Letter #106

Not dated at head, but begun on 22 July 1838 

‘The heart burning caused by the division of worldly goods’ refers to a lawsuit of 1832, when a niece of Mrs English’s father contested the interpretation of her grandfather’s will, and was awarded £1000 against her aunts. 

The Emancipation Act decreed that apprentices, as the former slaves were called, were to be freed after six years in the case of those working on the land – ‘predials’ – or four years if they were domestic slaves. Unrest among the apprentices and general dissatisfaction with the system led the government to amend the law so that all apprentices were freed after four years, that is, on 1 August 1838. 

‘The North-West Passage’ is a reference to the expedition of 1836-39 of Dease and Simpson, sponsored by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Sea routes through the North-West Passage were known at this time, but ice prevented the first complete passage by ship until Amundsen’s expedition of 1903-06.

My Dear Kate: the Tenor of your letter dated 31st May respecting my valued Uncle’s bad state of health prepared me for the unwelcome intelligence conveyed in your last, but in truth slightly so, for it has been a subject constantly on my mind from the moment I opened the letter, and a most sorrowful one it will always remain. You well know how highly I esteemed him, in fact he was always considered more in the light of my brother than an Uncle. Dear, good valued man, I did indulge in the hope that he might be spared & that I should again shake him by the hand. MOB is now the only tie, for Catisfield will have no other on my return. Hampshire will have lost its charms as a point to settle, were such ever to be our lot, and every place will be alike so far as my wishes extend. Abroad we must all go, dear Kate, nearly all our friends have departed, our sole object is now to be united and, leaving the Tropics out of the question, it is a matter of indifference where we are stationed. Is it the case that Mr Hawker was aged 73? I observe it is so stated in the Portsmouth paper. Remember me kindly to Mrs Hawker and let me beg of you to keep on family terms. It would be a source of much anxiety to find you are not so. Any trifling coolness can with your good sense be easily past over. After a few hours’ reflection with respect to my late good Uncle’s property, I sincerely trust, as he has nominated me one of his Executors, and being powerless to act in this state of transportation, that all connected with it will be transacted with good feeling & in a business like manner. We have seen enough my dear Kit of the heart burning caused by the division of worldly goods. It was very thoughtful his leaving Fred & Kate a legacy. In what can my brother be disappointed? The world may give him credit for it but I cannot conceive on what ground. Your next letter will be more explicit no doubt & I look forward with interest to its arrival. Will Mrs Hawker remain in Hants or reside at Clifton? Ere this reaches you these arrangements will have been all decided upon. Remember me with love to MOB. These losses of her old and tried friends so immediately following each other must effect her spirits doubtlessly, and I grieve to learn that she is somewhat of an invalid. The paper you alluded to requiring my signature has not come to hand yet. Our office people always delay the package of letters to be franked. A packet thus that dated 31st May only came out by the last which left England the middle of June & was not under Sir F Mulcaster’s envelope adding Barbados to your direction. Thus I had to pay the small sum of one pound eleven and four pence for it. This must arise from a mistake of some villain of a Clerk. If not, it will be well to ascertain immediately from Col Wells where the hitch lays, for £1.11.4 twice per month is money. Moreover the news paid for is a few weeks too antiquated under the present system of detaining the dispatch at the R Engr Office Pall Mall. July 23rd: Have just returned from Sir Samford’s where I breakfasted. He met me last evening riding, stopped his carriage to say he wished to see me this morning on business. However, the business was not important, only to consult about the accommodation for some advance post of 100 men each in three points of the Island preparatory to the total emancipation of the Praedials on the 1st of Augt & to be ready in the event of any misunderstanding between them and their late masters. So many estates have liberated these people that I feel confident nothing will take place but good humour and dancing. Poor fellows, they will be generally speaking worse off. At the same time a state of slavery is out of the question. Nothing very interesting has transpired since I last wrote. Several dinner parties at the Govr’s or Genl’s, with the latter I dine about three times a week. In the morning a little note arrives: ‘My dear Col, shall I call for you this evening when we will ride & you can return with me to dinner?’ It is frequently against the grain but I knock under because he does his utmost to be agreeable & I think it right for our Corps dignity that the Comdg Engr should be with him & consulted as frequently as possible. He begins now to think that the R Engrs are always on the correct side of the question. I stated that the old Goose, ‘an old Story’, you will exclaim, was unsuccessful in his application about Mr St George retaining the Engr Quarter, & also that I had declined paying the Messing, not having in my power to attend at such a distance & at 4 oclock in the day &c. But the short of it, as a Corps question, I would not permit any authority over me to direct where I was to dine. My reply to the foolish old man had I thought put an end to the subject, until about a fortnight or three weeks back I was given to understand that the subject was referred home. It came, the decision in my favor, by the last packet and from all the Big wigs – a wigging came from Horse Guards, Master General, Pall Mall office, a repetition doubly repeated from all quarters. It was hard to have one’s name coupled up with Col Story’s on a matter wherein he & those about him were the whole cause. It was beyond my controul & I begged the old donkey to let the affair drop for his own sake, but he is a wrong headed fellow and would not listen even to the Genl, however he has got a most severe rub & my name is in some measure drawn in, I suppose to let him down more easily. The REs are to join the mess or not as they please, thus my new comes shd not be called upon to pay a heavy subscription when they remain here only a few days or weeks. I will endeavour to send a copy of the two letters for Capt Tait’s amusement. If the good people will leave me to myself, but what with the Genl breakfast, the heat riding there and back & official papers, it is as much as I can accomplish giving you my dear Kate a fair allowance of my scribbling. I now think the R Artillery will be quiet and that they have adopted the wrong course. I have never had a dispute or cross word with one of them, it’s their one affair entirely, but there were two here as evil disposed towards our Corps as possible. St George is away, they led the poor old simpleton &c. Tell Capt Tait I have appointed Capt O’Brien Assistant Engr at St Vincent until officers come out. Capt Rutherfurd & Capt Graham are now here. Am sorry to add that the latter will start for England today, leaving me without a confidential for a time until Lt Mould can be moved from Grenada. The Governor disembarked here from Seringapatam a few days since. He remained with me about half an hour. Naghten has been with me. She sailed for Antigua on the 20th inst. We are now looking out for hurricanes.

Red ink begins here.

The loss of your paper is of no consequence. If the lawyer has torn it up another can be written and ford with the deed of release which has not yet reached me. I regret exceedingly the precarious state of Mary’s health – a change of scene would be of service. The loss of all one’s friends is a sad break up to all spirits, but I will do my best when at home to keep you all moving. Every body tell me that I look the picture of health – the constant exercise, bathing & moderate living is the cause I suppose, or more probably it is only by comparison with the yellow faced person one meets in all directions. Mr Mundy has reach St Vincent’s in safety. How I wish for my Wickham party. I hope they intend to relieve me next spring. If not, I shall ask the General’s leave & quit for six months for a sight of yourself & the dear children. Gusto’s letters afford me a hearty laugh, he writes with much humour and spirit – regards to the good fellow. Is my lamented Uncle’s hobby, the ornamented wood, to go to rack? But it would be hard for a lady to keep it up. How I regret the loss of that worthy kind hearted man, and how I shall miss his joyous reception. As you write, Catisfield is not Catisfield to us without Mr Hawker. Mr Bingham card was in the hall on saturday on my return from riding. He must have come to remain here. All persons here think there will not be a brevet, or if one, a very small affair – you must know ere this. It matters not to me much. Our Bishop and his lady are about to leave us for England, but before he sails he is to consecrate the new Colors 69th Regt, Mrs Monins is to present them. The 52 are to relieve the 36th here in the spring. Mr Thistlewhaite is well. So the Hudson’s Bay Company have discovered the North West passage, so there’s an end to all doubt as to Artic question as to the passage round the American Continent.

Adieu dear Kate, love to my children and MOB, with regards to all at Catisfield. Remember me to the good Miss Parker and all friends

and believe me your afft Fred English

We do not expect a Man of War here for the next 3 hurricane months. Where is my blue coat? Capt Tait & Mrs English, you are a wise pr of well meaning potterers but don’t be affronted.

I hope Capt Tait will be at Gosport when I get back. When will that be?