3 June 1813
Eliza Fenwick, Lee Mount, to Miss Hays, at J. Hays Esqr, Paragon, Blackheath, 3 June 1813.1
Lee Mount June 3d 1813
Thank you my dear friend a thousand times for the solace of your letter & its rational consolations. The latter though not too late for my affection certainly ^arrived^ too late for my sorrow, which had all vanished a few hours before at the reading of shoals of letters from Eliza, written from three separate Islands & of many dates from Novr 30th up to March 25th yet all came at the same time. No mischief has happened to her, on the contrary prosperity still smiles upon her. I wish I could convey these letters to you for you may imagine their voluminous size when, unusually closely written, the postage from London only cost me £1..13..13. They charged me by weight, the sheets are very large & one written in Decr had under the seal a bright golden guinea as a Christmas box for Orlando. It is so long since I saw a guinea before that I looked at it as if doubtful of its value.
These letters give in their animated playful flow a picture of a contented heart, depicting present happiness, good success and the liveliest hopes of futurity. Pray Heaven she be not become too sanguine! It seems at the end of the St Croix season she & Mr Rutherford resolved to quit the company, not liking many of them & being displeased with Mr Adamsons abuse of the Managerial power with which he was invested. Having been long solicited to go to Antiqua they proceeded from Santa Cruz to St Bartholomews, expecting there to engage a vessel to carry then to Antigua; but no sooner arrived than they were strongly solicited to play ^there^ with the Gentlemen of the Island, who built ^had fitted up^ a Theatre for their own performances, and accordingly they remained six weeks, but disliking the Island, which belongs to the Swedes, no English packets touching there, not being able to get my letters from Barbadoes & uncertain whether mine their own sent round by chance Vessels, would ever reach me Elizas discontent & uneasiness induced Mr R—to reject all proposals for a longer stay & proceed to Antigua. Their Bartholemew expedition defrayed all expences from St Croix to Antigua beside ^their^ living & servants which was very well. With her flattering & handsome reception at Antigua among Mr Rutherfords connections, Eliza is so highly pleased that she wishes to make that Island her abode till she returns to England. The Theatre is convenient & comfortable It was built by the Amateurs & Mr R. managed it for them upwards of a year. He now rents it & all the performers (except themselves) play gratis, ^so that^ when the expences of lights & door keepers are paid, the produce of the night is their own. It must be considerable, for they play but twice a month yet Eliza seems to expect the profit will enable them (“at no very distant period”) to return to England & quit the stage, for Mr R— to practice the Law. On their first arrival an English friend of Mr R—s insisted on carrying them to Monteros the name of his estate about four miles from St Johns the capital of the Island, to remain with his family till they had procured themselves a house; but on their fixing on one Mr & Mrs Green profess’d great reluctance to part with them & at length proposed their boarding at Monteros, which they gladly acceeded to, paying 16 dollars weekly. (Eliza says they paid Mr Dyke twenty). This arrangement saved their buying furniture & is infinitely more convenient in all respects. A gig or a saddle horse is always at her command. She has her own man servant & is very grand, but is still the same affectionate girl & declares she wd rather be compelled to undertake every dirty domestic office in an underground kitchen in London than be the finest mistress of a train of slaves, on condition of a much longer separation from me & Orlando. Mr R— has written most affectionately to both of us – One thing gives me some alarm. Just before ^their^ last left Antigua one of my desponding letters had arrived & affected Mr R— so much that he expresses a wish to put an end to these anxieties by coming home this summer. Concious that subsequent letters have been worse & that I twice neglected my accustomed period of writing. I dread lest my folly should influence them to an imprudent measure. It shall be a lesson to me for the future. To take them from such fair prospects to the uncertainties of English affairs would be madness. She describes her health as being excellent & the kindness ^confidence^ & affection of her husband unvarying. I do not perceive any expression in her letters or his that indicates the likelihood of an encrease to their family & I hope this circumstance will be at least deferred much longer.
The opportunity of sending this by Mrs Hewitt to London has occurred very suddenly & I have not the time to select or copy extracts for you. I can only hurry over this incoherent account of the termination of my alarms. The very receipt of these letters most ^has^ proved the accuracy of your judgment in calling my disorder nervous. I am amended to a degree I could not have expected in so short a time & I promise myself that a little fine weather will banish all that remains. I imagined I had told you that ^blisters^ cupping, leeches & scaryfying had all been tried upon me on the first attack without success. Nothing seemed to reach the seat of the complaint. From regular & moderate exercise, when able to stand I have never varied, but I have not been six times up till 12 oClock since Christmas. The w half whole family, servants & all, are frequently indeed generally in bed by 10. Mrs Honner & I frequently leave the parlour at ¼ past nine as soon as the Tea tray is gone. I constantly rise at 6 & from ½ past till 8 oClock I ^now^ usually walk. My knees are less troublesome than towards evening & I am become fond of going out before breakfast; but as to lessening the quantity of my labour or rendering it less fatigueing I cannot do with a safe conscience. My accomodation is so much considered, I meet with such consistent respect & my boy is made so perfectly would one of the family that I cannot endure to neglect an iota of my duties more especially as nothing is prescribed to me. By conversing with Mrs Honner & Mrs Hewitt who were certainly very highly bred I have managed (artfully enough you will say) to draw from them a knowledge of ^certain particulars of^ my trade which I had not before. I profited by the hints I gathered & fortunately Mrs Honner feeling many inconveniences which arise by ^from^ her having been trained only to the marital is anxious to blend the rational & useful with it, which suits with my wish ^exactly.^ The children, bred among the crouching Malays & Paria casts of India are turbulent & very inaccessible to these graces & strict polish of manners which Mrs H— lays too great a stress on & therefore they require more watching more catechising than many others would ^do.^ They certainly are very much improved & wound & shock Mama much less frequently. I suspect the climate to be rather uncongenial to my frame. When in Ireland before I had indifferent health – There will always be a something.
Mrs Honner suffers very much in her pregnancy & yields most injuriously to depression of spirits & inactive habits. The greater charge is placed in my hands from her inability & reluctance to exertion.
I have not read Rokeby2 but Orlando has. His Master had it soon after its publication for 24 hours from the Cork Institution library & Mr Mrs & Mr J Humphries with Orlando sat up that night to read it. His commendations of the poem were so much like yours as to make me stare at the coincidence. Two days after the reading he came to Lee Mount & detailed to me the whole plan of the story described the characters & repeated some short passages. The rejected addresses delighted him – They fell in with his humour & with extravagant action he often spouts lines of their Mock Heroics. I have not seen that book either. We get none which is a great draw back upon our comforts.
Lanno was in raptures with his sisters letters only cannot endure that Mr Rutherford should address me by the title of Mother. He declares he will write to forbid him that privilege. In all other respects his heart inclines toward the man who renders his sister ^so happy &^ who renders his sister courts his affection with a tender solicitude. He is very well very happy & much improving. Unfit as I now am for toils and struggles at times I almost wish he were but 5 years old that I might defer the perplexing consideration of his settlement.
I am much pleased with your satisfactory visit to Blackheath, and indignant at your ungenerous treatment from another quarter.3 I could not have supposed it possible. My dear friend what despicable heartless beings you & I have met in our weary sojourn through this vale of tears. I have, perhaps, a truly feminine curiosity respecting the hint you gave. I cannot but suppose that the story has some connection with yourself and therefore claim it. The demands you speak of for board of a female seem to me enormous. I wish we had the cottage Eliza speaks of! Vain wish unless you have quite determined against such a plan You might advertise for the superintendence of a Motherless family & by stating that domestic comfort of accommodation and a respectable asylum was all the remuneration you wished, I think it ten to one that ^but^ you might have a choice of situations. In that case you could fix upon a narrow course of labour for yourself & give the bulk of the trouble to deputies of your own choosing.
If still at Black-heath present my congratulations to your brother & his Lady – I had almost forgot to say that on the arrival of yours I wrote to Mr Lamb requesting him to receive from Mr Mocatta (of Eliza’s money) the six pounds for you, because I thought it safer than to trust Bank bills by the post, beside which the exchange from Irish to English money is troublesome. I did not then imagine Mrs Hewitt wd go before Sepr & I desired Miss L. to give you notice as soon as they had got the money.
I have hurried through this letter with a speed that may render it unintelligible. If you can make out that I am healthier & happier than when I last wrote your sympathising friendship will forgive all defects. I long to hear from you again and with fervent & affectionate wishes am my dear friend
ever sincerely yours
I will if my head has no relapse endeavour to make some extracts from ^for^ the next letter. There is a passage addres’d to you in one. Adieu Adieu
Address: For | Miss Hays | J. Hays Esqr | Paragon | Blackheath
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 137-40; not in Brooks, Correspondence.
2 Sir Walter Scott's narrative poem, Rokeby, appeared in 1813.
3 She is still visiting with her brother John and his new family at Blackheath; the "other quarter" is not known, but it is possible difficulties may have arisen between Mary Hays and her brother Thomas which may also have precipitated her decision to leave London.