30 November 1837

Mary Jane Godwin,1 1 Monte Video Place, Kentish Town, to Mary Hays, [Camberwell], 30 November 1837.2


My Dear Madam,

      It gave me I assure you a high degree of pleasure to receive a note from you; and you will not wonder when I advert to the late melancholy occasion of being penetrated with all the worth, the richly cultivated intellect, and ^the^ beautiful traits of character you so evidently possess. – Forgive me, dear Madam, for thus unceremoniously stepping over the threshold ^barrier^ of etiquette and offering you my humble tribute of profound esteem and regard. – At my advanced years there is not time for the artificial preliminaries of a meditated overture. I feel my heart full of admiration and regard, and I ask the favour of you to accept its honest (however worthless) homage.

       I am truly concerned to find you are in a poor state of health, and the more as no doubt yours is a mind that has opposed fortitude to the conscious growth of such a misfortune.

     I too have much illness to encounter. At this moment I am laid low by an attack of lumbago, which will most likely end in gout. – I am however blessed with contentment of mind and an enthusiastic love for the smallest of natures ^garden^ productions. This has led me to a retired spot at the beginning of Kentish Town.

     Would you dear Madam, in the spring, when I hope to be stout again, permit me to indulge myself with calling on you at Camberwell? It would be so substantive a theme for my most sacred, most heartfull musings, that I had seen you, though it were but once!

     I have heard nothing of our poor friend Mrs F.2 for many years. I have commissioned travellers to find her out, but with no success. I am, my dear Madam, 

                 Your truly obliged

                         Mary J. Godwin


1 Monte Video Place Kentish Town

Nov. 30. 1837

1 Mary Jane Clairmont (1766-1841) married William Godwin (they had been neighbors for a time) on 21 December 1802.  She brought with her two illegitimate children, Charles and Mary Jane (both from different fathers) into the marriage.  A son, William, was born to Godwin and his new wife on 28 March 1803.  She would later assist Godwin with the operation of the Juvenile Library (opened in 1805), through which Mrs. Godwin came to know Eliza Fenwick, who briefly worked for the Library and contributed several publications for young readers to its catalogue. 

2 MJGodwin 6, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 542; Wedd, Love Letters 248.

3 Eliza Fenwick left New York (where for a time she had operated a boarding house on Fifth Avenue) shortly after the death of her daughter, Eliza, and moved to Upper Canada, living in Niagara and York (what would soon become Toronto). At the time of the above letter, she was still living in Toronto but would shortly relocate to Providence, Rhode Island, spending her final two years with some friends there. Fenwick's last surviving letter to Hays is from 1828, so it appears that after she left New York, her communications with her old London friends came to an end. During the final four decades of her life, Fenwick spent only a few years in London, living instead in a variety of distant locations in Cornwall, Edinburgh, Ireland, Barbados, Connecticut, New York, Canada, and Rhode Island, operating schools and boarding houses and caring for her daughter and grand children and unable, due to her circumstances, to recommence her literary career, a great loss to women's literary history given her distinguished talents and previous achievements as a writer prior to 1810.