Letter #12

Written from St Lucia, not dated, probably 30 June 1834

Robert Wiltshire and Ambrose Steward are Mrs English’s brothers-in-law.

Think of my dismay and disappointment when the Packet arrived on the 23rd inst without one letter for me; indeed my dear Kate I was perfectly wretched. We had papers up to the 24 May and I believe I was the only solitary miserable without a scrawl to read over. I do not blame you or our dear party but suspect the package has been detained in Pall Mall or that you have forwarded it by private hand, the most uncertain conveyance under the sun. The day after tomorrow the mail boat will be here to carry the English bag to St Thomas’s for which homeward bound I now write. It strikes me that the letters which I should properly have recd on the 23rd will be sent from Barbados by this vessel, detained either by Mr Webb or as I have before stated in our RE office. However it’s done & therefore grin I cannot but grumble I must and bear it. Being on the subject it is well to explain that immediately after the English mail vessel reaches Barbados, small fast sailing packets are dispatched to the north and south with the bags or parcels. At St Lucia the boat arrives the following morning, lays to at the entrance of the [word missing] receives her letters if any from this place for Martinique Dominica & to the S, and departs as quickly as she appeared, for in making this Island from Barbados it is always a fair wind – well thus the English news comes to hand. 8 days after the visit a small vessel appears early in the morning beating off and on, which collects in the same prompt manner the dispatches and away she goes with the letters for England. The chances are that I shall not have even time to acknowledge the receipt of the mislaid documents – quotation from the Survey. I observe that unfortunate service has 25,000£ granted in addition to the former 200,000. The next accounts that reach me shd acknowledge some of the post that I have dispatched respecting myself, which of course made the disappointment greater on the 23rd. Since I sent off the box of preserves by the Andromeda and a very long history to dear Cary we have had a considerable sensation caused here by the Belvedere’s arrival and departure. Endless interruptions – the people are determined to prevent me completing a letter to my wife. It would appear I have this moment been called away to attend the muster of my Military Labourers. Mr Grant of the W India Regt who receives 5.0 p diem extra for taking charge of them having been put into arrest for being intoxicated on the parade of his own Corps. Then a miserable worn out old Barrack Master, a Sir Freeman Barton, formerly in the Queen’s, now a regular prosey fellow that I am forced to bow out to get rid of. He has been here about his quarters as Lady Barton cannot sleep at the idea that I am going to pull down her habitation and thus mi Lady is to wander on the wide world. No sooner did I see the back of this old buck than in walks the Clerk of Works with a voucher for his pay: ‘requires signature Sir’. ‘The wood must be demanded from Berbice for the next year’s works, Sir’ and so on. Then come some officers from Pigeon Island, ‘When are you coming to see us again?’ and thus one’s time is cut up. ‘Why did you not dine at Sir Charles’s yesterday, you were expected and a cover laid for you.’ Why, I did not know that he would return from the Island in time.’ I dined at Mess and turned in at 9 oclock, being fatigued from the exertions of the Day before when we had a grand affair at Government House, meeting Sir Lionel Smith, his Staff, Capt Strong, Lt Brooke son of Sir Phillips an exceedingly nice young fellow, a mid called the Honbl something Kennedy & various others, forming a very large and agreeable assemblage. But my dear Kate my conversation must stop here and I shall continue from that part of my letter wherein the Belvedere is stated to have anchored here which took place at daybreak on the morning of the 28th, and very soon afterwards an order was issued that Sir Lionel would make his Inspection at 11 – this followed in course. Being dismounted, I met him at the foot of the glacis of Fort Charlotte, a small work we have here in miserable repair. The old gent shook hands and asked me if my health had been good and so on. The Inspection being over, Englishman like, the Mess Room with Porter, cold ham and other good things followed. In the midst of this part of the day’s work my Military Lab Mis-ser Kellett and serpent charmer to the RE brought in a much larger one than we have yet seen. The display of this horrid reptile and the power the man had over it occupied some little time. When we all departed for Castries, where I believe I wrote you word Sir CS now holds his court, it was most amusing to see the variety of horses, ponies & mules of all sizes, shapes & colors on which we were mounted, a contribution having been made for the occasion your absent Lord boroughed his quarter master sergt a black little tricky sort of an animal whose long tail I thought I must have called in aid to keep from tumbling over his head as we descended the mountain. The Genl, a huge, awkward but most agreeable man with an immense hook nose, was mounted on a horse of Sir C Smith’s of a size in proportion. One of his Aid de Camps, Mr Darling, six feet 2 or 3 or more on a steed that hardly kept his toes off the ground, a mid or two on mules cracking on down hill as hard as they could go before the wind in rare spirits and trim. The rest were equally accommodated, only that in the confusion of a heavy torrent of rain as well. This place would make a saint swear. As I write in come the Store-keeper, a pest in every way. I have the misfortune to be Senior Respective Officer – you know something about this post of honor – the worst part of his pestiferousness is that he is not exceedingly deaf but never could hear since he was born. To do business with him is next to impossible and yet he is a Respective officer. In he came, I bawling to know what was the matter, head aching, very cross, vexed at being taken from my letter. ‘The tenders for working Barrack bedding have arrived and we want you to open them’ – fancy the uninteresting occupation, and being called off when writing to you to ascertain who would wash sheets & Blankets at the cheapest rate. This overcome, I unlocked my desk, the greatest comfort I have & in which I keep my picture gallery and seated myself again, when to my utter dismay the most good tempered but the greatest potterer & long uninteresting story relater Mr Hilton paid me a visit, and a visit it has been, his quarters are Pigeon Island. I have filled him full of dry bisquit and Porter. He has at last departed and in a proper sulky mind. If he ever did think, he must have thought I was in a most disagreeable humour. At last I said, ‘my good fellow, you have no correspondence to send off but I have, that must go tomorrow – there is a book, let me go on. They were about to depart – the horses, as I have already explain being strange to them and only a few negroes in charge, were almost one and all charged. The tall men got the short stirrups and the short men the long stirrups – such a ludicrous turn out I never witnessed. However, we arrived all safe at dinner. Capt Strong seemed quite happy to meet me, offered a passage at any time I might come in his way and I think looked upon me as an old acquaintance with whom he coupled the delightful thought of home. He mentioned that he had some wine for Admiral Brace which he intended to send home in the Athol Troop ship. After dinner we all went to patronise a party of French strolling players who have fixed up a sort of Theatre in a store house near Col Smith’s quarters. We had a good laugh, saw the Govr Sir Lionel and the Navy people into their boats and returned to the Mourn, so ended the visit from the Belvedere and the 28th June. It was arranged that the ship shd land Sir Lionel for an hour at Pigeon Island yesterday which was done. He inspected the men there, reembarked and I strained my eyes looking at them making sail with a stiff breeze until out of sight. Lady Smith again remarked that it would not be long before I was at Barbados – we shall see. This is dull place, nothing can be more so, but it’s cool by comparison & I have a chasse with my rod of cocoa leaf fibres after the cockroaches & Musquittos which is troublesome. At the same time one can get on & exist. I potter in various ways & chasse off the days of my transportation with tolerable rapidity. In fact I am always busy, am drilling seeds for you or the dear girls, have routed all the malpractices, stirred up the Respective Officer, don’t care a hang for anyone, keep clear of all parties which are something like the Fort George kick ups only of a more serious nature. Thus my independence is established and I already feel my authority here is acknowledged which a young Lab at Mr Robinson’s standing could not so well accomplish. All this sort of thing it seem has seconded Sir C’s views and we get on famously. He has frequently begged I would come to his table whenever it suited me & two days since he told me two days back that a cover would always be ready for me. I write you all these particulars that you may draw your own conclusions as to the footing we are at present on and I know you will read my long winded epistle without considering it a bore. You know I love you dearly therefore it is unnecessary to write you whole pages of letter paper on that well known subject. Close up my letter I must tonight, and keep it open until morning to see, as Fred writes to me, whether or not I can pick up a bit of news. In Katy’s last line she states that R Wiltshire has written for assistance. I verily believe it is with a view getting his passage home. If Mr Steward as answered in the affirmative it may yet produce mischief. The loss of Mrs Steward will be exceedingly felt by her family, particularly by Mr S. For the first few months he must of course always regret the loss of so amiable a companion, but his grief is violent and I shd say not lasting. What changes are about to take place. The Artillery affair with one of his daughters will be a sorry tho affectionate match, however it is a pity the poor girl should injure her peace of mind & health if her mind is so prepossessed in the young Gunner’s favor. How is Kate Steward? I trust that her malady is not increased by any circumstance of the same nature. Remember me kindly to them all, commencing with Mr S when you write, for I take it for granted that you are again at your own home. Is Loo grown a good looking woman? She promised to be plain. I entered into your feelings perfectly and felt the tears in my eye on reading your letter from Stoke Park, but on a moment’s reflection that months had elapsed since the melancholy occurrence, and that months might pass before you rce my thoughts on the subject, which after all might only revive afflictions which we are taught to overcome, it would be impolitic to dwell on it. In a fortnight or three weeks another chance will offer, when I shall give Miss Kitty a line or two. Miss Parker I feel in debt and to Miss Isabella English I am deeply so – my correspondence has greatly increased, but there is such a pleasure in receiving accounts from home in any shape that I hope they continue to exert themselves. Ask the indefatigable good friend Miss Parker to remind you that some fine silk net braces with buckles that will not rust & some black silk for the neck about 6 inch broad will be acceptable with lots of English Jam, that is if any person is coming out. I have sent for an old copper colored woman today to cut off some of my shirt sleeves, for I cannot stow them away. Where is Charles and what is he going about? Offer him my best regards and old fashioned John who has stuck himself as it were into a remote corner of the world. Why does he not write? Mine was the last and I cannot again put pen to paper until I receive a letter in answer. However I am aware that the leading subject would be my sisters which he wishes to avoid & my suffering from their unhappy story. So Edward has taken Mr Hanbury’s business. He may [word missing] right well yet it is heart burning having to submit to all the inconveniency, still there is a great hope of success and he may yet prosper. It is getting late & I must draw to a conclusion without giving you any interesting information. It is after mess, and both Fritz who lays at my feet uncommonly heated, and his master must to bed on the chance that a line may be added in the morning fearing this. With love to all my dear children, regards to Miss P, her Aunt & sister and all sorts of heartiness to my excellent Uncle, love to my Aunts and my early flame Mary OB. God bless you all

& believe me your ever attached

The women are horridly ugly here & I have not spoken to a petticoat excepting Lady S for months.

The packet is in sight and I must seal up my letter. All well 1st July. Kiss the children for me.

and believe me yours
affect FE

There are many playful references to Mary O’Brien as an ‘early flame’ or even ‘wife’ in the letters. She was about fifteen years English’s junior, and would have been a small girl at the time of his marriage.