c. late December 1811
Eliza Fenwick, [5 Tavistock Square], to Mary Hays, Wandsworth Common, [no address page or postmark] [c. late December 1811].1
(I have thrown down my Ink Excuse the blot.)2
It does appear that the nomination of a Cadet must take place before his admission into the College near Croydon,3 but then it is for Cadets of the Engineer & Artillery service, and it is possible that your brother might not mean that, though I do not imagine it makes any difference which he asks of Sir William Curtis. Did I not tell you that Mrs Hall where I lived at Chiswick got this very appointment for her son only by going to a Director in person & stating (vulgarly enough I will answer for it) their difficulties in providing for 9 children. When I saw her last summer the ^youth^ had just been sent out on the Artillery service after having been three years at the College. He was when Lanno’s age both an effeminate & timid boy spirited boy, good but not bright. Afterwards being sent to Merchant Taylers school, he grew no doubt more manly.
Do not heed me if I am too importunate on this subject. It is very natural for a fond mother to be anxious to place her boy in a situation so good in its prospects and so congenial to his mental & bodily temperament. I never shall forget what I felt when Mr Hays made me an offer so gratifying to my wishes, but if I am too eager to press my the notification of his promise I can bear to be checked.
I am better again but Dr Reid4 now thinks I shall be liable to frequent returns of the spasms & that the helpful use of tonic medicines is my only resource. It is an uncomfortable thing to be always taking physic, nor is it possible for me to live precisely as I am order’d, where I cannot command or select. As to the warm bath it is utterly out of my reach the expence is above my means. Nor could I, in this house get a slipper bath her filled for there is no wash-house, nor wd, as you may suppose, the servts take the trouble of such a preparation even if there were. I am very much out of humour with my situation just now. The children are very troublesome & irritate my system – then making now but one family I feel the most insupportable weight from the dull superciliousness of Mr Mocatta, & her petty inarticulate, though good natured, loquaciousness. Shut out from the resource at those <–> times of a book or my pen & unable from the season to retire to my chamber I really find my mind jaded and my temper soured. This I meant by my unadorned path of duty. I wo confess I express’d myself ill because the duty is to my children and their affection and good qualities are a reward. I am glad that you think as I do respecting Lanno’s religion. I used to be so disgusted & shocked at the blind coarse ignorant infidelity of Holcrofts Children that I should almost have preferred making sectaries of mine. Unable however to teach what I did not believe, and thrown as Eliza was occasionally into ^the^ society of Sceptics she was left to herself or to chance, and she has formed ^for herself^ a religion of moral precepts & an undefined (perhaps) feeling of devotion to a sublime & supreme first cause. Orlando has fallen more into the ordinary course, and, as you say, since youth wants every restraint of principle in against the impulses of the passions, I am always glad when he is in the way of having religious feelings & impressions cultivated. That he has got over his bashfulness in not reading his Chapter in turn also pleases me. Supposing he shd not now get his Cadetship & an admission to the college I shall still have the solace of his being under your eye and guided by your affectionate & enlightened counsels. He finds friends or those who treat him in a friendly manner in the owners of your house which gratifies both him & me.
When I used the term condescend it was meant rather sarcastically than literally. It was a moment of discontent – & petulance with me. Why I applied to Mrs Hays I can’t tell for she has been invariably polite to me & obliging & kind to mine. The Children pester me & I can say I often write ambiguously if not absurdly.
Now having talked of myself & my petty concerns through three pages let me testify that I am not wholly insensible to your comfort by assuring you I will omit no opportunity of making such progressive enquiries as may lead to your forming an estimate of the habits of the family you name. I have scatter’d remembrance of hearing that Southey5 domesticates but little with his family (though kind & good tempered) because he is always engrossed by study during the day & goes to bed at eight at night, that Mrs S— formerly so taciturn as to say scarcely more than yes & no in 12 hours is now gown chatty & talkative. The homage done to her beauty when abroad with Mr S— gave her importance in her own eyes & changed her manners & habits entirely. Miss Beetham6 has stayed there at times & between her & the Lambs (but when I shall see Miss B— I cannot say) I shall get much more decided information than I now give you. If I had but the means of opening a school & had a fair prospect before me perhaps you would look to my roof & not think of going so far to try new friends for kindness & domestic comfort. How I pine for a home you best can judge.
Eliza, or rather the Olive Branch, must, no so Sailors say, have got out into the Atlantic before the late gales which they heed not where they have sea room enough. I hope & trust her voyage is nearly ended. Mrs Collier sent me a kind invitation for Monday ^Wedy^ evening & I risqued such hazard in going rather than be based at home with these boys, so not to infringe on established rules I took my little girl with me, by which I gratified Mama abundantly & reconciled her to our being out together, & gained myself a Coach. You see I am learning to manoeuvre.
Let me know what you do respecting Mr H. & explain that the for the College the Cadetship must be for the Artillery & Engineer Service. I have a thousand qualms about not succeeding for my bonny boy.
With best compts to Mr & Mrs Hays.
I have no room to speak of the Piano so must defer it till I write again.
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 53-55; not in Brooks, Correspondence.
2 A large blot of ink is evident on the right hand side at the top of the page.
3 Addiscombe Military College (see previous note, Fenwick to Hays, c. early October 1811).
4 John Reid was now serving as Fenwick's doctor.
5 Hays had already broached the idea with Fenwick of living in the Southey household at Greta Hall, Keswick, though she would not approach Southey directly with this idea until early 1813. He would not accept her proposal, and apparently did so in a somewhat harsh manner. See Fenwick to Hays, 28 April .
6 Matilda Betham (1776-1852) was a writer and literary socialite in London at that time.