Letter #45

Written from Demerara, not dated at the beginning, but started on Thursday 26 November 1835 

Lieutenant-Colonel George Judd Harding was an RE officer evidently on the spot, who had helped Augustus’s cause by writing a letter – see letters 15 and 16. Lieutenant-Colonel (later Sir) William Reid was another whose help might be enlisted. General Avila (a doubtful reading) has not been identified. The word ‘chub’ is used here to mean ‘churl’. 

The description of the curry curry bird fits the scarlet ibis (Eudocymus ruber), whose habitat covers the coastal areas of northern South America, including Corocoro, an island on the border of Guyana and Venezuela.

Three of your letters to reply to my dear Kate – how am ever to get over this after the scolding you have bestowed in that bearing date 11th Sept I know not, but as you wish answers to matters that transpired months since in preference to what I have to recount of recent adventures, so it must be. Extract of a letter from Mrs Kate English to her negligent husband, the former residing in all the comfort of an English climate and family, the latter at Demerara, piping hot, almost devoured as he writes by Mosquitos, sand flies &c &c, cockroaches eating holes in his shoes, every ten minutes interrupted by Clerk of Works, Black and White orderlies, idle Lines men, Respective officers, Governor’s notes, Brigade Major, complimentary visitors’ curiosities, officers’ guard reports, washing bills and John Wiltshire ‘Massa done all home today? No potatoes. Toby eaten beef dis marn-ing.’ ‘Get some more then – go to the devil and don’t bother me when you see that I am writing.’ However, I have fresh ink and a new pen so for the extract ‘Will you tell me what I am to do with Augustus should he fail in November? I have asked you a similar question before which might have been answered and a pretty mess I should have been in if he had come from the Academy in August. I am quite sure you do not read my letters, or if you do once over you never think of them more afterwards and it’s very disheartening.’ I wish you would send me your receipt for disheatening my dear Kate – the applicants would be numerous in these parts, but such undeserved lectures would have a very contrary effect were I not aware that you mean not what you write. I have never ceased thinking of Augustus and regretting the fatality that has caused his being a member of young Oldfield’s room, so idle a fellow that even his father, from whom I recd a letter the day before yesterday, states to me that he is so. I attribute Aug’s failure on first trial much to the class of lads, particularly the senior, with whom he has to associate. I feel exceedingly vexed that he did not pass – it will tell against him very much suposing he has since been successful, and materially so if ever his lot is to try for the Engineers. Respecting his total failure and consequent returning from the Academy, I cannot, nor have ever contemplated such an occurrence, the disgrace will be humbling in the extreme. He will be so unfitted for any but a military life that I cannot, at this distance from home, decide what is best to be done with him. Ld James OB might interest himself at the Horse Guards and obtain a commission for him if we could purchase. Probably as I am serving here, Lord Hill would stretch a point and put him on the list. He is not too old. In the meantime he might study at one of the German Military Colleges. Still I am in hopes that he will pass, for did he not shew some talents they would not have given a second chance. It will not do to despond about him. If it so happens that he is not to be Artillery or Engineers, we must go boldly to work and start him in some other profession. Both the boys’ letters are rather of too giddy a stamp, they do not improve as the dear girls do in that way, and their hand writing is more vile than their father’s. I trust dear Fred is with you, his Regt is named I observe in some of the papers to relieve the 22nd or other in Jamaica. It may be long ere we meet I fear. What answer did you receive from the Agents respecting his purchase money? As senior Ensign & being also for purchase as no one can hope to get over his head, he might on their – 35th – being ordered abroad obtain his Lt commission without paying for it. The packet with your letter – 14th Octr – arrived on Monday night, 22nd Novr. It had been my intention to proceed to Berbice but have waited until its arrival. Now I shall not go there until the beginning of the next month. Has Miss Parker recd my letter containing the demi account of the Pomeroon trip? How they will be looking out for the other half. Harding’s letter was in very friendly terms. If he will make a stir about Augustus & they see he has a friend near, it will be of infinite service, but what a farce it is my writing on a subject at this date that must now be decided upon. By your letter you think that my good merry Baron forwarded the Boxes. He had nothing to do with them – it was the stupid or more probably the idle mate who put you to unnecessary expense. Genl Aliva is Reid’s chub & will serve him if the Queen has the right side of the matter. If things go favorably and if I were at home & Augt Do, I shd write to Reid to take him by the hand. So you dislike Hampshire – rest while you can, when I return the family will be on the move quickly, depend upon it. This solo sort of a life is a very miserable one. I wish all day and wish over again day after day that I were with you again, but still find myself making my own tea at 9 AM and carving the chicken at 7 PM. My shower and dipping bath & flannel are the greatest luxuries I have, in fact I never was better in my life and in spite of Porter – better Mrs Kitty than brandy and water – I am not so stout as I was. A few days’ hard exercise soon pulls you down in this climate, and that I have had of late in search of Curry Curry, a beautiful bird of the Flamingo tribe or family, the plumage crimson. By the first favorable oportunity I shall send some home & hope to see the wings adorn your drawing room in the form of hand fire screens. I have loads to write but time and your orders are against me. The Govr, Lady & son & your lord get on capital. I dined with him a few days since. Mrs Naughton must not credit all that is written to her about him. He means well and altho no great favorite with me, indeed never was, I must do him justice. He is upright in all he does, his manner high and disagreeable to those people who formerly had all their own way. Every man as a Govr doing his duty strictly at any time would be disliked in a Colony amongst a money making set of trading men, but on such an event and thorough change of system as Emancipation of Slaves has occasioned, and the wishes of a Government carried into force by their Executive with zeal & probably with somewhat a prompt and harsh manner the nature of the man, any Governor under such a case would not be tolerated. Mr Garnet, Mrs Naghten’s Attorney has been with me about an hour this morning since I commenced this letter, of course. Mrs N’s pretty face must have felt a burn & yours to perchance – he told me that Young Naghton has to stay with the Mac Calmacks & Roberts or Johnston, I think it is the firm he mentioned. You recollect the stout Jolly little Mr McCalmack at Belfast or near it who had a son at Dr Burney’s – some relation of his. In fact his money was made by Estates at Berbice. Mr Garnet also told me that Tom was to be in the Store, which I am very confident Tom will not be, & some disappointment may ensue to his mother. Mrs N may immagine a house in town, a large highly respected Establishment and a Store or house in Demerara for a young man are the same thing, but it quite a different affair. The stores here are nothing more or less than shops, and the young men in there, nothing more than shopboys, stand behind the counter and serve every customer that walks in. It is not likely that Young Naghton will submit to this nor would his mother expect it, but Mr Garnet told me that he was to be in the store. My reply was it’s out of the question and merely a misunderstanding. Old Garnet mentioned that he shll or had sent this year 28,000£ of sugar home on her account, and that independent of the Rum which would pay all expenses of the Estates. Thus you observe that crops thrive and property encreases in value, in spite of disagreeable Governors. It is all a perfect humbug about the negroes – if the poor creatures are but moderately treated, things will go on and improve every year. The party belonging to Mrs N’s estate called the Canefields struck in consequence, I understand, of harsh measures adopted by the resident manager. This I heard from an officer of the 86th, a Lt MacIntire, who went down on a trip of pleasure with Mr Garnet to the Essequibo, on which river the Estate is somewhere. Immediately the Attorney arrived all was arranged. No doubt this has been magnified into a rupture – set Mrs N’s mind at ease. How I wish I was driving you there to have a chat, but of course use your own judgement as to what portion of my letter it will please her to hear & don’t allow such money matters to be the conversation out of our own party. It will afford me much pleasure seeing Tom Naghten & I will do my best to put him in the right road, but the Military do not mix much with these store gentlemen who I doubt not will almost lay an embargo on him. Tomorrow I go to Lima, an Estate on the coast belonging to a Mr Rose who knows our Col of that name. I remain on a visit until after the Caledonia Ball on the 30th Monday, going of course with a large party from thence. More of the charming little Mrs Naghten – don’t be jealous goody May – but the Ball given by all the Scotch Gent here takes place at the Estate belonging to that family named The Golden Fleece, why or wherefore I know not, but that the house is commodious & suited for such a meeting – the description shall be forthcoming. But what is to become of that due upon the Moroca Creek Arrawack Indians and other adventures all in arrear, and only as yet your letter of the 11-12 Sept looked over according to order. Your last delighted me & completely spoiled my diner, the package arriving at that critical moment. I have written until I feel fogged, so to horse – and a gay fellow he is – to learn when the vessel sails. I was at the funeral of Mr Goodman’s mother yesterday by invite. The poor old lady went off suddenly in a paralytic fit, all the world turned out. Friday 27th Novr 1835: During my ride I learnt that the Julia or Julius was not to sail until tomorrow. This and some difficulty respecting a vessel going to Lima, probably feeling rather indifferent about the trip, has delayed me and I now intend to depart tomorrow in a Schooner belonging to the Estate. Did I write you that Oldfield’s family have left Newfoundland & he follows so soon as Capt Walker arrives to relieve him? Capt Peake, his brother in law, Mr Young tells me, has returned to England very very ill. Who has filled his berth at Hallifax, I wonder? The paper still bark about a Brevet – we shall see, I don’t expect it. Mr & Mrs Whyte try all they can to be civil to me – she remarked the other day that I was sociable, never coming in of an evening to tea. You could vouch for my delight in such exquisite meetings of Regimental people. I told her it was quite out of my habit, but she is really a very excellent little woman and much esteemed in the Regt. He is also a sensible fellow & considered clever in his profession. I like them both, but not the tea of an evening. My little godson has been ill & frightened Mrs Whyte out of her wits. Poor soul, she is fagged to death for want of servants which are not to be had here. They lost a little girl at St Vincent’s. I wish my dear lassies would work or make some article that I could present Master Frederick with, some useful article. Fancy Bordes being at Drogheda. How delighted I am that the survey no longer claims me as a member. When you write to Miss Coddington, give my love & regards to Mr C &c & remember me to old Bordes. You must not condemn Sir Felix for sending me here – next to Barbados it is the best, in fact most people consider Barbado quite inferior, but Berbice and this being consolidated as one command, I was the only officer eligible to take charge of Capt G F Thompson. When the reinforcement arrives from England I expect some change will take place but hope to remain at rest until ordered home. I have not drawn on the Agents since I came here and am trying to avoid doing so until the next year if possible, but have been forced to equip myself with new trowsers altogether. The people here knock every article of dress to atoms with washing. For the last three hours I have been interrupted, first by our good tempered old Brigade Major, Com Genl Cowan, Capt Hooper 69th, Col Creagh, Capt Halliday 86 & lastly Capt Thomas, & now have to dress & visit the guards.

6 oclock Saturday morning 28th Novr: All well, packing to start for Lima, engaged last evening to Major Brookes, too fatigued & turned in at ½ past 9. So you think I should write your [word illegible]. It makes me smile Sir H Vivian renovating the studies of Woolwich Academy. The story of making our cadet go thro the same as the French is all a farce, they are as well if not more solidly prepared at the present. This is an old story he has picked up from Mountjoy & originated amongst the scientific there. We often talked the same nonsense over. I am exceedingly anxious about Master August and shall be so until I hear finally from you what his fate is. The part of your letter stating that Tom intends having a pickaninny for a pet is now before me. There does not appear much trouble in procuring such if his taste remains the same when out here. Some of my acquaintance in each Colony would gladly shake a few of. Do not trouble yourself to send me a load of things. I do not recollect writing for any thing but black Hand & flannel. The cloak I wished for when in St Lucia I am not for now. I want nothing but to get home when I will put all your little troubles square & right. Who would ever have dreamt of putting drawing under Jam pot coming to a tropical climate? Who but Miss Parker – it must have been her wise work as she is so sensative about it. How could I unpack the box when the Duke of York was expected every hour to transport me off to Dominica & Barbados. Ah! you are a capital set to help each other out of a scrape, but putting the Miss Gardiners’ beautiful engravings with other valuables under pots of pickle walnut & Jams was a deed to be recorded. Remember me to our Roche Court friends. If they do not look very shy, I feel confident on my return I shall kiss my cousins, God bless them. I shall not have time to write to my treasures until next week, & in truth I forget whose turn it is. They each deserve all I can write for their charming letters. As to Cary, she always begins by stating that all has been put to paper by the rest of your party, and invariably bring out some tale of her own, some treasured scrap of information. She must be by this time an old fashioned cat of a thing. Your letter of the 29th Sept has been re-perused, Madame, and I find nothing more to reply to. Tom Naghton in the Underwood, Capt Wood. ‘No ear, Massa, no [word missing]’. I am sorry for all that are sick and regret those departed. Now for your dismal dispatch, what I shd call a jolly letter. Am happy to find Edward & Louisa are so well & happy & that your reason got the better of your temper at Catisfield – I think it alway does so – that is no novelty to me. Capt Baily has no enviable quarter in my late office, it’s a horrid place & will add to his blue devils. I fear being late with this so adieu my dear Kate, kiss our dear girls for me, regard to Miss P & if the lads are with you put them on short allowance. Remember me to my Uncle H to whom I will soon write, and Aunts with MOB. Is Jane doing well? God bless you all & believe me

Your afft Fred E