1826 October 15
Eliza Fenwick, 643 Broadway, New York, to Mrs M. Hays, Vanburg [sic] Castle, Maize Hill, Blackheath, 15 October 1826.1
New York 643 Broadway
Octr 15th 1826
My dearest friend,
I hope you received a letter which I forwarded you by Major Dix on the 1st of June & which I conclude reached you
about a little before I had the comfort of receiving yours from the hands of Mr Huoly after a tedious passage of 52 days I needed comfort at the time for I was again in hourly apprehension th of seeing Eliza draw her last painful gasp. Another very severe attack came on in July and another powerful Salivation has again relieved her. Yet it is but a change of suffering – from the greater to the less certainly – she can now again lie down at night, can walk from room to room by day but her teeth are loosened & her mouth so sore she can only receive spoon meat – what is worse medical men think it is only suspension not cure. We have a kind & zealous friend in one of the most eminent physicians of New York, & to his skill I think I owe her present existence. What a life of suffering has been mine & how am I, if it must be so, to bear her loss & to toil & struggle for her helpless orphans! Yet with all my reason tells me I have to fear, I still revive to hope as soon as the violent symptoms abate. And I keep my health my strength & activity of body & mind. Is it not wonderful. Ah my dear Mary how dreary it is for us to look back on our past lives and how desolate the future. [Greatly do] we need the faith of a better existence to enable us to support the miseries entailed on this.
I am still also stemming a torrent of pecuniary difficulties. Not one shilling can I get from the West Indies. I have lately sent out new powers legalized by the British Consul here appointing fresh agents – as a last effort. I can do nothing more unless I go myself, & the state of the family renders that measure impossible. I am convinced too I should never return. I grow yearly more impatient under heat – A hot day renders me a useless log & I dread it more than a whole winter in Spitzbergen. Could I collect from Barbadoes, Antigua, Demarary & Tortola the debts owing me I should not fear our eventual great success.
Your admirable essay is still in my hands I have had no time to see the publishing booksellers for I have not a moment I can call my own except at night[.] I sent it to the keeper of a circulating library who has published some of Mrs Sherwoods books & he sent it back saying it was well written but the female High School had already adopted all the principles & commenced the practice[.] The first holliday we give I will go out & try for information how best to dispose of it2
You must consider this letter as a sort of morning call. It goes by a Mr Whitfield from Barbadoes who sails early tomorrow morning, & this is late on Sunday evening. My eyes are so much affected by candle light. Mr W. will make some stay at Liverpool so you perhaps will not get the letter before Christmas. I have charged him not to forward it as it cannot be worth postage. Let me hear from you. We shall never meet more in this weary pilgrimage I fear & will our spirits carry recognition of mundane friendships into eternity? I hope so, and that it will then be enjoyed without the alloys of separation & all other painful & destructive contingencies.
Make my regards to Mrs Lanfear I regret that her work has not crossed the Atlantic.3
Farewell my dearest friend. Eliza joins in affectionate prayers & wishes, with
Address: Mrs M. Hays | Vanburg [sic] Castle | Maize Hill | near | Blackheath
Postmark: 18 November 1826
1 Fenwick Family Papers, Correspondence, 1798-1855, New York Historical Library; Wedd, Fate of the Fenwicks 242-43; Brooks, Correspondence 359-60. .
2 It appears Hays wrote at least one more work after her Memoirs of Queens in 1821 for publication, and Fenwick had a copy of it in New York, but whether it was ever published and under what appellation, if any, remains unknown. Works of a similar topic that appeared the following year in New York were not by Hays, but they include Letters on the Improvement of the Mind: Addressed to a Lady, by Mrs. Chapone. A Father's Legacy to his Daughters, by Dr. Gregory. A mother's advice to her absent daughters, with an additional letter, on the management and education of infant children, by Lady Pennington (New York: Samuel Marks, 1827); and Observations on the Importance of Female Education, and Maternal Instruction, with their beneficial influence on society (New York: Mahlon Day, 1827), by Abigail Mott and James Mott. The other reference above is to Mary Martha Sherwood (1775-1851), a prolific writer for children at this time in Great Britain, publishing some 400 titles in her lifetime.
3 This reference seems odd, given Lanfear's death the previous year. It is possible Hays had not written back to Fenwick during that time, or if she did, she did not mention the loss of her sister. Clearly in some earlier communication between Hays and Fenwick, Hays had mentioned the publication in 1824 of Lanfear's second volume, Letters to Young Ladies on Their Entrance into the World, a conduct book that would receive a wide circulation, far more than her 1819 novel Fatal Errors.