23 December 1806
Eliza Fenwick to Mary Hays, 54 Great Coram Street, Brunswick Square, Thursday morning, [23 December 1806].1
My dear kind friend
I feel quite gratified in hearing that you are come so near to us & should have answered yours in person this morning but that Eliza has preparations to make for the evening in which I must aid her. Would Sunday, Monday or Tuesday suit you as well as Saturday because if we come on Saturday we shall be obliged to leave you before 7 oClock? It so happens that yesterday evening Mr & Miss Lamb2 called & left an invitation for Wednesday evening which I wrote an assent to. Were it any where else I wd send an apology, for yours is the most powerful claim on my feeling but with them the case is peculiar. You may remember there has been a disagreement between us. It so happened that they one evening saw Eliza play, & were so much pleased with her that they immediately solicited a renewal of intimacy. I had too strong a sense of former kindnesses, & too much moved by the cause of their return, to withstand the offer, but those circumstances which place ties upon us I cannot attempt to unloose have obliged me to refuse three successive invitations. To do it now when I have acknowledged the chance of an evenings leisure would seem a sort of caprice at least. I will gladly come on Saturday if you can permit us to come so early (I don’t mean dining early) that I can have some of your society & yet fulfil our 7 oClock engagement. Let me know immediately how this shall be.
I have had such toil, such embarrassment such perplexities, dear Mary that my nerves are quite shatter’d; the opening or shutting a door, will, if unawares, throw me into a bowel complaint. And at this moment I am in the extreme of agitation. Eliza has had a positive summons from the Portsmouth manager to be there within a fortnight to meet & play with young Roscius.3 He offers a good engagement, & yet so wayward is my fate, I know not whether I shall be able to accomplish the means, as she is to take the first line of characters she must
take with carry with her materials for dresses. These are expensive. I am straining every nerve to effect our removal, for not to go is throwing away from £80 to 100, which her benefit in March wd bring in beside her weekly salary. Our friends & well wishers are all too much fetter’d for me, I fear, to be able to borrow even with such a prospect of repayment. Had Holcrofts play succeeded, he, who entertains sanguine expectations of her success[,] would gladly have aided me, but now that is impossible. When I see you I shall be able to tell you (I trust) my destiny, for this suspense is torture. I have refused after tonight, & perhaps one more, the characters offer’d her from the private theatres in the hope of being ready to depart.
Tell me in your answer how your health & spirits are? Believe me my heart still participates in all your cares notwithstanding Eliza’s settlement detaches me apparently from all other things Kind compts to Mr Hays.4
Yrs E F
Address: Miss Hays | 54 Great Coram Street | Brunswick Square
Postmark: 23 December 1806
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 18-19; not in Brooks, Correspondence.
2 Charles and Mary Lamb, friends of Fenwick as well as Hays and Crabb Robinson, lived in nearby Pentonville.
3 Young Roscius (the name was taken from the famous Roman actor, Roscius) was William Henry West Betty (1791-1874) (often called "Master Betty"); he was about fifteen years old at the time of the letter (young Eliza Fenwick was eighteen). Roscius first performed at Drury Lane in 1804, and in February 1805, he appeared in a production with Mrs. Siddons.
4 Hays was visiting her brother, John, who had returned from Essex by 1806 and taken a house in Coram Street, not far from his two sisters in Islington.