26 September 1816
Eliza Fenwick, Barbados, to Mary Hays, at N[athaniel]. Palmers, Esqr, Aldermanbury, London, 26 September 1816.1
Barbados Sepr 26th 1816
I have my dear Mary a large sheet of paper in my desk [written] from April 15th, a memorable day here, to the 20th admirably recounting all our terrors &c in the progress of the Negroes insurrection, & addressed to you. The news is now old & it is useless to try to interest you about a danger which you already know has pass’d over. I quitted that sheet from illness brought on I really believe by terror. First an unaccountable sleepiness overwhelmed me & then a slow fever. After repeated pleadings & many struggles to continue my employment, Dr Dummet insisted on taking me away to his Country house for air & quiet. There I was getting well when one unhappy night I by a strange oversight set fire to the mosquito drapery thy covered the crib my little grandson (who was with me) was sleeping in & in my alarm for the Child & the house &c I burnt my hands & arms so terribly that they were some weeks useless in a sling. Still the nervous fever hung on me & taking cold, heightened into a fever so violent that Doctor Dummet requested another physician might be called in. For a long period they attended me twice a day & daily expected my death. I remember nothing that pass’d I was constantly insensible or delirious & at length awoke as from an oppressive dream & found myself covered with an eruption exactly resembling the pimples of the smallpox. No doubt this saved my life but has left frightful marks all over me. I was reduced to the utmost state of debility so that I could not walk even from my bed to my easy chair. I was a tedious time in recovering my strength & my physicians declared I should never be restored but by a voyage to England or America & Eliza who quite despaired of me strongly urged me to go. I could not endure to leave my family & I am now wonderfully restored – a miracle to every one & no less so to <–> myself when I look at the mortality that has reigned around me. In the memory of man so many deaths have not happened on this Island ^in the same time^ as lately. Many Gentlemen lost their lives from their fatigues <–> in the <–> insurrection2 & many more have been swept away by a fever brought hither by the troops. The insurrection caused us a quarter loss of the income of the school, besides some delays of payment from persons who were great sufferers & who before had been rigidly punctual. My illness has I suppose cost £100 at least so that we have felt a share of the general calamity & shall still feel it, for some of our debtors have died & the accounts must wait till next year. In the end I believe we shall not lose & as our pupils are returned we have still good prospects before us & should consider the difficulties but as dusky clouds passing over the sunshine of our prosperity. I am now ^about to^ beginning to resuming my occupation. Hitherto we had an assistant at a most enormous salary to relieve Mrs Rutherford who is in very indifferent health owing to her fatigues in attending me day & night. She is again pregnant which I am sorry for, and if she does not get better we shall have little comfort in being successful & had better content ourselves with scantier means in more healthy situations.
Orlando has escaped all but a very trifling indisposition of a few days. He is now at Martinique & will if he arrives tomorrow as is expected set sail next week for America. He is indeed a fine young man I have reason to be proud of as well as fond of him. He now when on the Island boards & sleeps at Mr Hoziers but he visits us every evening & spends his Sundays with us to the great delight of the family for though in business he is quite the Man yet in private circles he is still the playful boy with unbounded vivacity & contributes so much to the amusement of the young people that their eyes sparkle at his approach, yet so decorous in his manner towards them & stands so perfectly aloof from all personal freedoms that we are no less satisfied with the intimacy than they are. He would not have gone to America till after Christmas but one of the partners of the house lately arrived from Europe quarelled [sic] with a Gentleman of this Island which ended ^ten days since^ in a duel, & Mr Mulock shot his opponent dead. A Vessel of their own lying at Anchor in the bay Mr M. immediately went on board & set sail for England, in consequence of Mr M’s departure Orlando goes to New York to make some mercantile arrangements in his stead. I shall miss him sadly[.] It brings tears of joy into my eyes to hear the terms in which Mr Hozier speaks of him.
I am now passing a few days out of town & the Messenger waits to carry this in for the Packet whose arrival I only heard of an hour ago. I wd not miss writing by it even hastily, for I persuade myself you are very anxious to hear from me. I will soon write again for now I must bid you farewell Pray let me hear from you and believe me whether silent or communicative, whether sick or well
Your most affectionate & grateful friend
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 178-80; not in Brooks, Correspondence.
2 The "insurrection" Fenwick is referring to became known as Bussa's Rebellion, and occurred 14-16 April 1816 in Barbados, the largest slave revolt in Barbadian history. The revolt, led by Bussa and some 400 fighters, began on Bailey's plantation but they were unable to withstand the superior power of the British forces.