Letter #41

No address or date at head: begun on 2 September 1835 at Demerara

The Ann Mondel I understand my dear Kate is to sail tomorrow, but these merchant vessels appear very uncertain as to the time of departure, and I fear you will be disappointed in not receiving letters regularly as heretofore by the Packets. However, all the correspondence with England is by the sugar ships, some of which generally leave Demerara every ten days. The 8 day boat that brings the Wickham letters from Barbados goes to Berbice, returning here but ere she can reach Barbado the mails are made up and gone, thus all my letters by that direction would be a fortnight old or more before they started home. I will now endeavour to collect my ideas and give you as usual an account of myself and all that has occurred since the 22nd Ult. Commencing with the most important – nothing less than my being called upon to stand as sponsor for Mrs Whyte’s infant son. The Christening took place yesterday morning at their rooms, the weather being too sultry to reach the distant Church. Capt. Clarke RA, rather a rough specimen of petrification but well meaning, called a few days after I got into my quarters and mentioned in course of conversation you have a relation here and explained that Mr Whyte 69th married Miss Lisscomb. You are aware how little it has ever been my lot to fall in with any member of the Plymouth family of Hawkers. I was therefore for a time rather foxed, it was but for a moment. Mr Whyte very shortly after called, a gentlemanly agreeable man just recovering from an attack of fever. My return was soon made and the acquaintance formed. Mrs Whyte must have been a sweet pretty woman and I like her – fastidious as you all think me in my admiration toward the sex, and to see a ladylike person cooped up in two rooms with children – one Master Frederick English Whyte – in this hot climate is enough to excite one’s commiseration. However, from the little that I have seen and what is reported, no young woman could make a better soldier’s wife. I wish it were [in my] power to add to their comforts. You have now had all I have to communicate on that score. A Mr. Fenwick 86th, the Doctor with a Sergt as Clerk, Papa Whyte and two wee things, a boy Charley & Miss Emma I think, formed the party which was rather delayed by my being President of a Board of Service. As I shall catch at every chance of writing, do not be displeased if some of the letters are short, for frequently it happens that I have but an hour or two intelligence that the vessel will positively depart & my wish is always to give the latest date. I must therefore alter my system & sometimes address a letter to my Wickham correspondents. I have just written to Mrs. Whyte stating that I can forward a letter for her which I think will be for her Aunt Osborn. You can hardly credit the interruptions I experience here – since I seated myself to scribble to you I have had Barrack Master’s Clerks, Sergts and every description of Male visitors – I have hired a sert of Capt. Peake’s who we learn is gone home very ill from Halifax. That berth would suit us. On the 23rd. I dined with the 86th Regt – dull – as observed in my journal, 24 at Govt. House, Lady S very pleasant, but the evening past as usual dismal, formal and every other misery. I think I wrote you a description of the Sandflies and Mosquitos, they forced here to fill their room at this end of the town with smoke before you can obtain rest to eat or drink, consequently you cannot see your friend on your right or left for weeping, or your dinner &c without feeling for it. You will think I have at last got into a society of much feeling. Constant motion is nearer the discovery here than it ever will be in any other country – even the Guards and sentries have fires with wet grass thrown over in order to be constantly in columns of smoke. Nice country! 25 I dined with Mr Price who has been named in former letters. 26.86 Regt. 27 69 Regt. 28 with the 86th and left Mr Young’s. Slept in my quarters for the first time in bye the bye on the 27th. The 28 I had loads of visitors – all shall be introduced in their turn. Breakfasted for the first time in my quarters on the 29th. Rather miserable, great room for improvement – 30th dined at one of the Messes as honorary member 69th. Both Regts are exceedingly friendly, but on the 31st I dined at home, John Wilshire being cook, and for the future intend doing so as more independent & less expensive, & gradually I shll become accustomed & comfortable by comparison. How I wish I was at home again – The Govr gave a kind of a ball the night before last, Monday, hot & dull. Lady Smith did not appear, & fearing the corks might distract her, the Champaign is always drawn in the morning, on dit. It was flat, as wretched as was the whole turn out. I danced with Mrs Wray, wife to the Chief Justice, now staying with Col Chapman RE, & whom Madam departs to join in a few days, and Mrs. Price, both pleasing women, the former a sister of Capt Pitts RE. All of this I have written before. Today the 2nd Sept, I am by that importune Sir Comical, who never ceases to give his brother officers all the trouble he can, ordered as Capt of the day, perfectly unnecessary there being a sufficient number in Garrison. Thus I had to Troop the Guards this morning at ½ past 6 and have to visit them during the day and night & Hospital – it’s a great Bore and I think Sir Charles will not stand it. Before I left Barbados, the day 10 Augt, I was forced to draw 20£. I was so hard up & having to get another Jacket &c.

3rd Sept: All well. This will I hope carry me on for some time, but this is an extravagant place for which cause I have liked to live at home for I cannot dine at the Mess under 8s8d a day including wine, and if there is a party nearly as much again. The 86th Regt. are entreating me to assist in the decorations of their room for the Ball tonight. I was there late yesterday. We are fitting it up as an ancient Armoury. I wish we could have enjoyed together the superb shrimps my sert brought me for breakfast; your partiality was great in that way when at Walton. I am not yet settled but after attending a sale or two for chairs & some crockery, I may thrive better. Miss Parker’s sopha, a large office table covered with blue cloth & three Barrack chairs form the whole of the furniture in the room I now am writing in. It’s a capital home but I am forced to fill it with smoke. God bless you my dear Kate, love to our children of whom I hope soon to get favorable accounts. Your last letters have been detained in London as Capt Tait wrote me word they did not reach Barbados by packet. Regards to Miss Parker – how Jane would stare could she see the holes in stockings of which I had an inspection yesterday. I do not think I have lost many things. Give my best regards to my Uncle & all at Catisfield – & accept the love of your afft. Fred E.

My horse is exceedingly admired and makes rather a spirited charger. I thought he would have turned the Band & Drums off parade yesterday.

It is Cary’s and Miss P’s turn next, aint it?

Best wishes to Ldy Gardiner & her amiable daughters – when I can get into a merry mood I will answer their notes which make me laugh in spite of the heat.

I have rigged out such a bath.

I have not traced the relationship between the Plymouth Hawkers and English’s mother’s family. However, Captain James Hawker RN of Plymouth (c1730-86) married Dorothea O’Bryen, whose brother Lucius was the father of Aunt O’Brien’s late husband. One of the Captain’s daughters, another Dorothea, married Sir William Knighton (1776-1836), private secretary to George IV – see letter 107. Robert Stephen Hawker (1803-75), eccentric clergyman and minor poet, belonged to another branch of the Plymouth family.

There is a possible link between Mrs Whyte’s aunt and the Colliers: Osborn was the maiden name of the Admiral’s late wife.