8 and 14 October 1813
Eliza Fenwick, Lee Mount, to Mrs. M. Hays, to the care of Thos Hays, Esqr, Mill Street, Dock Head, Southwark, 8 and 14 October 1813.1
Lee Mount Octr 8th & 14th 1813
My dear Friend,
The sight of your letter gave me inexpressible pleasure which the contents did not diminish because I found even among the most serious of its expressions a tone of vigour & cheerfulness <–> ^that^ of late has
bee rarely been visible – that my last should not have come to your hands did cost me a pang of vexation, for I had written in great uneasiness about your long silence, but a mysterious fate seems to <–> swallow up my letters for more now reach their destination – more of this anon – It is your summer excursions, your freedom from trammels & society uncongenial to your taste & feelings that have awakened long dormant impulses of vivacity of mind which gleams through this long expected & most delightful letter. I do not believe that I have any sympathy for your being cast upon strangers, because you will then make your own way, have the respect paid you, & win the distinctions that relatives have withheld perhaps from a consciousness of the vast distance between you on the score of real superiority. Next to the affection & affectionate intercourse of congenial friends the society wherein you are allowed to stand conspicuously the first, is the most desirable unless indeed the disparity between you & your associates be not of an inferiority so great as to create contempt or disgust, which I trust will not be your misfortune in Northamptonshire. You too are so gentle so considerate towards weaker intellects that you will invite & not repel the advances & confidence of those around. Entering also among strangers upon the footing of independence,2 I cannot but imagine you will escape every species of humiliation, & could I once remove you with a wish to Clifton, & the Westons3 (if they really be what I suppose) I should not fear receiving a succession of cheerful letters & that you might pass a long interval of tranquil days such as may be deemed the only substitute now for faded hopes, & blighted expectations – I quit you now to imagination, to shew you how much more I meant4 the accusation of Egotism than you do – on the 13th of Sepr my dear Mary I received the following letter from Antigua[.]
July 20th 1813
To my beloved Mother
I think in less than 48 hours you will be enrolled in the venerable list of Grandmama’s, while you, unconscious of the approach of any such misfortune, are still, I dare say fancying yourself quite a young woman. But what will you say to me for never having popped the secret out before? Will you not call me deceitful to have written so often & never even hinted at the circumstance. Do not be angry. It has
me cost me a world of trouble to keep clear of the subject, but it was easier to be quite silent than it would have been to have spoken by halves. I could not have said any thing about my situation without complaining of the impossibility of your being with me & I well know how much the knowledge of my anxiety would increase your own. I have often heard you speak of your sufferings when I was born and the danger your life was in & I resolved, by being silent till I could positively say I was safe & well again to save you the many hours of conjecture and alarm you would otherwise have suffered from the moment of first knowing my situation till now. Indeed I doubt if I had spoken of it to you at first & had described freely my excessive wishes for your presence, whether you would not have packed up & come hither in the first ship ready to take you, at any risque or inconvenience to yourself. But Both yr Children but particularly your first cost you a great deal of suffering & I think you would scarcely have credited how I told you how perfectly well I have been all the time. The only complaint I have been troubled with is ill temper. Falling into violent fits of passion & petulance on the slightest contradiction. That disorder was most inconvenient to poor Mr Rutherford as it all fell upon him. However, I have got rid of it & am very fast regaining my original sweetness of disposition. You said some time ago in one of your letters that Mrs Honner was pregnant and had dreadful fits of dejection & low spirits & I had a great inclination to bid you to request of her to follow my example & instead of being unhappy herself to divert her own spirits by tormenting & scolding every body about her. As it is now the end of the month in which I have all along expected to be confined & as I have [spent] the whole of this morning, at intervals in excessive pain, I conclude I must now be very near my time. I do not and indeed I never have for a moment felt the slightest alarm. Tho certainly that is no fault of the good ladies I have happened to be in company with. From what principle of kindness & benevolence can it proceed do you suppose – that earnest desire which the Ladies I am acquainted with here have shewn to give me a full idea of the dangers and pains I have to encounter. They are determined I shall not be surprised at any suffering that may come. I sat for above an hour one evening laughing in my sleeve, at the affectionate trouble a good old Lady was taking to describe to me the nature of the pain I might expect which, to repeat her own words “could only be compared to the torments of Hell, for it was <–> impossible that any thing on earth could equal it. In my old hardened way just as I hear of Earthquakes Hurricanes &c I smiled & said, Indeed! dear me! and Well then I am determined to have a boy, for certainly a girl cannot be worth all this trouble. By the bye Mrs Thompson was brought to bed the beginning of this month & has got a girl; I wished for one but if mine is a girl I shall sell it. I am not breaking through my determination of keeping my situation a secret from you by all this gossip, for if I am not confined yet for a month this letter will not go out of my possession – I am afraid the good Lady was nearly in the right for I am in such agony I cannot write any longer. Farewell at present my beloved Mother!” Then follows in Mr Rutherfords handwriting
“My dearest Madam
Thank God the alarm the beginning of this letter must give you can last no longer than it takes you to read to the foregoing line & that it already falls to my lot to tell you that all is happily over. Eliza has proved quite prophetic – She said it would happen on the 29th & that it wd [be] a boy & was right in both. When admitted to see her this morning I said I must write to your Mother directly, not having the slightest idea that she had already begun a letter to you on the subject, even in the midst of her sufferings. It is now 2 oClock in the day just 12 hours since the little fellow joined us, and both Mother [&] babe look and are well.5 We have indeed kept our secret completely, & I am truly glad of it – You have been spared many an anxious ^hour^ & we the thought of your uneasiness – Yes, Orlando is now an Uncle even in Ireland where, had it proved a Girl he would only have been an Aunt.”
I need not my dear friend proceed to copy the rest of Mr R—s letter which is throughout the testimony of a happy delighted Husband under the most interesting of circumstances. Imagine if you ^can^ at once my astonishment and agitation and joy. Think too my friend how much this concealment of Eliza’s ^has^ befriended ^me^. Mrs Honner was delivered on the 23d of July – I was with her. Her life was in extreme danger (as I have already told you in a letter which by yours I find never reached you) & a fine child so hurt in the birth that it only lived three days. What should I have suffer’d had I known that my beloved daughter was liable about the same time to the same dangers & no such soothing maternal support as Mrs Honner seemed to feel mine to be, near to
support ^cheer^ & assist her in the dreadful hour. To the love that I ^have^ ever borne her as a parent, to the esteem many instances of her right feeling & <–> sound principles have won from me is now added a sensation of fervent & profound gratitude for that self denial that consideration for my feelings which induced her to conceal her situation from me. while Was it not <–> heroical to write so cheerfully even after her pains had begun? I wonder if a letter was ever written at such a moment before, or if there were, whether it contained any thing but Ah’s & Oh’s—? This letter which was committed on the 29th of July to the last vessel of the fleet which had abided beyond the rest reached me before two others sent by different ships of the same fleet which had sailed a few days earlier in the same month. Receiving them since, it seemed odd on the first reading not to find any mention of her situation but calling to mind the dates & her resolution of silence they proved a satisfactory corroboration of the health & ease she enjoyed during her state of pregnancy They are so sportive & gay that it would appear almost as if care or apprehension could not approach her & yet in her letters of June & July I find two sources of pain to her one of vexation & the other of a tenderer alarm. The most unaccountable cessation of letters from me has given her as Mr Rutherford describes some terrible pangs but still more resentment than alarm for she courageously relies on my never neglecting the specified times of writing & believes that some unaccountable misapprehension or mismanagement governs the destination of my letters & prevents their reaching her. Letters from Mr & Miss Lamb have arrived by the very packets that carried none from me, yet have I never broke in upon my promised punctuality of writing twice a month except the third Wednesday either of March or April which in deep despondency I passed by. That was my only neglect & what abyss can have swallowed up all my long letters, how can I divine. I have set many engines at work to discover this mischief & trust it will soon be developed. My last to you I imagine has been stopped by Mr Robinson having been out of town to which I hear from Miss Lamb he is now returning & through her I shall learn ^of him^ whether any chance or change in the secretarys office has retarded or intercepted my letters.6 Lately I have forwarded my epistles to Antigua through the Common Post medium which has been the cause why I did not write you a third letter. I [am] now relying on Mr Robinsons return venture to go back to the accustomed channel & flatter myself this will have a happier fate than the last I addressed to you.
I wonder at Mrs Hewitts encomiums on me, for certainly I did not always approve of her dashing style & was the more free in my censures as my eldest pupil is
of just of the age to adopt such an example. However, with all her coquetry Mrs H— is certainly good natured & I thank her in an especial degree because I know that her praise gave you pleasure. That she should commend our boy I do not wonder for he was evidently much in her favor. The day that your letter arrived he came having on the Sunday left his Keys here. I read him passages – sometimes his color rose & a tear glistened in his eyes. “Tell her,” said he, “that no encrease of size or age ought to make a ^chosen^ Mother reluctant to kiss her adopted son.” He knows what he owes to you. It was your interference that first emboldened me to snatch him from the destructive Jurisdiction of his father & Uncle. He sometimes pourtrays his former miseries and contrasts ^them^ with his present privileges in a forcible & affecting manner & not even the wildest riot of his fantastic spirits ca ever make him heedless of my requests or injunctions. I wish you could peep at him – partly your own creation too – and a noble boy. I am envied on his behalf. Robt Honner stands at a vast distance from him. Father & Mother see it, & the former has been at times a little sore on the superior notice Orlando attracts from the visitors but the mother with candour & sweetness acknowledges the fact, commends & carress caresses Lanno & holds him up to son & daughters as an example. Mr Honner is now also reconciled to let Orlando take the lead & himself confers it on him very often. What I once apprehended of Miss Honner has been smoothed & saved by an intuitive feeling of propriety in Lanno’s mind that seems above the scope of his years. He behaves to her invariably as to the younger girls, shews her no distinction nor any particular avoidance. Never appears to seek or to engross her, but walks or talks or dances with her & her sisters in compar common. One only distinction he practices & that is he never romps with her or gives her his arm but turns her over on these occasions to her brother & takes a younger. At Table when he has the choice of Seats he comes to my side [and] leaves Robert to sit by Mary-Anne. These are only outlines – A thousand little other observances of the kind he constantly uses by which he has secured the confidence of the Mother who is jealously vigilant over this girl & was little startled by the warmth of her encomiums on Orlando. – Very praise-worthy as he has often been told by the female servants that all the girls are in love with him & that Miss Honner worships the ground he steps on. (This was told me, by Mrs Honners own maid, but that he never seemed to take any notice of it.) The Baby Emily is fond of him & he of her. But his nephew – Oh what pride & delight he feels at the idea of fondling & helping to rear his sisters babe. His impatience to join them was great before, but now it is scarcely to be repress’d & unless any contingency happens to alter our views & frustrate our present plans he will go ^to the West Indies^ in the ensuing spring. He is to be placed with one of the most considerable professors of the law during the necessary period of his preparation for becoming a pleader in the West India Courts. Attorney and Barrister are united in the same person there, & Mr Rutherford ^believes^ that a young man such as Lanno is likely to be, with such advantages of spirit, talent, & manners as he supposes him to possess cannot fail to be bright & successful & soon to become independent. The preparations are not so expensive as in England & Mr R— says the progress is more rapid. Besides he urges the advantages & happiness Lanno may enjoy by partaking a happy home & having his Mother & Sister at hand to stimulate & to guard ^him^. Mr R—s pictures have been enchanting of our domestic improvements together & caused Orlando & I to mingle tears & smile, as we send them. His letters to Orlando have been cooler reasonings & statements on the nature of the profession; its claims & duties, all which Orlando has viewed & heartily adopted the determination to apply with all his soul to the attainment of the necessary knowledge. He attended all the trials of the last Cork assizes & gathered some information. With this plan is connected that of my uniting with Eliza to open a school at Barbadoes on which they are both very sanguine. They have pressed me warmly to come out by the next fleet, but I have deferd my determination till next summer. My heart leans to the undertaking but I will do nothing rashly. Should I go my dear friend I shall again tax your friendship to procure me recommendatory letters. They are of great weight in that proud Island & to be well spoken of myself ^from England^ added to the favorable impression in my behalf gained by Eliza will she says secure the whole Island zealously in our interests. I have outrun my paper so much in prating of this good-looking boy that I have not room left to detail all the considerations that tempt me to try my fortune in a new world & must defer them till I write again. Do not think me mad at my time of life & with my infirmities. Eliza seems to think I shall recover from every ailment there & live forever, – at any rate it is something to be nursed & tended by two such Children. I meant instead of talking so much of myself & Orlando to make extracts from some of Eliza’s playful passages but have not left myself scope. I began this letter last week, since which I have been confined three days to my bed with a severe Rheumatic pain in my back which rendered me helpless. It has much abated & is returning into my knee. This climate is damp. My former disease has again left me. I think it was my fatigue & anxiety about Mrs Honner that brought it on. I have not hinted here yet of the plan I have in consideration. Shd I see fit to decline it, it is better unknown. If I go I will take care they shall have time to make due arrangements. It will be received as a calamity by Mrs H— & that is in return most painful to me. But they cd not keep me many years longer. I shall not be needed & I am an expensive Governess to them. Will you cross the Atlantic with me dear Mary? Ah you have not my boldness. We cannot be ever sunder’d by bounds that seem more impassable than we now are. In leaving London (where < > I can hope to be if in England) I think you removed to an immeasurable ^distance^. Shd Orlando go to London before he departs Westward how extraordinary it will seem that he can no longer find you in its neighbourhood. Separations are odious things. How ill I managed my early fortunes to be tossed to & fro upon the globe when I ought to be stationary in my native land amidst the circle of my dearest connections – These are painful thoughts.
I shall be very anxious to hear particulars of your new abode & equally so to learn if this letter ever reaches you. It is an illegible scrawl but my hand from the late pains is unsteady. The torn place I did not see till I had wrote down to it. Forgive it & all other mistakes & negligences of your affectionate friend
Address: For | Miss M. Hays | to the care of Thos Hays Esqr | Mill Street | Dock Head | Southwark
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 142-47; not in Brooks, Correspondence.
2 independent] MS
3 Already Hays had entertained the idea of removing to Bristol to live with the former Miss Weston, now Mrs. Penelope Pennington. Hays will live there beginning in the fall of 1814, after returning from Northamptonshire and Mrs. Mackie's school.
4 ment] MS
5 The birth of Eliza Fenwick's first grandchild, William Rutherford.
6 Robinson routinely traveled, either in England or abroad, in September and October each year. The reference to changes in the Secretary's Office would have to do with Thomas Amyot (see previous letter).