1812 October 27
Eliza Fenwick, Lee Mount, Ireland, to Mrs. M. Hays, at T. Hays, Esqr., Wandsworth Common, 27 October .1
Lee Mount Ocr 27th
I am both surprised and ashamed to think what a bad correspondent I am become. It is delight to me to sit a spare hour in my chamber by my cheerful wood fire and mentally converse with you and with Eliza. Such ruminations though often verging towards melancholy are an actual feast to me and yet to take up my pen to write to either is a positive task while I long for the receipt of each of your letters with an earnestness I cannot describe. I try to account for this odd and reprehensible change in my habits and begin to fancy that the ease, serenity, & quiet of my situation are too much opposed to the stimulating warfare of life I have generally led. At Mrs M—s I wrote much in school hours when my pupil was engaged with Masters or employed in exercises for them but that does not occur here. Music & writing occupy much time and with other necessary pursuits I am closely employed with my pupils six hours of the day.
There Some times I steal an hour from my allowance to them for an additional walk. The winters of Ireland are dreadfully rainy and while the bright intervals of Autumn days remain I could lie out of doors. I walk a great deal, exploring every spot and tract and constantly encreasing my affection for the beauties of Nature. A late dinner between 6 & 7, lively entertaining chat afterwards & every body ready to go to Bed by ten induce a sleepy propensity I believe, for I find it impossible to sit up to write even with the comfort of a good fire as I used to do shivering with cold & discomfort – I am you perceive corrupted by luxury. Now & then I retire from our little fireside circle, as at this moment, for an hour between dinner and tea with an intention to write by but I generally fall into a reverie and neglect the opportunity. Nor do I very often attempt this for though I am never opposed I can easily discover that I am missed and Mr & Mrs Honner and their guests are so pleasant so easy so animated that I think it scarcely respectful or consistent with the gratitude due for their attention to me to quit their society in that little interval of association. But as my vocation is the cure of faults I ought I know to begin with my own and if you will take me to your mercy and forgiveness dear Mary, I will endeavour to amend. This propensity to mental inactivity, this inert and dangerous kind of love of reverie does not assail me except in my periods of leisure and loneliness. In my occupation I am more active than before. I have much more to do & am therefore compell’d to greater & more watchful or vigourous vigorous activity. My pupils have already greatly improved. The second is a girl of quick intellect and will I believe do great credit to my cases especially if I can but succeed in wholly subduing her devil of a temper. I am now perfectly Master – We seldom come to a quarrel therefore I have hopes of that end also. The perpetual speaking & exertion of <–> the hours of tuition leave me a little exhausted and induce listlessness afterwards, more especially as my climbings & wanderings give me bodily fatigue. Then I have no books, and that I feel to be a lamentable thing. The library of the Russell institution saved me from many a wearisome hour.2 Newly come to Europe and to settle from the wanderings of a military life, Mr & Mrs Honner have not had time amidst the bustle of building enlarging improving & furnishing their mansion to think of accumulating books, so that except a monstrous quantity of Agricultural & farriery volumes with one or two on Architecture & Mechanics we have none but school room books. Mrs H— subscribes to a Cork library which I imagine is a very bad one for the novels of character we have sent for are never to be had and the generality of the Minerva press compositions I cannot however fond of [a] story, read. Orlando tells me of a sort of institution library which he wishes to have access to, but the subscription is yearly and a deposit beside is given & they are at present beyond my means. This quarter I have even over-run my salary in a trifling degree – My postage has amounted to £3 and Orlando with his entrance money & his drawing lessons &c costs me within 2s..6d of £20 – But oh with what pleasure do I pay that money witnessing as I do the dear boys stability in his pursuits, his rapid improvement and the manly reflecting turn of mind he begins to possess. I have been but once to Cork since he went to school and when I espress’d to Mr Humphries my gratitude for his uncommon kindness to Lanno he answer’d – He is so good a boy he deserves to be made happy. And happy he does make him though he never suffers him to be idle. He has won the prize medal that is bestowed every Saturday on examining what is called the Judgment books of the week, for superiority of application, every week since the fou second of his going to school. He regularly wins the premium for the best executed maps since the third that he attempted and these he is obliged to execute in a given time out of school hours. Bathing is his principal recreation and swimming has I think superseded his passion for climbing. His Master sometimes on a Saturday afternoon takes him out prospect viewing or snipe shooting, and Mr Humphries total indifference to inconveniences of weather, or the obstacles of a stream to ford, together with his cheerful friendly conversation help much to strengthen with Lanno the influence of the school-master. Mr Joseph Humphries brother to Mr H— an intelligent sensible quaker attaches himself much to Lanno. With him Lanno a fortnight since made two tours – one to on foot, one to see the fine ruins of Hilcray Abbey & the other Blarney Castle & its picturesque domain. In the former he walked 23 miles in one day and the other about fifteen. His account of both were very entertaining to us on the following Sunday and his observations on them as the ^and^ the historical facts connected with both convinced me his time had not been thrown away. Happy for him & for me was the advice you gave of a removal from Mr Wilkinson[’s] silly & cruel taunts and their evil tendency on his spirit. He feels the value of his independence of such obligation so confer’d as he ought to feel it yet in remembering Mrs W—s unkindness he does not forget the reverse on the part of Mr W— and speaks highly of him & in particular praise of the order & system that prevailed in Mr W—s mode of giving instruction. I regret exceedingly that you do not see my boy in this his state of improvement for the pleasure you have already taken in him would be materially enhanced. Your admirable maxims and conversations, now too that the excess of his animal spirits is a little abated would be most advantageous to him but he cannot have every possible blessing at once. I see him here once a fortnight – He continues to be in high favor with the whole family but with all the distinction and approbation he receives his deportment and manner however lively is not forward or presumptuous. I miss his little billets which you used to convey but his time is so occupied & appropriated he has not the opportunity of writing. I intend he shd learn to dance but that he has beg’d may be defer’d as it would be impossible ^he said^ he shd attend without neglecting something of more utility. He rem^em^bers you fondly and all the kindness of Mr & Mrs Hays with gratitude. I trust he will ever remember it and when he bids me speak of his good wishes he mentions every individual & has more than once included Lion and Blunder. Next quarter will be less expensive than this and I shall be able to save for the payment of the debt I owe you. My residence here has not increased my inclination to send Lanno to the East Indies, but all that I hear that I think or judge on that subject I will reserve for a future communication. It is time now that I speak of my poor Wanderer. I know no more of her situation & her intentions than when I wrote to you last. I am anxiously watching for letters but none have come. I have ^grown^ so familiar with these delays that I do not now suffer them to prey upon my mind but absence does not lessen the pain of separation. I feel decidedly and more & more so, that I can never feel at home decidedly but reunited to her. I promised to transcribe passages relating to Mr Rutherford from her letters this is one and the first mention of the matter – dated June 8th.
“How strange it is after the years of perfect confidence I have passed with you speaking all I thought or felt that I shd now hesitate – Is it a consciousness of wrong that makes me fear your anger? If I am wrong say so my beloved Mother! Your word will govern me. Though I had every earthly felicity within my reach yr wish
w d govern shd make me forego them all. I used to write fearlessly about Mr Rutherford but now I do not like to speak of him least his name shd make you angry. Yet I must speak of him for I have given my word to marry him if you consent & for that consent I now write. I am not what is ^usually^ called in love with him yet I do esteem and love him very sincerely and I think he is of all the men I ever saw most calculated to make me happy.”
Then follows his prospect of settling as a lawyer and the plans for my immediately going to Barbadoes to Judge of him & his prospects; – too long to copy
“Do not, my dear Mother, determine hastily against Mr R— Come & see him. Come and see how earnestly he endeavours to cure me of all my faults; how solicitous he is that I never disregard an injunction of yours and how anxiously he partakes my solicitude for my darling Lanno. We never spend an half hour together without some pursuit. He has been of great service to my acting particularly in tragedy which he labours to make me excel in. He importunes me to the practice of music & singing when I would rather neglect them and with his assistance I have become so fluent in French that I should now be able to teach it without fear.” &c –
“Augst 2d My beloved Mother I do not know whether I have a right to indulge the feelings of delight you have so unintentionally given me. You were ignorant when you wrote the letter I have just received enclosing one from Mr R—s mother how deeply my happiness was concerned in yr approbation of Mr Rutherford. But you have spoken kindly – almost affectionately of him & my heart throbs with joy as I retrace the lines. He is the son of the man your father loved he loves you and you must love him. Will you when you learn how dear he is to me retract the interest you now express about him & yr present inclination to esteem him? Why shd I think you will? Why when you have always proved you consider no sacrifice too great to make for me shd I in this instance fear you will demand I should prefer a chance of riches which of themselves cd never make me happy, to a fair prospect of every other happiness of life – It is considered by my wealthy friends here an imprudent match though they highly esteem him. How is it so. I am able to get my own living – much more I believe – Mr R. is equally competent to earn enough for all the comforts of life & he had as little wish for more than competence & comfort as you & I have. I cannot always live with Dr & Mrs Dummet kind as they are altho that is what they wish. I could not exist long ^thus^. Their perpetual desire for my company and dread of my being alone gives it the slavery of a mere visit – It spoils my playing. I am too far removed from the Theatre & Theatricals and my love for the stage I perceive even with the flattering bursts of applause which follows every thing I do, will not keep alive without having my attention constantly fixed to it – What a chill of disappointment your going to Ireland gave to the zeal
for with which we were anticipating your speedy arrival here, yet my Orlando’s claims were I confess paramount to mine important as I conceive mine to be. Ah my dear Mother had I no other reason to love Mr Rutherford I should do so because he talks and thinks so much like you. The more I see of his ^manners^ character & temper the more I learn of his feelings & opinions the more I am convinced he is calculated beyond any one I ever knew to constitute my happiness.”
I have not time to transcribe her account of the dissentions of the Theatre nor the difficulties she is placed in respecting going with the Company to another Island for the vacation on account of the reigning disputes & her being too much displeased with all to like going
up unprotected with them. This perplexity & my not joining her may precipitate this marriage. I will write to you as soon as possible after the receipt of her next pacquets. Your love and solicitude for my children is the pride of my heart.
God bless you dearest of friends! Write me longer letters and tell me all particulars of every thing that affects or interests your feelings. Mrs Hewitt is here. A warmly contested election and its Balls make a little bustle among us at present. Our Autumn has
generally ^mostly^ been fine Once a week we are generally visited by a fine pack of fox hounds & a train of hunters. They come to draw as it is called our woods for foxes. Their errand is cruel & yet I cannot help thinking it a very pretty sight & animated sight. I have neither seen the fox startled or killed you’ll observe. We have abundance of game of all kinds.
What nonsense I talk to you! but to chat thus seems coming nearer to each other. Adieu! Remember me kindly to all enquiring friends & think of me ever as your
Address: Mrs M. Hays | T. Hays Esqr | Wandsworth Common
Postmark: 4 November 1812
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 119-21; not in Brooks, Correspondence.
2 The Russell Institution was founded in 1809 in Great Coram Street, London, and the creation of a library was one of its central purposes. As John Feltham's Picture of London notes, the library sought to procure "the most useful works in ancient and modern literature," as well as "the establishment of a reading room provided with the best foreign and English journals, and the periodical publications, and lectures on literary and scientific subjects. The books in the library will be circulated for reading among the proprietors." It is doubtful Fenwick was a subscriber, given her constant financial woes, but she would have had many friends who probably were and could loan her books; most likely Hays benefited as well from the library through many of the same friends, possibly William Tooke. See Feltham, The Picture of London (London: R. Phillips, 1809), 184.