Letter #3

The Mountaineer anchored off the Isle of Wight for long enough for English to pay a surprise visit to Wickham. Letter 52 makes it clear that he took a ferry to and from Gosport.

Captain Kay and Lieutenant Molesworth were RE officers also posted to the West Indies. HMS Belvidera was a frigate which had seen distinguished service in the War of 1812, and was now employed in carrying troops and supplies to and from the West Indies and between the islands. Mention of her here suggests that English had had the opportunity of sailing with her, but had preferred the Mountaineer in the hope of a faster passage.

Mountaineer, Needles
11th March 1834

I cannot allow the Pilot to go on shore without a letter and he has promised to put my package containing the coat which is to be hung on the brass nail until I return. The book that is to prove to Major Holmes that he is still recollected and some hard bistiques for the younger teeth. So soon as we approached Gosport I could observe that the wind was becoming more & more fair & gave up all hopes of returning. The desperate word adieu was said. I bough a pound of Negro head tobacco for the seamen, agreed with my Boatman and was steering out of harbour before I scarcely had time to reflect that it was not to return for many months. 5d took me, bag, dogs &c to the Mother Bank, a lovely morning & the breeze freshening proved that I was right in making the start. All the ships were getting under weigh, some indeed had left their anchorage & were well towards St Helens. However, the fog clearing away, the Mountaineer appeared in her old berth all sails ready & as we neared her the hands turned to & got in the anchor which was ready to take on board. Thus the ship was off just as I got on deck. Mr Edward got on board last night but the married men had not reached her. Ten minutes brought all together & off is the word for I not only think but hope we shall now go clear away. The parting upsets all parties, the second was even more painful that the former. The whole adventure of the last week is to me as a dream, the less I dwell on this subject the better for the comfort of us both. Wind coming round to the westward again! I hear from the deck – I trust not. It will be wretched laying here in sight nearly of home. The Molesworths & Kays have been delighted with their trip on shore & admire Ryde exceedingly, the latter lady likes the music & is much obliged. Capt Redman & Mr Edwards desire their good wishes, they seem to have been much delighted with the reception they met with at Wickham. They did not wait but Capt R said he certainly shd have so done for an hour or two. Here all civility. We are at the present moment all uproar – flying gibs, letting go anchor, preparing and all sort of bustle in consequence of an American being rather in our way & the breeze lulling under the Needles. Mrs Molesworth has just exclaimed What place is that Capt!  Outside the wind appears fair enough. You had managed your household so well in my short absence that it’s almost needles to give you hints. The points of the shafts of the car require some looking too. The leather is in want of a tack and about sixpence worth of black varnish paint put on by Kitty would make a good shew. What a row on deck. The carriage should be well looked too. It is absolutely necessary & you had better go to the Bale or South Gunton I think in order to have it in use. Your horse went better than usual this morning, probably the carrots are of service to him. I would not scold Andrew – I think by quietly telling him & seeing the thing done at first he will soon find you are determined to have the work executed well & he will do his best to please. I would purchase manure for the field to the amount of a pound or thereabouts but it must be done immediately & laid on thin. Make some of your establishment cut the road from the coach house to the back gate. The stuff from thence may be thrown over the meadow. New lock for the garden.  Some sort of a fastening to the outward back wicket & do to one of those at the pigsty to keep out the rogues & a lock common to your front field. Give the horse plenty of work, drive to the shore or elsewhere, but do allow yourself or others to get into the blue devils. The news of to day from the garrison is an entire change of Uniform for the Army – no lace behind all round the collar & on the cuffs, the blue frock to be double breasted. Mr Edwards dined in company with Major Mair & Captain Nicholson yesterday. They have decided to ride over & call on you. I hope you will be in the way. The punctuality of my getting on board has astonished my messmates. It is a strange coincidence the Belvidera sails today & the Edinburgh with some others got out & away yesterday as we drove to Fareham. Adieu my dear Kate. The word is given – only a minute or two, therefore I must close my letter. Take care of yourselves & believe me my dear Kate your

afft Fred

It is reported that a Brevet must be given or the older officers removed with a slip we shd rec.

These last words, added at the top of the paper, indicate English’s anxiety about his prospects of promotion, a constant theme for the next three years. Aged 43, he is very conscious of the fact that failure to be promoted might well result in being retired. The word ‘brevet’ has been used in several senses in the nineteenth century and since, all relating to advancement in military rank. Throughout these letters it is used to mean the promotion of a number of officers, often, but not necessarily, celebrating a great national event such as a victory or a coronation. English well knows that his only chance of promotion is a vacancy for an officer of more senior rank, hence his interest in his immediate superior’s prospects of a move.