1812 July 21

Eliza Fenwick, Lee Mount, Ireland, to Mrs. M. Hays, at T. Hays, Wandsworth Common, near London, 21 July 1812.1

Lee Mount July 21st 1812.

My dearest Friend

When I opened a small trunk at Bristol I found a note to you which I thought I had put some days before in the 2d post in London written to tell you that Mr Robinson2 could not procure me franks to & from Ireland. His friend bef belongs to the foreign department & Ireland does not come under that description – It would be a stretch of his power that might subject him to animadversion. I wd not write from Bristol merely to tell you that, as I must have added that I was very ill. The day I f left London Monday July 6th I was taken with my old Complaint. Had I not paid for the places I shd have delayed a day or two longer. On the Journey I suffered much pain & the four days I waited at Bristol for the Vessel, which delayed sailing so much beyond her appointed time, I was scarcely a moment free from pain. Our weather on the voyage was too fine for we were becalmed & did not reach the entrance of Cork harbour till the morning of the fourth day ^Monday July 13th^. There was not motion enough to make me sick but I had all the uneasiness without any of the relief. As the Vessel was forced to wait another tide to carry her to Cork, I engaged a boat & rowed across the most beautiful harbour I ever saw to Passage, 6 miles above Cork, where we breakfasted & engaged a Chaise to carry us to Lee Mount. I felt quite well then & enjoyed with Lanno the Paddyism of our postilion who lost his way & after driving us through intricate & rough roads for near three hours brought us to the identical spot ^from^ whence we ^had^ set out. His jests & his curses were equally diverting but at length we reached Lee Mount safely, which is indeed a Paradise. The situation is exquisite in picturesque beauty, the house spacious comfortable & most tastefully elegant in its accommodations & decorations; and the mistress of the mansion is the gentlest most unaffected Lady like woman I remember to have met with. I had just time the afternoon of my arrival to view the apartments & some part of the grounds before I was again taken ill & from that time till to-day I have scarce had an interval of perfect ease. I have indeed suffered dreadfully in body & been pained in mind in no small degree by introducing myself with all this bustle & trouble into a new family. Mrs Honners attendance on me has been just the kind considerate ^soothing^ patient attention I should have received from Eliza had she been near me and the manner of my nursing here almost makes me ready to think there was neglect in my former treatment, though that is an ungrateful term & does not describe either the fact or my meaning. The hours that Mrs H—has passed at my bed-side have brought us more acquainted perhaps than six months might have done in the ordinary course. She is a thinking woman. Her observations on life and manners are just & forcible & her moral feeling & taste of a high order combined with a graceful simplicity of manner & expression. She is little delicate, fair & youthful looking with handsome eyes teeth & hair. Not quite as handsome as Mrs Hewitt her Sister ^is^ nor with quite so much the air & style of high Ton, but completely and perfectly at all times & in all actions the well bred Lady. With delicate health and a yielding temper her children govern by annoying her but she gives me a Carte Blanche & when they find that I will govern, they must of necessity yield. They are fine Creatures but all except the eldest boy & girl, wild headstrong & unruly. I shall have some struggle I dare say to bring the two younger girls into subjection – one appears very shrewd & the other rather dull. Miss Honner is a very sweet girl who will I think afford me both pleasure & credit. Robert the eldest [son], 11 months younger than Lanno, is just such another boy as Lanno & you may imagine what with the fine horses, the dogs, the trees, bathing, fishing, riding & ranging the woods how perfectly, except when uneasy about me he has enjoyed himself. He is quite in favor with the whole house & Mr Honner had I been well enough to look after a school would not allow of his removal while Robts Hollidays last. Mr Honner is frank hospitable pleasant & good humour’d. All the ease & polish of a Military Gentleman about him with a lively kind of blunt humour which diverts & is always unmixed with any thing that could give offence. He is a kind husband & father, & seems to prefer to all pleasure the evening circle of his family. He is all day in his grounds planting, draining fencing, building, & clearing the noble wood which covers the high ground above the house & shelters it most completely on the north. Finding myself better one afternoon, we walked through one part of this wood where he has made openings to admit peeps at the romantic scenery it affords. Yesterday Mrs H. took me out in the Chariot to view prospects but the sickness came on so violently we were forced3 to return home. To satisfy Mrs Honners fears I have had the advice of a Dr McGuire of Cork, who thinks with myself that the obstruction passed on Monday night & that I shall now speedily mend. This is owing I doubt not to the pain of parting from those I dearly love, & the uneasy mind I bore about a full month before I left London. I had, it is true, much hope but I had also many fears. If I am restored to health I have chosen wisely. Here my time will pass regularly & quietly. If my occupation may be troublesome from the untamed spirits of the Children, I have but to turn to the window and a prospect rich & varied with all the combined beauties of hill dale wood & water gives me that serene pleasure which natures chosen scenes always affords. Then our evenings when I have been able to go to the dinner & tea table afford me a lively & rational conversation. My chamber is elegantly fitted up & I am requested to order any additions I may wish. God knows my humbler tastes wd never have chosen what I find. To give you one trifling instance of the readiness & delicacy of Mrs Honners attention, speaking of flowers & scents I happened to say I was fond of the smell of Mignonette, the next day when I had left my room, on returning to it, I found a box full of Mignonette in blow placed outside my chamber window. These trifles shew the mind as much as larger acts. The view from my window is charming & after a night of pain it has been very refreshing at day break to have my curtain undrawn to look on it. The sashes are low & my bed high so I command the view as I lie. I must defer attempting to describe the house & grounds till my next for it is time to talk of Eliza from whom a packet which cost me 7 shillings reached me last Friday. This is her account of the Phenomena

“My dearest Mother

At this time yesterday morning we thought ourselves on the verge of eternity, and awaited in total darkness and almost uninterrupted silence the expected shock which was to destroy us. It was a dreadful day more horrible in the recollection than I felt it to be at the time. I was then surprised at so wonderful an appearance and diverted by the absurd fears of the people around me for their precious selves. It began, I believe about two oClock on Friday Morning, by the report of distant guns, several being fired in succession I thought they proceeded from ships in distress, and was called up at that time & went up to the Castle supposing there was an engagement at Sea and the Soldiers were under arms all night Mr Dyke & Mr Rutherford4 went down to the Sea side but could not distinguish any thing. The night was extremely dark. I thought it the longest night I had ever known & was watching for some appearance of day light that voice of terror that it was past 7 oClock. It was totally dark. I could not distinguish Margarets figure as she stood between me and the open window. I dressed myself & went down stairs. All the family were now assembled and we saw lights in all the surrounding houses. I went into the balcony, and felt that it rained, as I thought, but returning into the room I found I was covered with wet sand or ashes. It fell on our hands like thick snow. Everyone thought an Earth-quake was coming. Mr Rutherford proposed our leaving the house – Mrs D— wd not stir, her sister wd not go without her so Miss Sims & I went out with him, but soon returned for it was impossible to proceed – we could not see each other in the least and were almost blinded by the dust which fell, not as if driven by the wind but in heavy thick showers. There was not a breath of wind and the darkness seemed to encrease. The Church was now lighted & the Bell rang for prayer Mr B—borrowed from Mr Ford, our next neighbour, the younger Pliny’s account of an irruption of Mount Vesuvius & read it. Pliny describes a fall of dust or ashes previous to the great shock. We all, I believe, thought the shock was coming. Mr D— laid down on the sopha & went to sleep – Mrs D walked about & groaned, Kate cried, Miss Sims was silent and I – asked for my breakfast. If I had prayed for the Earth quake to come & swallow us all up I do not think I should have excited so much indignation Mrs D— lifted up her hands & eyes in amazement & the blacks were petrified with horror. Luckily for me Miss Sims & Mr R— confessed themselves guilty of the dreadful sin of hunger & at last we got our breakfast & most prophanely eat it at the expense of our reputations for I perceive we shall never be considered as Christians again. After breakfast I proposed going to Church but none but my two companions in wickedness were willing to join me, the rest thinking I suppose if they went with us the Church wd certainly fall. My next plan of reading prayers was not better approved of. Mrs D preferred the more pious amusement of abusing us to her blacks confident Margaret, so we separated; Mr R. read the bible in his own room I the morning service to Miss Brailsford in mine – Mr D— went to Capn Sopers & Miss Sims & Mr Thomson made Love – For my part I think they are best off. We passed an hour in this manner & met again to wonder at the still encreasing darkness. When the Clock struck twelve I could not see my hand as I held it up before my eyes tho’ standing at an open window. Such pitchy darkness I never saw before. The Negroes ran about the streets with torches. You have seen red glare of the firemans torches blasing along the streets of London on a very dark night. Imagine the horror of such a sight at 12 oClock in the day. At one oClock I cd just distinguish the Cocao nut tree in the next yard which is much higher than any of the surrounding houses. Half an hour later we had a most beautiful picture of a dark winters night when everything is covered with snow. At two it was light but such a light as I never beheld before. The place where the sun was, was just perceptible It looked like the storm through a thick fog. I believe you will find a very good description of it in the poem of the Ancient Mariner.5 We cd now plainly see the dust which fell without intermission the whole day. At 6 this awful day closed and at 11 we were all in bed. And now I must say that the horrible calmness, the impenetrable darkness which seemed to veil from our eyes the destruction that awaited us was to me sublime & delightful. I wd not for worlds have been absent from the scene. If any power could have offered at that moment to have transported me to England & to you I really believe I shd have refused. I dare not – do not indeed say that I am sorry ^regretful this^ Island escaped the Earthquake which threatened it but as there must have been one somewhere I am sorry I was not a nearer witness of it. Our appearance to-day is more wretched than you can conceive we are absolutely buried in dust or ashes – I do not yet know which it is. It has metamorphosed every thing made the blacks white & the whites black. We eat it, we drink it, & we sleep on it. I have saved a small bottle full to shew my friends in England West Indian rain. (May 7th) This Phenomena has been accounted for in a melancholy manner by the destruction of part of the Island of St Vincent, of course you will heart hear a more circumstantial account of this dreadful Earth-quake than I cd give. I still wish I could have been a witness of it. What stupid lives people live in England compared with that of the inhabitants of such climates as these. They say there have been 200 shocks of Earth-quakes (slight ones) in St Vincent, within the last twelve months. We are still buried in dust.”

In two subj subsequent ^preceding^ pages dated April 28th the speakers with some alarm about the Theatre. The Man whom Mr Dyke offended about the admission of his mishap into the stage box has raised a party against Mr D— & he has been very ill used & compelled to receive the Mrs Shaw she mentions in her last into his company in order to quell or not like the O. P business in London though all the high people took his part. She speaks with great indignation against these people though she says it does not interfere with her – they go on as plauding & listening to her just the same but she addresses Mr D’s conduct & feels for his injuries.

I came abruptly to a conclusion on Wednesday Morning because the Butler is just going to Cork & will take this to the Post. Lanno sends a thousand kind remembrances. He has told Mrs Honner about you all & boasts proudly of the kindness of all. Pray remember me to Mr & Mrs Hays & the children. I was much pleased with Mrs Francis & Sarah Dunkin seemed very glad to see me.6 Write to me as soon as possible & as much as possible direct – R. Honners Esqr Lee Mount near Cork Ireland.

God bless you & give you health and peace prays yrs affectionately

E Fenwick

This is scarcely to be read but my hand shakes as tho’ I had been paralytic. Adieu Adieu Pray write.

Address: Mrs M. Hays | T. Hays Esqr | Wandsworth Common | near London

Postmark: Illegible

1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 105-09; not in Brooks, Correspondence.

2 Crabb Robinson.

3 forst] MS

4 William Rutherford (1783-1829), an actor and the son of a Methodist preacher, who will marry young Eliza Fenwick within a year of her arrival in Barbados. They will separate on 16 July 1818, the day their fourth child, Orlando Rutherford, was born.

5 Reference is to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1797), a narrative poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

6 References are to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hays, Elizabeth Dunkin Francis, and her younger sister, Sarah Dunkin, soon to be married to George Wedd.