Letter #117

The Lady Charlotte, a Liverpool merchantman homeward bound from Peru, was driven ashore and wrecked on the south-west coast of Ireland with the loss of nine lives on 23 October 1838. 

‘Buckeen’ is an Irish word meaning a social climber. 

The earthquake of 11 January 1839 was centred on Martinique, where the French naval base at Fort Royal, now Fort Saint Louis, was largely destroyed with the loss of 700 lives.

Barbados 19th Jany 39

So much has transpired and there have been so many arrivals that in truth my dear Kate I scarcely know which subject to commence upon. The last packet however did not bring any hint from Pall Mall as to when or who would relieve me, so you may immagine conjectures are afloat. Capt R and the CREngr seat themselves at the end of the long shaded walk, stare at the blue sea for an hour every morning, first legislate on the correspondence of the comd, then build castles & wind up by naming all the home stationed Lt Cols for the W Indies in rotation, and finish our morning’s work on that score much as we began – in uncertainty. A private note from Col Ellicombe requesting my wishes on the subject gives me good cause to be sanguine. 1839 may terminate this transportation – nous verrons. On poor simple Fred’s affair I can only make a few observations. You have so ably performed your duty and the matter has advanced to such a stage, little is left for me. Had I been at home, nothing more could have been done, not better certainly, probably not so well. Some personal allusions to Mr Keating or Keatling might as well have been avoided as in all probability the mischief is irrevocably confirmed and Fred become the spoon I always foretold would be his lot. In all the letters that have passed, not one of the party have directed his serious consideration to the claims his profession have upon him. As an officer he will now become only a burthen upon his Regiment in the event of their being called into action duty. In fact, poor fellow, he never has made any exertion for himself, and now he in all probability has blasted the hope of advance. Alas, poor Fred! To blunder he was always prompt, and Blunderer as I jokingly termed him will he remain. I object to the match most decidedly as ruin to his prospects as a soldier and entangling an amiable girl, worthy by report of a better fate, in all the misery attendant on becoming the wife of a subaltern in a marching regt, of which Fred, young as he is, cannot plead ignorance. Col Butler’s letter is a good one, but it is clear to be discovered what his inclination are. We have no claim upon him certainly, but as he has mooted the subject as Fred’s friend, I must think no thanks to him – as such he might have put a stop to the love sick Lt’s folly. Would I have allowed Col Butler’s son, if under my comd & interested for him to commit such a glaring act of folly? No. The objections on the point of religious difference will become more formidable each year. However, if the die is cast, I would wish to avoid making the unfortunate fellow unhappy from fruitless remarks and objections to his wife. We must endeavour to be comforted & make the best of it, but as he has laid out his own line of march, I must do the same, and to sacrifice more funds for purchase I will not. I must look to the transport of my own heavy baggage. So many letters on this disagreeable subject lie before me, it is in vain I endeavour to be concise. From all I draw the conclusion, and not a false one, I’ll be sworn that Fred has been looked upon as a handsome fellow with some fair prospects, probably hinted at by himself. His immagination may have misled him. Any girl – I pity Miss K – any girl might fall in love with such an amiable tempered and frank hearted smart young officer. Most likely mothers are there, much as they are here, ready to catch at any English Officer. They have observed his weak character, Mamma has made him pliant to her wishes, the girl thrown in his way, Col B & Madame a pr of good souls with some fancied or temporary good feelings towards our son, have been amused. Very probably I shall find out they are as weak and doting as many other Cols & their wives. Fred’s letter to you, a very affectionate one doubtless, was not framed by his own headpiece – some of the assistant love makers were at hand. The letter you sent me of Fred dated 11 June 38 made me suspect that the 35th officer had commenced ‘I am going to see the ship that Gordon is going in – from that to Leverett’ & finis ‘the evening at my kind friends the Keatings. Oh, such two nice girls, and the mother delightful, they are so very kind to me. The fan for you, mother, from Mrs Keating, a china necklace for Miss Parker’, &c. It is a sorry affair, but it is useless to make oneself unhappy. We cannot remedy it, and I have to much to attend to here of consequence to give my thoughts to any subject on self account for any long period. It would be the best that could now happen to Fred if his Regt went on to India. If he comes home, all would be lost! lost!! lost!!! And now for another subject. The Mina has arrived & my wee box & its contents are very acceptable – many thanks for them. The vessel reach Carlisle Bay on the 12th inst. I have called on Col as a matter of courtesy and seen Madame. You need be under no alarm, or my worthy friend Capt Tait – my attentions or hospitality extend to a very very small circle in the lady way, but few see the interior of Shot Hall, only such as I have recd civilities from and are old friends. Nuts a luxery, thank Mary OB for the Olives – it was kind to think of me. The blue book, my dear old soul, you sent, was well inundated with Jam, the sweets of life. Accept my best thanks for your good intentions – Cara’s term – ‘refreshing’ does me service, but the name of old Madam Shivers gives me a return of Demerara ague whenever it is written. How well the dear girl writes. You surprise me respecting Mr Henry Hawker, not being aware he had property to leave. Remember me to Mrs M & Mrs H Hawker. Did you ever mention to the former my great wish to have some article of my late Uncle’s? Gun, saw, Bill Hook or pruning knife would be of equal value to me. Gusto had better marry now to complete – bless the good fellow, how entertaining his letters are. I am going to write him a long story tomorrow if not interupted by official business. I was so amused by his stating in one of his letters, ‘We lost 7000£ in the Ldy Charlotte’. I could not make out a line of Kate Steward’s letter & tore it up in despair. Mr Bingham is well, I saw him yesterday. Major Chadds is expected with his family & a company of the 1st WI Regt today. He is to remain here in comd of the Detacht of that Corps. Capt O’Brien, Capt Tait’s friend & my Assistant Engr, is appointed Asst Adjt General here, a good berth. I have in some measure put him in the road to get this. I expect him in a few days. Lt Chapman RE relieves him at St Vincent’s, thus he has benefited. I am writing what comes uppermost. If Fred is wedded to Miss Keating, it is a consolation to reflect that the match is preferable a thousand times to an Irish wife with small patrimony & a hoste of buckeen relations. Edward has no doubt done all that’s right ere this respecting Mr H Hawker’s will. You are needlessly severe about Sir C Smith, considering he never harmed you or yours. With all the faults he may have, he is the most manly & good officer I ever served under, & I shd prefer him, strict as he is, to most. We learn he has refused Canada. The Mercy arrived on the 11th Inst, passengers all well. Major Fenwick goes to Antigua, Lt Lyster relieves Lt Chapman at St Lucia – he departs tomorrow. Was Mr Beecher related to Miss B of Fareham? The paper I ford will describe the violent shock of an Earthquake we experienced here on the 11th Inst at 5 minutes before six in the morning. I had been awake at Gun fire, ½ past 5 AM, but was dozing when it commenced, but was soon out of bed. It was extremely violent and continued unabated for 30 or 40 seconds. My dog Tiger was so alarmed that he did his best to hide himself. By the report from the R Engr I have recd from St Lucia, much damage has been done to all the Govt building – several will require rebuilding. At one moment the shock must have been verticle, judging from the manner the Keystones of the Arches have been displaced, & the fact that few of the walls are out of the perpendicular. The appearance of the iron Barracks at St Lucia as described by two officers on parade at the time was that it appeared to be in the first instance lifted up, then to rock violently, at times seeming to have nearly lost its centre of gravity on one side and immediately afterwards the same effect taking place on the other. No lives have lost here, and as yet we hear of but few at St Lucia. Major Chads & his family had a very narrow escape at Pigeon Island, and a Mrs Harrold, Mjr H’s wife, 74th Regt. At Martinique, we have not yet heard the extent of the mischief, but the last account confirmed that 6 or 700 persons had been buried in the ruins of Fort Royale. The weather for two or three days previous was exceedingly changeable, clear and then cloudy, at one hour extremely cold, then close, but the morning of the 11th was beautiful with a clear sky. It was a most awful visitation, undoubtedly no per can possibly fancy the effect of earthquake unless some invisible agency could crush large masses of granite under your house by rapidly passing rollers over them, at at the same take you by the shoulders and shake away as some passionate women adopt to get the puppy dog out of their children. I fear it will be out of my power to write dear Gusto a letter today in reply to his very agreeable one, or to Capt Tait as I intended. Regards to the latter, love to the former, not forgetting Fred when you write. On no account persuade Fred to come home. He may obtain some staff appointment abroad which may get him forward in England or Ireland. He would become a poor and disappointed Sub, in truth has ability for any other profession, & is married. It would be better he left the Army, he would do no good in it now. The Genl regrets his official tiff with me, all generated by his stupid son’s want of knowledge of off business when Act Mily Secretary. He sent Capt Considine to say so, & that I was perfectly right as to the matter and the Commissary Genl quite wrong. I knew that before the Genl sent the correspondence to the Horse Guards & no doubt they have told he so, for he is disposed to be more loving than ever, but I’ve been some years in the Army my dear Kate. They were all affraid of the Comsy Genl, who took upon himself to write some impertinent queries in consequence of my reporting the Head of his Dept at St Vincent’s for neglect of duty. In place of wigging Comsy Thompson, brother of our Col at Dover, they supported the delinquent & would have rode over the CR Engr. The objectionable part of my letter it appears, after several sea voyages, is that in referring to the Comsy Genl’s remarks, I wrote, ‘had that Gentleman read the correspondence from St Vincent with any degree of attention, he would have observed’ &c &c. They now all regret sending such rubbish home. As yet I have not had any letter from Pall Mall on the subject, so conclude they think all I have done is perfectly correct. When Considine, who is a superior fellow, was with me, I repeatedly requested to know what the Genl still thought objectionable. He replied, ‘He considers you perfectly right and the other party quite wrong as to the matter, but the word gentleman’. ‘Well,’ I laughingly answered, ‘if it is the Genl’s wish, I will recall the word gentleman as relates to the Comsy Genl, and let it be suposed that I wrote Officer. I am most willing to retract that word, but let me beg there shall no be more writing on the subject.’ The fact is dear Kit they have been outflanked. Mr Filder has got goose, I have no doubt & his Sub Com Off at St Vincent is ordered away to Jamaica for change of air. A Mr Verfenstein, a great favorite here whom Capt Tait knows, goes to St Vincent’s tomorrow to start Mr Thompson. I dine with the Genl, a grand day on tuesday next 22nd, so you see he is very affectionate. We have always continued on good terms. The Mercy came to anchor on the morning of the Earthquake, 11th inst. Mjr & Miss Fenwick, Capt Rutherfurd & Lt Lyster dined with me. They are in the New R Engrs house. The Genl & all others have called on them & the Papa & daughter dine with him on tuesday. After that day they proceed to Antigua by the first chance. Miss F is a ladylike little person & he appears a good sort of a fellow & he likes his station. I am very well but you must try and write me somewhat cheery – the stile of your letters of late have a bad effect. I have enough to worry me here & when I think of home, I like to do as a pleasant relief, ‘for nothing is so depressing as receiving melancholy letters from the far distant’ – quotation Miss Parker. God bless you all. I have not space to add more & hardly know what I have written. Am I to have a back settlement in Ireland? I trust not. If I once get with my treasures again I care not where it is – between ourselves – but I will shew fight for all that is to be had. Love to my boys & girls.

Your affet Fred

Kit’s letters make me laugh heartily at times.

Don’t break the blunderer’s heart if the foolish fellow has gone adrift.