Letter #115

English has become preoccupied with speculations as to his next posting – will it be Canada, Plymouth, Ireland or where? 

Kismus or Kismas is Qeshm, an island in the Strait of Hormuz, Iran. Britain needed a naval base to combat the threat of pirates in the Arabian Sea, through which most of Britain’s Indian trade passed even before the Suez Canal was built. The choice fell not on Qeshm but on Aden, at the southern end of the Red Sea, where a colony was established in 1839. 

Col Wright is probably Lieutenant-Colonel John Ross Wright RE.

Barbados 28th Decr 38

And now my dear Mrs Kate, how are you? This is the last of my dull letters you will receive dated in this year, and did I act properly as head of a family, the commencement would be: ‘And now my dear Husband or wife, we are about to enter upon a new year of this life and may we &c &c &c’ – a quotation Mrs Kit of Wickham from lectures unpublished, written this time twelve months. Lt Mould just walked in – the Packet is in sight, so my dear Kate I shall have the pleasure of replying to your dispatch of the 30th ulto, but write away I must and you will this time be content to read a rare jumble of unconnected subjects, for in the course of this afternoon and tomorrow morning I shall be overwhelmed with official correspondence and prevented recrossing this in red ink. The Mail Boat Mariann sails tomorrow evening to meet the Packet at St Kitts. This is a new arrangement & by this conveyance my friends Lt Col Monins and his missus leave us on their way to England. Both look wretchedly – the former has been ordered away by a medical Board, thus the Regt is left in comd of the senior Captain. They take an early dinner here before embarking & some of their intimates will be in attendance of course. When will my turn come? The 52d have suffered so severely that a house has been hired in the country in order to get them out of the officers’ Barrack. Ten out of eleven have had fever and several young men carried off. The last was a Lt Surtees, a remarkable nice person. Others have escaped when there appeared little hope. A fine old soldier, the paymaster, who had weathered all the campaigns with the Regt since Vimiera was the second attacked, then his wife, their son & daughter, a very interesting girl about nineteen. The children got over it unexpectedly, but poor Mr & Mrs Winterbottom made but a short trial of the W Indies. The most extraordinary fact is that the rest of the Garrison are comparatively well and the men of their Regt equally so with the exception of Clerks and sert immediately about the orderly room or officers. It is most unaccountable – the Medical men stare but the cause so rests – their wise heads can make no resistance that has had any effect in arresting its progress. However, it now seems to have expended its virulence & the dry weather we are now enjoying may put a stop to this vile fever. We certainly want somewhat new the elevate our garrison. I returned from   Mr Alleyne the night before last after passing Xmas day & the following very agreeably. Their eldest son has just obtained a commission in the 52 and arrived a few days since in the Amelia Transport with several brother officers of his corps, amongst others Lt Bull, son of the RA Col of that name. Various detachments were disembarked from the same ship, an officer 70 Regt and another of the 74th, both named Hawker. Young Alleyne is an unaffected fine lad & his father and mother are so gratified by the little attention I have it in my power to bestow on him, they think that they cannot be sufficiently civil. He so reminds me of dear Fred. By the bye, one of his last letters shews what the rogue can do when he is disposed to give letter writing his attention. I was much pleased to ascertain that he could write with a quill in place of a piece of Bamboo. His diction is always an index of his good & amiable heart. I fear his Company is far away yet – by the list he has only three Lts under him. As usual, interruption. A Lt Durban commanding the Griffon has found his way in and a very pleasant fellow he is at any time excepting when you want to write, for he tattles incessantly. My letter has been laid aside to travel to Herat, Cabul, Balk, Caspian Sea, Erivan, Burman Empire, and in despair I brought up at the Island of Kismus or Kismas in the Persian Gulf, which we are to or have taken possession of as a Naval & Mil Depot to keep the Persians in order, when by good luck his Coxswain looked into one of the windows & reported that there was a leak in his boat. For me it was a lucky crack it got, I suppose, against the wharf. I have got rid of him for a time & set my 4 lassies looking at the map. Yon Canada affair is little more than smoke – I see no reason from Col Wells’s note to conclude that I am to be taken out of an oven and put into an Ice house. It is the news of the day Col Wright is coming home, and why does Col Wright leave the active seat of warlike operations he knows best, but most sturdy men & soldiers will think him ‘Col Wrong’. I should not object to go there after a few months at home for it might be an advantage to you all, that is, were the Canadians in peace & good fellowship with the mother country, or I shd more properly term it, with their masters, as we took Quebec from them. It would be an active life which would better suit me than going out to tea and cakes at a home station. Nevertheless we will be grateful for a good one & let those who are ordered go & blow their fingooes in Upper & Lower Canada. I dined in company last week with an old acquaintance named Stott of the House of Higginson, Dean & Stott. The latter has just returned from England and at Liverpool met Mr Jackson. Me and mine must have been the subject of conversation, for think how pleased I was to have enquiries made after Gusto & to hear he was so highly thought of. Mr Stott said he was spoken of in high terms, that the house stood very high & that Gusto would get on. He called with Mr Dean here whilst I was at Coxes. I was to have dined with the Genl on Xmas day, but of course kept to my prior engagement. We get on admirably & his secretary Capt Considine equally so. He said laughingly on paying me a visit, ‘Ah, you and your officers here, three of you together, you always manage to be in the right.’ ‘Why,’ I replied, ‘it would be hard to be otherwise when it is our study & duty to be so.’ Now, Mrs Kit, I have given myself & Corps here a flourish in spite of all the pegs you would take us a back. Letters from Woolwich report that Sir C Smith is to go to Canada as a Brigadier General, a very fit person, he will do his work well, I have not a doubt. Col Harding takes Gibraltar, thus Woolwich will be vacant, probably Hoste will go there & I may get Plymouth, more likely Munster or Connaught. Is it not strange that I have not recd any official intimation respecting Mj Fenwick or Lt Lyster. The only conclusion I can draw is that Col Ellicombe has been so often disappointed in getting the officers first nominated for this duty to come out. After having forwarded the list here he will now only give their names when they are actually embarked and off. Two are not sufficient, three added & a host of Clerks of Works are required. My old C Wks at Demerara I was obliged to bring to a Genl Court Martial – he was dismissed & 3 months’ imprisonment awarded. The Clerk of Works at Berbice conducted his business in so troublesome a style that I was driven to suspend him. Yesterday a letter arrived to state that he had departed from the vexations of this life – he is of no loss. We have no CWs here since Mr Green left us & the St Vincent one is worked up & I think there are one or two other cases. So Mrs Kit, what with the want of proper officers who have sa-vez enough to go right & their civil staff, I have no sinecure but troublesome office as CRE to keep things going, as worthy Charles would say, ship-shape. Capt Hope at Demerara, like a little goose, put himself into the power of Col Bunbury, now comdg the troops in British Guiana, by inadvertently leaving Georgetown for Berbice on duty & by orders from hence to inspect, without calling to say he was going. Bunbury put him in arrest and sent charges in of a most frivolous nature. It was refered by the Genl to me. Trust me – did I not turn the table on Bunbury? – Indeed I did & got little Hope or great despair, such a whitewashing in shape of compliments for zeal &c &c that has in great measure made up for the temporary annoyance he recd from that wretched man whose son has been on trial for murder & only escaped under some trifling want of form or evidence required by Dutch Colony law. That the deed was done & that he was present & assisting, all men must think who read the evidence. This affair was consequent on some gambling squabble – Cards, Cards! What a horrow I have of them. I am reading your letter thro of 14 Novr – a very agreeable one. Rem me to Strangeways – I have a great regard for him. The Mimosa bags did not cost so much, I have ordered others. The price of presents should not be asked. Draw your 36s per diem and no questions. Remember me to Sir Francis Collier, he is not forgotten here by his old friends. Kind regards to MOB. I am pleased indeed to find you are so much with her & must contribute so greatly to her comfort, knowing you so long. Her life is likely to be a lonely one, poor soul. Ld Durham has reached Plymouth, the papers report. So Mrs Pring is at ease I trust. She is a good woman, I suppose, but mighty fond of long letters and gossip, I should think, as the fool must be. Next on the sheet comes ‘good to be in trouble, fountains of happiness, patience, resignation, mercy & mediation &c &c’ – all excellent and as it should be in our closet but as well left out of a letter. Mrs Hawker must feel lonely after the loss of such an agreeable & worthy a companion – offer my best regards. I hope to home soon & do my best to comfort all that remain. Your report of the Macaw caused a hearty laugh. How do the two new caps fit? Another long letter now lays before, rcd last night, much crossed & so folded that the wafer appears to have been placed on some of the most interesting parts – a bad plan, Pring fashion. I regret Mr H Hawker death much, but so many years have elapsed since I saw him, in fact so seldom during my life, that I have not the interest I had for Mr Hawker. You have done your duty there well my dear Kate, and all his relations must feel grateful. Very few will be left to shake hands with if I return safe & well. Your last letter was evidently written when suffering a sick headache, or rather billious most likely – I have not time or space to answer it thro. But am truly sorry that any cub’s letter to his friends wherein I am mentioned should cause you sleepless nights & Rivers of tears. If you send dear Skip with a

Red ink starts here

placard to a corner street written on it ‘Walk in, walk in, tell me tales of my husband or make some’ – you may obtain many visitors & lot of tales, but warn them not to add that he is as happy and contented as circumstances and a good spirit will admit of – or by your one acceptation of the intelligence you may be miserable at the news. Never mind my dear Kate, I trust the dismal fit is past. I shall soon be with you, it is to be hoped. I had a small party here month since, got up in a day. Mr & Mrs Alleyne & 2 daughters, Col, Mrs Monins, the General, his son, Capt Rutherfurd & the D Judge advocate and some of the married women came in the evening. The Alleynes came from the country to hear the Band which Col Monins ordered into Shot Hall Gardens. The orderly Alexander got about a dozen coloured lamps belonging to our Mess & some of our passage, on which in his taste, being over what was required for the Band, he stuck in the trees of the long walk. Some few of the young officers were invited, among others an awkward wild lad the Gen introduced. A few quadrilles ended the evening. After drawing the net, the farm turtle crawl & fish pond produced the [illegible words]. This must have the reported splendour that caused you rivers of tears & sleepless nights. The mail [illegible words] brought accounts of Mr Hawker’s death drove the whole out of head added to [illegible words] or it is more than likely I should written more about it than it was worth. Now you are mistress of this splendid affair. I look out for the Wickham parcel – thanks to all the party for thinking of me. Love to the dear Girls – their letters are a great comfort.

The following is written in black as a postscript on the tucked in part of the cover.

Who gave you an incorrect version of an old & forgotten story of past years & induce you to write one side of a letter sheet on a subject you are entirely in error about & cannot understand? Your allowing a pen to put a man’s name to paper, a pen I write, as I cannot conceive you were thinking whilst writing in such terms as you have. 14 Novr 38: Sir – S was inconsiderate to say the least of it. Had that letter by accident got into other hands, I might have been placed in the situation you consider so cowardly & abhor. Lately your heart bleeds often – I fear no particle will remain for your husband’s return Mrs Kit. But let me beg of you to drop the nonsense – before requested – about Champaign suppers. It does no good, on the contrary, harm.