14 November 1816
Eliza Fenwick, Barbados, to Mary Hays, at N[athaniel]. Palmer’s, Esqr, Aldermanbury, London, Thursday, 14 November 1816.1
Barbadoes Thursday Novr 14 1816
The heaviest calamity of my life has fallen upon me! Ah My dear friend pardon my abruptness. I know not how to seek for terms of alleviation – Orlando is dead! Lost! gone forever! A cruel malignant fever which has spares the aged & devours the young has made me wretched. He was dancing here on Wednesday Novr 6th while my delighted eye dwelt on the grace & agility of his movements & the manly symmetry of his figure. The admiration he excited gratified my vain heart & on the following Wednesday Novr 13th he was consigned to the grave. Even Thursday morning the 8th he came on Horseback to our house & breakfasted. I observed that he did not look the worse for his dance & he replied he was always better for dancing & then rode off to the Castle to transact some business with the secretary of our late Governor who died last month of the same cruel disease. He never entered these doors again, but, on his return to Mr Hoziers from the Castle, he still appeared well & in high spirits. About 2 oClock he proposed settling some long accounts with a Capn of one of his employers vessels & took him & his papers up into Mr Hoziers drawing room as being freer from interruption than the Counting House. While thus occupied he suddenly laid back on the Sopha & Captn Padmore thought he was fatigued & sleepy & went on without speaking, but Mr Hozier chancing to come up & knowing that it was contrary to his active habits to sleep in the day, was alarmed & taking his hand found a heat on it that scorch’d his own. He remembered to have just seen the carriage of our most eminent Physician in the square flew out & brought him in. He ordered Orlando to be put to bed which Mr Rutherford happening to call assisted in doing, administered the medicine ordered, & then at Orlando’s request came home for me. I found him dozing in a profuse perspiration. He spoke cheerfully as I kiss’d him, & said – “Well, at last I think I have got the fever! Pray do not frighten yourself.” Said I “Remember how I struggled through it & recover’d to every ones amazement.” “So you did” he replied “And I am not at all frightened. I have no anxiety but that you should stay with me if it be possible.” I assured him I would. The apprehension of my not being with him arose from another affliction. Elizas eldest boy, a lovely creature, had broke his thigh by a fall a fortnight before, & was still confined to a fixed posture on his bed. His mother had never left him night or day & the care of the family & school had entirely rested upon me. The perspiration much abated the heat for some time but in the evening the raging heat returned. Dr Caddle came again at ten & had him taken out of bed & pails of cold water thrown on him from the greatest height the ceiling of the room would admit of. This operation was repeated every four hours and always gratified & relieved him. Friday Morning Dr C— came at 6 oClock opened the veins in his temple, & desired I should write to request Dr Dummett would meet & consult with him at 11 oClock. Dr Dummett always attends us. He is next in practice & eminence & they are both men of great medical skill & humanity. He came directly on receiving my note & found Orlando so much better, that going to our house in the course of the morning to dress the childs limb he assured Eliza that he did not find a symptom of the yellow fever & thought Dr Caddle had been too easily alarmed. Saturday he appeared to be quite well. Had a great & happy flow of spirits, talked of the past, with ^enjoyments^ & future prospects with animation, & jested about the consequence that illness made him of, because so many persons came to see him – Agreed with Mr Hozier that he would on Monday or Tuesday remove to our delightful house (as he called it) that the pure air might envigorate & save him from a relapse. The two physicians still attended several times each day. Dr Dummett was confident of his recovery & kept Eliza’s mind free from apprehension by his assurances to that purpose – Dr Caddle mingled fear with his hopes while I, Mr Rutherford, Mr Hozier and Eliza had nothing but hope till early Monday morning the fatal black vomittings commenced and then indeed hope expired. Eliza quitted her poor little sufferer at home & joined by Orlandos bedside which we never more left. He lasted contrary to the physicians expectations till 10 oClock Tuesday night Novr 12th. About 12 on Tuesday noon after two hours insensibility, he opened his glazed & almost sightless eyes & ^in faltering accents^ asked for me, then for Eliza, & then for Mr Rutherford we were all close beside him “I am glad you are all here,” said he “for I believe I am going to leave you! – Forgive me if I have ever offended you! – Let me take a last leave of you while I can” We embraced him & with an effort he fervently kissed me & his Sister & grasping Mr Rutherfords hand he lay some minutes exhausted. Then with a deep sigh & a firmer tone of voice exclaimed My poor Father! I love him! Tell him so Mama! And bid my Uncle farewell for me! Send my love & farewell to all the family.” His voice now failing he murmured other farewells which we could not understand – afterwards he gave another sigh said “his poor father[”] & went on “I have led an unworthy life! I have never done any thing criminal – No—No I have not been vicious but foolish – I ought to have done better and more!” (I think his fathers situation was then dwelling on his thoughts for he intended beginning next year to make him a regular provision.) Mr Rutherford took that opportunity of asking if he should read a prayer to him to which he replied eagerly Oh Yes! & Mr R— selected one from the visitation of the sick in the Church ritual & though his voice was broken by sobs Lanno seemed to understand & be pleased. A placid smile stole over his features & near the end he dropped asleep. On awaking he called for Mr Hozier who had scarcely left his chamber night or day. When told he held Mr Hoziers hand he said “God bless you! May you always be prosperous! – you deserve it! – Take care of some villains here who envy & want to ruin you – I mean some merchants here – Farewell!” Soon after he roused himself again & said Mother dear! Eliza dear! – Do not grieve! – Pay all my debts – they are not many – I do not owe five pounds – but pay – pay.” He then slept & and in an hour revived to such a favorable appearance that all our silenced hopes revived also & even Dr Dummett was so struck by the change that he ordered fresh stimulants Alas! it was but the quiet fatal progress of internal mortification. He became restless, delirious, unconscious of our presence, & seemed to suffer terrible agonies. Once he rose in bed suddenly & throwing his arms round ^me^ with a firm grasp solicited my love and forgiveness for any pain he had ever caused me. Soon after he became quiet, lay gradually and seren^e^ly sinking into the arms of death and drew his last breath without a sigh groan or struggle at 10 oClock on the night of Novr 12th. He was at first more beautiful than I ever saw corpse or sleeping youth. Mr Rutherford & Mr Hozier were desirous of having a cast taken, which an ingenious young artist of this place proposed to do, but the malignity of the horrible disease made the mortification so violent that it was necessary to cover him hastily with lime & he was buried yesterday 13th at one oClock!!
To say what we suffer is impossible. He was our pride & joy Mr Rutherford loved him fondly & I must repeat Mr Hoziers eulogium in his own words on the night he died. Mr Rutherford observed that he had not left his equal behind him on this Island – “No said Mr Hozier “nor on any other that I have ever seen – He was the finest young man I ever beheld such generous feelings – such noble principles he had! And with all the striking accomplishments of a Gentleman he had the most persevering steadiness & activity of a complete man of business. It is not the clerk that I lose & regret but one I have loved & fostered as a brother. Since the first three months he was with me I have looked forward to a permanent connection I have looked up to him as one who was to extend the interests and do credit to our house by his integrity and ability. He would have become one of the first men in any community.” Such was his employers praise and as a corroborating testimony of one part his last voyage to St Lucie (from which he only arrived Octr 28th the day two years of our landing on this Island) was made not on Mr Hoziers account but for another merchant who with a House full of older Clerks had engaged Orlando with Mr Hoziers consent to transact a difficult & important negotiation that he could only trust where implicit confidence could be placed in ability & integrity. He succeeded beyond Mr Walkers hopes. In his constant trips to the various Islands & he has been at almost all, he invariably succeeded for Mr Hozier in every speculation he made. His introductions were always to the first commercial houses & he was every where caressed commended & distinguished. His fine person too had its influence – 5 feet 11 inches in height with a light & muscular figure. His features too highly improved made him very handsome though he had lost the bloom he had brought from Europe. – Such was Orlando! Eliza ^now^ overwhelmed by this stroke has still her two children & will soon have a third to console & keep alive hopes & expectations but with me all is darkness & desolation. His talents, his merits, his beauty are everybody’s theme but we who knew his heart, his freedom from vice of every kind who possessed his affections who were daily cheered after our hours of toil by the irresistible influence of his high animal spirits what is to become of us!!
Oh Mary dear long loved friend! write to me. He talked of you last Sunday, revisited in memory the pleasant hours he passed under your protection & fondness. He always loved you – I have just heard that an English vessel sails to-day to overtake the last Packet. Farewell! Farewell! Yours most truly
Pray for me & love me
Address: Mrs M. Hays | N. Palmers Esqr | Aldermanbury
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 183-87; Grundy, Secresy, 368-73; not in Brooks, Correspondence. A note on the address page reads, “Have you received the bill? I sent it. I am going on with the [proof?] H.C. R.” A copy of the letter can be found in the Crabb Robinson Archive at Dr. Williams's Library, DWL/HCR/5/5/130, with a note from Fenwick (see next letter). HCR's note on the copy of the above letter reads: "Mrs Fenwick the death of her son – An admirable woman vide Reminiscences To Mary Hays (a copy)." Orlando Fenwick died of yellow fever at the age of 18, a devastating blow to Fenwick's hopes for some portion of financial relief in her latter years, something would be further aggravated with the loss of her daughter, Eliza, in 1828, leaving her with the care of her four young grandchildren at the age of 64.