1811 December 3
Eliza Fenwick, [5 Tavistock Square], to Mary Hays, Wandsworth Common, Tuesday Evening [3 December 1811].1
Your letter my dear friend was a reward for the previous alarm you had unconsciously caused me. When you allow your mind this sort of expansion you always seem to create something of new life in me. I awake as it were from a dream of dullness & am restored to emotions tastes and feelings that were precious in their enjoyment and ^are^ even prized in their decay.
Mr Whitaker is sanguine in his expectations for our boy. He lost no time in promising influence with Smith the Banker, and the Gentleman whose recommendation he deemed more important than his own assured him he had no doubt of success. His plain unostentatious warm hearted zeal in the cause would delight you if you could witness it.
Have you never heard of Whitaker as a Composer? He has considerable celebrity. At eighteen he married & presently had three children. At twenty two his wife died, and then during a few years, the loss of domestic society, his musical talents & his warm hearted disposition led him into company that injur’d both his constitution & his purse. He was however retrieved in both about three years ago by marrying a very worthy woman who brought him a pretty fortune with which he commenced a partnership with Button in St Pauls Church Yard2 and as they are now publishing very fine editions of Handels works & those of some other eminent masters their concern encreases daily in magnitude & promises a very good remuneration for their capital. Mr W— is become quite the man of business as punctual as regular & indefatigable as if he had been used to the strictest habits of trade. His recreations are all found at home. He makes a fond & attentive husband & she studies his comfort & happiness & proves an excellent mother to his three children. They live comfortably without ostentation or parade & are plainly & frankly hospitable. They pressd me on Sunday to come to them as often as I could & one expression of his pleased me “You must know,” said he “that I now consider you as a sort of orphan and that I am bound to take care of & protect you, so I desire you will adopt me as a father.” This father of mine is not more than three or four & thirty years of age.
He was always very partial to Eliza & cannot reconcile himself to the Barbadoes project at all in any other way than while he persuades himself that she will marry advantageously. He pictures to himself Orlando as a Lieut Colonel & he is so bent on the plan that if he fails with Smith he will try in another quarter. This is all I know yet, and all you demanded respecting Mr Whitaker.
Whether it was that his zeal in my service agitated me more than my nerves have strength to bear I now not, but I have been relaxed & uncomfortable ever since Sunday. Still I have no symptoms of my former complaint.
I rely on your promised visit. Indeed I cannot express how much it will gratify me. Pray do not disappoint me. I have need of these favours & supports to keep me up in the dreary unadorned task of duty I pursue Though time wears swiftly it also drags heavily and an occasional interview with a friend is a sustaining cordial. Will not Mrs Hays <––> alight with you? I am greatly indeed her debtor for the kindness she shews Orlando and though I never can repay these obligations I will cherish their remembrance. You my dear friend are the source from whence these benefits arise. I often dwell with affectionate delight in the recollection of the many ways in which you have ameliorated my hard & till then almost hopeless condition – did I tell you that Dr Reid has visited me here? Mrs Collier and her daughters also left their cards while I was out on Saturday morning.3
Mr Fenwick had the fore-cast & consideration to examine the shipping list of Loyds where no West India Capture was found from the time of Eliza’s departure. His information was very gratifying indeed. Mr Robinson will hereafter get me franks both ways he hopes.4 I expect one for this Packet from Mr Brandon & have also written by the Alexander on board of which a Piano-forte is shipped for Eliza. She took it of Mrs Mocatta, but as the bargain was only made a few days previous to her departure, it was not in time to find room in the Olive Branch, by which chance I have been obliged to pay £1..10 for its freightage. Six months hence I hope I shall be indemnified for these little inconveniences by her growing prosperity. Past difficulties & the earnest desire of keeping clear of debt make me timid & apprehensive when even in this necessary & laudable occasion I overstep the limits of my means.
Adieu my best friend
Let me hear from ^&^ let me me [sic] see you
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 51-52; Brooks, Correspondence 346 (only a small portion included).
2 Samuel James Button. He was the son of William Button (1754-1821), former classmate of John Dunkin, Jr., at Northampton and most likely his pastor for a period of time at the Baptist meeting in Dean Street, Southwark, in the 1790s.
3 John Reid and Mrs. J. D. Collier.
4 Eliza and John Fenwick had been separated for many years at this point, although they remained in frequent contact until her departure for Ireland in 1812 and Barbados in 1814, after which she presented herself to her acquaintances as a widow. Crabb Robinson continued to assist Eliza Fenwick as much as he could with her financial situation, as well as assisting with the future situation of young Orlando.