my mind considering the indecision of her last on her every future step: blessed be occupation! Mine are constant and benefit me greatly. I have but a small portion of the day to think in but my nights are restless and uncomfortable. However my complaint does not return and I continue to take constant exercise in almost all weathers. We have had a fine but windy and bleak Novr and I have walked as much as I possibly could. Did you ever try the Cheltenham Salts? I think I owe much to them. They certainly are very useful in all bilious cases. Orlando’s greatest trouble since he came to Ireland has been about your kind & precious letter. The day after it reached me I enclosed it in a scrap of mine and merely directing to Orlando Fenwick sent it to town with the other letters expecting the Butler would have called on Orlando & given it to him. It was the election time & Mr Honner met the Butler mounted him on his own horse and sent him to some distance when <-> delivered his marketting instructions and the various letters to a dolt of Lad who forgetting more than half, put all the letters into the Post Office & did not go near Orlando.  When the Butler asked if he deliver’d the letters according to his directions he said yes – was Master Fenwick at home? No. No farther enquiries were made till the next of Orlandos Sunday’s ten days after when I asked him how he liked your letter? Imagine how he was surprised and disappointed. What is worse we cannot hear of the letter – they say, it has been sent to Dublin or sent to Lieut Colonel Fenwick now commanding at Carlisle Fort3 – or that it never came into the office. They are most irregular careless and uncivil at the Post Office – Orlando and the Clerk nearly came to warfare. I should not wonder if the Lad really drop’d the letter in the street – If it went to Dublin it will be open’d & perhaps returned to you for I think yr date had Wandsworth in it. If Coll Fenwick has it we shall yet get it for I have employed an officer to enquire. Lanno thanks you sincerely and begs you will write to him again. He sends his grateful love to you all & begs John will remember him to his school fellows who enquire for him. He grows, looks uncommonly well, improves constantly and is happy. His master distinguishes him with constant favor & is out of school hours his friend & companion. Every Saturday they take an excursion after 12 oClock when that days business ends and these rambles both fortify his health & enlarge his ideas. The last time he was here he fell into a reverie & awoke from it by gravely wishing he could command his time to pass over again as now he began to feel & understand how ill a use he had made of it. You mistook me my dear Mary it was not the permanence of his or Miss H—s liking that I feared though I think there is some difference between the preference of 12 and 15 – but Mrs Honner is peculiarly nice and delicate on all such points. She is anxious to keep her daughters remote from all allusions to or suppositions about love & being loved. She is too late – The mystery is has been developed at school as it always is. She would be wounded I am sure if she saw Mary Annes blushes rise when we hear the ^joyful^ scream of the little boys – “Here is Orlando Orlando coming!” Mrs Honner is near sighted. She praises Orlando continually, holds him up as a model for invitation & wishes her children to love him; and of course I would not for the world she should be wounded by suspecting her daughter of even this childish partiality. Girls are sometimes strangely forward in such subjects. A fourteen year old lass of Cork has written Orlando letters of most surprising ardor, and pages of love breathing verses & laments of his cold indifference. I was both shocked & disgusted – He felt much contempt for her I believe. God forbid he should ever become a libertine.

        The fortune of Mr S. Browns house astonished and grieved me and poor Miss W—s calamity made my heart ache I have not mentioned it to Orlando.4

       I must again defer mentioning particulars of Mr Honners history which effectually prevent my looking for interest from him for Orlando. Pray enquire the common expences of articling a lad to an attorney &c when you see Mr Francis. Does little Patty Hopwood succeed with Mrs Francis? Will you send the [letter] to the Post. I had a letter early in August from Mrs M— not acknowledged till now.5

            Present my kind Compts M to Mr & Mrs Hays – Your poor Children are very unfortunate. These though born in India and apparently delicate & fragile never knew an hours indisposition.

             Adieu Adieu my dear friend Believe me with all my faults and negligences very affectionately yours

                                                E Fenwick


Address: For | Miss Hays | Wandsworth Common | Surry [sic]

Postmark: none



1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 122-25; not in Brooks, Correspondence.

2 Crabb Robinson spent most of October visiting friends and relations in Bury and Witham. 

3 A relation of her husband, John Fenwick.

4 Reference is to Samuel Brown, whose business apparently had suffered a serious loss; the second reference is most likely to Mrs. Whitaker, wife of the musician and partner with S. J. Button. 

5 Elizabeth Dunkin Francis, Patty Hopwood (daughter of the artist William Hopwood), and Mrs. Mocatta.