Letter #124

Sir Francis Bond Head, a Royal Engineer, was probably personally known to English as both had served in the Waterloo campaign and the occupation following it. He had just retired as Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, and published A Narrative about his administration there.

The General’s breakfast over his maps of India reflects his close interest in northern India where he had served from 1822 to 1835. In the news was the northward march of the Army of the Indus, which resulted in the disastrous First Anglo-Afghan War.

Barbados 7th May 1839

By the time you receive this I hope to be on the wide sea and with a fair wind steering for the white cliffs of old Albion. I can hardly fancy it, but so it shll be if under my controul. In a note from Col Ellicombe by the last packet, he states, ‘Your successor wants to put off his departure till June but whether it will be granted or not I cannot yet say, it is referred to the Master Genl’. This is plane enough and unless I get a positive order to remain in Comd, I shall leave Mjr Fenwick, who I have written to on the subject, in charge, and embark for home with Sir Samford Whittingham’s leave so to do. Once Mjr F arrives and the Estimates now in hand for the General complete, your humble servant will bid adieu to the W Indies, I trust for ever, and if possible shall embark before the middle of the next month. However, do not expect me home until the end of July, and then my good dear Kit I will do my best to drive some of the Wickham crotchets out of window. Am selling off as fast as I can, but fear my hay will be but a sorry business, but rather than be driven to part with it for a twentieth part of its value, a bonfire shall be made of the stack. In truth I feel all my ideas so engrossed with the thoughts of home and a stroll about the lanes of Wickham with you my dear Kit, without taking any account of the curtain lectures, that I feel wild as a boy. All you need order Fitchett to prepare, that is stitched together only, for I am still a bit of a Buck, a handsome morning Frock or Pea Frock, and an evening coat ready cut out. As to size, I am much the same, probably a little stouter by the confinement of the voyage, but you won’t know me from the dark sun burnt phiz I carry on these shoulders. Such a host of visitors yesterday and today – no end of them. Old Phillip has now order to say out, & I have stuck myself the the favorite corner of my bed chamber. Tell Mrs Naghten Henry has been with me all the morning. He has grown tall & thin but looks well and tells me he is in excellent health. I wished him to dine at Mess with me today, but he expects to meet his Capt somewhere and has some request to make. He complains of being a little deaf in one ear. He asked my advice about leaving the service & mentioned he had written home to that effect. He is rather violent in temper I suspect, & is kept in order by the 1st Lt Mr Allen who is a strict officer. This has disgusted Mr Hal and when he wrote home he thought he was not to get his rating as a Mid. However, it is confirmed from the date he was entitled to it.  I pointed out to him in the strongest terms the folly of quitting so fine a service &c &c after expending so much valuable time in it, & to work on him I stated moreover on the eve, most probably, of an active war he is well placed. But between ourselves he is very odd tempered &, were he unemployed, would torment his mother, I fear, exceedingly. Remember me to Mrs Naghten. Henry began a letter here but I could not persuade him to persevere. Do not say a word about my intention of not waiting for Gradon, but I certainly will not remain here to be caught by the hurricane months. Get some fine flannel dear Kit for I expect to feel the cold of your climate. What strange fancies you take into your head, that I like the society here & the climate. Poor old lady, you must have had a sup of elder wine when you penned that line. There is no society as I have written you 20 times. Occasionally a Garrison tea party which I never join in, and as to climate, I detest it. There is much difference in doing the utmost to weather a storm or sinking under it for the want of manly energy. At all events I trust it please God to spare your lord & master to join the Gud wife about the time I have already fixed. Have you read Sir F Head’s Narrative on Canada affairs? He writes boldly. Admiral Hawker’s reply to the Secty is much to the purpose – all to whom I have lent it are of his opinion. Remember me there. The General & your old Col are great friends again entirely. He breakfasted hear a few morning by himself to get my opinion as to the disposal of his Regiments. I am in grand odour with him. It makes me laugh, for no one has written such truths or battled the watch with him as I have. I sincerely believe he is sorry that I am about to quit. He has made me promise to go and see his family at Hamstead. His Secretary Capt Considine is a fine noble minded fellow. After this Packet the Genl has proposed himself to breakfast to bring his own Maps of India around – Cabul, Herat &c, and to have a regular morning’s chat over the Military affairs at this moment so interesting in that country. I had almost forgotten to report, & if I had what a letter I shd have had from Wickham, Sir Samford, who has become quite frisky since his voyage round the Islands, after a dinner party the other day, proposed a Ball should be got up to bring the late importations & the Islanders together. After some discussion it was decided that the Genl & the Staff of the W India army personal & Genl Staff shll give it. The night is fixed for the 16th inst and I am one of the committee, to my discomfort. People are coming far and wide & it will no doubt go off well. There is a great stir on dit in the town for shoes & dresses. I’ll write or tell you all about it. Dear Fred’s affair cools I think, poor simple fellow. For his sake I hope it is so. Prepare yourselves for a row – no rats will be found in Kitty’s room when I get home. It is not improbable I may get Dover – what fun! Tell Skip that Tiger comes with me – he kills all the cats here that used to eat my chickens, eight or nine already. She must be careful of Mrs Puss. I hope to answer all queries in person. I shd manage to bring Rutherfurd home with me, but silence on that subject. It is of little use being in comd if one cannot serve a friend. His 4 years are nearly out. Mum is the word. Won’t Gusto & his Pa have a Lark! Love to my dear children and MOB and accept it most sincerely from your afft Fred E.