10 December 1821

Eliza Fenwick, Barbados, to Miss Hays, 11 [sic] Cross Street, Islington, 10 December 1821.1

Barbadoes  Decr 10th 1821

            At length my dear Friend I have received your book, of the fate of which I have made so many anxious enquiries. It was doubly welcome by the hands of Capn Richardson because he had seen you, & Mr & Mrs T. Hayes,2 which seemed like a renewal of old times and in fancy I was instantly transported back to a very happy day I passed with you in the very house your brother & his family now inhabit. We could not help welcoming Capn Richardson like an old friend. His stay was short at this Island & a mistake in the delivery of a card of invitation prevented his dining with us, to meet the family of a young Lady that he brought from England, who was formerly a pupil of ours, but he took tea with us when we happened to have a good many chance visitors & danced two Country dances with Mrs Rutherford. He was excessively delighted with Pats fine eyes & curling clusters & good humoured smiles; and should you see him on his return to England I dare say he will give you no unfavorable account of the appearance of the family. Our exterior is very gay and animated from the nature of the family, but our inward & secret thoughts are full of perplexity. One money disappointment follows another in rapid succession, and I am at last compelled to employ an attorney where hitherto I have carefully avoided that measure. Times are so inconceivable bad that I foresee when April comes and we are preparing for a departure to America I shall be obliged to sell my debts with the sacrifice perhaps of two thirds of the amount, and dispose of my 5 Servants for half their value if I expect to get cash for our removal &c.  I dare not trust to securities & judgments &c ^when^ going to such a distance, unless before that time the English Government has the wisdom to open the communication between the West Indies & America, which appears indeed the only means of redeeming these colonies from utter ruin.

        My letter by Mr Johnstone of the Royal Fusiliers will have apprised you of our intended emigration. I acknowledge it is a bold experiment but every thing tends to make me believe it a wise one. I am wearied of having a large nominal income on my books, and yet unable to command the use of it. Never will I again yield (as I have unfortunately done here) to the procrastinating habit the people indulge in, in this Island. Many who prefer’d letting their accounts accumulate from quarter to quarter ^while abounding in cash^ are now partaking the general distress & unable to collect a dollar scarcely. But the more powerful inducements are my impaired health and the welfare of our children. It has been a dreadful year of intense heat, unmitigated drought and cutaneous diseases. Boils & blains have covered Children in particular. Ours from the cool manner in which we rear them have escaped the worst of these eruptions but the youngest (Orlando) has had a succession of boils from head to foot and has still a visitation of fever once in every 24 hours which has reduced him considerably. When the long prayed for rains came fever broke out and has carried off many victims with even more than its usual rapidity. The physical evils of these climates are indeed numerous. I am always impatient of heart but this year it seemed impossible to endure its intensity from day to day. Only within these few days has the air been cooled by North East winds for month after month the sickening breezes from the South robbed us of vigour of mind and body.

        Did I not in my last invite you to America? My heart has nourished the invitation if my pen witheld withheld it. We have had letters from Mrs Rutherfords earliest friend in Barbadoes, the wife of ^a^ Commissioner who left this Country four years ago & ^is now^ settled at Newhaven confirming the particulars of the cheapness & comfort of living there, and encouraging our prospect of settling there at that place. Will you come? I am perfectly convinced you could lodge and board with a well supplied table and good fires in winter for £50 Sterling per Ann and very likely for less. I long to hear your thoughts on this matter. A voyage, change of scene, change of manners all would tend to better your health and amuse your mind. Should you not like the people & the Country you could return and your saving of income would meet the expences of travelling. The winters it is true are severely cold but it is not a damp foggy cold (the worst of all to endure) but a clear bright atmosphere allows & invites to exercise. Fuel is cheap and abundant. The fever visits the more southern provinces, & I do not apprehend at any time is more frequent in New York if so much so, as in London.    

       Your excellent last letter of June 12th conveyed a great obligation by its little epitome of ^the history of^ all your family, and the house where you now dwell. I feel a great encrease of respect for Mrs T. Hays for her worthy manner of enduring the change of her style of living. The relinquishment of a carriage & its dependencies is a hard trial of female temper. Mrs Francis I always respected & admired. I was grieved to read of the misfortunes of some others. Is it Mrs Wedd (Emma I think) who is suffering the heavy dispensation of a deranged mind? I sympathize in the losses of Mrs Lanfear & Mrs Wheeler, and who than myself can more truly appreciate their affliction! I have witnessed some dreadful calamities of that nature necessary for some wise end, though it is hard to bear and not murmur.3

            Whenever I get hold of an English Newspaper, which now seldom happens as my former supplier flew in a pet with his correspondents irregularities, & counter-manded the Courier. By the bye what a gross calumniator that editor seems to be. Well, when I read of these pageants & pomps & vanities of travelling display, which has seized our veteran King, I can hardly believe my eyes – What will be the end of all this I cannot divine but I guess a second marriage & another gew-gaw marriage will coronation will happen to amuse the minds of the Star gazing multitude – The Venus, one of Daniels ships from Bristol has come in this morning with 27 passengers in board – all natives of this Island and the Concord is expected with as many, beside the Complement in other ships. These foolish people have been spending double & triple their incomes in England and are now for want of means to continue their extravagance returning to encrease the difficulties here. We all like our Governor who does not seem likely to lean to either of our political parties, but an unlucky personal dispute between two principals of the opposing Juntos is reviving in all its bitterness the feuds which it was hoped the Governors impartiality would have laid to Keep.

            I have not seen Godwins new book (not new now I suppose) nor had I heard mention of Queen Mab before your letter. I abhor its author but infinitely more his wife who of all human beings is the object of my sincerest detestation. I am highly pleased with your account of the Answer to Malthus, and <–> glad that he has made a votive offering at the shrine of Christianity. Let us hope it was done in sincerity, & singleness of heart. I have just read & Eliza is now reading, The Heart of Midlothian. It seized with a painful intentness on my feelings and unless ^misled by^ the present impression <–> I should pronounce it the best of his ^W. Scotts^ works. The Monastery pained me. I did not like that this genius should adopt supernatural agency & that of ^no^ very dignified kind. It has however fine portraits and beautiful passages. The Abbot pleased me excessively and Kenilworth also, but Jenny Deans & Rebecca are holy creatures, whose excellencies are indeed as you justly call ^them^ perfect specimens of the Moral sublime.4 I long to get to America that I may get at books. I am not a subscriber to the book Societies here – One, called the literary association, refuse all members till their number is reduced; & the other I was deter’d from offering myself to, by being told one of their earliest rules was an exclusion of all School keepers. Lately a member assured me the law was obsolete and would not be called in exercise against me, but it would be ill worth my while to pay £10, which is the first subscription for the little reading I could have while I remain here. Therefore I only get at books as some of my acquaintance purchase them, and no one I know, has yet got Anastatius or Peters letters.6 There is not a circulating library in the Island only the book Associations I have named. – Your life of Catherine of Medicis is admirable.  I prefer it I think to any other in the book though I am both surprised and pleased with the ingenuity you have used in bringing forward Catherine of Russias talents so has as to lessen our sense of her cruel ambition and sensuality. Poor Queen Carolines Memoir is very interesting and preserves the just medium between partial zeal, and prudent judgment. I am glad it was written before she died as the disgraceful persecution of her poor senseless remains was enough to silence judgment and rouse an excess of kindness in her favor. Go on my dear friend, continue to exercise your ^pen^ and let your leisure to be dedicated, as it has ever been, to the support of good taste and virtue.7 Our Port Captain here, or rather, I believe, Agent for Loyds, the ugliest man you ever saw, but witty & highly informed, is a cousin of Lord Byrons & they spent their earliest years together. I met this Captain Cook one evening at a tea party & was delighted with the torrent of Criticism & anecdote he poured out. I should like his acquaintance of all things but he & might easily lure him to our house, but he is boisterous ^&^ swears & drinks which are objections. Mrs Rutherford continues to possess health, and has revived, once more, to that happy elasticity of spirits which I fancied was extinguished for ever. She has bright prospects in her eldest boy if he lives. He is a lovely fellow of a most even temperament of mind; and, with great animal spirits a careful avoidance of what he takes to be error. The second is still ever in extremes and will I fear always be in extremes much to our discomfort and his own hazard. His fancy & feeling are both singular & superior far to his brothers or any child I know, but they lead him often into excesses and we do not expect from him the unbroken comfort that the elders happy disposition promises. I do not love Tom less (he was Orlandos Chumb) than I ever did but I love Pat far more than I did as his steady judgment, and unrepining obedience daily gain upon me. Elizabeth is a little pretty plump brunette abounding in all the vanities of her sex. Dotes on dress & ornament & is at 5 years old a very fascinating baby coquette. We do not think she will have any talent, but pride & emulation will doubtless make her accomplished. Roland (for I have not courage to give him the abbreviation of Lanno) is ^full^ of the most engaging attributes of Childhood. They all dote on their mother and well they may.

Thursday Octr 12th 

            I have this moment received tidings of the Death of Colonel Piper of the 4th or Kings own! He paid me a morning visit on Sunday after Church sickened on Monday & died last night. He had a pension for gallant conduct at Waterloo & a shattered arm & having served his three years in the West Indies was expecting to go home in April & retire to his native Devonshire. I knew him there many years since. He was a polite fashionable man, fond of music, of dancing, and of society. Without strong intellect he was also without vicious habits & his ease & Gentlemanly manners rendered him an acceptable visitor & his death has affected me. I was prepared for it by hearing from another officer of the regiment last night that black vomits had begun. The first is I believe the unvarying forerunner of death. Two officers died last week. One in 24 hours after the attack & in town the fever has had many victims.

      Eliza joins in every affectionate wish & gratified by your wish that she shd write she will do so, but by the next opportunity. To-day she has a severe & most unusual head ache. Farewell Farewell write immediately & believe me ever yours

                                                E. Fenwick


Address: To | Miss Hays | 41 Cross Street | Islington

Postmark: 17 and 19 January 1822




1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 213-17; Brooks, Correspondence 353-57.

2 Reference is to Hays's last known publication, Memoirs of Queens (1821); the other reference is to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hays, with whom Hays had lived for many years in their home in Wandsworth.

3 In her previous letter, Hays had related much news of her family; here Fenwick is reciprocating with inquiries about many of Hays's relations she would have met while living in London: Mrs. Thomas Hays (her husband had suffered considerable financial setbacks c. 1817 and had moved from Wandsworth to a lesser house in Mill Street, Bermondsey, near the location of his business with George Wedd); Elizabeth Dunkin Francis, the teacher; Sarah Dunkin Wedd, one of Hays's favorite nieces and who plays a substantial role in Hays's will (she was not suffering dementia at this time); "Emma" would have been Emma Hills, but she was clearly not suffering dementia at this time either, since Elizabeth Lanfear dedicated her 1819 novel, Fatal Errors, to her; Lanfear was still mourning the loss of her son, John, in 1817; the last reference is to Sarah Wheeler, daughter of Sarah Hays Hills, and another of the numerous nieces and nephews of Mary Hays. She married William Wheeler of Islington in 1808; Wheeler and William Hills, husband of Emma Hills, were business partners. 

4 Godwin's rebuttal to Malthus, Of Population: An Enquiry Concerning the Power of Increase in the Numbers of Mankind, appeared in 1820. Queen May: A Philosophical Poem, appeared in 1813, the first significant work of poetry by Percy Bysshe Shelley, who would elope with Godwin's daughter, Mary, in 1816, causing a breach in the family (and with many of Godwin's friends, such as Fenwick) over her lack of discretion and the fact that she cohabited with Shelley while he was still legally married to his first wife. 

5 References here to numerous works by Sir Walter Scott -- The Heart of Midlothian (1818), The Monastery and The Abbot (1820), Kenilworth (1821) -- including two of his famous characters, Jenny Dean from Heart of Midlothian, and Rebecca from Ivanhoe (1820). 

6 Reference is to Thomas Hope's novel, Anastasius (1819), and J. G. Lockhart's Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk (1818). 

7 References are to several of the biographical accounts in Hays's Memoirs of Queens (1821).