1823 August 1
Eliza Fenwick, State Street, New Haven, Connecticut, to Mrs. M. Hays, Vanburgh [sic] Castle, Blackheath, near London, 1 August 1823.1
Newhaven Augst 1st 1823
I take shame to myself my dear though long neglected friend for my silence. I have known too for these three weeks past that the last letter I wrote you never was forwarded. The communication between America & the West Indies is now so frequent & our
let friends there have found so many opportunities of writing & sending us little tokens of remembrances, that when I was forwarding a letter on business to Mr Huoly2 ^in Barbadoes^ I sent a packet for England ^directed^ through the usual channel of Mr Robinson & his friend,3 for him ^Mr H.^ to forward. I was unlucky in my choice of Capn for he never delivered either mine of or the letters of any other person from this place & by his American Apathy I have I fear lost the only chance of securing a debt of £124.13 – as Mr Huoly could not proceed, when he saw a favorable [paper torn] for want of the final instructions from me, & now deems it a lost case. My [reason] for writing to you by so round about a way, was that, not having any connection in New York, I am obliged to get some of the West Indians here to forward an [paper torn] letter to their agents ^there^ as there is some little sixpenny fee to be given to the [paper torn] at the Post Office for English letters, & I thought I was addressing you in a securer way through Barbadoes beside saving you Postage. Much as I had heard against American Captains, the kind handsome (& even affectionate I may say) conduct of the [one] who brought us to the United States made me believe it a slander; & the [polite] act, & honorable conduct of another, belonging to this Port, who brought me a <–> remittance of dollars, & some presents of sweetmeats for the Children & would not receive any freight obliterated all traces of the bad report of their taking letters & embezzling small packages, but further experience has convinced me that [such] things are. Some Jars of Tamarinds, a Barrel of Yams & a box, I suppose of Guava [Jelly] ^lately^ sent from Barbadoes ^to New York^ are all lost, beside the letters of whose destruction I have already complained. But one letter was not even sufficient in so long an interval I confess.
I have a powerful claim to your forgiveness for much of my silence. I [suffered] during several months from severe head-aches which came in every day precisely at the [same] hour of noon, & lasted all the latter part of the day. If I wrote worked or read in the evening, I was sure to have a return in the night. Bleeding, Blistering, Leeches, Medicines and a regimen were all tried & tried in vain and my spirits sunk to a lower depth of dismay than I remember to have experienced, because the disease was so decidedly opposed to the claims of my situation. Every little exertion was torture & I could scarcely bear the voices of the Children. The necessity of this endurance & the inevitability of Nerve it produced helped to encrease & prolong these head-aches [paper torn] not, which have, at last I trust, yielded more to reasoning myself into less [of a] despondency, & more patience with little evils, than to the prescribed remedies. During the last year I have certainly had no cause for sorrow –actual [Affliction] has not approached our dwelling, but I have repined in secret severely, bitterly I left in Barbadoes a long list of uncollected debts – most justly & honorably due to us, as the reward of every sacrifice that duty demanded, & the hard earned remuneration of ceaseless toil. I left a legal power in the hands of Mr Huoly as my agent put my accounts into the hands of an Attorney who I was convinced [wd] not idly commence suits where I shd have to pay expences, agreeing to pay him 12 per cent out of what was collected. Mr Huoly acted from friendship. By the last letters I find I must renounce all expectation of debts that amount to upwards of £700 – and of several remaining ones they entertain doubts. An Englishman the Collector of Tortola Mr Snow – gave me his promissory note ^June 14th 1822^ at six weeks for £185 which I placed in the hands of Mr Coakley a Merchant at St Thomas, with directions how to remit it to America feeling as satisfied of the punctuality of Mr Snow as it was possible to be. Not one shilling has yet been paid by him, nothing but excuses & solicitations for time I have now written to order him to be sued. These disappointments & losses have set very heavily on my mind. I am growing old apace & want to travel the rest of my Journey on a smooth & level road. We are establishing a new [connection] and required our former earnings to set us fairly & freely forward. Our first year [of] residence here
is has been unavoidably expensive from having a house to furnish [&] winter preparations both of clothing & furniture ^to make^. We have also the usual disadvantage of want of experience & often buy dearly, beside the expences of removal with so large a family from one world to another; and therefore what we had collected to bring with us was soon swallowed up. It was a delightful hope & indeed belief I cherished of settling what we could spare of the money ^still^ to be collected in, upon the [Children], which though not amounting to a fortune, would have been a little [reserve toward] fixing them to (the three boys) to some pursuit when old enough. It was a cherished [consoling] project & the annihilation of it has raised bitter & angry feelings towards those [persons] whose Children have benefitted, incalculably benefitted, at the expence of [our] little beloveds. In the dead of night it has stood before me as a Sin, that I worked [paper torn] & meat & clothing & instruction, of the offspring of cold hearted strangers & left our own to depend on contingencies. The doing so was no sin, but a great folly on my part, the repentance or rather the manner of repenting ^is^ as great a folly – That I [paper torn] trying to be wiser the confession must testify, & I am inclined to think I should [paper torn] for myself & those allied to me if I could turn my back in all hope [paper torn] recovering the residue of the money owing me in Barbadoes, and send [paper torn] of Tortola a receipt in full. I should then certainly have only the future to be anxious about without the oppressive burthen of thinking I might by stronger resolution have saved much of the past losses. I am however more & more convinced that we acted wisely in removing. Our ostensible situation was improving in appearance but thorns lurked under the roses & we should have gone [paper torn] with the established habits of Barbadians trusting those who were [paper torn] ready to be trusted, & have at last sunk under accumulating disappointments. We have now tried America one year & have reason to be satisfied. [Our] school gradually encreases & the pay is secure. We do little among the Americans for very obvious & natural causes. Our terms are much higher than the other schools [&] we have refused solicitations to lower them. We feel that we are much better with twenty at the price fixed, than with 50 at half its amount – Our fatigue [less] our responsibility & our risque less – Besides our school is more select & [has] a better face. The Connecticut people are proverbially economical & they have [fondness] of Male teachers for their girls. A Mr Garfield here, a young [Person too] keeps a female school & has near 60 I am told. He is very clever, very zealous, & I am sure very competent, but I am shocked at his manners. A young Lady was married last week to whom he once gave Littles poems & bid her shew him which she liked best. She happened to be related to the Bishop, who is truly the Gentleman as well as priest, & by his advice she was taken from Mr Garfields school directly. But this teacher talks [to] his young Ladies of their sweet-hearts, I am assured, without the smallest reserve. [His] price is half ours exactly, but he never will have a West-Indian pupil. We have [twenty, 9] are boarders. A Mrs Apthorpe a Lady most advantageously connected & singularly circumstanced, ^[like ourselves] settled here a few months before us, who stands much in [our way.] Her Husband, a Drunkard a Gamester & a brute, had spent a very handsome fortune & wearied out all their friends, who however took her case into consideration & on her separating from him according to some form of American law, they set her up with her three daughters in Newhaven, & exerting a wide extended interest [got] her several pupils, 16 I believe she has, tall girls. She boards them & superintends their conduct; & engages a Master to come every day to instruct them. She is a very pleasing woman & fit for her situation. It is certain that some of the young ladies she has, would have come to us, but then we do for ourselves what she pays for, & therefore we neither are nor ought to be envious. Our profits [are] greater & it is still predicted that as we become more known we shall receive pupils from the Southern states. Our income meets our expenditure but I am have been obliged still to receive advances from ^2 of^ our friends & patrons here because funds from Demarary are locked up. Did I ever mention a Mr Culpeper who placed his youngest girl with us and gave me £100 ^in advance^ the day she enter’d. During a year he still kept paying in advance & dying at the end of the year settled a part of his property [secured] to her to provide for her board & education till she was eighteen with us unless [she] married first before that period. Her elder brother & sister he appointed her Guardians. But the Demarary laws will not allow a Guardian to act before 25 & her brother was but 21. He came to Barbadoes & to take leave of the child paid [me] up to the end of May ^1822^ with 100 dollars in advance for the voyage & assured me that if the Court appointed another Guardian my remittances would not be affected. Something, however, has affected them, for from that hour to this not one penny has come nor even one line of enquiry form either Brother or Sister. A Mr Benjamin a rich Demarary Merchant has settled here with his family & sends us two daughters & a niece. His corresponding Clerk has delivered several letters of mine to the family ^& beneficiaries^ & sends word they are well &c. We suppose some disagreement subsists between the Guardian of the Court, & the young Man. I have by Mr Benjamins advice addressed that Guardian, & as he, Mr B—, goes in Ocr to Demarary I shall then get it settled for it is safe, but as 500 dollars are already due, the absence of that amount wd have put us to difficulties if a good friend here, had not stopped the gap. – Are you not tired of this grumbling detail of petty differ disappointmens, but so much have they occupied the course of my thoughts, I could not help dwelling on them with my pen.
My ardent longings for your society dear Mary, as a member of our family the severity of the winter did certainly abate, & the occasional intense heats of the present summer make me altogether doubtful of the kindness of wishing you to come to America. For my own part I do not dislike the winter, but Mrs Rutherford who was always a chilly Mortal suffered inconceivably & maintains that to be cold & to be happy are incompatible things. Now when everyone else have been panting with under a suffocating atmosphere she declares it to be just pleasant. I thought our English climate was variability itself, but it never equalled in sudden & extreme changes what I have already seen in America. We spent one evening in Feby at the [Bishop] of Connecticuts4 & return[ed home] between 11 & 12 in one of the loveliest & mildest nights a winter ever afforded. [I said spring] was begun, yet when I opened my eyes next Morning the snow was above [three] feet deep and the water freezing near the fire side. I do not love the summer [the] heat is to me intolerable. What with flannels & blazing fires I can keep myself comfortable in winter & plaids & furs enable me to enjoy sleighing exceedingly. We [drove] 18 miles one afternoon in one hour & ¼ without any extraordinary speed of the horses [In] the sleigh with me I had eight Children & it was difficult for the driver to [keep] the horses from going much faster. Mrs Rutherford was in Mr Dummetts single horse sleigh with her two youngest Children & driven by Mr Dummetts Son, & they with another single horse sleigh ^of the party^ went in a shorter time. The prospect was glorious. Every twig & every branch of each tree was encased in ice. The roads were lakes of polished ice, & every field & hedge transformed into Crystals. A
bring bright sun in a clear sky shed such a lustre over all that it was too dazzling to rest there as I never beheld or imagined a prospect of such splendor. It is usual for rain to fall after a snow storm & then freezing follows & effects this brilliant metamorphosis. Then sleighing is in perfection. It is fashionable to drive about the streets, the horses are decorated with bells – The sleighs are prettily shaped & painted, & crammed as full as they can hold of Ladies & Children who make a dashing appearance with their fur caps & gold bands [& tassels], & the Buffalo & deer skins hanging round the sides of the sleighs bordered with scarlet cloth, which as they go crossing & recrossing each other at every turning with a rapidity like flying. An overturn is thought little of because the carriage is so close to the ground ^it goes on steel runners, no wheels, & a child can drive it^. I always prefer’d going into the Country. If you want a perfect picture of an ice prospect read the Pioneers: A Novel of extraordinary talent written by a Mr Cooper, a ^an American^ clergyman I believe. His Spy is also a work of the first order. I have not seen Precaution, another of his writings & I hear there is a fourth now in the press.5 Seventy Six is also the production of an American, whose name I have not heard.6 It is powerfully written & laid very strong hold on my feelings. I wish I could send you an oration lately delivered on the 4th July by a student of this College because its eloquence as well as its elegance wd charm you. Mrs Rutherford attended the College Exhibition of May & was very highly gratified. [An] indisposition prevented me, but I hope to hear the Senior Class in Septr. The Scotch works are popular here. Ringan Gilhaize, the Brownie of Bodsnock [sic], & the Entail7 have also afforded me much pleasure, & Quentin Durward ranks, in my opinion, much above its two immediate predecessors from the same pen.8 The American Lord Byron, a Mr Percival is in Newhaven but so shy & determinately avoiding is he, that there is no hope of becoming acquainted with him. He is quite young & has the reality as well as the oddity of Genius. He writes at present for a Newspaper, having, as I hear, spent his little property.9 We have removed to a large & very commodious house much to the encrease of our comforts and have now been visited by ^almost^ all the leading families of this town. Mrs Rutherford is a universal favorite. The Bishop says she is the finest woman he ever saw – this was told me by his wife. Now finest does not relate to ^any^ personal beauty here, but to the mind manners & tout-ensemble. I tell her she ought to be grateful to an American winter for it has renovated her in almost singular degree. I often look at her cleared complexion, her color & vivacity of her eyes, & the roundness of her person & think she can scarcely be the daughter I brought sallow, colorless, and almost a skeleton. Our friends here say she looks as young & better now than when she first arrived in Barbadoes. Of the better, I have no doubt because all that she has done, aye & all that she has suffered has enlarged her intellect & speaks very emphatically from her Countenance. Her children have benefitted even more in health & equally in looks. Of their persons & dispositions I will speak more in my [next].
With these terrors of mighty winter & those oppressions of the Summer skies (which I support merely because they are not lasting) before me, how can I hope to lure you to America. Ah, no I will not ask it. It is indeed a task at our period of life to break up old associations & habits & begin new. I remember how long I was in assimilating my feelings ^& tastes^ to all that was new when I went to Barbadoes, & though I removed here surrounded by my family, & have joined a circle I knew previously I even yet have a latent
feeling sense of being in a strange <–> land. I seem to love Barbadoes better than when I was in it. I could not be tempted to go back. I think & wish to be here the rest of my days & yet am not altogether at home. No I will never again urge you to quit the connections you have lived among from infancy. Stay with them or near them, for even little temporary estrangements are more endurable than final separation. I wish I could see somebody that has seen you.
Remember us most kindly to Mr Robinson when you see him & present our good wishes to those of your family to whom they would be acceptable. Do not punish me by silence. Eliza bids me give her affetionate regards to you. Farewell Farewell
Yours very sincerely
So many interruptions occur in the day & our occupation so engrosses our time that I have now completed this by setting up at night on the 9th of August It is past one oClock so good night good night my dearest friend!
I was obliged to divide my paper by an accident
Address: To | Mrs M. Hays |
N o 41 Cross Street ^Vanburgh Castle^ | Islington ^Blackheath^ | near | London
Postmark: ? 1823
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 223-30; not in Brooks, Correspondence. Earlier in 1823, Hays had moved from Pentonville to Vanbrugh Castle on Maze Hill, next to Greenwich Park, where Robert Browne and his wife operated a school. Hays was not teaching but merely boarding there, primarily to be near two of her favorite nieces, Elizabeth Dunkin Francis and Marianna Dunkin Bennett, who also lived in spacious homes on Maze Hill.
2 Fenwick clearly spells the name "Huoly" (Wedd spells it Houry, and it may actually be Houley); he was a teacher in Fenwick's school in Barbados and probably assumed control of the school upon her departure, with her still retaining some hope that he could procure the debts owed her.
3 Crabb Robinson and Thomas Amyot.
4 Thomas Church Brownell (1779-1865) was the founder of Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut (1823). He became Bishop of the Episcopal Church for Connecticut in 1819.
5 Fenwick is referring to the early novels by James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851).
6 Seventy-Six appeared in 1823 and was written by the American writer, John Neal (1793-1876).
7 Works by John Galt (1779-1839), Scottish novelist and political commentator. The Brownie of Blednoch was a poem by William Nicholson (1783-1849), known as the “Bard of Gallaway.”
8 Quentin Durward, by Sir Walter Scott, appeared in 1823, immediately following The Fortunes of Nigel (1822) and Peveril of the Peak (1822).
9 John Gates Percival (1795-1856) was an American poet, as well as a surgeon and geologist. He lived most of his life in New Haven, and had recently published Poems (1821) and Prometheus. A Poem (1821).