29 October 1811

Eliza Fenwick, London, to Mary Hays, Wandsworth Common, Tuesday evening, [29 October 1811].1

Tuesday Evening

     The same post that brought me your & Orlando’s gratifying letters brought me the enclosed from Mr F—. What a strange inconsistent thing is human nature. Would any one uninformed of its waywardness & the dominion of the passions believe that the man who can occasionally feel & reason so properly could act so cruelly. I think you had better shew Orlando this letter. I know he has felt many heart burnings against his father & I would, for his own sake rather lessen than encrease them. It will also perhaps render him less reluctant to go to him during the holidays, at the same time it will afford you an opportunity of pointing out to Orlando the danger of yielding to intemperate habits of any kind & the debasement of character they occasion.  You can return the letter hereafter.

       Yes my dear friend we are very differently constituted from the people we have some reason to any envy & perhaps some to despise. Happier had it been for both probably had not this difference existed; but it is too late to transform our mental organization and we have only endurance not enjoyment now to expect. We are unfitted for what is within our reach & what we are fitted for is beyond our reach.

      I left you on Sunday week with much pain of mind because it seemed to me you were even less happy than I had supposed. My dear Mary our feelings & situations are in many points similar & after some months of restless pining discontents I have found the way to be easier in my bonds. Eliza first reasoned with me on the impossibility of removing mountains of prejudice, or vivifying mere animal matter; you did me the same service & both together roused me to consider what I had to gain by useless efforts to amend heads & hearts which nature left defective, & what I had to lose by shewing my dislikes & stating objections & censures, where selfishness & vanity offended me. I now let the current of error & folly flow on without an effort to stop it. I reap the benefit in being more valued, & rendered more comfortable. Let them imagine if they will that I approve because I do not condemn, I care not. “My mind to me a kingdom is.” I think some conformity of this kind would serve you. People will pamper their children, I see that in a ten-fold degree here, to what you witness. Let it pass without seeing it. While you find no fault <–> with their conduct they will set a higher ^value^ on your labours; and these children will probably tread in their parents steps to prosperity without imbibing one atom of that spirit you are wearing yourself out to impose into them. I am sure I need not apologize for these the expressions. My anxiety for your peace dictates to my pen. It certainly is in some respects a valuable asylum for you & I wish you, as you exhorted me, to overlook & forget what you cannot amend.2

        My boys letters improve I think in succession. I am proud of him. My children are my life[.] They seem to pay me back the existence I gave to them, I sometimes wish Orlando had less, or a more tempered sensibility, but then again I remember that the habits of society soon harden the hearts of men, so let him feel as long as the cold the selfish masculine world will let him.

      Eliza was with me yesterday & left me today. I treated her unhandsomely, for I made her a nurse. I had a dreadful attack of my complaint which lasted me greater part of the night. I am but poorly in consequence now, but have no pain.

    We move to No 5 Tavistock Square next Monday.3 Write before that & enclose me Mr Wilkinsons bill. I believe Lanno has had shoes this quarter.

     We have not heard from Mr Brown. Coleridge I think only writes for the Courier.  If for the Times it is a new thing but I will enquire.4

        Remember me to yr family

                & believe me ever yours

                                        E. F.


I did once think of asking you respecting the propriety of asking Mr Hays to change his intended service of the Cadetship for the admission into this College as both he meant to ask the former appointment of Sir W. Curtis,5 but I consider’d that just now his head is fully occupied & that it might be as well to see whether any of Mr F—s connections could or would assist in this business

    I scarcely know what I write for the furniture is already packing up & we have but one room in common for all The piano-forte & flute are going on one side of me & Mr & Mrs M. in earnest conversation on the other.

Address: None

Postmark: None


1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 46-48; not in Brooks, Correspondence

2 Another indication that Mary Hays was involved in the education of several of her brother's children at this time, and may have been the primary reason for her removal from Islington in 1809. Fenwick's comments also suggest that Hays's instruction, either her content or techniques, may not have always been as well received as she would have liked. 

3 The Mocattas' move to Tavistock Square will be delayed a few weeks, as subsequent letters reveal

4 References are to Samuel Brown and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 

5 Sir William Curtis (1752-1829) of Lombard Street was a banker who Alderman for the Tower Ward in London in 1785, Sheriff in 1788, and Lord Mayor in 1795-96. He was an MP for the City of London from 1790 to 1818. He was also one of the Directors of the East India Company.