Eliza Fenwick, Penzance, to Mary Hays, 20 [sic] Hatton Garden, Monday [c. 1802] [postmark not readable].1
Pardon me dear & considerate friend for this length of silence. Many causes have contributed to chill my resolution when I have thought of you & your long known affection, but principally Eliza’s illness has absorbed me, & my unremitting attention to her wants & weakness, uniting with other claims upon my time left me scarcely the moment to think of you. Mr F— has I take for granted related the particulars of her situation he has too I hope informed you that once again I believe she will recover – if he has done these I know in compassion for her sufferings & mine you have pitied rather than blamed my neglect. I ought not perhaps to say Eliza is out of danger for she has frequent changes but I can see that her strength gradually increases. Carlisle2 writes me word that this is the Montpellier of England & that were she in London & money were no object he should order her hither. I have no doubt it is the case for we have many shadowy forms flitting about in the balmy air of this beautiful bay who appear almost vainly striving to maintain their station in this world. My perplexity & distress during the most alarming period of Elizas illness has been in no small degree augmented by the want of a home. My brother avows that he has no sympathy for illness It appears indeed, whether it really does or not, to stand in his way, & every thing that does not coincide with his will to get money is an incumbrance to him. His parsimony, which has astonishingly grown upon him since we were last together, also would render every expence properly incurred for sickness painful to him. Of course more than my narrow means could purchase or perform for the poor girl was not to be had. You know I am not of that domineering spirit that wills every thing to itself. If I cannot influence I cannot try to govern. And so matters pass. – But Eliza mends & better days may be in store for her & me yet.
I have thought of you too & very often when night after night waking watchfulness has been my portion. Your affection is too delightful to my heart to be forgotten Here, in banishment from all that can awaken my imagination or gratify my taste, I remember with pride & pleasure the distinguished marks of friendship you designed for me in the dedication you spoke of the last time but one we met. Ah – may if my name cannot honor you, my heart serves you!
What shall I say of my situation that
shall may give you pleasure. I fear nothing. My expectations were but moderate yet I have fallen below them. I cd [endure] the slavery of the business though it is a severe one you may judge when I tell you that on Market days neither Mr T. F— nor I ever taste one mouthful of food from an early breakfast till about 7 in the evening & there are two shop women beside ourselves on other days the shop is never empty. My brother admires he says the ease with which I bend to my new employment & accomodate the vulgar caprices of the country people. I do that certainly for I will leave nothing unessayed to promote my family’s wellfare but this tends to nothing & Penzance I fear is not my abiding city. Say nothing of this however to any one. As yet I am stationary. Davy, the Chemist3 was born in this town his family live here. I have often seen his sister a neat little simple looking girl.
I have on my fathers side a host of relations in this Country some rich & some poor; my Aunt & her daughter live in this town & it is curious enough that Lanno exceedingly resembles this cousin & many others. They are I think the handsomest set of people I have seen. My father & eldest Uncle (who I saw some years ago in London) I well remember to be both in person & face uncommonly handsome & the same characteristicks of fine & bold beauty are to be seen in the whole of them except myself & another Miss Jaco who is however married to a Capn Burgess of the Navy a man of considerable property.
We have no society here my brother studiously avoids such intercourse as tends to visiting on account of the expence though I never saw any one who enjoys company so much, for at night he compleatly locks up his cases & his shop together & will talk for hours yet the desire of getting money makes him subdue that propensity except as in our case he can
have ^indulge^ it without any extraordinary outlay. I have met with compleat respect & attention from all Mr [F’s] family I must acknowledge, yet my stubborn nature refuses to assimilate with them. One indeed has seized upon my affection. Mrs Duckworths eldest daughter, a girl of 17 possessing a most uncommon understanding I was taught to fear her before I came. She has vehement passions & great pride but I could lead her round the world in a cobweb.4
Of the country I could talk with rapture mixed with regret that Eliza’s weakness & my necessary confinement with the business allow me not to enjoy it. The Bay affords a prospect almost unequalled for richness & fertility. It forms a sort of half circle with the three towns of Marazion, Penzance, & Newlyn, lying at short distances from each other close to the sea, & surrounded with woody grounds – the whole closed in with a range of fertile hills behind. The celebrated Mount St Michaels
stands on ^is^ 3 miles from hence <–> & is an uncommonly fine object from this side of the Bay – it is a bold majestic rock rising out of the sea & Sir John St Aubins fine old Castle stands on its craggy summit. We have not yet climbed its steep sides but shall visit it as soon as Eliza has sufficient strength. There are some druidical remains not far from hence. I have visited one stupendous Pile of Rocks 9 miles from Penzance where there is a natural curiosity which attracts all strangers. It is a rock of many many Ton weight balancing itself on the edge of another rock at a stupendous height & rocks to & fro with the pressure of a mans shoulder against it. I never felt so strongly the sensation of fear. It appeared as if it must inevitably fall & bringing with it the surrounding Masses crush us to less than atoms. Many experiments have been made on it but nothing less than Gunpowder will I suppose remove it.
Adieu dear Mary. Punish not by your silence my unwilling & unwilled offence. Eliza desires you will accept her love & Lanno (the favorite of half the town) does not forget Mama Hays.
Once more adieu tell me every thing you can & write soon to yrs ever & sincerely
Direct to me [at] Penzance
Address: Miss Hays | 20 Hatton Garden. | London.
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, NY Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 11-13; not in Brooks, Correspondence. Fenwick had taken her two children with her to Penzance, where many of her and her husband's relations lived, including John Fenwick's brother, Thomas, in whose shop Fenwick was working under very difficult conditions.
2 Most likely Sir Anthony Carlisle (1768-1840) who appeared nearly 300 times in Godwin's diary, and four times with John Fenwick.
3 Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829), famed scientist and poet and friend of Coleridge, Southey, and many of the Romantics.
4 Mrs. Mary Duckworth (her husband was John Duckworth) was John Fenwick's sister.