Letter #10

This letter has no date at the beginning; it was written from St Lucia and probably begun on 7 June 1834. When he failed to get it away, English broke the seal and wrote all over the cover. Presumably a new cover was added, but it does not survive.

The West India Regiments were raised from 1795 onwards to defend the plantations in the French wars. The officers were white, mainly British; other ranks were either Creole or slaves bought by the Army immediately on their arrival from Africa. Such slaves were, however, freed by Act of Parliament in 1807, so at this time, the regiments had no slaves.

English always misspelt the name Coleridge. This Mr ‘Coldridge’ is Henry Nelson Coleridge, nephew of the bishop, who accompanied his uncle on his first arrival in the islands. His entertaining account of his tour, Six months in the West Indies in 1825, must have been studied by the Englishes. He recalls an early morning encounter with a servant: ‘Betsy pushed her black eyes, yellow face and white teeth through the door with “How you do, my massa? La! what white skin! gee! gee! gee!”‘

‘Lord James’ is Lord James O’Bryen, a ‘friend at court’ and a relative of aunt O’Brien’s late husband. He was a gentleman of the bedchamber to King William IV.

Mrs Steward was Kate’s eldest sister Sarah. Stoke Hall, Ipswich, was their family home.

You will think my dear Kate that I always give you a hurried letter but the fact is I don’t like to miss an opportunity, the greater number I send off for England being forward by merchant vessels or other chances between the periods for the regular Packets. My Clerk of Works, a very good one and a respectable young man has called this morning, brought me a bunch of the cotton plant flowers to be prepared for my dear young lassies and told me that a small vessel will sail for England about 11 oclock – it is now ½ past 7. He has also offered to take a letter on board for me. The Harbour of Castries lays about 20 miles from this, therefore my time is not abundant but I will write like winking. With this in view I had gone thro my dip and shower bath in less time, in fact with unusual dispatch. When Charley [sketch of Charley] came into my bed room bolt, he might have exclaimed, as Mr Coldridge describes an adventure in one of the Islands, “Ah! Massa, what white skin”. He did not however make such a remark, but came to state that Sergt Fiddes was waiting with a couple of prisoners. You must now be introduced to my black charge. When the West India Regt were reduced, the men were termed military labourers and turned over to the Quarter Mast Genl & Engineer Departments at a low rate of pay with rations. I have about a hundred of these pretty pale faced reprobates, all from Africa originally. I thought the story never would end. The burthen & cream of it was that Corpl Miltiades had found Private Lycurgus in his house looking after such useful articles as might be put to account, and that Corpl Miltiades knocked the Spartan legislator down, and to complete the scene the teeth were produced by Lycurgus – ‘See Massa Capt, him do hit’. They have all names after the heroes of old or of the last few generations – one is named Arthur Wellington. The trouble they give is so great that it quite counterbalances the good that can be derived from the little work they perform. We expect a mail tomorrow, and eight days afterwards a Boat comes round to collect the dispatches for England and takes the whole to St Thomas, from whence the bags start homewards. I wish my time was come to quit this vile country and to enjoy your society again, but it must be some time yet before my transportation can expire. You will of course receive letters by the next Packet & I will endeavour to make up a batch for the party, but the difficulty I find from the relaxation of the climate I suppose in preparing beforehand, and the anxiety to give the very best intelligence leads us all – for every officer complains of the same feeling – to delay until the vessel is observed in the distance. The life here is so perfectly monotonous that to write on any other subject but oneself seems, at starting, out of the question. My last will give you my adventures at Pigeon Island. Did I write you the conversation that passed one evening with Lady Smith? Speaking of their departure, which by the by will soon take place, and Sir Dudley Hill be installed, for I understand he is so needy he will require all the days’ pay he can lay hands on, but our conversation, on my regretting Sir C & her Ladyship leaving the Island, the reply was, ‘Mark what I say – it will not be long before you follow us to Barbados, it’s the proper place. Of course you must remain here a few months, but you will see I am right.’ Don’t make this the subject of conversation out of your own quarters, but I think Sir C has something in view. He said when riding together, ‘I will shew you the correspondence when you come to see me at Barbados. In fact it’s very possible I may quit the West Indies when you will be left in comd.’ Where this the case my dear Kate, I shd I think venture to get you all to join me. His house at Barbados is exceedingly comfortable, and assure you for ladies on their first arrival particularly it is most necessary that they shd have every attention. Tell the dear children that I have various curiosities for them and am now regularly commenced as a collector. Last week one of my Blacks who charms serpents – you have read of this, he also cures the bite – he brought me two snakes which I have preserved in white Rum. The one is venomous but he had it alive in his hand and pulled it about without fear, altho he was greatly alarmed when a favorite dog went near it. Lady Smith has taken such a fancy to Fritz that Sir C would not send him home, but told the officer who was to bring him to say that the dog was better by the sea and that I must come myself to fetch him. As I cannot get on without my beautiful dog, it seems another trip to Pigeon Island and week’s bathing with dog Fritz must follow. We have constant rain or rather showers here so tremendous that you cannot conceive any thing like it excepting a water spout. The danger is getting wet, being in a constant perspiration. I wish you would take a drive to Portsmouth and get me one of the India Rubber Cloaks, not a long one, & some Red and blue Camlet for Jackets with blue velvet for Collar & Cuffs. There are lots of chances which you may hear of either at Portsmouth or the West India Docks. This letter goes home by the John McCullen, the Capt is a friend of my Clerk of Works, he would let you know the name of the first ship sailing. How you would all laugh to see me first writing a few words, then taking up my Bamboo rod to kill the Flies & Mosquittos – they are perfectly perplexing, it is impossible to remain a moment in comfort for them. The only tranquility is in bed & with my Kate’s capital net. My large bed is quite a sight here and my breakfast table is perfectly superb. I generally have one of the young men to exhibit the talents of my huge teapot in the making of tea – how bright Alex keeps it. My time has been taken up with Estimates &c or I shd have sent you some sketches. They shll be sent however so soon as my journal is complete, which is intended for Wickham. Yesterday I was drawing away at, and get some of the vegetable coral ready to send home. I was greatly interested in my work the whole day. Some of the Black soldiers have taken a Humming Bird’s nest with one full grown young one. I have it stuffed & shall forward it with other treasures – what you will term rubbish – by some merchant vessel. Has the Macaw reached you & in what sort of plight? An old woman famed for such deed in Castries is getting some few Pickles &c ready for you. Do not scold, for it amuses me thinking and preparing the package. Lt Robinson is to return to England in the Athol Troop ship, Capt Tait writes me, and is to take home some Tamarinds for Mrs OB & Mrs H. Some will arrive I guess at their destination. Ther 80 in the shade – it is rarely more here than 78, that is rather close when there is no wind, a rare occurrence here but nothing to the heat of Barbados. In fact this Island seems to be as healthy as any of them for such as reside on the high ground. No money drawn yet my good wife but I think of so doing shortly, for I’m dreadfully in want of a horse, losing at present 1.6 pr diem by not having one & the getting up the mountain from Castries cannot be effected safely without. I have tried it once without suffering but it is too much. The Clerk lend me his pony when I require a nag. The difficulty is to find a four legged beast here of the proper height. I have been much delighted to receive such accounts of  the old Horse & Jig, not to say a word respecting my lusty family. I would give up snakes, pines, Humming Birds &c – all! – ah all! to see them. Best regards to my good Uncle & Mrs H. I was exceedingly sorry to find that my Aunt OB has been so great an invalid. Your next letters will I trust convey better accounts – offer my love to her and Mary. How is Janet? Have you another man sert? Take care of you carriage. Were you to come to Barbados it would answer well. Sir C Smith has a chariot & so have many others. It would require new wheels & a little painting. It now rains in torrents. I suppose Charley is home now and I hope recovered. Give my best regards to the old fellow. Request of him to see Col Cooper & brush up Mr Ambler. If possible Augustus shd be got into Woolwich in July, surely he might be prepared for the examination by that time. How I do wish I was at home for a month at this moment. If Mr Green does not call before, I can write to Col Cooper – I will give him a line. Lady Cuming shd be applied to, it might do great service, I have no doubt of her exerting herself. Did I ever tell you how highly she spoke of us to Mr Henville when stay at Portsmouth. God bless you my dear Kate and our dear children. I have not heard again from Fred. Regards to John & Edward if you write & their wives & be kind to my sisters. Do not join in the censure of Catisfield, whatever you think. If you can do them a good turn, pray do. They have blasted their own happiness and their brothers’ on the score of their welfare. Regards to Miss Parker – I shd write her an account of St Lucia in return for her kind letter if she will promise to read it. Adieu my dear Kit

Your ever aff Fred

Would Lady Gardiner like preserves or pickles sent her? Offer my best wishes there.

Sunday 8th June 1834 – All well but rather warm. Before you close your letters, put the latest date to them. Tell young Kitty that I have various seeds for her & Cary, the latter thinks now only of Heggs I shd immagine quotn Williams. I intend putting those sent me by Mrs Maco into my garden. Adieu, take care of yourselves.

The John McCallon Capt Baker returns by Newfoundland to this. I cannot find out at what dock he puts up but there are so many chances to Barbados – all the ship going to Jamaica touch there.


Mr Green waits – I fear I shall not have time to write to Col Cooper by this enclosure.

Dear Kate, I enclose a letter to Col Cooper which you can ford or not but write at the same time requesting that he will communicate the M Genl decision to you. If Charley could back this, Lady Cuming or Lord James, it might be done with care. Ask Mary if I shall send Lord James a turtle.


Ford it under cover either thro our office or to Col Cooper P Sec Major Gen &c – see Army list or Red book.

I could not get it off in time.

I could not get a chance for this letter, my dear Kate, as I expected. It has therefore remained in its envelope until the present moment. I have broken the seals to write that I am perfectly well, have recd your letter & all from Wickham, including dear Kit’s from Stoke Park. I sincerely regret Mrs Steward’s sudden decease & I think you were quite right in making an exertion to see her, poor soul. It must have been a severe blow to you. To me it was so unexpected that I could not recover myself for some little time. I have only now time to enclose this and send it to the vessel which came in an hour since & departs shortly for Barbados. A merchant ship will probably take it on. Next sunday the Andromeda sails from Castries, by her I shall send a packet. God bless you all

Your afft Fred E

All right up to the 19th June 34, shall write on Sunday next by Andromeda.