22 October 1798
Eliza Fenwick to Mary Hays, 30 Kirby Street, Hatton Garden, Monday, [22 October 1798] [postmark not readable].1
We must remain one other week in our miserable dwelling because we have not had opportunity to chuse a better. Mr F—s leg obliges him to sit still –
I shed tears of gratitude & affection over your kind sympathizing letter, & at Mr F—s account of your kindness – Your heart is prone to affection. Ah why have you not more happiness!
This struggle, this perpetual warfare must have an end – I will attempt the school.2 – I cannot write; perpetually surrounded with my family even were I assured that I have talents to make writing profitable & I profess no such confidence; on the contrary, I feel that distress & disease have preyed more upon my mind than my body – the latter renews its strength daily, but the former <–> in almost constant fear of a worse morrow than to day has no chance of regeneration. I know the modes & manners of a school I am not averse to the species or labour. Supposing I get very few scholars, I can as well give the time to them that I must & do now devote to the children with me – I must live somewhere – I would dear Mary do any thing – any thing that I know I can do, would I now submit to, in order to extricate myself from this torture of seeing Mr F— perpetually struggling against a tide that so fettered & manacled he cannot stem. – Well then! am I wrong in making the effort? I must put my friends to the trouble of setting me forward & if I fail their benevolence will not be ^wholly^ misapplied, for I feel it my duty to make this endeavour. I intend writing to day to Mr Marshall,3 he is very active & has a good heart, he may be able to do something. Mr Holcroft4 has large connections & among them may find persons willing to grant some aid – You dear Mary must also beg for me where you can – I have a great deal of what I may call wor[l]dly pride for I
can ^do^ not <–> use this solicitation, even to you my hearts friend, without a deeply wounded spirit. Tears blind me while I write – Oh! what an ill contrived, ill conducted world is this, that while one half satiate themselves with refinements in luxury the other must lick the dust of the earth to satisfy the demands of nature. – The motive of my reason of my begging is that I may be enabled to purchase a few articles of furniture for to attempt a school in a furnished lodging is impossible & if it were, the price of furnished lodgings is such as continually aggravates our distresses – & it is my determination in following this plan to do it (according to the utmost of my power) in the way most likely to ensure its success. As well as furniture I am in extreme need of some addition to my Cloathing – As Dame Quickly says ( according to ^Vide^ Mr White) “a modest change next the skin”5 – A decent appearance of dress is I believe necessary to give people a good opinion of one.
I have thought of a preparatory school for little boys as a thing that I should much like – It has paid admirably well in several neighbourhoods around London But I am doubtful whether the environs of London has not already as many as
it ^they^ can support I have therefore thought whether some populous country town might not admit of such a plan, I also thought of asking you to consult Mrs Opie about Norridge.6 – But I must first know the extent of the assistance I may receive because the going to a Country town would cost more than opening a mere day school in London.
I will come to you on Thursday if the weather is not absolutely intolerable & in that case it shall be Friday. I shall come in the morning on account of seeking a lodging, & will be careful not to be later than your dinner hour. I long to see ^you,^ yet while my misfortunes compel me to lay so much care upon your shoulders I meet you with a species of restraint.
Adieu My ever dear friend.
I received both your letters five minutes after Mr F— came home on Saturday Evening – The postman on Mrs Moody’s side the neighbourhood had taken the last from the office without minding more of the direction than the name.
Address: Miss Hays | No 30 Kirby Street | Hatton Garden
Postmark: 22 October 1798
1 Fenwick Family Correspondence, 1798-1855, MS 211, NY Historical Library (hereafter Fenwick Family Correspondence); the majority of the letters by Fenwick to Hays, as does the letter above, appear in A. F. Wedd, The Fate of the Fenwicks (London: Methuen & Co., 1927) (omitted portions by Wedd have been highlighted). See Wedd, Fate 1-2; Brooks, Correspondence 318-19.
2 Fenwick was possibly working on a second novel at this time, but circumstances, especially her husband's inability to earn income, forced her to conduct a small school for young children for the next year in London; her efforts will not be successful.
3 The writer James Marshall (d. 1832), a friend of John Fenwick and William Godwin (he appears often in Godwin's diary at this time).
4 Thomas Holcroft, the playwright and friend of the Fenwicks, Godwin, and Hays.
5 The female friend of Shakespeare's famous character, John Falstaff. She was given new life in 1796 with the publication of Original Letters, &c., of Sir John Falstaff and his Friends: now first made public by a Gentleman, a Descendant of Dame Quickly, by James White (1775-1820), a friend of Charles Lamb.
6 Norwich. Mrs. Opie was the former Amelia Alderson. See her entry in the Biographical Index.