Eliza Fenwick, London, to Mary Hays, London, Sunday, [c. 1798-99].1
I came to drink tea with you yesterday & had not the good fortune to find you. I was sorry for I have seldom the will to go out & still seldomer the courage.
I feel as ^if^ I had an immense weight to bear about with me and indeed so I have. The sense of my miseries appears to increase with the efforts I endeavour to make for their relief yet render almost every possible disadvantage except that of ill health I am persevering, to do that which had I done three years since I might have done well but now I have not even a hope to console me.
You & I dear Mary have not trod the rosy paths of life – I am I confess addicted to envy when I see people trifling with the blessings that have one after another been torn from my eager grasp. I believe there is very little real happiness in the world but there are comforts for those that can get them & I think tis hard to be ^quite^ out of the number. Yet I am become humble & not only willingly but even joyfully partake of the leavings – Perhaps you can procure me some of these – My children are Eliza in particular sadly unprovided now in the articles of Cloathes. And it occurred to me as I was walking to your house last night & thinking of the wants at home that Mrs Dunkin2 might have some things to spare that would really be very serviceable to me – Possibly she has claimants known to her to whom she does those kindnesses, & if so I would not for the world interfere – Am I indelicate Mary in asking you to turn beggar for me? You know my temper & must know that I am ready to believe you will do that,
that which is most decent, most fit for all parties – Necessity is a hard task master I feel!
I was interrupted yesterday or I might have continued to wound you for you are always ready to make my griefs your own. I am in much better spirits to day – some days past I have been compleatly depressed but I do not draw back from what I have asked for at last what of humbling is there in it, to a mind that can make a distinction between the pride of character & the pride of circumstances – I am not sure that Mrs D—, though your sister Mary, can make this distinction therefore I commit my wish & want to your decision wholly.
Mr F. has got a very bad eye again & we know not how – Saturday yesterday & today he has been almost unable to use it.
I shall not be able to see you this week. An old acquaintance of mine whom I have not seen these 7 years is in town on her way to Ireland with her husband – a very odd accident brought her to the knowledge of where I was & we could not resist their pressing invitation to dine with them on Wednesday next – I had before engaged to drink tea with Mrs Gisborne3 on Thursday
1 Fenwick Family Correspondence; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 2-3; Brooks, Correspondence 322.
2 Joanna Hays Dunkin of Champion Hill, Hays's eldest sister and a woman who enjoyed considerable wealth at this time.
3 Most likely this is the first wife of John Gisborne (d. 1835/36), a friend of Godwin and someone who appears several times in his diary between 1795 and 1832; on 15 August 1798 the "Gisbornes" appear in Godwin's diary. Mrs. Gisborne's death would have to have been not long after that date, for in May 1800 Maria Reveley, friend of Godwin and Fenwick, married Gisborne, her second marriage and most likely his as well. She had previously turned down an offer of marriage by Godwin.