1812 April

Eliza Fenwick, [5 Tavistock Square], to Mary Hays, Wandsworth Common, Sunday [c. April 1812].1


We paid our visit to Mr & Mrs Brown2 last Sunday and were as kindly received as you could wish. I was excessively vexed that I had written on Saturday Morning to ^Henrietta Braddock^ [to] say we would dine with her, for Mr & Mrs B pressed us so earnestly to stay ^to dinner.^ & with such a frank & friendly wish for wish for us to accept their kindness that I was chagrined at being obliged to refuse & at losing such an opportunity of becoming better acquainted with them. Mr Brown recommended, rather strongly, the Indian Sea Service I mean the trading service. (Has not Mr Wilkinson a son so employed? I have a confused idea that for a few years it is very expensive to the parent. I must write & enquire particulars through Miss Beetham.) On our coming away Mrs Brown desired that I would use whatever power & interest they had at all times & without hesitation, I assure you I was so much gratified by the kindness of their manner that when I had left the house I had some difficulty to restrain my tears. A very pungent thought assailed me. It frequently does; when I reproach myself as being the carver of my own destiny. I believe I have said before, that if I had had the prudence & common sense some years ago to exert myself independent of Mr F— I should have found friends to back me & might now have been tolerably at ease. That is far from my present case. I have been balancing my yearly account & find that when I have paid this quarter due the last week of April & the two <–> bills for Clothes mending, shoes &c which Mr Wilkinson has sent ^me^ Lanno has cost me £49 without reckoning what he cost Eliza for board & lodging & washing at Midsummer. The holliday expences now fall on me & I perceive with a great deal of Anguish that my means, with all the sacrifice of comfort that I make to obtain them, are inadequate to my wants. I would very fain avoid trenching on Elizas savings, after she has remitted money for her debt to you and Mrs Mocatta, unless it shd be to establish Lanno in some way of doing for himself. Beyond this laudable object I wish to keep clear of the use of a shilling for should she be successful, her savings may enable us to establish a school or to try some other plan together which may in my latter days put me in possession of a home. I am revolving a thousand projects both for the present, as I may call it, and the future but determine on nothing.

To turn to a pleasanter theme, my boys appearance spirits & temper give me the greatest satisfaction[.] His constant theme is you and your family and he delineates with all the lively warmth of an affectionate gratitude the kindness MrsHays constantly shews him. Nor does he at the same time forget to point out to my attention that if he did not behave well this would not be the case. He tells me that Betsy is making great improvement & has been lately rewarded for peculiar diligence. I am exceedingly glad to hear this for I who experience hourly the torture of teaching children who have neither energy nor capacity must rejoice that you have succeeded better. Pray (for it this moment occurs) has Mrs Francis united herself with an Instructor? I cannot think it will be long before I return to that plan joining it with writing. I have lately heard of two females who make a very comfortable income by that sort of tuition.3 My brother has offered to pay me, if I will write, by the sheet, as I advance. He has bought printing premises types &c for a News-Paper he has started, & as he must keep a certain number of Men he wishes to purchase Manuscripts to print. Law the Bookseller also is willing to employ me. He is enamoured of the extraordinary success of that Class book I did for Phillips under the name of the Revd David Blair.4 I think I c’d from the two plans procure more than I get now and have beside the solace of a Garret that I could call and feel to be my home. I shd not then be compelled to shift my boy from house to house begging a meal here & there for him & when I want to converse with him, traversing the streets for that purpose. Such is my present case & the torture it inflicts is not to be described. To him the week has been pleasant for it did not belong ^to^ me to point out my privations but to gloss over these hard necessities under the appearance of sending him to visit my friends. Mrs M— might have offered him a bed for a night or two I heard her make that offer to a house maid who lived some years with her & is now out of place! She owes me in my opinion great obligations. She now with infinite vexation pays Mr Atwood 10s/6d a lesson for less instruction than she took of Eliza for nothing & sees how infinitely less the child improves than she did under Eliza. But why should I expect justice or generosity from these people denied me as they are from my natural & near connections. Not a shilling can I get from Mr F— or his brother except that the latter has proposed to accomodate me in the way I have mentioned because he hopes to get a profit by it. As to Clothes for Lanno I might as well ask for the moon. His Uncle has with extraordinary generosity bestowed on him an old Coat of which is now making into a Jacket & which I hoped he would have returned in but it is not finished. It shall soon be sent. This with his washing Trowsers will serve till the Hollidays when he shall have a new suit. Be so good as to tell Mr & Mrs Wilkinson this & if Mrs W— objects or is likely to think much of the washing say I will make some allowance for it. I enclose the two bills Mr W— sent me and I should be very glad if you will pay them for me. I will repay you when I come to Wandsworth, which I mean to do, unless you forbid me or Mrs H. has company this day month. That is I will come on the Saturday evening & stay till Monday Morning. I can then pay you and Lanno’s quarter also. I mentioned these bills before Mrs M— & as she did not offer the money I don’t like to ask for it – Paying Lanno’s washing &c I have only a 3s piece left. I shd like to send you a drawing he has made this week at Hopwoods. It surprises them & me too. I shall send it to Barbadoes to Eliza. A Surinam Packet came in on Thursday but no letters for me. There must be some misstatement about every Packet & Vessel touching at Barbadoes for I received her last on the 28th of Feby These delays are very harrassing but I am not alarmed. I allow for casualties though I cannot resist some portion of their influence.

I do not apprehend any disease of the womb for I have not the pains that belong to it. I am not well but my appetite is good & I am sorry to find I am growing fatter again.

I wrote to yr brother5 last Monday – an enquiry Mr F. had requested me to make. He answered me with a kindness & readiness that pleased ^me^ & I hope he harbours no resentment for what lately passed. Adieu

yrs truly E F

Monday Morn. Mrs M— asked Lanno to stay here last night to his great joy. I write a note to Mrs W. myself about his clothes. He says it will be best. This vile Surinam Packet did bring letters from Barbadoes but not to me. If I did not know how incapable Eliza is of wilfully or carelessly neglecting my feelings. I shd be broken hearted, as it is I am provoked that she has not sifted the whole Island for the most perfect intelligence respecting the Packets. Mrs Da Costa says another is expected daily. She had no letters by this but heard of people that had.

Write to me soon.

Address: Miss Hays

Postmark: None

1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 81-84; not in Brooks, Correspondence.

2 Fenwick was finally meeting Samuel and Mary Brown, Hays's old friends from Cambridge and her days as a correspondent with Robert Robinson, father of Mrs. Brown. The Browns had been assisting both young Eliza Fenwick in her removal to Barbados, and Orlando in acquiring a cadetship at a military college or, as suggested above, in some form of merchant marine work.

3 As mentioned previously, Hays was living with her brother Thomas and his family on Wandsworth Common and teaching several of his children. Apparently the one getting the majority of attention from Mary Hays was Thomas's daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Dunkin Francis, Hays's niece, had been either operating her own school for a time or teaching in a school, and apparently was now seeking to align herself with another teacher to form their own school.

4 Charles Law (1764-1827) was a bookseller in Ava Maria Lane from 1789 to 1818. The work Fenwick is referring to was one of her most enduring volumes for young readers, titled The Class Book: or Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Reading Lessons, adapted to the Use of Schools for Every Day in the Year (London: R. Phillips, 1806), written under the pseudonym of The Revd David Blair. She later said in a letter to a friend in New York City that Phillips paid her 150 Guineas for several publications under that name, the monies primarily being used, she said, to pay for Orlando's education at Mr. Wilkinson's school. See Eliza Fenwick to the Moffats, 13 June 1832, Fenwick Family Papers, New York Historical Library.

5 Most likely this is Thomas Hays.