Letter #32

Not dated at the beginning; letter begun on 29 April 1835 

English has received some more silhouettes with better likenesses – see letter 8. Perhaps the family have made their own this time. 

Dominique, the French name for Dominica, lives on although the island had been under British rule since the Seven Years’ War. 

Punishment of a servant by flogging seems brutal today, but we have to remember that it was still a standard punishment both in the services and on the plantations. See letter 94.

Duelling was still permitted in the Army; it was banned in 1844.

You will I much fear my dear Kate feel disappointed, at least I flatter myself that you all will, at not receiving a letter from me in the usual routine, but fancy my dismay – we had not any communication with Barbados, only by a chance Schooner from the 22nd March and no intelligence whatsoever of the Packet due on 5th until the 22 April. I had my glass in hand from daylight until midday, after which time we give up all hope of a vessel as they always leave Barbados about 4PM and reach St Lucia early in the morning, of course depending on the breeze. Morning after morning, day after day, I looked with all my eyes and all my hopes, but in vain beyond a sloop or small Martinique trading schooner nothing appeared, not a sail cut the outline of the blue, the ultramarine blue sea. I strained my eyes, put off several trips, endeavoured to draw, read, collect insects &c, but nothing would amuse. Thus the period passed in sleep and restlessness of spirit until the morning of the 22nd of the present month when the gun fired about ¼ past six & I nearly shortened my chin. ‘Is the horse ready, Edward? Leander, Charley, Alexander! Why is the horse not ready damn it? Bring my horse, you know I am patient.’ However, after a glulp of bad tea & without seating myself, on looking out with my glass I observed the Packet rounding the point at the mouth of the harbour, and had scarcely put on my sword when crack went another gun. To shorten my account the two Packets arrived together, but that of the 15 March arrived the first. On enquiry I ascertained that the late one had been detained 16 days with contrary winds. It would not be interesting to enter into detail of my anxiety as you cannot receive this until all interest in the matter is gone bye. The time that I killed was not enviable and the chance of writing home was lost. In your last letter I think the observation occurs ‘that I make no remarks on your letters’. When you consider that I do not receive them until 5 or six weeks after written & that the same period must elapse ere you receive my reply, the chances are that you would forget what you had written. I’m sure I should & wonder what was referred to. I had a considerable collection of gossip my dear Kate to write to you about so far as relates to my own movement in this frying pan, but as usual I must doubt whether it will be in my power to indulge & enjoy the writing it this time, notwithstanding my Journal is posted on my left. I can not add that we have been gay, but have killed our time in a passably way making transportation as passable as felons usually do. When you write of the monotony of Wickham, I always think how blessed would any one of our mess think themselves to partake of it free from all the ills of climate where positively every exertion is made from principle. The little society, if to be so called, not to be kept up but by the greatest exertion & not repaying when made, pale wretched looking women making an attempt at gaity, & those married with families called children not deserving the name, poor, spotted from Insects of the Island, miserable looking devils that the fondest old fool could not caress. I never saw anything in the shape of children so reduced as they all are in this Island. I am almost fearful I shd become a convert to fatalism. My plans were so arranged that I thought nothing would prevent writing you a long account of the visits I had made & those in view, but everything has conspired to prevent me. Since I last wrote we have had a Maroon of men – French & English – in one of the bays – picturesque & pleasant enough – & I have passed with Baron Devoley & Mon Barbeclhan RN French service, a day or two with Mons Debrett at an estate named Cape near Pigeon Island, interesting as a novelty for the extreme wildness of the people and their customs & the filth of every part of the ménage. As an even I must find time to relate that whilst there Bacon Devoley received intelligence that 50 of his Negro hut had been burnt to the ground owing to the careless folly of one old Negro. This upset my friend & we returned forthwith, I making a promise to accompany him to his Estate & assist in laying out the new building on a plan that fire or water shd not trifle with. But the Packet had not arrived & at the Morne I rested. Another excursion to the other side of the Island with a Mr & Mrs Hanley & some officers I was also necessitated to put off from the same cause, always comforting myself with the idea that I shd thus gain lots of time to write to you all. Down came an order for Estimates – no packet reaches us until 22 bring the news that the Duke of York with a relief of officers &c would be in our harbour on the 27th – no writing until they departed – coast and lookout this day, next day Do, but on the 29 she comes to anchor – caused us all the loss of a day to welcome the passengers. On board were Capt Alves 74, a good one eyed old soldier & excellent fellow, I knew him before, Lt Erwin & Hamilton RA, the former for Dominique, the latter St Lucia & promising to be a nice companion as a lad – he brought the net &c. Fred & Aug shades I think excellent & indeed Cary’s good, the others I cannot recollect as like. Many thanks to the dear younger fry for their thought of me in kettle holders – they decorate my quarters & astonish the company much. I believe they think my family have some connection with carpet or worsted houses for I have them all in a row. The net is not yet tried, but it’s time, the holes in the old & in the flannel waistcoats leave me a martyr to the roguish insects of this climate who seem to take revenge for all their relatives made specimens of in the course of my pursuits in natural history. But to the Duke of York – Dr Smith from Barbados to relieve Dr Sinclair who returns to Dominique with the remains ah! sad remains of the sick he brought over for a change of air belonging to the left wing 76, who have suffered much since the Hurricane – Capt O’Connor West Ind Regiment, a well informed Irishman. By the bye, I understand Jo has been engaged in a Duel at Bermuda some time back with a naval officer – no harm done & I hear today that Aldrich has returned to England better. The new Dr is rather a smart looking quiet sort of person, the above with Lt Smith 76 returning from leave to Barbados, were all I saw. We rode to Pigeon Island to dine with them at that Mess where they took all the convalescents, & returned late to our respective quarters. Now comes the cause of the letters not being written. Our Governor has taken it into his head to give a ball to which few will go for he is unpopular with many & because – Oh how it rains – I like an old fool lent a hand to please my messmates in decorating their room. He will pester me to be the artisan at his Hotel. My heart is not in it & I cannot get on with it. However, after stating what I thought was required and shying transparencies &c &c &c I this morning recd the enclosed note which has been the cause of my fagging all day with a party of the officers I mustered, & preventing my writing to you my dear Kate until this hour the night, when I verily believe even all our sentries are fast asleep. The 8 day Mailboat will be here early tomorrow & I have to be up at day break, close this, finish Govt House. It would be no sorrow to many were it burnt & your loving lord in that number, who enjoys the moil & trouble whilst single – dance I suppose with some of the brown paper and french women & turn in fatigued to death tomorrow night. By the Palestine – her name I think – Capt Sims, I shall ford a box or two Tamarinds for Wickham & Catisfield – Pickles, whatever I may collect – I trust have not paid much for the last rubbish. Bed for the night 29th April.

On coming from Mess ½ past 8 Mr Charley who is black as a coal – say Day & Master – was in charge of the house – they are no trifling mouchers here & one sert lays across the entrance door. I continued to enter without his opening his eyes, loaded my gun & fired over his nose twice ‘no wakey Massa’ so tried dropey watery in um face. At last he got up to tumble head over heels again 4 or five times. ‘Um’, says the Capt ‘Medicine – sick, hey’. I gave my faithful such a flogging with a nice new lash, I am sure no lad ever had a more valuable one, & Mr Charley now lays in the stock of Guard room. I’m sorry for him but I have submitted too long & it may serve him. God bless you my dear Kit & the bairns. Regards to Miss Parker. Mr Hamilton has left the Net but has permission to go in the Duke round to several Islands. He returns in about a fortnight when you will again hear of me unless the Packet is delayed. 30th morning 6 oclock: the mail boat at the mouth of the Harbour & Lt Grant come for my letter. The Govr’s preparations have put me out exceedingly. The nonsense I must have written during the night shall all be made up for in my next. Give my regards to Mr Hawker & Aunts, MOB, when you see them. I trust they will not be disappointed in the Tamarinds for I have taken much trouble about them. Again adieu my dear Kate. I think of you all day & night, even in dreams. If finished I shall send you by the next dispatch the sketch I am preparing on letter paper, a view from my window. How strange E Steed being appointed to this Regt – will he join? Kiss the dear children & I thank them for their presents.

your ever afft Fred

in blooming health & appetite

I am dreadfully off for Flannel – Braces as before named with plated or buckles that will not rust & Black Widow silk Hand. I have not heard of Fred lately – regards to him & Gusto.

On the outer cover:

I have been forced to draw 25L at 30 days after sight, thus due 33 after this gets to home, for I enclose the Bill for the Quarter Master to Cox’s – it will last me some time I think.

Home sick, very home sick.

Whose turn is it for letters, hey? 

The letter from the Lieutenant-Governor referred to above is enclosed:

Govt House 29th April

Dr Captn English

I am aware the arrival of the Duke of York yesterday prevented our having your Valuable assistance in the arrangements here for our Ball.

As this is our last day I hope it will be convenient to you to look down here on our proceedings.

Much is yet to done. There is no plan yet adopted for lighting the Supper Room.

Did you not say something about transparencys & about chalking the dancing rooms which if not done today I doubt can be done at all

I have never seen Mr Grant since.

believe me

very truly yours

D Hill