1807 November 5
Eliza Fenwick to Mary Hays, 54 Great Coram Street, Brunswick Square, Thursday morning, [5 November 1807].1
Goaded by the difficulty of making my labour so effectual as to keep me from embarrassment I have I may say sold myself to slavery. A person I know (& perhaps your ^friend^) has been endeavouring to establish a ^new^ Juvenile library but for particular reasons wishing to be conceal’d put in a manager who was to appear proprietor.2 The man proved a rogue & laid a plan to possess himself of the whole which was discover’d just time enough to prevent it. The real proprietor applied to me to recommend some one & I quite desperate in my fortunes offer’d myself. I like the employment well enough but I suffer excessively from cold & long fasting for as I cant have my meals there I go every day without dinner. No matter, really harrass’d as I am the sooner I am quite worn out the better. I have now the boy on my hands to maintain – Mr F— is gone to Prison. My struggles & efforts only seem to prepare me new suffering. My salary here does not quite serve me so that my Sundays are no more my own than other days. I am obliged to write then though my jaded spirits will scarce allow it. I <–> was basely used a short time since I had proposed a job to Wilkes3 who profess’d to be pleased with it, liked my specimen, did not object to my terms & constantly desired me to proceed while he was agreeing to share it with a bookseller who wished it, he said, to be done on a larger scale. Six weeks & odd days he kept me, deferring from time to time to close the bargain yet still urging me to go on. At the end of that interval he refused it unless I wd take less than half the price I asked, though to secure it I had offered it for almost nothing. He had even desired me to ask Mr F. to assist in it for speeds sake. This so completely sickened me of that sort of slavery that I wd willingly henceforward take ^on^ plain work rather than employ my pen. The matter was attainable certainly but I can’t go to Law. It made me excessively ill. I cannot send Eliza into the country at any risk, so I am obliged to wait till M’Cready4 or some other country manager comes to London. I have given up all hope of being able to go with her & must leave her poor girl to encounter all the disadvantages of an unprotected state I am sure you will pity me. God knows my fate is a hard one. Write me a long letter for when I shall see you I know not. I leave home at 10 oClock & return to it sometimes at 5 & sometimes ^much^ later. Thus you see that I make every sacrifice of comfort, independence & all things pleasant to my feelings
& ^or^ comformable to early habits – Oh how hard it is that during all this I cannot obtain peace & that those who shd aid me are those who suffer me to want it.
I have sent my boy to a day school. Once more pity me. Yr almost broken hearted,
My Compts to your brother & many thanks for the kindness of yr Invitation5
Address: Miss Hays | 54 Great Coram Street | Brunswick Square
Postmark: 5 November
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 19-21; not in Brooks, Correspondence.
2 The Juvenile Library was created by William and Mary Jane Godwin in 1805 (it would run into 1825) and established at 41 Skinner Street in 1807, with Mary Jane serving as the primary proprietor, shielding the venture from any adverse publicity to Godwin's notoriety. Godwin would nevertheless contribute (under noms de plume) ten books designed for young readers under the Library's imprint. Eliza Fenwick would work for the establishment for a short period in 1807 and into early 1808, and also published under the Library's imprint, most notably Lessons for Children (1809).
3 John Wilkes (d. 1810) was a printer/bookseller in Ave Maria Lane, 1790-1811. He joined with Peter Barefoot in publishing the Universal British Directory between 1791 and 1798; as a result, his printing location became known as the British Directory Office.
4 William Macready the Elder (1755-1829), an actor and stage manager from Dublin. In 1806 he assumed control of the theater in Newcastle, and remained there until 1818, having previously been in Sheffield, Birmingham, and Manchester. His son, also named William Macready (1793-1873) was one of the leading actors of the nineteenth century, his career beginning in 1810.
5 John Hays, in whose house Hays was visiting at the time of the above letter.