Letter #123

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s latest engineering triumph, the first transatlantic steamship SS Great Western, powered both by steam paddles and sails, had made her maiden voyage just a year ago. She could complete the eastbound voyage in 14 days.

Barbados 22 April 1839

Well my dear Kate, have you got that slow coach under weigh yet? I sincerely trust you have and that he is on the wide sea with the prospect of a glorious trade wind. I am so elated above my usual self that, much as I have to write, I know not with what to commence, for in truth your delightful letter by the last mail, together with the Inspector Genl’s recal, both to Sir S Whittingham and to your old Col, which were here waiting on our return, has completely demented me and put at least ten years of boyish spirit into my elastic composition, to use your own words. We returned to our quarters on the 18th Inst, thus expending most agreeably one month on the tour of Inspection. If Gradon will be prompt in his movements, my stories relating to the various Island will still be of date worth recounting to you dear Kit, and verily you shd have many long staves on the subject. This was our levée day, which is always a broken and a fatiguing one. The Packet or Mail boat to meet it sails tomorrow evening, therefore by early rising tomorrow, I shall be enabled to give you the latest account of myself. All here compliment me on better looks, but the truth is your letters have set me on my legs again. The General told me today, almost with tears in his eyes, that he was truly & sincerely sorry I was about to leave him, so you see our little official brush has only terminated for the best and made him look with more respect than ever upon our Royal Corps. His secretary Capt Considine dines with me today, and, what do you think? at our mess, the reunion of the Corps, RA & RE. 23rd April: Our small party went off exceedingly pleasant last evening – Capt Considine, Capt Rutherfurd, Col Grant, Dr Parrott, Lt Hamilton RA and three of the Spitfire officers, so there is an end of hostilities in that quarter. Today I drove with the General in full costume. The party was made for the French Genl Bertrand, but he has departed for Martinique unexpectedly. As the Governor is to be one of 14, the double breasted must be forthcoming nevertheless, I regret to state. By the bye, Gradon will be the senior Lt Col here and will perform the part of senr officer of Ordnance which gave Sir Charles ten shillings a day extra. This I fear has been lost from old Col Story’s stupidity. Gradon will also command the troops in garrison & will have to head them at all Fd days &c &c. In fact much will be required of him, even to act as a Governor occasionally in some of the Islands. My last short and hurried letter was posted at St Lucia, no, Dominica. Our stay was short, made the Inspection the first morning after arriving & got a capital breakfast with the Regimental officers on the Morne, and a superb dinner early in the day with an old friend of the General’s, who was his Secretary some years back at the time Sir Samford was Governor. Called on the new appointed Govr, a Major somebody, poor fellow, he looked [word obliterated] although he and his family had landed [words obliterated] few days. Saw Prince Rupert’s, a station where all Europeans that were quartered there sunk under its poisonous climate. It is now occupied by Black troops from Dominica. We steamed away to Martinique and to my disappointment we anchored so far from the shore or landing place that I gave up the shore going trip. A small sketch which I made will shew you some resemblance of the town – undoubtedly this is one of the finest Islands. On the following morning started for St Lucia, went thro the same routine of inspecting troops at Pigeon Island. I paid a visit to Capt & Mrs Newman – very agreeable people, they know Miss Parker well & of course we had a long chat about her. If praise and kind feelings towards another make the cheeks of the absent one burn, Miss Parker must have in a tropical state on this occasion. I found that the late earthquake has caused considerable damage to the buildings. On our return to Castries, Capt Considine & your lusty lord went to a french wedding & after the ceremony joined the dinner party – all exceedingly handsome. I had known the families when quartered at St Lucia, & had some acquaintance with the young couple, who embarked the following morning in an open Perogue to reach their domicile on the coast in place of a chaise & four à l’Anglaise. We were exceedingly amused. This was a day of doubt whether the Genl would go on to Demerara or return to Barbados, but fortunately we had a nervous old doctor – Draper – who, in addition to all his alarms about locks & shipwreck, had left his daughter who, poor young woman, never gets out of the house, at Barbados, and he was in one continued fidget fearing his carriage & horses would over worked, his expenses too great, or his daughter eloped. The said Dr received at letter here from Demerara which he cleverly made to answer his purpose. It contained very unfavorable reports of the sickness at Demerara, which decided Sir Sam on making forthwith for Barbados, & here we are, all much better for the trip, but burnt nearly black. I landed with the Genl in the ship’s gig. He would not wait for one of his staff, so eager was he to get to Shot Hall for some tea or fruit. I found the place shut up, even the outside Iron gate, but after bawl-ling on my part & fidgetting on the Genl’s, a picket of my men crept from various corners & bushes like Rob-Roy’s clansmen. Once inside the Gate, Shot Hall was soon ready to welcome the fatigued old Genl, who chuckled away as his staff dropped in at his good mannagement & making himself so comfortable whilst his carriage was sent for. The letter bag came to hand at this moment. The first official he opened was from Sir F Mulcaster respecting my return home. I found my establishment – horses, dogs, pigs, sheep &c – right, & house beautifully clean, but all interest in this place has vanished & I think of naught but of my departure. If matters turn out so that I cannot get away fortwith when Gradon has taken over the department, I shall make my way to New York & then take the Great Western, thus shorten the passage by a week most probably. Some of your crotchet, when I feel in good spirits, make me laugh heartily. At other times they have a contrary effect, but my joke about writing alternately to Mrs Rutherfurd & Capt R doing the same to you being turned in a serious shape on my shoulders, and another, a remark about you & MOB in some shape or other improperly worded on my part, I suppose is so truly ridiculous that find myself laughing whenever I think of it. Fred seems to be getting more cool on his marrying propensity – I hope he will think better of it. Do not my good Kit use such harsh terms about the young lady; it is possible Miss Keating is now your daughter in law, in which case it will be a painful reflection having been so severe respecting a stranger as to her good or bad qualities. It’s a sorry affair indeed, very soon you may be a grand-mamma [word obliterated] step of poor blunderer is beyond our control. It will therefore avail nought declaiming loudly and by harsh words giving way to our feeling and hurting Fred’s. Our displeasure at his folly & upsetting the prospects I had in mind for him must be shewn in a more dignified bearing. Gusto’s letters continue to afford me great pleasures – he will write a good business like hand and gentlemanly with all. I would write to the dear fellow but my subject is so expended by one long letter every fortnight that in truth I could only repeat that I am well, Barbados very hot & dry, no society & if there was, 5 years of the climate renders a man too indolent to join much in it. The family of Major Chads are all well & appear most contented, they have some fine girls. It is to be regretted they are doomed to pass so much of their lives in this vile climate. Mr Bingham was looking well – I saw him at St Lucia – he is very gauche. It would be well that Fitchet got me some sort of Frock ready cut out to try on. I am much the same in dimensions. The Blue frock Regt coat fitted beautifully & full large. Capt O’Brien’s lady is very pretty & pleasing in her manner, only left England a year & a ½. How is Rose? Regards to the old girl. Our Bishop has returned – I shall call on him today or tomorrow. Georgiana has written to me for assistance. It is a most extraordinary tissue of abuse and intreaty, so mixed up that do not know how to answer it. If you write of a Mjr Brooke 67 Regt, you need not be alarmed. I’ve met him & am not likely to know more. I keep quite distinct from the Garrison. Brookes of the 69th I also know a little of – rather an old lady he is. I have fifty things to write about but cannot collect my ideas. God bless you all & believe me your afft

Fred English 

A Deed of conveyance has reached me. I will return it by the first safe person. Love to all dear Kit.