Letter #111

The long awaited parcel from home has at last arrived via Jamaica. Port Royal was the chief port of the island until the earthquake of 1692, since when it was eclipsed by Kingston. It was, however, still in use as a naval base.

Lieutenant-Colonel Henry John William Bentinck, Coldstream Guards, later served with distinction in the Crimea. He reached the rank of General and was knighted. 

Fitchett was a tailor – see letter 7. 

‘Reid’s book’ is Attempt to Develop the Law of Storms by Means of Facts, 1838. He was two years junior to English at Woolwich; both had served on the Survey and in the Peninsula, and Reid had left Barbados a week before English arrived – see letter 5. His interest in meteorology was aroused during his time in the West Indies. He was now stationed in Portsmouth, and thus in touch with English’s family. He later served as Governor of Bermuda, Governor-in-Chief of the Windward Islands and Commanding Royal Engineer at Woolwich. He was knighted for his services to the Great Exhibition. As Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Malta during the Crimean War, he oversaw the handling of vital supplies. He retired with the rank of Major-General. 

Barbados Octr 11th 1838

The only novelty I have to report is the arrival of the Madagascar box by the Tartarus steamer accompanied by a very friendly letter from Commodore Douglas who reports that he has hitherto enjoyed most excellent health as have the Squadron, but he takes the proper precaution to keep them as much as possible at sea. He appears to lament the decease of my late valued Uncle most sincerely and remarks that MOB was well & staying at Southsea. Port Royal he describes as a horrible hole, and with the exception of a few R Artillery has no society to comfort him in his solitude. We poor unhappy married men at grass for such a length of time feel the want of our family sadly – in truth it is no better than transportation. I am truly sorry to find dear MOB continues to suffer from such troublesome attacks and fear she is led on by her fine spirit to be careless of herself. Give her my kind love & thanks for the table cover which answers my wishes admirably, in fact it has added much to the comfortable appearance of my large room wherein I receive the dignity people. The watch guard was acknowledged before – it is very neat. The frocks are extremely pretty, I shd say handsome, but the godson is at home now & I suppose grown twice their size. The ribon is a little faded, it is a pity they did not arrive in time after all the trouble my dear girls have taken. As to sending them across the Atlantic again, would be out of the question. I have got as far as thinking to send to Mrs Mould who has a fine little fellow of the proper size, & to them such a gift would be most acceptable, not being overburthened with means, and he is most gentlemanly and attentive to his duties – in truth the Hd Quarter party are in a far better state of organization than heretofore. I had intended to have got over the greater part of my letter today but incessant interruptions have occurred, amongst others the signature of the duplicates to the annual estimates of the ensuing year – rather an antidote to anything like writing in an agreeable strain. However, office affairs are so far got rid of that I hope to have tomorrow morning to myself. This evening at ½ past 5 I have an appointment with Sir S Whittingham at King’s house, he wishing to come round me about some alterations, but the Estimate, your Excellency, must be stuck to. Yesterday I dined there to meet a Lt Col Bentinck Col Guards formerly Mil Sec at Gib. – knew Sir Charles & so on, came out to Demerara to look after his Estate &c – a pleasant enough sort of person. He sails homewards tomorrow. I wish it were my turn. The contents of the box pleased me exceedingly but I must confess my surprise at not finding a frock coat therein. However I care not so much about it having applied officially to the In Gen for permission to establish the blue jacket of which I think I have sufficient to last out my period of exile. Dr. Pen-whipe or Quick-clean is now staring me in the face being placed on one of the side tables in the drawing room. The pincushion ornaments my dressing table and very gente—el it is to my taste. The blooming red penwipe, the glass flower vase with two roses & other little but elegant matters of work are all distributed about my room in conspicuous points of view. The views in America & more particularly the drawings made by my dear dear Misses are if possible most favored. They all have merit and prove that each could become Artist of no common note did it suit to give their time to that accomplishment alone. I was much pleased with all the tokens of kind remembrance, & if I omit to bestow my thanks were due, it is not from intional neglect but truly I have too many matters to think of. Tell Capt Tait that Lt Reilly is appointed an Assistant Engr. He must go to Tobago – but it is healthy – I cannot add the same of Grenada. The Columbia steamer arrived last night, the Officers & men all more or less sick with some loss of life. Of the 70th – fine Regt – many men have already fallen victims to the climate – yellow fever – a Capt. Jarvis and Lt or Ensign May have died, the former a most amiable nice person, he had only just joined from St. Vincent. O’Brien escaped the change being Assistant Engineer – young May was a remarkable nice young fellow, son of Mrs May, Belfast. Two other officers were in almost a hopeless state when the vessel left the harbour – so – each Island or Colony have their turn of suffering. The usual train of interruptions have to be endured – in so much that I cannot write you a straight forward steady letter – must read over your last agreeable letter of the 30th Augt which will probably settle my wavering thoughts a little – So Tom Naughton has reached home, happy fellow, he is a kind hearted one as ever stepped. Tell him we are – the Genl and I – soon going to Demerara but I shall miss him and not know where to purchase nutmegs now that he has departed.

Octr.12th: How is poor MOB – I trust much better – it is a satisfaction knowing that you are so near her for a kind nurse, a friend like you dear Kit is not to found often – take care of my poor sick Coz for I must have a laugh with her to Southampton or Gosport yet. So dear Isabel is convalescent and doing Aide de Camp – what are her orders decorations & Regimentals? Tom will tell you all about our acts and deeds at that delightful place but vile climate British Guiana. The Seringapatam is expect here about the 18th. I hope to see Henry looking better than he did the last visit but poor boy he was much overcome at the death of his brother. If master Hal has health to stand a sailor’s life it is the best for him – for between ourselves he required a tight hand of discipline – he has not an amiable temper. I bring him up right & left, but he will thank me for it some day. Do like a good soul send me some garden seeds – Cabbage, Lettuce, Radish, turnip, beet Root, Carrot &c &c. The small sallade does not answer – French beans do well & Melon on its return to its own favorable climate. The latter grow here to an immense size. Gusto, God bless him, has only to go to Lloyd’s or rather the Coffee room they now use, ask for any of the Barbados Captains – ships will be leaving home every week and more frequently now the hurricane months are passed – any one of them would take charge of a package for me – vegetables are in great part my provision now that I keep house. I trust you have heard from Fred & hope to learn by the next Mail he is well. He always will be indolent at his desk – it is his nature. His vile hand writing distresses me much. As an Adjt or as he advances in life & in command it will always tell against him. As a man of business his writing would decide at once that could not be efficient – it so bespeaks the thoughtless giddy young scapegrace that Master Fred is – when put to pen & ink work – however he is nevertheless a dear good hearted sort of a handsome young officer & I would give worlds to have his society again – I agree with you that Gusto’s letters are most gratifying. You wish my opinion on G’s letter – granting that the poor soul is in trouble still, I can but think it the production of extreme bad feelings on her side & the true cause of all their misery. In fact it cannot be read as the diction of a sane person, in fact such a tissue of senseless recrimination I could not suppose it possible under such circumstances G could send forth. So far as I am mentioned her attacks are groundless. I have always thought the same and still do so, that so long as the three are together no possible effort of the brothers will turn the current of detestable feeling they have engendered towards us. I never made any promise but, under a certain proviso, in the hope of seeing them settle respectably, and that my quota,

Red ink begins here

small as it might, I should have the pleasure of thinking in some measure contributed to that end. Would it had it been given from 1822 have averted the Ruin and Disgrace that has come to pass – imprisonment, their whole means consumed in litigation & to wind up the misery at Law issue with their best of brothers, he that did them every kindness as they acknowledged at the time. G has not gone blindly on & thus brought the three into this unhappy plight, but headlong and determined to brave the storm and drag all sisters & brothers all with the wreck, and even to last casts away one of her warmest friends by her most uncalled for and improper letter. Will they ever listen to the advice so long urged by their brothers & cast off those who have misguided them in long suffering [words illegible] poor souls have taught them humility but I much dread that we never shall come to a proper understanding so long as G remains in the frame of mind as her letter to you proves her still to indulge. Sad indeed, my dear Kate. At this distance I know not what to advise. Assistance must be given under the present destitute state they are in, but it is more necessary than ever they should quit London. It makes me extremely unhappy – I anxiously wait your next letter; the link of affection is totally destroyed. You know well that I have no part in the breach to tax myself with. Fitchett is a good worthy man & I shall regret any thing going wrong with him. I wish Capt Douglass would put me in the way of making the money he reports I am collecting. He dined off chops and sallade here the only day he remained. Why he should suppose I am making the ready he can best explain. I hope not to lose any [words illegible] One of my horses [word(s) illegible] 7£ more than I gave for it – probably he anticipated the luck. Kind regards to Mrs Hawker & to Mr & Mrs HH, dear MOB also of course. L Smith comes next on your paper – he is a bad wretched animal to say the best of him. I have not seen Reid’s book but shall propose it for our Library so soon as I have an opportunity – regards there & to excellent Tait. I will write him a cosey soon. His friends here are well. What a good wife must Mrs Reid be, but I would not make the exchange excepting when you make of of those unhappy remarks, but not in your last letter. Regards to John & Edward, not leaving out their ladies. By Capt Tait’s account my family must have been very ornamental to the EB races party – remember me there. Is there any thing he wishes from this? I would forward it by some of the men of war. It is reported that the Inconstant is to come with the Admiral & the Jupiter or Hercules to bring the 52 Regt [one line illegible] 36th go to Canada. As you wish for the papers. Do you know Colebrooke of the R Artillery at Portsmouth? Thank him for his friendly letter I recd. He stated he was going to call on you but wifey was ill. He used to be a very excellent fellow. Blow kind wishes to Gusto from me, & Mr Dickson. Remember me to Capt Chads – his brother will be here shortly from St Lucia to prosecute on a Genl Court Martial. I expect to be president – don’t like it. Tell Capt O’Brien I passed a few pleasant day with his friends the Hinds’s lately. All well. Don’t, I beg, let your carriage go to ruin. Tell Henry not to leave you until I return.

Black ink resumes here.

Must close! Don’t fuss about trifles, Dear Kit, and believe me your attached Fred. Love to all &c &c &c.

OED lists ‘cosy’ or ‘cosey’ as a noun, but not in the sense used here.