Letter #15

If only the letters from Wickham had survived! We know nothing of Annie’s accident except that it endangered her eyesight and that her mother acted quickly to save it.

When General James Alexander Farquharson, the Lieutenant-Governor of St Lucia, died, Sir Charles Smith was sent there as acting governor pending the arrival of the new appointee, Sir Dudley St Leger Hill. By ‘Carl Smith’, English means Sir James Carmichael-Smyth – for more about him, see letter 22.

Stipendiary Magistrates were sent to all the colonies by the British government to resolve issues arising from the implementation of the Emancipation Act, a difficult task made worse by conflicts with the local legislatures.

St Lucia 31st July 1834

It would be of no avail my dear Kate to enter into detail of what my feelings were on receiving your first, with Miss Parker’s, account of dear little Annie’s misfortune. It is enough that you shd know that I was as perfectly miserable as you could possibly picture to yourself. I cannot add that I feel much more resigned whenever I reflect on the subject. Your letter of the 17th ultimo has somewhat soothed the wretchedness I suffered respecting the dear girl, and so far fortunate Sir C Smith was departing, the new Govr Sir D L Hill joining, and the bustle thus caused afforded me less time to ponder over the melancholy affair than had I been left quiet. But I cannot think it over without feeling perfectly unmanned and, as you observed, being totally without a creature to talk over one’s sorrow, it makes the distress mentally far more poignant that the poor soul may still retain the sight of one eye I fervently trust it is some relief to be made acquainted with the worst at once, and I am exceedingly happy to think that you took her to Town without loss of time, still had not Dr Fisher advised so confidently, I cannot divest my mind of the idea that her sight might have been saved. It comforts me thinking that the dear child cannot be in more cautious or attentive hands than with yourself and Miss Parker. I am happy you are all together again and by the accounts your letters convey well, and some of party shewing the good effects of fine airs & appetite. I did mean to write several long letters by this packet to Wickham, but cannot this time. I have not the spirit within me. That which I have just completed to Fred will occupy some hours to wade through – the doubt is if the young Ensign will have patience to read it. I never felt better than at present although it is irksome the want of exercise, for if you get off the tip of this mountain the matter is to get back again, which is impossible to accomplish on foot without being overpowered with the heat, and to ride down is no trifle for the road is at such an angle that the chances are you go over your pony’s neck & break your own. In fact we are all in good health notwithstanding the hot sun and cold blast from the wooded uncultivated country. I thought you would spy out the late Governor’s death and the remark made respecting this climate. I am informed that it was unjust that Gen Farquharson was a broken down man before he came here – the same with Col Clark of the 76 who poor man has just departed this world in a most unhappy manner. The whole time I have been here and before it is said that he never or scarcely ever could eat a regular meal, but always drinking, and at last it is supposed he took brandy. He was the worst man at the head of a Regt that you could well immagine. Married to a rather nice woman, he had delayed selling out under the impression that would obtain more than offered, got leave to go up to Barbados for change – in fact they wished to get him out of Comd – and he died on board a little miserable Passage boat in sight of land. His brother, a Mjr of the Regt, has arrived to take charge of the Regt. If possible a more miserable creature and less esteemed than the other, he has set all at loggerheads at Dominica – Barrack Master, Storekeeper & brother officers – we will keep him in better order here. I have reported the Col’s death to you as it has happened. He might have continued to exist for a time but the cause of his decease was not the climate of this Island. What I have enjoyed is that I can get up cool and dress so for dinner which at Barbados I never could. Here one’s blood has time to cool with all its disadvantages of want of space and so forth. I have recd all the seeds. The best thing I have eat since I came out was some Mustard & Cress which Kate gave me & Capt Grubb the eligible put into a small garden – it was excellent. My collection increases and is now quite a sight to the officers of the garrison who bring all they catch that is worth preserving. I know you will think it a monstrous set of rubbish but the amusement it affords me is great. Taxidermywill be a new study for our dear girls and as collections for Natural History are duty free I hope to ford some when complete. My ponies are improving. I have not mounted either yet nor have they any shoes but as I was perfectly aware of what they would make and losing my ration & 1s 6d per diem I was glad to purchase even my bags of bones. They are not so now & before I quit I intend to make gay fellows of them. Your horse has been ill as he always was with too much oats & not sufficient cooling food. I trust he is better and again useful. The Car would be a delightful conveyance in Barbados. Tell Kate that the Band play her Cart Gallop as their quick march called English from Home, and the Master is setting some of the others. I hear the bugle for dressing time but I must get on a little further for I cannot write after Mess. It is so hot & the Insects torment so by candle light. Mr Robinson is not yet gone home so I may send the necklaces by him. What length shd they be? Tomorrow the 1st of August a day of moment in these Islands & in Demerara &c. Abolition of slavery. They have apprehended riots but I hope all will terminate well. There is no fear here. It is always my fate to be interrupted when writing to you. This being the last day of the month, at least 20 times I have been stopped, but once by the Fort Adjt to decipher the Govr’s order which certainly had as many scratches in it as any wig shop in town. It was a pompous affair directing that all the heads of Depts, full dressed, are to attend in the Sq of Castries at one oclock, piping of course & buttoned up. Band, Colours, Guard of Honor and other pothers to give due solemnity to the reading of the Proclamation, and the Day is to one of Thanksgiving throughout the land. Oh! this good natured talking pompous Govr after Sir C Smith will not do. Amongst other charges of Respective Off Resident Engr, I have been senior Off in Garrison &, the Artillery officer being removed, I have charge of the R Artillery, a detachment of Rudyard’s Compy. The good effects of having some power has been – you know my inclination – that I have routed all hands & made such a change that Sir C Smith has been pleased, evidently introduced me as his right hand man to the new Governor. No recommendation I suspect as he appears to hold Sir C rather in awe, but he expressed himself in terms which I never expected from him. Sir C has been applied for by Deputy as Governor at Demerara in place of Carl Smith who it is reported is going home. In this case I should be in Comd and start for Barbados. Lady S with whom I have managed to get on with & no easy matter which will serve us to talk over, said on embarking, ‘You will soon follow, you were only brought here to see what you were like, St Lucia has not space to occupy you’. ‘Hum,’ said I, ‘all this is exceedingly fine, wait a while until the proof comes.’ The Regt are now marching by to Kit’s Gallope. With respect to your finances, they trouble you not, I hope. Double pay from the 12 Feby & I have drawn only for 50£ since I came out & I am now going to get Capt Grubb to give 25 at a month after sight as he wants to send some home & I require it for Mess account & pay away for one of my steeds not yet settled. For this you will have about 201 days’ double pay & Sept sub, & to me money to balance against my draught before the 25£ can become due – so much for money affair, I only hope you will have enough to make you all comfortable, but at any time if you feel pinched, write to Mr Marriot a letter he can show to the House requesting to draw for what you require & I can make it good. The last Mail produced a long letter from Col Oldfield, Newfoundland. He states at the 23rd June he was seated by a roasting fire. He thinks you are all here & sends lots of pretty wishes with introduction for one of the Stipendiary Magistrates, a set of people regularly humbug’d by the Government, who I am informed have arrived, even in some of the best Colonies, without finding even a home to their heads, with various other difficulties in this hot climate. Altho I did not know poor Hawker I regret his death for my good & excellent Uncle had evidently formed an affection for him, and thus to witness all of his name and allied to him dropping off at his time of life must be painful. However callous men of our professions may be when death attacks our own connection or family circle, we don’t bear the blow as well as others less accustomed to such scenes. Best regards to my Uncle & Mrs Hawker. I trust he may soon let his house. Wretched! Indeed I do feel wretched, and were it not that I have marked out a line of conduct which shall guide me throughout my transportation, I shd verily be weakly wretched, but it’s not to be, and when almost subdued by that sensation something unaccountable within the inward man works and the wretch decamps & ‘Richard’s himself again’. All this is very fine, still there is some truth in it. Fancy me in my bedroom striving to keep my eyes open, the mail starting at ½ past eight or nine tomorrow, seated at my dressing table, one wax candle purchased by Capt Pattison at Portsmouth. Mosquitos in abundance tormenting me, to keep off which I have by my side a fair sized rod of Cocoa leaf fibre. All my shaving apparatus pushed up in a heap. Mr Fritz, who continued to fib to mess tonight and would not allow a soul to touch him, under my bed snoring and in other respects disagreeable, every species of tropical insects screeching, and your well beloved seated in an ant eaten chair with a cockroach every now & then on his slipper. Fancy this if you can, my dear Kate, & the unfortunate man in such a heat that he would gladly, if he dare, turn to the left and dip into his bath. All my black rogues in bed and, with the exception of the above named disturbance, all as quiet at ½ past nine as if the Island were totally uninhabited. If you can picture this to yourself so many weeks after it has elapsed, you will have your loving lord exactly. The Stewards seem to have been exceedingly warm hearted. I am happy you went independant if shewing a proper spirit towards your late excellent sister. It has broken the time and made know some of our young hands to their cousin. By the bye, tell Kit-tunes and Cary that we had the Band at Mess or rather during dinner, & that a compliment to me the struck up ‘Such Fairy like Music’ which they have only practiced a few days. I delighted in it, yet I was miserable. Send out all you can, pick up such as are new & can be put into a letter. Fred’s letters are delightful, and as to Miss Parker & the dear Girls – I must not leave the sage Augustus out – I positively devour them. I now fancy I find likenesses in those shades Miss P & you spitting at each other, however, I have them all arranged in the lid of my desk and look upon them as my picture gallery. I used to make love to the Ma or elder sister for the sake of the young miss. I suspect that the very good Mr Wilmot is fancying the same, all of which will, by change of scene & character die a natural death & well it shd. Much as I shd always esteem him, he has, if he remains in the Army, as much as he can do to take care of himself. Oh! the scenes that I have already witnessed here already even with the families of Field officers, undoubtedly I was guided right in not exposing my family & I shd always feel grateful where it is due. Thank Mr Hawker for his scrap – it does my heart good to see his hand writing. The Mountaineer has reached home, no doubt, and the poor Macaw arrived, I expect to learn without a tail or a feather, but he will be beautiful – if you get tired of him, give the rogue away. Lt Fisher RA, who gave him to me, put in here last week. I have just mixed some [illegible word] Colour with my ink & it will not go as you may observe. [The ink hereabouts is smudged.] With Mr Fisher on board the Army vessel Duke of York was Mr Aldrich RE, Capts Harpur & Fothergill 67 and some others I did not know. Aldrich, with Fisher & Fothergill, got horses and came to see me, the former I think in a consumption – he look miserably & has been making a trip round the Islands – his quarter is Trinidad. In my opinion he ought to be started home, he might be saved for a time. He made the kindest enquiries after you all, but is perfectly an altered person. I think if you were to address my letters to this Island, it would frank them all the way, the Inspector Genl cover being taken off at Barbados, they are forwarded at a heavy expense without official envelope. I thought I stated that I called on Col Diggens and found a miserable broken down gentlemanly person with a host of black brats crawling about, not his own. Take care of the Carriage Braces &c & I must now draw up to the close of my dispatch or it will be left behind. Cary has had a letter, little Skylark is the next with dear Kit, who has been very kind – don’t let her marry until I come home. Love to Aunt OB & Mary & believe me, with regards Miss P & her Aunt & lots of kisses to the Chicks around you, I remain ever your attached Fred.

Get Harding and others to push Mr Ambler respecting Augustus, he find him a clever boy & will display an examination which increases with the lad’s age. Shd he be nominated  moreover I am out of the way & he may wish to make us pay our wack. Augustus shd pass immediately, that is at the first Ex after his appointment, the obtaining of which I much doubt, now being out of the way.

God bless you all

Thank my Uncle for his few lines. I don’t write to him as he hears of me so frequently from you, but if anything worth relating arises from the new measures, I will then give him the first account.

1st August all well 6 oclock AM. Storekeeper has just been here stating that his office which is close by was broken into last night. Fritz was exceedingly violent about 12 last night as I was doing my letters, so much so that I could not pacify him. No doubt he stopped the thieves, they got into his office but took no money away.  I think Mr Fritz has all the merit, his voice is terrific and last night I thought he would have broken the door to get out. You may expect more of this after slave emancipation. How is Jane? Regards to Rose if with you.

Your afft Fred

I had better read Fred’s letter, this your cover

I shall write by the Cuba, she sails in about a fortnight, is a ship of this Port & would bring anything out for me. Enquire always at London or West India Docks.

We hear no more of the historic 1st August 1834 and the parade for the proclamation of the emancipation of the slaves. Perhaps it was described in a letter to one of English’s daughters. The anticipated disturbances did not happen.