21 December 1813
Eliza Fenwick, Lee Mount, Ireland, to Mary Hays, to the care of Thomas Hays, Esqr, Mill Street, Dock Head, Southwark, 21 December 1813.1
Decr 21st 1813
Your letters my dear Mary have often excited painful emotions in my mind from their too faithful pourtraying of unmerited wrongs & consequent sufferings but this, which I received last night (your first from Tansor & dated Novr 13th) has really kept me waking from exhilaration of spirits – Not that it tells of any actual joy or fails to shew that
the no oblivious veil has yet spread over the remembrance of the past, but it breathes a chearful calm of temper through ought & the full vigour & energy of your mind & feelings burst from the thraldom in which you far too long have been a bondswoman. Here I am risen between five & six oClock, on one of the darkest of mornings, to tell you so. I cannot however send this letter till next and my pleasure would have kept alive had I defer’d till day light its expression but I could not sleep – my thoughts were poring upon the contents of every part of your letter and at length I had recourse to my tinder box and lit my fire that as soon as dress’d I might sit down to scribble to you while I hope and trust you are enjoying as sound a nap as good health, peace of mind, a conscience void of offence, and a comfortable couch can afford you. The idea you have started had repeatedly occur’d to me and many an hour before those of last night the pros and cons of the plan had been canvass’d by my thoughts. I am half afraid that on the whole, taking into the account, your actual possession of independence, the probability of being in two years or at most three, unsettled again, and the trammels which such a situation necessarily produces the cons preponderate. I should have been more sanguine on your behalf a year ago, but the happiness of the family does not encrease. Mrs H— with that tact & right feeling by which in most cases she is guided hid from me at first many hazards & difficulties & discontents belonging to her situation, but now I have been long possessed of both his & her confidence & am not only fully informed of past & present circumstances but foresee disadvantages, which she I believe tho’ prone to expect the worst does not apprehend. Were Mrs Honner, her temper, her liberality, her feeling & her judgment alone concerned no obstacles would lie in the way. You would love her, I know. Her little failings of pride & prejudice you would overlook, or combat ^& subdue^ with that gentle firmness of manner & that eloquent and irresistible power of reasoning which you so eminently possess. It is but justice to her to say that never would she remind ^you^ of your station by the slightest failure of complete and real Gentlewomanly observance, and in this respect to an ordinary or regular trained Governess no ingredient could, I should think, be wanting – Over me it had its powerful influence – Long buffetted by afflictions & humiliations, enthralled by obligation & harrassed by the favours it was compelled to solicit I was charmed by their respect & attention and ready to admit any delusions of self love ^& make every exertion^ that should give stability to the satisfaction my reception gave me. Your sorrows dear Mary as I have before told you have elevated your character and feelings – mine have been of a more debasing tendency. You are high souled & dignified & make your estimates accordingly – I am become more sordid, more timid, more < > and my expectations take the same char grow out of those characteristics. I can perceive & seize a tho^u^sand occasions of fitting my efforts to the contrariety of hopes & views which belong to unsystematized minds, which you treading a more elevated path, could not dream of. But all this is general & disadvantage[ou]s and that mean calamities, such as most of mine have been, are not the school of dignity – What I say to you is in perfect confidence I know, & therefore I will mention that I think Mr Honner is involving his circumstances. She has told me, & he has in fact corroborated it, that from the time of his fracas with General Maitland, his Court Martial & his <–> dismissal, they have been living on their capital. His coming to England, to lay the statement of his wrongs before the King &c &c must have been very expensive. <–> The Kings madness rendered his memorials useless. The Prince wd not interfere because his father might recover, the Commander in Chief was the personal friend & adherent of General Maitland & Mr Honner could not get a step forwarder. Then he returned to India & brought Mrs Honner and the children home. On coming to Ireland, he found some landed property had been purloined from him by his brother (who ^perhaps^ had concluded that so hot headed a soldier would never escape the horrors of the Candian war & that no question of the alienation would be made) so instantly Mr Honner plunged knee deep into a chancery suit with the widow & children of that brother & some other members of his family – only one sister of all his relations & he even speak to each other & she the wife of a man who has run through every shilling of his property, & has a large family is kept at a distance by distresses which her brother having largely assisted her, will no longer relieve. The next unwise step was to purchase this domain. Of a most sanguine & speculative temper he no sooner seizes an idea than he calculates every possible advantage s & shuts his eyes upon the draw backs. No sooner was Lee Mount advertised, than he gallopped upon a fine hunter to look at it – It was in a lovely day in the month of June & it looked lovely. It must have done so. He saw acres ^then^ covered with fine trees & plantations, which he could turn to agricultural purposes, & to make a thousand or two a year from farming at Lee Mount seemed as easy as to gallop back to Cork to dinner, where they then were living in a furnished house. He bought Lee Mount without delay, & as he thought cheap – The trees he shd cut down, the stones he should quarry, the lime he shd burn upon the domain wd, he reckoned, pay for the enlarging the house, building stables barns out houses &c. He forgot to look at the road & to consider what it wd be in winter & indeed the greatest part of the year. Though not much or perhaps at all exceeding 4 English miles between this house & Cork it is the most impracticable road that ever was travelled & the utter destruction of horses carts & carriages. It has not only two steep & long hills to cross but is alternate ^stoney^ rut & mound for the greatest part of the way. One building begat another – one after another were found to be ill placed & pulled down for removal. It turned out no lime stones were on the ground & were to fetch – wood was in plenty but Irish labourers are neither expert nor industrious goes on. The land is all to prepare for Culture & the low grounds are constantly flooded in winter by the river Lee. A new road cut along the bottom of the hills, would, Mr H. found, give convenience & value to his domain. Nothing could be easier he said than to obtain that & a bridge also thrown over the Lee & with his usual activity he began the canvas, got a presentment from the grand Jury for the road in April last, got subscribers, had himself appointed overseer, set above 100 men at work & offered any bets that the road would be fit for use by the first week of July. Before the end of May he was involved in plague & protests by different individuals through whose grounds this road was to lie & in particular embroiled with the Recorder of Cork; & whether the road ever will be in existence I have my doubts. Relying on this phantom of a ^good^ road to Cork, Mr H— projected (really very cleverly) a mill on the spot where his barn &c was built, & proceeded directly to cut a water course through the lower wood & throw a weir across the river Awbeg to turn the water into the new mill race. A widow Lady, whose domain covers the opposite side of Awbeg, maintained that he had no right to take the water & commenced an action. He has taken away half the weir but whether that will invalidate her claim I know not but it seems to me an idle scheme to incur such an enormous expence only to turn the wheel of the thrushing machine for our own consumption of corn. A new road to Cork & a bridge to Ballyncollig might make it valuable to let. But the worst speculation of all is his horses. He brought from India two Arabian Stallions bought some of the late Duke of Grafton broad mares & an gigantic horse bred in the Duke of Marlboroughs stud. By these costly creatures he expected to realize 200 pr Court but he came to the wrong Country. The sporting Gentlemen buy trained racers & will not go to the price or trouble of breeding their own stables. The Duke is too large & by injuring one or two mares has lost his character either for breeding or selling. The first cost of these horses would frighten you to name – Their Grooms, accommodations indispositions & feedings come yearly to a fortune – Then the disasters are endless of the young wonderful progeny – a Colt & filly this summer have lamed themselves & instead of fetching 3,000 will not be worth probably 100. The best brood mare has been in slings & sat up with night & day the last six weeks. You may give a rough guess at an outlay of this kind which Mr Honner will not suffer to be glanced at, but which costs Mrs H. many a heart ache. Next year he says will bring all right or if not he will send them to England for better success. These expences now beginning to fill him with alarm he is attempting a number of in-door incompetent & useless reforms which torment Mrs H. annoy the servants & occasion a constant warfare. He, so long an inhabitant of Indian climes, where luxury forbids a Lady to look after her household, & going from a first rate boarding school immediately to those climes had no idea of the prudent detail of housekeeping & at the head of such an establishment of servants great waste has no doubt taken place, but she has been trying earnestly to mend & has succeeded to a great degree but his expectations go beyond possibility and quite unused to the manner in which European servants are accustomed to be treated, he is often an oppressive and tyrannical master – nay even niggardly of comforts towards them while hospitable in the highest degree towards every guest. In that designation I include myself. Mrs H. never has a shilling of her own unquestioned < > and this is often a cause of disquiet between them. Now she opens her whole heart to me & shews me how completely and arbitrarily he has always governed her on such points. Private expences he has none. I never saw a man who spent so little on his personal gratifications – He never goes from home but to a party or a ball with her or to a fair to purchase cattle for his land, but he has two sons born before his marriage & an annuity to pay settled on their mother, & poor Mrs H— with a little < > femality begrudges that annuity in a most special degree though she was always kind & affectionate to the boys. She acknowledges frankly that she does not understand management but maintains that she is self-denying towards herself, & that had she greater power entrusted to her she could manage better. And that is as true as the gospel, but he will not believe it. She cannot bring herself to the level of a farmers wife nor unite its duties with the manners of a high bred lady & that he believes to be very easy. He hates Ireland & most irish people beyond all moderate & just bounds – He will, nay he must live in it. She wishes for more society as her girls grow up – She cannot have it – He says what can be necessary beyond her husband & children, but she is anxious to form these girls fashionably & elegantly as well as rationally & is fastidiously & painfully anxious on little etiquettes which are in themselves but nonsense. Do not imagine that this representation undoes former mentions of chearful hours – Far from it. Mr Honner has natural vivacity & humour. He is very happy in caricaturing & contrasting odd incidents. Her spirits are often lively & when he is facetious her depression generally vanishes & we frequently especially when Orlando is here, laugh through the whole evening. I only mean to shew you that dark days frequently precede our fearful evenings, occur more frequently than heretofore & are I fear encreasing. I have some reasons to believe that he thinks she wants nothing but activity to complete the education of her girls, & I think as he does. She is an excellent french scholar, & tolerably fluent, tho’ out of practice, in Italien. Her language, pronunciation & manners are graceful & admirable & her music only wanting in the Theory that a little study could give. To do all for them that I do she could not with the cares & claims of the family, but she could do quite enough; and as she is very anxious about Mary’s valuable employment in this, which she calls her “last year” (being now in her 17th) I imagine among the plans of reform they have canvassed the possibility of Mama & Mary undertaking my office ^for the younger^ I have no certain data for this supposition because as yet I have not hinted at the likelihood of my going westward. But this intention ^if formed^ I dare say Mrs Honner & he too would willingly rescind in your favor provided you would become their resident without a salary. Your accommodation would be excellent, you would be conferring a favor, and might reduce the labour without appearing unreasonable. With your stock of wardrobe & your careful habits, your out-lay for clothes would be trifling though mine, having a stock to collect, has exceeded my calculation & you might have presents ^of^ which I have none. I thought Mr H. shd have paid my Apothecary in return for what I have done for the two little boys but he did not; however Orlando’s favor, home & liberal accommodation, I consider as remuneration for extra services and the treatment he has invariably received has been my stimulus for exertions beyond what I believed myself successor. I am astonished at my success in music & I have taught all three though in London. I bargained that Miss Honner shd have a Master, but the eminent master of Cork will not go out of the Town & with these roads & wet climate to go in all weathers was misery & endless consumption of time. Mr Honner asked me to take Mary-Anne & such being the case I willingly consented. A Drawing Master comes, but other masters could not be had for your relief. Shall I give you a detail of my week? Monday – (allow always for a walk before breakfast when weather allows. In summer we breakfast at 8, now at ½ past) in School at nine (prayers before breakfast) Mary Anne at the instrument till 10, then begin the English ^by rote^ lessons consisting of spelling, grammar, Geography – sections of Blairs precepts of the arts & sciences, & sections of History together with prose reading from all; Overlooking & Attending to the progress of a small & large hand copy from both Helen & Fanny & one large hand from Henry with ^revising^ a Sum from each fully occupying me till one & sometimes longer. While they write, Mary-Anne is preparing her french translation for next day – From that till ½ past 1 I sometimes walk sometimes play at Battledore & sometimes lounge & chat with Mrs H. At ½ past 1 the Children dine & are ready by 2 or ½ past two to return to the school room. I then sit down to the Piano forte. While I give one her lesson the other hears Henry & Charles read &c, & works – The Playing and singing occupies me till 5; or if I take an hour out of doors from two till 3, then I can only leave myself ¼ of an hour to dress before dinner which is fixed for 6, but ^most^ generally begins ½ past. Mary Anne only dines with us. Chatting over the fire side, tea at 8, and two rubbers of Casino between us four (when Orlando & Robert are not here) concludes our evening. Tuesday morning french lessons. Mary Anne is translating Charles the 12th on paper, beside which she reads & translates from some other frenchbook & illustrates some grammatical rule or parses. Helen translates a fable reads & does french exercises on construction – Fanny learns dialogue & repeats a verb & is just beginning her fables. The writing & Cyphering as the day before only I give Mary but ½ an hour at the Instrument & so I have more leisure on french days. Wednesday pretty nearly like Monday only I make them read the maps and answer desultory questions in Geography which taking up more time I cut off the afternoon singing lesson ^in part^ confining it to the Sol Fa. Thursday – the same course as Tuesday – Friday Poetical ^or prose^ recitation and general questions with writing & music as usual. Saturday morning they do no Sums write only a copy of figures & in addition to their french lessons question each other in all the arithmetical tables. Once a month I give some time on Saturday to questions on the Major & Minor scales of music. I forgot to say that on the Wednesday Monday & Friday they each write an English Exercise. Each now practises 2 hours per day including the time I am giving ^their^ lessons on the instrument – Saturday afternoon I generally take to myself. They take it by turns to practice one hour before breakfast & one hour in the evening, so that the instrument is regularly going 6 ^& often 7^ hours in the day. Sunday, if we do not go to Church we read the Psalms Lessons & some essay. In the evening our merry youths being here we play at definitions, similitudes, consequences, or some of those games & are much amused. Such is the usual routine of my days. There are in the course of School hours many intervals when they ^the children^ are each employed in which I can write a letter or use my needle. I make the girls work <–> a little – They have made a set of shirts for Robert & we have all been employed lately on baby clothes for poor women. Mary Anne I have taught to make her own gowns at which she is now become expert. I can seldom get at a book & when I can I read an hour at night. It would not be easy to describe the contest & struggle I had to bring these girls to this regular course of application, but now the hours are not more regular in their succession than they to the order of their employments, and I have no trouble but with occasional fits of inattention or dullness of comprehension in some, & the warfare of the tempers among each other. None <–> equals your Dorothea2 but they have all made progress in something or other. I often, particularly on Fridays, when I am speaking the whole morning, am quite exhausted & the musical instruction is above all things fagging & laborious, but the confiding propriety with which Mrs Honner leaves me to myself reconciles me to it. The constant watchfulness of Mrs Mocatta lest her children shd not have enough made my toil a burthen upon the heart rather than the head & created sensations which now never assail me. If I have tired you with this description, it is that to the best of my power I may enable you to more judge whether this situation or boarding will be likely most to contribute to your eventual comfort. Mean time I shall not breathe a syllable to any one on the subject. My visitors always few are fewer for Mr Honner is offended with Sir Nicholas Coulthurst because he declines bringing the affair of Genl Maitland before Parliament. Mr Forbes (brother in law to Mrs Honner) also a member will not attempt it. Indeed the pursuit is a mere Ignis fautus. Mr H—s wrongs in that base transaction will never find redress as he is assured by every one & the constant failure of all his efforts, yet as sore as he was the first hour he perseveres in one attempt after the other & still believes that he shall triumph over the Junto at the head of whom stands Genl Maitland backed by the Duke of York, or that the ministry to stream ^these^ their friends from the odiom they deserve will give him some appointment equivalent to the rank & station he lost. It was this business brought him to London when I saw him there. When it is mentioned before Mrs Honner every nerve seems to thrill with agony. She is convinced, as well as all their connections, that it is an inevitable calamity & that the violence of his conduct & his bold but imprudent & impolitic throwing up of his command at Macheragh & exposure of the errors & peculations both of the civil & military Governors during the Candian war, not only raised a host of enemies but threw him into their power. We have however had an unexpected accession of company for General Forbes has come to take the command of the troops in this part of Ireland. General F— & the Lady now his wife went to India in the same Vessel that carried Mr Honner & Miss Cotgrave now Mrs H— to Bombay above 18 years ago. The two Ladies marrying soon after these their ship mates went to different stations & never met again till now that their eldest daughters are 16 years old. The General his Lady & three daughters passed a week with us and no one ever better knew how to keep company alive & at their ease than Mr & Mrs H—but most particularly he. The General is cheerful sociable & frank – she amiable I believe but cold & quiet to a chilling degree. They have had no son among six girls & a large fortune is entailed on their male heir. I believe the General would give his eyes willingly to make Orlando his own son. They were in the course of the first evening upon the most intimate footing, & the first moment beyond a languid smile I saw from Mrs Forbes was a long continuance of hearty laughter at a dutch story of Orlandos which he told with excessive humour & which Mrs Honner always makes him repeat to every guest he meets here. This boy always contrives to play (according to a common proverb) the first fiddle, yet his air & deportment is so modest, that he only seems to be calling others <–> out while he in fact fixes all notice. The young people had a dance given them (Orlando has learnt in Cork & dances exceedingly well now) & while the girls were resting Mrs Honner desired Orlando to dance a caricature Irish Jig which he invented & taught with a mock minuet to Robert. They did to the great entertainment of their audience & when they had done the General went up to Orlando & seizing him by the front hair held up his face & looked at him with some moments with an expression obviously of would you were mine which a sigh when he released him seemed to confirm. Orlando & Robert have since spent a day by invitation at the Generals house at Glananire. There are advantages as to forming the manners of this dear boy who has met with several such, but how valueless are they compared with his walks & conversations with you at Wandsworth. I sometimes fancy that the growth of his intellect does not keep pace with his that of his form, except in whim & vivacity, for he is a mere boy still, ^&^ dotes on tops marbles bats balls & leap frog. Yet a very grave & studious young Physician of Cork, related to Mr Honner & rising into reputation for his lectures & writings, has taken a fancy to Orlando & invites him often to his house. Robert Honner has greatly improved in spirit & manliness of deportment since he went to school with Orlando – They are always together, generally dress’d alike & are the two finest boys I see in this part of the world. I am very glad to observe that Orlando seems to keep clear, whether by principle or constitution I know not, of sexual propensities. I cannot bear the idea of boys of his age aping the sensualities of men & yet it is very usual. Mr Honner was a father before he was 17. Nor does Orlando as yet lend himself to the romance of falling in love. Naturally gallant & gentle towards the sex he pays them great attention is pleased that the handsomest girl at the dancing school generally falls to him as a partner, but never speaks of any girl with an animation beyond such a point. Living among great boys (for his school fellows are all so) and sitting at Table here after we females retire to the drawing room with Officers and Gentlemen who indulge in very free conversations he cannot be ignorant on such topics but he gives no visible or coarse token of his knowledge and though he has a laugh ready for Mr Honners sly jokes the laugh seems to be more at the humour & point than at the allusion & never offends against delicacy. I suspect this to be owing to conversations he has had with a brother of Mr Humphries – a young man of great sincerity but great purity of manners. God grant that Orlando may thus persevere for how few moral virtues can adorn the maturity of a man who has spent his youth in debasing scenes of debauchery.
I await with great anxiety Eliza’s next letters. They will probably decide my plans. One of the first proposers & warmest friend of our school at Barbadoes has left the Island & a second patron is dead. Sanguine as my dear girl is on the scheme she has been too constantly warned by my cautions & by her anxiety for my welfare not to take some alarm at this & to employ her every means of re-enquiring narrowly into our prospects – shd it be adviseable from any doubt of complete success ^for me^ to lay aside the project I shd not like to send Orlando as perhaps the Rutherfords might come home & I shd then prefer getting him into some employment in London. Some way or other this spring must see him settled. His impatience is great and my anxiety unceasing. Thank you for your heart felt wishes toward my excellent girl. I have had letters, charming letters up to the 22d of Sepr, but have left no room for extracts. She writes as playfully about her babe as about all other things and amidst the sportive accusations she makes of its being the destruction of all her comforts I trace the fondness of a doting mother. She is I perceive a slave to her care for she entertains such a horror of his being suffered to such a Negro woman from the disorder called the rose, which they almost invariably have, & which their milk communicates to half the children on the Island whom they nurse that she will not suffer him to be carried out of her sight.
Wednesday 29th. Mrs Honner has been so much indisposed with cold which blinded her that I have passed my leisure hours in her chamber & must now hasten this volume to a conclusion. Your letter came in a polite note from Mr Palmer3 stating that he had detained it because his partner was out of town. I seemed to have a thousand things to say still but must wind them up in my warm & affectionate wishes for happier succeeding years. We have had dreadful floods & constant rains, my favorite ^[lower]^ wood walk is destroyed. Our house thick as the walls are is penetrated by the constant wet. Tho’ I have a fire almost every evening in my chamber ^in^ one corner the paper is mildewing & loosening from the wall. Yet I certainly am much better than I was last winter & in particular more free from Rheumatism. I can easily account for better health in my greater freedom
for from anxiety of mind. I was then miserable about Eliza, and Mrs Hewitt &c was here. It is very silly but the moment company come into the house I grow low spirited, seem to be an unconnected dependant being & am always looking for neglects that I never meet with. More of this if you still incline to the experiment – And if so, Orlando must come to fetch ^you.^ Mr Honner could not sympathize with your timidity Passing & repassing the great Oceans as they have done the Bristol Channel is a mere fish pond to them & he wd be very likely to augur unfavorably of you from the apprehension. Mrs Honner wd not do that but to her it wd seem extraordinary. Always moving & shifting from station to station in India for the whole family have a sort of physical hardiness for such things – Mrs Hewitt the same. Journies of 4 & 600 miles are spoken of as no great efforts.
Orlando shd have written a scrap of thanks & affectionate wishes but Mr Honner in despight of the weather is making their Holliday very busy for them. Each day they have been out shooting or < > from light to dark & tomorrow they go out hunting. They have but a fortnight & I wd rather keep Orlando at home both because of a severe cough & because I shd like to give him other employments but Mr H— means it for pleasure & wd take my opposition ill. Besides the boys themselves are
too ^so^ much enchanted with joining in mannish sports that I think it injudicious to say a word. Orlando was delighted with parts of yr letter I read & of himself noticed your flow of spirits. I always point out parts of yr letters to read to Mrs Honner who admires you exceedingly.
Adieu my dear friend And believe
me ever affectionately yours
Address: For | Mrs M. Hays | to the care of T. Hays Esqr | Mill Street | Dock Head | Southwark
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 148-54; a portion appears in Brooks, Correspondence 349.
2 Most likely one of Thomas Hays's daughters.
3 Nathaniel Palmer, a successful cornfactor who married Hays's niece, Joanna Dunkin, in 1798.