1812 March 10

Eliza Fenwick, [5 Tavistock Square], to Mary Hays, Wandsworth Common, [postmark 10 March 1812].1

My dear friend,

Your long explanation respecting your brother was unnecessary though very kindly meant. I really think I must have expressed myself differently from what I meant intended since you deemed it proper to enter into these details to me. Mr Hays certainly at this time twelvemonth meant & expressed himself differently form what he now supposes for I well remember the conversation you allude to when I chanced to dine with him at your house, the unequivocal tenor of his expressions & the warmth of gratitude which my heart felt, but as I well know how much we are generally governed by circumstances & how many more interesting subjects have since engrossed & turned his thoughts into other channels I most perfectly exculpate him from recollecting how decidedly he made the offer upon which I acted. I am quite sure that he is not the man wilfully to give a hope he never intended to fulfill. I assure you all that I felt of deep chagrin & disappointment has passed away so much so that if I perceived any thing in which his advice would serve me I would frankly ask it. Nor have I acted in the manner you warned me against. Except when the shock first reached me & in the hope that Mr Whitaker could remedy the evil I hurried to shew him your brothers letter I have not spoken at all of the circumstance. To Mr F— & his brother I have stated that some obstacles had arisen between Mr Hays & the quarter where he meant to use his interest for Orlando that rendered Orlan the boys appointment uncertain, & as it happens the precarious tenure upon which the East India Company now hold their Charter & the probability that Government2 will take much of their power into its own hands renders this perfectly probable & obvious & completely exculpates your brother from any shadow of blame. To this family I have not hinted the change, for when I read with a proud triumph your letter on the subject of Orla Mr Hays & Orlando to Mrs M— & her Sister last year I was perhaps actuated by the very vanity which now impels me to derive any change I may think proper to announce in my boys prospects from my own opinions ^rather^ than from any change in my boasted friends. In some cases this would be a petty pride, but my dear friend believe me much of the respect I have had here I owe to my appearing to possess friends situated far above my circumstances – Your carriage & consequence has perhaps said more for me than the best sentence I ever wrote or uttered – I think it would be worth while to bribe you to come a little oftener if I were not too poor to give & you too proud to accept a bribe. I have nothing to hope from Mr M. who is one of those cold rigidly honest men who would not defraud any one of the fraction of a farthing in the way of their just due but who never speculates in the way of benevolence. So let this avowal of my prudence & my pride satisfy you that I shall never injure Mr H. either in the opinion of those or these who do not know him And now let the matter rest with this one exception that when you see him you may say I am much obliged by his willingness to assist me shd I procure Lanno’s appointment.

Would you believe that this very appointment to which I have been looking with such hope & exultation for a whole year & in behalf of which I consented to expose my bef beloved girl to a thousand uncertainties & hazards, I now dread to see obtained. When I recovered my first dismay the sweet recollection stole to my heart that now the second sacrifice of a child would not be demanded of me & I nourished so ardently the wish of keeping him near me & escaping the emotions which Eliza’s absence has caused that shd he be sent away I shall have a vehement effort to make over myself therefore shd Mr B— not succeed do not think you have another pang to inflict in the communication. It is rumoured that Government intend to take the East India troops into their own direction & place them on the same footing of the Kings troops. If so all the vices of the service will extend to that. Farewell to the progress of subalterns of talent & enterprise. Promotion will be bought or given through ministerial influence & that school of emulation which the india [sic] service has proved will exist no longer. Should these events take place it would be decidedly wrong to place Lanno who can neither command money nor interest in a situation which he could never probably amend for himself whatever might be his talent. I believe that the Charter of the East India Company expires during the present session of Parliament but I am not very well informed of public events. I only see a newspaper now & then.

I forwarded the paper directed to Mr Dunkin as you desired. I had a great inclination to enclose it in a few lines directed to your niece Sarah thanking her for the pleasing interest she takes in me & mine & wishing that her happiness may be as lasting as she feels it to be perfect. These sweet illusions of youth are very beautiful – they awake in our experienced feelings the tenderest emotions of pity.3

A young man is come from Barbadoes to attend surgical lectures, & is a resident at Mr Fernandez an Apothecary in Ormond Street.4 Mrs F— is Mrs Mocattoes youngest sister. Mrs Da Costa in her way here yesterday called there & heard from the young man that he had seen Eliza play several times before he embarked & that she was the universal favorite. When Mr F— sends me back the copy of her letter I will return it to you in case you wish to make any use of it. Her success & happiness almost comes too late for me. Its novelty destroys me. I am very unwell without having any decided complaint; a most violent flushing in my face, throbbing in my temples, & a frequent head ache more wearying than intense. The Journey up three high flights of stairs to my apartment in the Attic seems to send all my blood upward to my head. And when I he see Mr Mocatta running from Physician to Physician because his sleep in is rendered unrefreshing by perpetual harrassing dreams I cannot help comparing the condition of the rich & the poor. I seem only to go to bed to dream in this way and frequently when my hour of rising comes I drag my limbs out as ^if^ they had been subject to the most violent exercise. But as I think this is the infirmity of my situation rather than one which medicine can cure I only remember it when hearing Mr M—s complaint.

The sentence you desired an explanation of is unintelligible to me as it stands in yr extract. If it alludes to Mrs Ainsley as she then was called, I only meant that she continued, I had reason to know a course of licentiousness & ensnared even a youthful lover. If I alluded to the general system of ^mere^ sensual depravity in which men seemingly indulge & which I endeavoured to give you an idea of I had nothing more to explain beyond what I had said. As I frequently write while giving lessons I dare say I make an odd jumble[.]

I conveyed all your advice to Eliza by the last Packet. Backed by such influence & recommendations she may perhaps be successful in teaching, otherwise from what I hear of the Colonists I shd give up that part of the prospect, in my calculations entirely. These families are all amazement at Mrs Barrow’s sending Eliza preserves &c; they say that Eliza must have pleased her in a most extraordinary degree, as she is proverbial for a penuriousness of the extremest kind.

Adieu my dearest friend. Did I tell you that poor Miss Lamb is again removed to Hoxton Miss Benjer has called on me 3 times. She took me one evening to the lecture at the Russel institution.5 She enquires for you. I enclose an eulogium on poor Mrs Jebb6 which you perhaps may not have sent seen Mr F— sent it to me.

Write soon to yrs truely


Address: Miss Hays | Wandsworth Common

Postmark: 10 March 1812

1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 76-78; not in Brooks, Correspondence.

2 The Charter for the East India Company was due for renewal by Parliament in 1813, and was indeed a highly contested and controversial renewal.

3 Sarah Dunkin, daughter of John Dunkin of Woodham Mortimer, Essex, would marry George Wedd in August 1812.

4 Peregrine Fernandez, surgeon, 1 New Ormond Street (Holden’s London Directory for 1805).

5 Mary Lamb, sister of the writer Charles Lamb, suffered from recurring bouts of insanity; for more on the writer/poet/literary socialite Elizabeth Benger (1775-1827), see her entry in the Biographical Index. Most likely Benger took Fenwick to one of Coleridge's lectures on Shakespeare which occurred in January 1812 at the Russell Institution.