1808 February 23
Eliza Fenwick, 82 High Street, Belfast, to Mary Hays, 3 Park Street, Islington, 23 February .1
My dear dear friend,
Though I have been here ten or twelve days I have been unable to write to you till now, unless indeed I had merely written a scrap of safe arrival which I was reluctant to do as I trusted Mr F. would give you that information. Owing to the intense severity of the cold & getting my feet very wet in the snow the day after we got here I have had the severest fit of Rheumatism I ever experienced; chiefly in my legs but often visiting my head & accompanied by slow fever. I am now considerably better, & the bright & warm sunshine that surrounds me promises me a speedy recovery.
On account of the letters we hoped to procure there, (besides the importance of time) we determined to go by Dublin & on all accounts it was fortunate we did for two of the company who are coming by the way of Scotland are not yet arrived; & the letters which Mr Hamilton Kirvan, in a most friendly manner, favor’d us with, were introductions to three of the first people here from whom we are likely to receive every attention we could wish. This latter circumstance is not only pleasing in behalf of the respectable footing it places us upon but it will materially assist Eliza’s benefit. Nor did we find the journey quite as expensive as Mr Hills2 Calculation had made me fear. We were as frugal as possible & fortune in some instances favor’d us, for Mr & Mrs Skinner who left London a day before us, by going in a coach which book’d only to Shrewsbury were detain’d three days for places & at last obliged to post it to Holyhead. They also were stop’d between Dublin & Belfast by the fall of snow which we escap’d. Our passage from Holyhead was long & stormy. I always suffer at sea greatly from spasms in my stomach produc’d by the sickness, but Eliza soon got rid of her sickness & bore the whole journey with less inconvenience than I could have suppos’d considering that we only reached Belfast on the evening of the eighth day The severity of the cold was a bar to our enjoyment, or the mountains of Wales & the beautiful valley of Llangellen would have afforded me great pleasure. In crossing Plinlimmon we had as narrow an escape from destruction as can be imagined; the night had been very stormy & blown down a part of the road. We pass’d between four & five oClock in the morning, & but for that perception of danger which horses often have shewn, we had been dashed down the horrible precipice. The Coachman was so agitated by the narrowness of the escape that I apprehended the poor man would have gone into a fit. It was an awful sight, the yawning chasm, the loaded coach at its brink, & the dark black mountain tow[e]ring over our heads; all but just horribly perceptible from the gleams of the coach lamps. We had pleasant companions all the way, which helped to beguile us of some of our fatigues – Belfast is a clean large & handsome town. At first we felt that we were in a land of strangers & Elizas spirits, affected by a sore throat & severe cold, sunk exceedingly, but rous’d by viewing the motive which brought her here, & still more so by my indisposition she has reviv’d her hopes, & banishes unpleasant reflections by constant occupation & a resolution to look at the fairest side of every thing. It was well considering that I was too ill to be left alone that the Theatre could not open till last night. It is a very beautiful house indeed; & the company, all that are arrived, are respectable people. Mrs Skinner the Manager’s wife has played Eliza a theatrical trick & taken <–> some of the parts that were promised to her. It was done however in a way, that prevented our disputing the matter, & as she <–> in other ways tries to make amends & they shew Eliza respect & kindness, we cheerfully submit to these little rubs as things of course. Whose road is without thorns? Our introductions to the families who notice us, is a subject of envy <–> I believe, but still I see much more to approve than condemn among the company & consider Eliza most fortunately placed. It is your work dear Mary, & the good that I trust will result from it must give you some moments of satisfaction. Ah would it were within the compass of my power to restore you to happiness. In the sleepless nights of my Journey how constantly my thoughts returned to the recollection of that heart broken look with which you calmly announced to me that your destiny was fulfill’d. I never shall forget it – no never, nor cease to abhor the man who could doom you thus to wretchedness. The day before I left town I met him He looked at me, but whether knowing me as myself or merely as the enquirer about Mrs [Grafton?] I could not tell I felt my color rise, & I know not why but I made a sort of step as if I meant to speak which certainly I did not design, he however pass’d on. His countenance was cheerful & florid – Ah how unlike the one whose agonized expression I had so lately contemplated. Write to me dear Mary & tell me whether ^the^ passing time heals any portion of your sorrow. Tell me every thing, whether you sent that affecting letter, what answer it brought; let me know all – I have not heard from Mr F. yet. He was far from well when we left him & I fear, he & the poor boy are but uncomfortably situated. I endeavor to keep from thinking of this as much as possible but it does visit me now & then with a sharp pang. The little leisure that I have had from pain I have been aiding Eliza in making up her dresses, but if my disorder leaves me I shall get heartily to work that I may be of some use to those I have left behind. I should tell you that Eliza was very well received by the audience last night & seemed to make a favorable impression. God bless ^you^ dear & good friend. Eliza joins in grateful & affectionate wishes. We send remembrances to your nieces &c.3 When you see Mr H. Robinson say every [thought] for me that is kind. Yrs most most truly
Address: Miss Hays | No 3 Park Street Islington | near London
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 24-26; not in Brooks, Correspondence.
2 Most likely this is William Hills, living at that time with his mother and sister in the Minories, and soon to become a partner with his brother-in-law, William Wheeler, as corn factors at 8 Haydon Square, the Minories. Hills would marry Hays's niece, Emma Dunkin, in 1811, and live for many years in Canonbury Square, Islington.
3 Another reference to the three youngest daughters of Hays's brother-in-law, John Dunkin, who lived with Hays in her Islington home for much of 1807-08, receiving from her their finishing education. See above, John Dunkin to Mary Hays, 19 November 1807.