24 May 1814

Eliza Fenwick, Lee Mount, to Mrs. M. Hays, at T. Hays, Esqr, Wandsworth Common, 24 May 1814.1

Lee Mount  May 24th 1814

      Thank you my dear Friend for the readiness with which you undertake every service which the embarrassments of my situation urges me to require. Thank you also sincerely for the affectionate warmth which your advice displays, but even your zeal has failed to convince ^me^ that I am not acting precisely as I ought when I persevere in declining to send Orlando to his sister. Both my letters to you were written in moments both of pressure both of time and thought & I believe I did not mention what has been my chief inducement to lay aside that Plan. Eliza with the beginning of the new year began the project of a school in Barbadoes for me, upon the prudent consideration of making the ^an^ experiment upon the professions of those who had loudly & long declared that if she & her mother opened a school on the Island the greatest encouragement would be given & that it must inevitably be a most profitable undertaking. She deemed this to be the more necessary as one of her warmest patronesses & possessing great influence had, during Eliza’s residence at Antigua, removed to England to continue there during the education of her two little boys. The Commissioner, her Husband, whom Eliza thought during the two months of her visit to their house, (after leaving Mr Dykes’s) a very moral & steady man has since his wifes departure indulged in open licentiousness & keeps two Negro ^Creole^ Mistresses in his dwelling house, which of course puts a stop to all intercourse & to the possibility of using his recommendation – Another valuable connection was lost by that littleness of mind which constantly stands in the way – Mrs Beccles the Attorney Generals wife who had imbibed quite a passion for having me as Governess to her Grand Children felt proudly & weakly resentful at her liberal proposals being rejected & frankly told Eliza that she would not give any support to the school plan. Resolving therefore to try the <–> remaining likelihood, as I said before she advertised & commenced with Mary Olton the niece & heiress of the Sopers who never had children. Mr Rutherford & Eliza had made a very scrupulous calculation on numbers & profit and fixed the terms at what they deemed not exorbitant & but a just & a bare remuneration for the risques to me of voyage & to change of climate, deeming it unwise for me to encounter such changes without the prospect of doing more than gaining mere daily subsistence. Five strangers within the first fortnight called on Eliza and gave her their children, but at the end of two months not one of those who had been most eager to recommend the adoption of the progress ^project^ had come forward. Three causes were alledged for their delay – Viz – that the terms were very high – that I was so long in determining to come that it appeared very doubtful whether I ever would come; & lastly that if I declined coming to Barbadoes it was not likely Mrs Rutherford would stay to carry on the school; so that they thought it better ^they said^ to wait a little while, lest they should incur the inconveniences of removing their children & paying fresh entrances to other schools. But according to old proverbs while the grass grows the steed starves. Eliza & Mr R— will have embarrassed themselves & sunk their money in an experiment which my courage shrinks from. They are still persuaded that if I had been there or was actually on my progress thither, that the success would equal our hopes, & they judge so from the eager sensation spread in Feby, through their connections, spread by the report of that I was actually a passenger on board a West India Man coming into the Harbour & had sent notice of arrival to Mrs Rutherford by the Pilots boat; and the Sopers who hear and repeat to Eliza all the pro’s and cons warmly urge my hastening to Barbadoes with the least delay possible. But I have lost my courage and cannot undertake the enterprise. I have to my own thoughts relinquished the project & have so written to the Rutherfords. To be much longer separated from me I am convinced Eliza will not endure and when they receive that letter they will anxiously turn their eyes homewards. How then or why then should I send Orlando to a West India Island to be destitute of protectors & to have no one to form for him those connections hereafter necessary to serve him? I never contemplated his going but in conjunction with my establishment there & that establishment which shewed such promising features in perspective I thought would enable me to bear a share in the heavy expence of carrying their wishes for his destination into that effect. The schemes rose together and together they fall. I feel that I was imprudent in not adopting the measure ^of the school^ when first laid before me. I ought to have felt that my demanding a twelvemonths consideration & delay, must necessarily check the zeal of persons who had merely founded that zeal on the caprice of a supposition. I think their doubts of me are the very natural results of my earlier doubts & timidity; but still I think such hesitation so natural & indeed becoming to a poor storm beaten pilgrim like me that I make no self reproaches. Orlando’s outset is unfavorable. One hope after another has been held up to his view, ^first^ by one & then the other parent without due consideration on either part. He has however so much more to commend than to blame in my conduct towards him that I trust I shall never have my mistakes pointed out by him. I perceive that he must be a mere daily drudge at the desk without looking beyond. The situation Mr Lyals mentioned would have exactly fitted my hopes, I know that he cannot in the beginning get a remuneration to support it him. My industry must supply the deficiency. This I stated before in the letter inclosed to Mr Robinson. If you got yours how could his miss its way, or have you only received a later one sent through Mr Lamb? Here I cannot let Orlando remain. It would be destruction now to keep him unemployed & pining to be employed. Encounter what difficulties I may, I see but one means that of bringing him to London myself to solicit every where & of every body their enquiries or recommendation. I should have taken the first packet after the receipt of your letter but that I am very anxious to avoid missing my West India letters which I have been daily expecting this month past, & also because I had expended every shilling of my gains up to the end of the last quarter & am obliged to serve half of the next to collect enough to bring me ^us^ to London. I hope to begin my voyage about the 10th of June and allowing a week for my progress pray write me a line ^on the 17th^ directed to the care of Mr Lamb No 4 Inner Temple Lane, ^Fleet Street^ saying where or how I may see you. Shall you visit Mrs Francis Mrs Palmer Mrs W Hills or Mrs Wedd2 – Out of Town Orlando may, but I fear I shall not be able to reach you. What I am to do with myself I know not. I have no house nor friend to receive me. The critical state of Miss Lambs mind will not allow that I should make the smallest demand on her spirits & Mr Lamb wrote to entreat that I would not even consult with her about Orlando’s destination. Mrs Mackay is a more lucky woman than poor I – she would not I suppose be thus destitute of an asylum in the same circumstances. I have one or two real & warm hearted friends but they are scarcely less poor than myself. At present I certainly think of returning to Ireland but casualties may occur. Mr Honner is advertising ^the sale of^ Lee Mount. His last application to be restored to his Army rank has been most decidedly rejected. Counsellors opinions say he cannot yet redress in the courts of Law. His horses have been more & more unsuccessful. He is involved in two unpromising Law suits. Miss Honner near 17 is old enough to quit the school room & I cannot help anticipating some change of their plans of living that will part us. If so I must shift, for myself & my boy, in London. I need not request you my dear Mary still to be on the watch for some means of giving employment to Orlando. Thank you for applying to Mr Tooke.3 Think for me whether it would be advisable or proper for me to wait on him or any one else ^you mention^ with my solicitations. My health is not very good just now, but according to Dr Buchan my present complaints are all nervous. Uneasiness of mind & considerable mental labour, with that irritation which the adverse inclinations & negligences of Children creates I take to be the cause and probably a voyage & change of scene may do me good – though to own the truth my present luxuries & comforts look very admirable contrasted with the expectation of no home & an empty purse in London. Do not think me insane for tempting such difficulties I should be insane & almost deserve to be so were I not to make a desperate effort since none other presents itself, to serve this Boy.  Promising myself that with such humble expectations as mine I could have more easily fixed him I did think when I wrote before of sending him alone, fancying Miss Lamb might be well enough to take the guardianship – Both expectations being erroneous my course is very distinctly though not very pleasantly marked out.

        Do not forget to send a line for me to the Temple & contrive a meeting for us. I felt gratified by your being at Wandsworth.4 Family intercourses with all defects are precious. Think now what an outcast I am. Oh what a shelter’d happy being shall I feel myself to be when fortune weary of persecuting me re-unites me to my affectionate Girl. She says that a moments happiness lives in her estimation beyond months of sorrow. I must adopt that creed & think that the pleasure of now meeting you in London will counterbalance the anxieties that bring me thither.

            Farewell dear friend

                                                Yrs sincerely

                                                            E Fenwick


Address: Mrs M. Hays | T. Hays Esqr | Wandsworth Common| 

Postmark: 24 May 1814



1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 156-60; not in Brooks, Correspondence.

2 Some of Mary Hays's favorite nieces, all known to Eliza Fenwick: Elizabeth Dunkin Francis, Joanna Dunkin Palmer, Emma Dunkin Hills, and Sarah Dunkin Wedd. 

3 The solicitor William Tooke, a friend of Mary Hays since the 1790s. 

4 Hays was once again living with her brother, Thomas Hays, at this home on Wandsworth Common; by the end of the year she will have removed to Bristol.