Letter #33

Baron D’Yvoley’s estate was on the coast to the south of Castries. Poor roads and rocky terrain made sea the preferred means of access, as it would probably still be today. 

A ‘pilgarlick’ is a bald-headed man, hence one to be pitied – that is, the lawyer; ‘Saffriere’ is Soufrière – literally ‘sulphur mine’ – the nearest town. ‘the Soufre’ is probably a volcano; the French gave the name ‘Soufrière’ to several volcanoes in the West Indies.

                                                   St Lucia at L’Anse Mamin
                                                            14th May 1835

Finding you were all well my dear Kate by the dispatch from Wickham which I recd on friday last 8th Inst, I determined on accepting Baron D’Yvoley’s pressing invitation to visit this place. Soon after breakfast I rode to Castries with Mr Winter 76th in order to meet the Skipper of the Packet and gain whatever news he might have in store whilst the letters were sorting. However, it was of so trifling a nature that we soon took to our club room and devoured – for in truth it is a feast – our letters from home. Called at the Baron’s villa on our way up and I then arranged that Mr Winter shd join us, who was exceedingly anxious but did not speak French & was rather shy. However Mon D’Yvoley with his usual good humour told him, ‘My cher Winter, we vil all learn English comme – comme’. Accordingly on our return to the Morne, Alexander was directed to make preparations on my part and Charley to attend as body servant. Poor fellow – he has again committed himself and suffered severe correction from his owner to whom I sent him for gambling all night, being later taken up by the Black Piquet, however he is in favor again. Winter obtained the necessary leave and we met the Baron on the wharf, embarked on board a Pirogue with faithful dog Toby and a french lawyer named Dreuil. Nothing remarkable occurred on our voyage more than what I have before described. I endured three hours and a half as usual, the gunwale or gunnel constantly with a considerable portion of the sail dipping in the water, and like the other thirsty souls of this land, the Pirogue took her share of liquid in, much to the annoyance of Mon Dreuil, whose pockets were repeatedly filled with the briny fluid. For my part and Mr Winter, we held on by the upper side of the boat, leaving the Black sailors to poise her by throwing the whole of their weight as required to prevent a capsize. We both complained of being extremely stiff on landing, but the Baron was accustomed to it that he forgot the danger and was comfortably nodding in the centre seat. We landed without accident and found most of the Negro huts with the roof on but it is still a dismal sight. 50 were burnt down in as many minutes, the poor creatures losing all they had, not much certainly they possess but the little is greatly valued. Notwithstanding, all those within a moderate distance came to welcome us & were as lively as ever. Our party for this day was small – our host, his brother Victor, Winter, Dreuil, self & Mon Garnier the manager, with a connection of his, a good looking youth and grand fisherman. Mon Dreuil lost in nets and fish hooks. We retired early, and as Mon Dreuil spoke excellent English making only some few odd blunders, my friend Winter got on capitally and felt delighted that he had joined the party. Saturday morning brought and addition to our party in Mon D’Yvoley, a married brother and his wife, but before I continue you will observe the change in the color of the ink. It was so thick that I left my bedroom where I now write to obtain a fresh supply when Mon Victor and your careful husband contrived to upset the contents of a wine bottle over hands, sideboard, floor & trowsers, the former in his over anxiety to serve, the latter over careful. Such a pr of paws as I have got, nothing can equal but the map of England when you defaced Hampshire and several adjoining counties. But Mon & Md D’Yvoley had been some hours in the house when I rose from my bed leaving their home in a canoe about one oclock in the morning, thus avoiding the heat. Madame the most interesting of the two I have met before several times altho I never spoke to her. She is rather pretty and lively, can read a lee-tle English and appears to greater advantage being all on the qui vive at escaping from home for a time – a plantation situated about 5 miles from Castries on this side, buried in woods & cut off from society by bad roads or tracks, and a river without a bridge that is so rapidly swollen. If you leave home the chances are you may not return there for days. At breakfast of course out came the latest Martinique fashioned morning dress & corsets to wit, but very soon afterwards these were disposed of, and a loose dress like a bedgown fastened at the throat with a brooch and down to the heels, of a shewy pattern and as full as possible, took place of the finery. It certainly looks very cool & well on a french woman. Her head dress was the common one of this country – a cotton handkerchief many colored tied in the most becoming way possible round the head and a little on one side. You will be amused at my attempt to describe the costume but I have admired the head dress from first seeing it and intend to send you one made up as a pattern. Several ladies in Barbados wore the handkerchief in this way & it was undoubtedly becoming to them. This day passed, I can hardly explain how, the heat was excessive and we did little but lounge about, occasionally reading. I took to my sketch book and took a drawing of several of our party &c. However, we all contrived to make ourselves acquainted with each other. The following day, Sunday, great preparation were in forwardness for a large dinner party to be given by Manager Mon Garnier at his quarter, a small house about 400 yds from this. I only understood the Baron that we were to be there, but when the Pirogues arrived there was such an assortment of Mons and generally speaking such Turks that I began to dread the dinner hour. However, some were endurable and have already been introduced at Wickham, as Mon Brossard who had left his pretty wife at Castries to embark on an embassy. You like a tale I know my dear Kate, therefore in spite of the pipping heat you shall have it. The brother of this slow coach is on the part of the young lady Mad Tisnes her accepted lover, he being a dapper little Lawyer of Castries on promotion in every sense of the word; the lady, only daughter of a rich old couple buried in the bush and cultivators of coffee, coca & so on. Mdsll is not bonny but has some fortune with expectations. Young Goose Quill has his wits about him & knows that beauty is but a noun in this climate & is soon departed. All matters being settled with the juniors, and Pa and Ma – by the bye the most ugly woman I ever beheld – the former begs the youth not to shew his face again until his daughter has been duly and with all the ancient forms of his house and French custom asked for in marriage by the head of the Gent’s family in person. Away flies – or rather creeps, for the roads are nearly impassable – young love to his father, poor soul he still lives but rarely leaves his house and is now laid up with a fit of the gout – how can he ever go 30 miles? Messenger after messenger is sent without effect, the old Frenchman would not knock under, the dignity of his family requires this attention. However, the unfortunate lover, after considerable delay, begs Mon & Md Tis- [sketch of a large nose] one, a friend of the frenchman who dined here yesterday, to relent, then adds Mons, who is the next senior, it falls upon Mon Brossard, the brother who with new coat, hat &c took L’Anse Mamin as the halfway house on his way to demand Mad, very cross and shamming sick for fear he should not among so many have a bed told off for him. Little pilgarlick was hid during this nervous period in Saffriere waiting the event. I saw them there on Monday so important that doubtlessly the affair is propitious. But the dinner – Oh what a dinner! Monr St Catherine who has an estate on the left of the road between Castries and Pigeon Island is one of the old regime & a gentleman, but two sons came with him – they are not worth description. Soup, fish, fish again and fish again, lumps of Beef, do Pork, do Goat, Turkey, a Roast Pig, hens, pies, no vegetables, grease in lots, all intended to be hot but all cold, heat beyond all conception in Europe, wine red, no other, and never was any other so nearly related to vinager. I have seen many odd adventures and turns out but this beats all. Winter & I, for the very thoughts of it nearly deprives me of the power of writing, drank with all who asked us until the Baron observed our melancholy looks and sent for some Porter which saved us. Madame was the only lady and it was a happy chance for us when retiring we did so. The Baron and several of the most respectable followed home where he produced a bottle of Port and saved our lives I suppose. On Monday, we were all, that is, Baron D, his married brother, wife, Winter, Monr Dreuil and self, some on horses, others on mules, and the breakfast sent on by Negroes to the Soufre – the description of this I shall leave for Kate or Cary for truly I forget to which I am in debt a letter – I owe both many and Miss Parker, more than I can pay off. I shall now read your letter over and endeavour not to omit replying to every line of it. The net has reached its destination and answers admirably. I must not forget to let you know that Baron D’Yvoley returns to Europe on the Palestine Capt Sims. She will sail about the first of June and will not only transport him but some boxes of Tamarinds, Pickles &c for you. My object in writing to you on the subject is he is very anxious to see Woolwich & the Lions there. A note from you to Harding, Gosset & others of our acquaintance would insure the attention he deserves. He remains about six months & will return with his family, now in France, I think at Nantes. He is such a favorite and such a perfect gentleman added to all the civility I have recd from him. I feel particularly interested that he shd meet with some thro my acquaintance when passing thro London. He will be a great loss to us. I had a delightful letter from Fred – he is getting on in the 35th uncommonly well. As to Augustus’s letters they are amusing in the extreme. You must warn him not to get into scrapes for by some unlucky chance he might suffer severely in his promotion when almost innocent merely from the party he mixes with. So the old horse has both eyes – I am happy to find he continues to answer your purpose & that he still remains without blemish. Mine turns out beyond my expectations & is by far the best looking horse here. He carries me right well & is getting into superb condition. If no accident happens to him, he will always fetch the same money. Your finances amuse me my dear Kate, I trust they will give you less trouble. I shall not require much now. The Demerara trip put me back a little. We had, or rather they had, I being about, two severe shocks of Earthquake here, but no accident happened. All the world turned out into the streets. Some of my recent letters will explain my tollerating this Island, as to liking it, that’s another question. I had my fling of the Barbados and Demerara society – the trouble attending and expense of it is far beyond what I am disposed to afford, either time or funds. In fact the climate is to hot to enjoy oneself in company. However I must not take any merit to myself. There was no Engineer or Artillery officer here and work to complete. If Capt Tait who is at Barbados had made his tour of duty I shd have that berth, but after what I have seen I care not which Island my transportation is to be passed in. Capt Thompson, you do not seem aware of, is in that horrid hole Berbice. L V Smith is at Barbados as a sort of and assistant to Sir C Smith, writing letters for him and so forth. He is well and humbugging those who do not know him. Sir D Hill and I are getting on capitally, that his, he is overpoweringly civil, but such another goose could scarcely be found for the office. He has set the whole society by the ears, this extreme pride and extreme familiarity, he now stands alone, every person being in some way displeased. Our Mess is exceedingly comfortable and the 76th officers friendly in every way, thus I care not to make new acquaintance but expect yet to be ordered to Trinidad. Did my letter wherein I gave some account of the hurricane in Dominica ever come to hand? The separation is truly miserable but as the time is passing quickly I am more reconciled. My tour of duty once got over, I shall feel independent – they must give me a home quarter. The climate far from disagreeing with me as yet, I have got rid of the thick feeling I had always in my throat when in Northamptonshire. By this time you must have received the boxes, all I fear is they may cost something out of the way. I have others to forward & the Baron has this morning promised me some excellent coffee, therefore before the summer is over I shall send you 50 or 60 lb not roasted & pay the duty, a trifle here. How different we read – I think Mr Ambler’s note exceedingly civil, he means it so. You are aware he is not a polished man. We all depart from hence at 4 oclock after dinner to take advantage of cool evening. I shall not close my letter until I reach the Morne and as usual set up half the night. Ther 85 in shade today. I do not make remark on your letters more than that they are all the greatest possible treat as by the time mine reach you in reply the interest of the subject is passed to you. Therefore I endeavour to give you all that I can think of passing around me. The Tamarinds will sweeten up Mrs H. Best regards to my Uncle, Madame & Mrs OB & Mary. God bless you all.

Your afft Fred E

15 May right well

½ past 5

All well the morning of the 16th and just out of my own comfortable bed, seated at the window, after inspecting all the pets, the Monkey wild with delight at my return. Toby relating his adventures to Friskey, a black puppy given to me by Mr Hilton. Puss seated on the table between my pen and the light and your loving lord happy to get back but rather in a fright in case the Packet Boat shd appear and no letter written to Kate or Cara, to which it’s due he knows not. Adieu my dear Kate FE

Alex appears with a cup of coffee.