Letter #18

These were days when no one could make his way in the armed forces without friends at court. In order to secure a cadetship for his son, English had gone to the top and called on the Master-General of the Ordnance, Lieutenant-General Sir James Kempt, a veteran of the Peninsula and Waterloo.

Morne Fortuné 1st Oct 1834

You must, my dear Kate, fancy you see a middle aged man with his striped blue shirt, the collar open, neck bare, no waistcoat, white Jacket and immense large straw hat, seated at breakfast with the Dublin tea pot, Fareham tea kettle nose in front, one egg cup à la main droit, blue and white gilt edged circular dish with a pr of eggs in it, basin same pattern, salt cellar and a Claret bottle of syrup in lieu of white sugar all on the same side. On the other a Rack of neat manu factor full of dry toast, plate to match the set with half a loaf of ration bread, milk pot full of good milk and a Cup of hot tea, not out of the way bad, these with a few &c &c &c. Napkin & so forth. Jack Robinson on the right & Puss who by the bye has 3 kittens on the left – and with all this in your mind’s eye you may suppose that you see me, for so am I seated at the present moment. I shd add a live snake six feet long in a basket, scorpions, Lizards and many other specimens of vile insects which are only to be enjoyed in Tropical climate. Now for the tea & then to write to you my dear Kit in earnest for the 8 day boat will be with us tomorrow. Breakfast being demolished I will start with a new pen. By this time dear Augustus’s affair must be settled. I feel exceedingly anxious of course for the next mail, to learn the result of his examination. Mr Ambler will probably get him thro but I fear being over sanguine. The disappointment will be great should the poor boy not succeed. However, it certainly will not be his fault for he is perfectly capable. Mr Ambler will have cause to condemn himself, for the last instructions I left with him were to prepare immediately, that Augustus, if called upon, it would be suddenly, feeling that he would be put into a vacancy thus occurring. From Sir J Kemp’s manner towards me when at the Ord office with him, he then said, ‘Go on preparing your son; we will see what’s to done, but I have more than 80 on the list given over by my predecessor’. I live in hope that a little cramming will accomplish the object & that it has already done so. If not, get Charles to explain the matter to Col Couper and never rest until another nomination is obtained. However successful my letter may have been and the claims I have, Charlie’s prompt & energetic mode of proceeding clinched the nomination, and many thank have we to give the good fellow who is never wanting when his exertions are needed. If Augustus has obtained his cadetship I must own I shall feel exceedingly proud of the boy indeed we have much reason to bless our good fortune in owning two such unexceptionable youths. Should Gusty have failed, do not allow him to be desponding. The first few lines I read on opening your letters was the intelligence of his appointment. Enough of this matter for the present. If Toby does get into the Academy he will do. This letter will impart somewhat more that is interesting than usual in as much that I am about to move and expect the order by the Boat tomorrow. The following extract from Sir C Smith letter will explain: ‘Private Dear English, I believe I must give you a little trip shortly by taking you down with me to Demarara and Berbice, there to leave you until the sale of the Saw mill can be completed, for it is quite impossible to trust Capt T upon even the most unimportant measures. You will then have an opportunity of seeing whether you would prefer Demerara as a station to St Lucia. You shall have timely notice of my movements.’ Thus, my dear Kate, the family spring leg is in the wind again and you had better direct your letters to Barbados, from whence they will be forwarded to whatever Island I may halt at. Sir C means this in great kindness, & as he is going round either in frigate or Duke of York, the Military passage vessel, I should sail in some comfort & probably see most of the other you know who. In the Col’s letter the name is given. The old story – I never by any accident set down to write that every soul in the Department, a dozen Blacks, half of the officers &c &c do not come to interrupt me. The Adjt 76 is now here bothering for a bill upon England. You can suppose I am rather crusty with them and have just told the latter to look over Kitty’s scrap book and hold his tongue. He has taken the hint and departed. A trip with Sir C is undoubtedly desirable. I have made myself comfortable enough here as to quarters, bath and stable, but there would be more scope on the Main land, not that I have made up my mind to stop at Demerara, but it is likely I may, particularly if I find the climate passable, and the more I move about the better it passes the time, and one gains information. Let Mrs Naughten know that I am going – her introductions will be of service, more so shd I only remain a short time & not have sufficient time to make acquaintance for myself. The last Packet brought a note from Capt Tait with Sir C’s direction to be in readiness as his move would be sudden. However, the Hurricane which has laid Dominica waste may alter his arrangements. On the 20th we observed an unusual swell and great surf on the rocks coming from the westward and the wind, with rain, gradually became a gale so much so that a considerable alarm occured in the Town and harbor of Castries. The gale continued all night, & the following day the rain came down in torrents. A return Boat from Dominica reached St Lucia on the 26th on her way to Barbados and brought the intelligence that Dominica had experienced one of these awful visitations to which the West India Islands are subjected. I have not yet heard the particulars more than a Mr Burke, one of the Judges of this colony, who was sick and in one of the officers’ quarters, had his thigh broken. It is Capt Grubbe 76th who has written to the Garrison here who states that the prospect is ‘as it were that fire had passed over & consumed the face of the earth’. Of the Officers’ quarters we understand Capt Trench’s was the only one that resisted the fury of the storm, Lt Bruce saved his life by getting under an iron bed stead, Lt Pickard was ill with fever & was blown into the bush – he has lost all he valued. Some of the men have also been sufferers, but to what extent we do not yet know. It seems to have touched the South end of Guadeloupe & the north of Martinique. We have only experienced the gale occasioned by its velocity in passing thro the Atmosphere although at a considerable distance from its rage. An Earthquake, it is supposed, occured in Dominica at the same time, which is generally the case. Most of these Islands are volcanic, therefore it is not to be wondered at. The effects of that which took place at Barbados were terrific, but the worst months are passed therefore I trust we may escape. Now for your last letter which I shall reply to line by line. Your money affairs I hope go straight; I have not drawn  more since I last wrote nor do I think it will be necessary to do so until I know when & how I am to proceed on our expected trip to Demerara, in which case I shall so draw that the bill will not become due until some time in Decr, probable Jany prochain. Did I ever let you understand that the people here nine out of ten are French, & the Negroes speak nothing else but that language only. They have continued to jumble up so many unknown words formed from their extraordinary pronounciation that it has nearly become a distinct lingo – it would puzzle the old buck to make them out some times. Ere this your preserves have reached Wickham. Mr Grant has recd new of his having arrived safe & free of duty, consequently I am in great hopes that you are all with Barbara & the other Miss Gardiners, as Fred would express it, trucking with them. This Island is perfectly covered with Guavas & is famed for that preserve. I have not heard from Capt Tait whether my directions respecting the Tamarinds for Mrs OB & Mrs Hawker have been attended to – he promised that they should be forwarded to Catisfield, but of late we have all been so engaged with estimates and other matters that Jam or Jelly have been forgotten. The preserves cost me 20 dollars here so be precious with them and give dear old Charly only a taste now & then. You must have been almost overwhelmed with letters from me during the season that the merchant vessels are sailing with cargoes, but you must not be disappointed if you do not have letters so frequently, as the vessels will not return again until Decr for sugar, & I shall be on the move. Your last dispatch, 18th Augt, reached me on the 24th Sept, but we got papers of a much later date than the letters. By the bye, I am told that Fred’s name is in one of the Irish as having been robbed of some few shillings in his purse, keys &c. It will make the youth more careful at a trifling cost. My parcel with the red Jacket has not yet reached St Lucia. The other has somewhat of a blush cast of countenance, and this Govr is so found of seeing our Swallowtails that I much fear that he will expend both coat & Epaulettes before I have served out my Capt’s Rank. He is a monstrous Goose to my mind, and with a view of gaining popularity has lost all parties. Your favourable account of dear little Annie’s eyes has eased my mind considerable on her account. I sincerely hope, poor child, she will not suffer more. My love to her & Skylark – if possible I will reply to their letters but fear I may not accomplish it, being the termination of a quarter I have lots of writing & signatures to perform. On the 13th I dined with the Govr who has been disposed to be rather civil of late, but I keep perfectly clear of him, and now that he finds that I am going with Sir Charles Smith he is changing his tone in fact for me. I have been dreadful gay, but Miss Kitty, Miss Cary & Miss Parker must have the descriptions which I hope to find time to write. However, the old deaf storekeeper has this moment brought me one of his long winded draughts of letters about 10£ disallowed in his account which he wished curtail’d, he says. A Respective Officer here is no joke, having to manage deaf, stupid & silly – What a husband!!! Actually filled & crossed a foolscap to his wife & not half expended his say – at him again. My wee horses have improved wonderfully. I suppose I must sell them again – no easy matter, but it not do to leave them here in charge of servants. The climate does not effect me as yet, never having had a day’s illness – excepting a little quire feeling at Barbados – since I have been in the Tropics. I rarely eat any thing but poultry, take my bottle of Porter & a few glasses of wine, but never touch spirits. I never dare think of home for it is a complete upset, and when your letter arrive, if possible I go & hide myself to read them, fearing I may make a fool of myself but I have laid out so much employment that the days pass most rapidly. The last week I have been absent on a trip which you will read in the young filly’s letter. St Lucia is far more healthy than reported, that is taking care not to get chilled – if you, woe will follow. Col Diggins has become so quarrelsome in his cups, I’m told, which he never fails to be in when in company with him. Thus in Barbados few persons ask him excepting Sir C, & he has called off. He was a miserable broken old man with lots of Niger children round him when I was at Barbados. Rose paid you a long visit – was she as much charmed as heretofore & when is the seal promised? What care you about the Garniers – call or not call, we shall alway have the tip top or more, my good lady, when I come & jaunt with you again. All the world are heartless when they have been buried in the country without difficulty to encounter – it’s all a farce – it’s the same every where, Wickham or Fareham, Do or Ipswich. Mind my particular instructions about Catisfield and do not cease in endeavours to keep on good terms with Mrs H for my good & excellent Uncle sake. I am aware of the difficulty with two parties, only do not identify yourself with either. It would be a pitty to let that vile cock kill your Macaw for he is worth 5£ in England at least. Am happy to find your domestics suit you. I remarked you may remember that the young ladies, cook & housemaid, you first had were of too larking a description. I would give much to be walking round your domain with you now & see the improvements. If Capt Macauly gives up the Professorship, Capt Rutherford may have it, in which case take care to let him know that Augustus is at the Academy. I am supposing he has passed and regularly installed – I hope it may be so. I am so amused at your taking to the dining room for retirement out of the gaity of Wickham until Miss Kitty has a fit of squalling. All the music the lassies have sent me is performed by the Band. It appears but the other day, as Lts Lloyd & Winter have just observed, that the little tortoise was walking round the Mess table – we considered it rather a pretty specimen. Write to Mr Crawford & tell him how matters stand. Mr Coddington’s kindness to Fred makes my heart jump into my mouth whenever I read your account of the gift. Fred has certainly the habit of making friends wherever he goes – he is a worthy fellow you will have on leave soon. The only fear I have about his welfare is the chance of matrimony. I wrote to him by the Coquet Brig which sails from here direct to Dublin on the 25 inst. We must contrive to get him his Ltcy. All the young men here are wild about the way in which he has got on for the time he has been in the army. Adieu my dear Kate, now read Kitty’s letter & you may find some thing more. Kind regards to my excellent Uncle, Mrs Hawker & love to my Aunt OB & Mary. Shake Jenny by the hand for me, tell her my washing is performed by a very well conducted married woman who is so circumspect that I never have seen her but once. My shirts are all to large & Camel waist coats have the sleeves in the wrong way – they are now too small, but I get on well enough. Thank Mr Hawker for writing to Sir F Mulcaster – he may be of service in due time but could not bring me home immediately. We have a party at Mess today but it will be forgotten long before you get this. Accept my best love to yourself & the children, not forgetting Miss P & believe me your aff Fred. E.