1822 September 2
Eliza Fenwick, New Haven, Connecticut, to Mrs. M. Hays, 41 Cross Street, Islington, London, 2 September 1822.1
Aug st Sepr 2d 1822
At length my dear Mary I address you from the New World, where I hope and trust I am fixed for the remnant of my days for such a succession of petty cares & disappointments added to the fatigues & difficulties of breaking up such an establishment ^as ours
in Barbadoes so^ occupied the last three months of our residence in Barbadoes that I really began to think I should never reach their end. I had also tormenting apprehensions for Mrs Rutherford on whom the suffering of leave taking, and all the well meant but injudicious remonstrances & persuasions of friends to give up our project and resettle, as it were, among them, took a most injurious effect. I felt it less for having all the money matters to regulate I was kept up by being constantly angry; but her sympathy was ^as^ constantly assailed, nor did she know, till it came to the point of separation, how much she loved & was beloved by many associates ^intimates^ of ten years standing. Of course many secret associations of ideas augmented the pungency of her feelings – her ill fated marriage – her four Children born there – her beloved brother buried there – all I dare say contributed to shatter her frame & waste her strength & spirits. But it seemed as if fortune favoured our removal, for on the day 3 weeks that we had eat[en], or rather set by our last melancholy dinner in Barbadoes, surrounded by weeping friends – on that very day three weeks we dined cheerfully & heartily in Newhaven surrounded by friends whose joy at our arrival equalled the regrets of our well wishers across the Atlantic. As the ports were not then opened we were obliged first to go to St Thomas’s ^a four days sail^ & there we waited four days before we embarked for America. Then we passed two days at Staten Island, nine miles from New York, where the Ships from the West Indies perform Quarantine & yet we completed all in three weeks – Our voyage from St Thomas being one continued rapid and pleasant sail without one a moments interruption of our straitforward course. The American ships are not neat & commodious in their arrangements, generally speaking, but the almost unparalleled2 fine weather, our continued swift progress, and great kindness & attention on the part of the Captain made us careless of other inconveniences. Bringing six boarders with me, and a Servant, beside ourselves & the four children, I expected to take lodgings till we could settle ourselves in a house, but I had not taken just measure of the affectionate hospitality of the Dummett family ^now settled here^ with whom Mrs Rutherford spent so much of her time in Barbadoes before her marriage, for two elegant equipages were immediately brought to the door of the Hotel & all of us, Children, Servant, dog, cat, Parrot, & Macau were whirled away to Mr Dummetts Contry residence, & there we remained three weeks; being visited & visiting,3 & making Country excursions, while Mr Dummett, Major Williams, & two other West India Friends, took all the trouble of getting a house in readiness, & preparing our cards & advertisements. We had not been previously acquainted with Major & Mrs Williams, who have been settled here five years but they knew us by Character, & we were well known to all his relatives in Barbadoes (the first people in Consequence & fortune in that Island). In his own Country & in this also, he is supposed to be one of the proudest men existing, while in all other respects of the most unimpeachable character & principles; yet had we been a long absent Mother & Sister arriving, the kindness & constant attention of Mr & Mrs Williams could not be exceeded. Our introduction here by the Dummetts & Williams both being families who rank high in the public opinion, is a most important circumstance to us. Several American Ladies have called on us & made parties for our further introduction. We are pleased with this as the only fault the Natives can find with the West Indians living here is, that they keep too much within their own circle & have rather slighted the advances of the Americans. It is certainly true but we do not intend doing so & flatter ourselves we shall incite them to generalize a little more. We have been introduced to the Bishop of Connecticut, a most Gentlemanly intelligent & literary minded man. There is a wide chasm between the Episcopalians & the Presbyterians, & they seldom mix together. We had letters to the first mercantile house of this town & mutual calls have passed but there I suppose the intercourse will stop, as we go to ^the^ Church & they are rigid Presbyterians. Major Williams was the first person who ever rode in a carriage here on Sunday & when him he not only drove to Church in his Coach, but took an airing in the afternoon every one was struck with astonishment. But as they soon found him to be a strictly moral man, they began not only to endure but to imitate and now the Episcopalians, in particular, use their carriages on Sunday. Yet in no part of the world that I have seen did Sunday ever appear so much & really a holy day. In the very Centre of the town is an immensely large square or Green & in the Centre of this square stand three beautiful buildings in an even row at a little distance from each other – the Church – The Presbyterian Meeting house – and the Methodist Chapel – all of large dimensions, and the hours of worship being the same, it is really an impressive sight to see all ranks of people hastening to pay their homage to the deity. No shops open – no traffic, every thing appears to be in unison without doors as well as within the crouded temples.
Nothing can exceed the beauty of this town. The principal streets look like the fine avenues in Windsor Park being planted with rows of lofty trees. The houses are all apart from each other, except the streets of business, & are surrounded by gardens & shrubberies. The houses are mostly wood, nicely painted & are seldom above two stories, very compact, and tasty in their papers & other decorations. It does not look at all like a City (unless you visit the Wharf of a mile long) but like a town or village of Gentlemans houses. The Country is covered with Woods & Hills & Cliffs interspersed with beautiful small rivers beside the noble expanse of the Sound, & the prospect is bounded to the North by Mountains. I believe you know how I always doted on this sort of scenery, and really my exclamations of pleasure at some of the woody deep sunk glens, or splendid openings of Country, in our rides, have ^I believe^ excited a smile among our party but when I am pleased I cannot help expressing it. Mrs Rutherford is already recovered astonishingly. Her sallowness is giving place to a clearer shine & Mrs Gunning was amazed to see the speedy change in both Mrs R & her Children. No one can compliment my looks for I am even paler than in Barbadoes. I suppose I am too old to mend. Perhaps it is because I cannot yet ^feel^ quite at home under our change of life. It is an awkward thing the entirely new beginning of housekeeping & still more awkward the commencement of a school. All went on in a regular System at Barbadoes from long habit, & the new comers guided by habituated pupils easily understood & adopted the rules but here it is all to do over again, and the Children have been allowed in other schools such insubordination & independence that it is a double difficulty to bring them under that due subjection which I think necessary to their improvement. Some also (the Misses Williams) have never before been at school but were attended by a Master at home. The Major could not endure that his daughters should go to a school where boys & girls were mixed under one Master & of course they have still to learn the power of regular steady application – Altogether we find fifteen as fatiguing to the spirits as fifty were; but this will mend and in a few months we shall get rid of this troublesome feeling of not being at home. My next shall tell you more of American manners and character. We have not yet had time to see it out of holiday garb. I must now bid you a reluctant farewell. I cannot fancy I am as far from you as before for the fruit & every thing remind me so much of England. Eliza joins in
many all affectionate wishes & kind greetings. Pray write immediately & direct to me Newhaven Connecticut. In my next I shall give you more details of our manner of living &c for I have not relinquished the hope of your coming to us. Farewell
Yrs most truly
I was compelled to leave £872..17..10½ of unsettled accounts in Barbadoes, and £185 in Tortola owing me by the Collector of the Customs there; & to put all into the hands of an Attorney at 12 per Cent Commission. What we did collect & the advances paid by the pupils accompanying us served to provide our voyages &c &c to purchase furniture &c. All our friends ^here^ insisted on paying their Childrens quarters in advance & our fifteen pupils are all West Indians four other West Indians came this month and we hear of some Americans who are also to join us. Indeed I am fully persuaded we have done wisely Our friends predict the most flattering success and think that after becoming known we shall attract many pupils from the Southern states where the people are very rich & are very fond of education. Newhaven bears a high character for health & beauty. Our advertisements have appeared at Charlestown New York &c &c and are backed by such references as must give them importance[.]
Address: Mrs M. Hays | No 41 Cross Street | Islington | London
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 219-23; not in Brooks, Correspondence.
2 unparralled] MS
3 visitted & visitting] MS