Letter #31

Written from St Lucia, begun on 28th March 1835 

The word ‘Creole’ appears here for the first time. It has been used in several senses over the years, but at this time it meant a person born free in the West Indies of non-native or mixed parentage of any race. Thus the description of a lady in letter 35 as ‘a fine french Creole’ means that she is white, but born in the West Indies.

All this morning I have been employed my dear Kate in writing to Mr Hawker, and have given him such a number of illwritten pages that to me it’s doubtful whether he will find eyesight or patience to wade through them, and I have most completely enervated all power of replying to your last very charming letter as it deserves stile. Having seated myself in the full determination of being beforehand and in excellent time for the Packet expected tomorrow or Monday, I will fulfil my vow so far as a beginning, and have resisted the pleasure of putting several adventures to paper in Mr Hawker’s letter in order that you may both laugh together, which I flatter myself you will, and that you will meet to compare notes, for did my good Uncle get his old jacket on with my prosy in the same pocket with his Bill-hook and find himself in the wood of all woods, the enchanting wood, I opine you would only see the remnants. My quarters now look somewhat like an English kitchen in pickling time. Jar after Jar and bottle upon bottle are dispersed in every direction. Tamarinds and hot pickles contend the point of precedence, the latter having gained the contest and were completed first. An old lady & married has made them for me, not a black lady. I take great care to be ‘out’ to all young or middle aged, however no other person than my Clerk of Works’ wife has made the pickles of Hot peppers & mountain Cabbage &c, and Alex has been exceedingly engaged in collecting the necessaries & the Tamarinds which have been in season. The Jars of the latter were returned from a Plantation near this after the proper preparations of putting the boilling cyrup on them two successive days, the first to clear off the acidity, the following to sweeten the fruit for the delicate tastes at Catisfield and Wickham. I intend starting a box for each place in the Palestine, Capt Simms, now loading here & will sail in about a fortnight, after you receive this, for London direct. There are other chances but they go to Liverpool & Dublin. Today I dine with Mr Kennedy 76th paymaster, who has just written to request I will so do as Capt Pardillion is to be there at 6 oclock. Thus my dear Kate having made a beginning and finding that my head is as thick as my ink, I will add adieu until tomorrow, which will introduce something new as I dine & meet some French ladies on board the L’Emeraud, my friend Pardillion’s Man of War schooner. Up to this date 28th March, Capt English, as Augustus stiles me in his letters, his dog Toby and pet serpent are well, & the former hungry. ‘Now then, away for a potter, not a walk, that’s out of the question. Come Marlton, come along’. This said, Capt is now, & I shld add has for the last 4 hours been laying on the Camp sopha covered by Miss P – there he is reading and brushing away Mosquitos. ‘Come Marlton, let’s stroll & call upon Young, I understand he’s not so well today’. ‘I’ll go if you li-ke, but you’ll see him at the Mess.’ He’s not well I tell you’. ‘I’m ready’, at the same time he stirs not. This is the life in this climate – few have a wish to stir – 29th: when once settled in their Hammocks or on the sopha, but after some little exertion away we posted down the mountain some 300 ft or more to Young’s cottage where we found the youth all right and just returned from the Colonial Secretary’s office in place of an invalid on his back, laughing outrageously. At 6 I found Kennedy Madame, a good sort of thin simple person not without talents, Mrs Clerke widow of the late Lt Col, a fine showy Canadian not disinclined to try the blessings of Matrimony again and looking rather unutterable. Mons Pardillion, a sharp, black eyed, round faced, amusing little French man of considerable information, Lt Sheppard 76th, a good humoured vulgar Irishman, called a married man with a wife living in Ireland at her father’s, gimlet eyed & disagreeable outline. The poor girl had the sense, I conclude, not to trust herself out with him; and Ensign Evans, brother to Mrs Kennedy, very gentlemanly but rather soppish from being so much with his own relations all arranged, and shortly afterward we sat down to rather a miserable sort of a repast prepared by a filthy Mullatto lad called a cook. I was seated next the Widow & we talked – not French as the fair could parlez but small chose. Many remarks passed – I might suppose them to be rebukes – why the officers of the Mess did not visit the Fort Ladies more frequently, that it would improve the younger men’s manner and amuse the elder and so on, to all of which I of course agreed in the affirmative, adding my astonishment at the want of taste in not making more morning visit when the Ther was at 80 & 87. However, the evening passed tol-lol & I am one nearer home, it is to be hoped. I have already stated that I dine at one oclock on board the french man’s craft. Already has that indolent of all indolents Capt Marlton passed 2 hours on my portable sopha and gone to dress. The Fort Adjt has also rolled in to enquire at what hour he shd have the Garrison boat ready, thus I must again put off the finale of my composition which you will observe I am more than in ordinary care of, so far as the good writing and mode of expressing myself, as Miss Parker has alarmed me respecting the Publishing – ‘A Sojourn in the West Indies’. Tell her she will never cease being an immoderate quiet quiz and that I will pay her off. But my dear Kate I have so much nonsense, as Kitty terms it, to narrate, that I almost fear these repeated interruptions will cause me to forget the cream of all the best. To horse, and a very nice animal he promises to be. I shall gain some hours this evening to wind up. On reference to my journal I find I wrote to Wickham & to Fred on the 7th inst and shall therefore refresh my memory by it and give you a detail of my pursuits since. But now to the Dejeuné a la Fourchette. 8 oclock PM 29th March: Rode to the town with Lt Hilton, who by the bye has lost his father and come into a handsome property, and reached the Club room in good time, all the party collecting but no ladies, the day was too boisterous. We soon found ourselves on the quarter deck of the L’Emeraud, a wee thing in beautiful order mounting 8 brass, 4 pr, guns on swivels, peeping over the side or bulwarks for firing salutes and giving a little parade to Monr Le Governor de Martinique, the whole on the petit scale but guns large enough to carry a poor fellow’s right hand off in saluting our flag last Monday & who is now in our hospital. We dined or breakfasted on deck, Monr Pardillion covering himself with glory entertaining us with everything of the best, still it was stupid work and the Baron, myself, with some others went ashore about 5. Kennedy and myself mounted our steeds & returned to the Morne.  Thus I am enjoying the pleasure of writing to you instead of sitting at Mess where I should otherwise have been at the present moment, the eight oclock gun having just been discharged. So Mr Hawker has had a touch of the gout. I trust he will not trifle with it, he is such a gay giddy person regarding himself and so young in soul that I fear he will go on in his usual habit, forgetting that wet shoes may have little effect on young Fred, but quite another thing with old bucks like he and his elderly nephew. His letter has put me on the qui vive as I know he never writes unless to particulars. My not liking Barbados is easily accounted for – there was no pursuit for me but entertainments, exceedingly hot, unsettled, knowing I was not to remain there, and not feeling my own comdg officer. Sir C & Lady Smith were all attention but I became restless, & the constant heartless gaity to me was latterly génant in the extreme. Moreover I wished to find myself in a quarter I could call my own, unpack my trunks &c. As to coming here again, it was the same to me. The quarter was fair, I had been accustomed to it, Alex was attentive, the 76 men, & their mess good of their kind – I felt one of their party. The Morn cool, scenery fine and two very material inducements, the Packet from England at Barbados yesterday before 12 oclock would be here this morning at 8 or 9. Added to all this, Demerara where I might have stopped, is extravagant in the worst sense of the word, this is not, and if Sir C is to move, I am at Hd Quarters in 48 hours. He told me Malta was offered to him and I still think he has some intention of taking it. In all the Islands and Colonies here they have the story that I am to relieve or take the charge from him. It is doubtlessly a report only, and I hope so for I have no ambition to be stuck in the hot sun of Barbados. Be it as it may, I am determined to carry on with spirit and keep moving so long as the timber head & legs will last. You sending me black handkerchiefs with Mrs Chadds won’t answer. There is little communication with Grenada direct & when that long legged Creole woman gets to her husband the chances are that do not see my throat ornaments half so soon as I should by sending to England for them and receiving the said direct or by Barbados. My net, Capt Tait writes word, is safe and will be forwarded by a Mr Hamilton RA who is expected here early. Capt Redman I understand has a beautiful vessel. Cara did not write me in the last Packet – I trust the creature is not getting idle for her letters are particularly amusing. I have heard from Augustus – it was a capital production – he will get on, I have no doubt, for certainly he possesses more than common sense and ability. You write much about that old fashioned youth in the Artillery, but don’t send his letters, they are too sentimental I guess. If Peter H had known what was what he would have called long ago, however if his & the stately looking daughter afford you all any trifling amusement I am delighted at the event, but I won’t have my family patronised, my good lady, when I am at home, by a living creature. Pray encourage our dear girls to keep up all their accomplishments, drawing will be an endless resource shd they come out to a foreign station, their music, French & Italian if continued will make me very proud of them. In fact women are all at a loss abroad unless they do understand these necessary parts of their education. Dear Annie causes me great anxiety – how well her letters are written, that is, the running hand attempted lately. I am following your last letter – you will observe. The pying your horse under the throat and doctoring him for a cold was excellent. It’s to be regretted for the story’s sake that you did not prescribe Guava Jelly. I would not recommend you to clip him, shd he be in existence next winter. It always was my opinion that the old horse and car would be a world of pleasure to you & so it has turned out. As to economy, I cannot boast much of that – this is country or rather climate that will not admit of much screwing. The last money I drew was unavoidable as I had to pay my passage down & purchase horse which cost me nearly 33 pound & considered cheap in these parts. He has improved wonderfully & will always fetch his price again. If I am left quiet, which after all is not otherwise desirable, I should live exceedingly cheap, reasonably even including wine &c. I have ford Mr Ford’s letter to Barbados where he is now stationed until Sir C F Smith’s pleasure is known as to his ultimate destination. Who is this Mr Hughes that wants a patchwork stool? – it’s a quizzical taste for a youth. What is he to have at the next visit? do tell me. It is time I came home to keep some of the floating wits and headpieces from totering. Your butcher ought to pay well for grazing in those meadows – make him. Thro Edward’s assistance when in the City, you could get lots of opportunities to Barbados by enquiring at the Jamaica Coffee House or Lloyd’s. Poor Aldrich has been at Bermuda some time & is to return to England in the summer & Capt Kay has been very ill – they report that he cannot remain in this climate. Alas, he drinks too much Brandy, it is supposed. Had he been satisfied with Porter, it might have been better, but he was not a subject to send out here. I laughed heartily at your writing for the Vol on the Horse, all the way from St Lucia, why, you can borrow it anywhere. I trust they will promote Dixon, or are we wretched Engineers to be mulct altogether of Promotion. No Brevet I fear. Lt Col Louie Charles, old friend and an acquaintance of mine, is daily expected to take the Comd of the 76. He brings his family – poor fellow, I pity him. Having got thus far to you my dear Kate I shall conclude for the night. If the Packet comes in late tomorrow which is not unlikely there being no breeze, I will write the descriptive trash to Kate & Miss Parker. I think I wrote to dear Cary last, however it amounts to the same thing. If you have a favorable chance, send me a lot of Candles. Those I brought out lasted almost a year, they are a great price & exceedingly bad here. God bless you all. Your afft Fred

‘Toby boy – come let’s to bed’, he sleeps under mine & is rather fatigued having been on board the Frenchman.

I will send you more Guava when it is in season, it was an excellent thought. Send Mj Wells some.

¼ past 6 Mail Boat in sight therefore I have little time to close or shd be late. Regard to dear