15 July 1826
Eliza Fenwick, 643 Broadway, New York, to Mary Hays, Vanbrugh Castle, Maze Hill, Blackheath, [no date, but note says letter arrived on Saturday, 15 July 1826].1
No 643 Broadway New York
My dear Friend,
When Major Dix gave me notice three days since of his departure for London, I resolved to send you a long letter, but a bilious attack suddenly seized me & I have been incapable of holding a pen till the very morning of his departure. However, as the letter will travel to London free of the encumbrance of Postage I will send a few lines of greeting to the friend whom I shall never see more in this world of sorrow & suffering. Yet I have nothing to say that will give you pleasure for care & anxiety surround me on every side. The severe & frequent return of Mrs Rutherfords constitutional Malady, the pressure of blood to the heart which must sooner or later end fatally, gives me the most melancholy anticipations for the future, while the total absence of all remittances from the West Indies involves us in present difficulties, & fetters our efforts to form a beneficial establishment in this city. I now begin to think I shall never get ^any of^ my West India debts, & it is hard after so much labour to have at my time of life the world to recommence with a young family to struggle for.
When I wrote to you by Mr Huoly Mrs R was then ill. She was unable to resume her station in the family till the end of September. The last night of the last year she was &^again^ seized & never crossed the threshold till the end of March. The Physician who attended her called a consultation & it was then decided she could not live. The lungs & liver were both in a state of inflammation. However she did struggle through & a continued course of Calamel gave her something like a return to health till within the last fortnight. No human being was ever more rigid in their observance of all prescribed rules, and the helpless situation of her four Children gives her an anxiety to live that no charm she ever tasted in existence could do beside.
I am a wonder to myself, for generally I have sound health & undergoe great bodily fatigue which I support very well. Out of evil comes good. The total insubordination of servants in this country compels the mistress of a family to be frequently mistress & domestic in one. We have occasionally two, & frequently none. Those who keep 4 or 5 are very often left entirely without at ½ an hours notice, & a service of three months is an <–> extraordinary event. These annoyances have made me take so much exercise in household exertions, that I am a third less in size & have fifty times the activity I had in the West Indies. The children too are cured of being waited on. William at 12 years old can mend windows, chairs, & locks, and has such evident promise of skill in Mechanical arts that I hope he will soon provide for himself. The second boy encreases our cares by the general infirmity of his constitution & by a peculiar unluckiness. He is constantly meeting with accidents, & has lately been confined to bed 7 weeks with a dangerous wound under the cap of the knee. Contrary to expectation he has recovered the use of his limb. He has powerful faculties but a vehement temper, & the most irritable nervous system I ever say in Childhood. Every stranger is attracted by the sweetness & suavity of his countenance & yet he is often fierce & uncontrollable. I am very fond of him & yet I look with dread to the future for him. Elizabeth, a blooming little Brunette, has excellent health & without much mind will become educated & ^perhaps^ accomplished by the steadiness of our efforts, so as either to be an assistant to us, or go out in life. The youngest, Orlando, has such rapid growth, & such repeated attacks of a complaint resembling his Mothers, that I think he will scarcely reach Manhood. That will be no evil – we shall feel the blow severely but we shall reflect, as in another & perhaps a dearer instance, that he is saved from the perils & trials of existence.
Major Dix sends to say he shall call in [ten] minutes for the letter. I am ashamed to send [such a] scrap but you will receive it as an assurance that my thoughts often fly to you, & that in the midst of sorrow & suffering, I retain the friendship which has often afforded me consolation in times even more adverse than what I have now to complain of.
According to the American fashion, we removed at the end of May, but the toil was not undertaken to gratify mere America restlessness, but to reduce our rent 200 dollars per Ann. We are no longer among the Gentry in the Marble Buildings, but at a few yards distance, cased in humble brick, & far from being humiliated by the change, we like our new residence better than our old one.
Mrs R joins me in affectionate wishes
Farewell Dear friend! write me of all that interests you. Yours most truly
Address: Mrs M. Hays | Vanburg [sic] Castle | Maize Hill | Blackheath
Postmark: 11 July 1826
Note on foot of page reads:
London Saty 15th July 1826 | Forwarded & favd by Mr Geo. Wedd | By [?] | Yr Obedt St | Robt Browne
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 240-42; not in Brooks, Correspondence.