Letter #5

This letter was written on the Monday following the Saturday when land was sighted. On the cover ‘Mrs English’ has been crossed through and substituted with ‘Miss Caroline English’, though the first line and ‘Tell my dear girls…’ show that he had his wife in mind as he wrote. It is clear that English’s intention was to address the occasional letter to one of his daughters, all living at Wickham, for all the family to read. Apart from this one, no other such letters survive, which may explain why, from time to time, a promised account of an impending event does not appear in the succeeding letter.

Major Reid, the RE officer whom English relieved, had already left. For more about him, see letter 111.

We have here the first instance of third cross writing. Where this occurs, English uses a different ink, either paler – perhaps diluted – or red. These inks have faded, sometimes to the point of illegibility.

On first encounters, English often misspells names, perhaps because he hasn’t seen them in writing. Thus here, ‘Sir C Smyth’ is Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Charles Felix Smith, the Commanding Royal Engineer, English’s superior officer. His ‘Quarter’ is Shot Hall, of which much more later.

Barbados 14th April 1834

You will be happy to learn my dear Kate that I have arrived safe and well after a passage of 33 days or thereabouts. We came into harbour yesterday morning and very soon afterwards I found out that a ship was to sail for England today. I shall therefore start this letter, however short, by her, and write again immediately giving such particulars as will interest you all I have no doubt, although but trifles, and now confine myself to such as the Musquitos & the broil of the sea Lizards and so forth will allow me to put to paper – for I rather think this Liverpool vessel sails early in the day. On saturday morning very early we made the land, and very lucky it turn out that we did not run on the North Point of the Island, commonly called Scotland, high and dry, for we made it & were within a very very few miles of the shore rocks and breakers and such other comforts, with every sail set, studding sails, top gallant sail, Royal and what not, before daylight, and at the same moment we all thought from our reckoning there were eighty or more miles to run. You may suppose I was soon on deck where Capt. Redman had fortunately slept and not idle. All hands upon deck! ‘Down with all the studding sail’, ‘take in sail’ was vociferated at the highest pitch of the Capt and Mate’s voices who were of course in the greatest state of anxiety. However, they had a lucky star with them, and we stood out to sea until daybreak when we coasted with a light breeze towards Bridgetown. I immagine that the Chronometer was in error which misled – this and the extraordinary currents which always run on this coast. After another very narrow escape of poking our bowsprit into a sugar bakery, and were as nearly on shore as it was possible to be without having our bottom actually bumped out, we again stood out for Saturday night, all of which story you shall some day see described in what I have called a journal & which I have written up to the morning we reached Carlisle Bay. Well, after beating about all night the good ship Mountaineer came to Anchor yesterday about 8 oclock in a Bay as full of ships as they can crowd with boats full of both black men and women, the latter gayly drest and the former much better so than you ever pictured to yourself. Having sent a dispatch to Capt Tait, he very kindly came off in a Govt Boat. Sir C Smyth is absent for a time having taken up the Government of St Lucia until a Governor is appointed from England. It is uncertain therefore when he will return, but until he does so nothing will be arranged respecting our destinations. Tait thinks I should receive orders to take charge in the Col’s absence. Whether I shall remain at Barbados is uncertain. We all landed with such portion of our baggage as we could collect for the heat was overpowering on board – and as we took to the land again on the Ordnance Wharf we stepped ashore as quietly as at Gosport or more so. With the exception of two officers there was not a soul to quiz the newcomers. Capt Tait has given up his quarters to Capt & Mrs Kay and I have taken possession of a fine airy room in the same house being the same building Mj Reid occupied & belonging to the Resident Engineer. It is an excellent one with every accommodation – since the Hurricane the Artillery have the use of one of the lower appartments as a mess room. I dined with them yesterday and shall join the party during my stay here. Mj Reid left this a week back. I wish I had met him. Capt Lancey has also returned to England. The only letters I have found on my arrival are yours and Kate’s of the 4thMarch and one from Augustus, an exceedingly amusing epistle. This has been disappointment and will make me look out for the next Packet which I understand is expected daily. I have information that the Bolivar is not to sail until tomorrow & being called upon by Capt Tait who has procured a home for me to call on the Authorities, I put aside this letter. All my friends’ letters of Introduction have been ford. to their destination & I have paid my respects to the Adjt Genl, Comd Officer of the Garrison & lastly 3 miles into the Country to see the Governor Sir Lionel Smith who graciously recd us in place of allowing the names to be booked. He is an agreeable person indeed I shd say exceedingly so. To my horrour returning I find my name in orders for Field Officer’s duty in Garrison, I suppose from the honor of having served as a Capt for 21 years. I am sorry for this as a quiet life would be more to my fancy just now. I will not as yet give you a decided opinion on my ultimate report of this country. As yet I don’t regret that my family are left at home much as I shd & do already feel being separated from them, not that I have yet witnessed any glaring scene to offend the eye or any flagrant want of decorum, but the heat,notwithstanding a fine sea breeze, is intolerable to such as cannot take the change quietly & submitting to the

Good night 14th.

controul of every sort of vermin, a constant thirst, & the consequences a perpetual perspiration must contract bile & fever, but I do not expect this will be my case. On the whole the climate is much better than represented. Sir C Smith’s Quarter is delightful & if it ever fell to my lot to occupy it the temptation to collect you all would be very great. On taking possession of my room I found it in charge of a Green Lizard. This they tell me is the forerunner of some good luck. I am trying to get a Macaw to send the children by Capt Redman; by the bye he dines here today. Fritz has grown an immense fat dog and points at the officers’ Macaws & Parrots which run about the Lawn in the most amusing way you can immagine and to the discomforture of these gay plumed birds who all crawl into the Almond trees with their utmost speed. On the 23rd we are to have a Ball at the Governor’s – a long description of this shall be sent you. Tell the two children that I have just looked out of window, that several Lizards are on the trees looking into my room, a large Hornets’ nest within reach of my hand, the bite of them being exceedingly venomous. The nest hangs from the tiles of the house and if they are allowed to complete it I will send it for the Bathroom Museum, but I have almost forgotten to relate the cause of my starting to the window. Mr Fritz has been hunting some of the Black women’s fowls and such a clatter you cannot picture to yourself. There are Blacks of all sexes and sizes scrambling after him, some scolding and other showing their white teeth with laughter. Toby is a great favorite & grown a fine dog. Mrs Kay never parts with him. My baggage has not yet come on shore, only a portion of it, but I have been amply repaid for all the trouble taken about my Camp Bed. I got it up the first night, Mosquito Net &c, thus got into my own home immediately on landing cheating the Mosquitos of their expected English meal – thanks to Miss Parker for her work at it. I do not know what I shd have done without this part of my furniture – the Cabin door curtain was a perfect luxury, tell Kate and Cary, and my little red bag delights me. I cannot express to you how delighted I was on finding the dear lassies’ names – this looks like one of Miss Kitty’s tricks. You must be contented with an unconnected sort of a letter for I am so unsettled & the heat so troublesome that I cannot connect two words together. I have hired a black as servant, his name is Edward, a fine tall and smart fellow who seems to understand his work well – has put my Sultana or Sultan out with all the pocket handkerchiefs therein, laid out my table and to-day commences a regular hunt for Cockroaches and all the other reptiles. One of the greatest luxuries here is the bath. As yet I have taken it only once a day but intend to do so twice. It is perfectly reviving after hot nights. I am just informed that I entitled to forrage for two Horses and 3 servants if I like to keep them during the period. I am doing Field Officer’s duty. However this is all a farce, unsettled as I am. However I have been looking at a Nag to visit the Guard on, which I am to have for his keep. What would I give for my own horse now. I do not think my living will be expensive here after getting my quadruped, which is quite impossible to do without here for both duty, health, and being such an old Capt I shall constantly be called upon for the Garrison duty, the first on the list being the unfortunate one. The Bolivar sails early, I have just heard. Consequently I must close this or I could go on filling sheet after sheet. I have fifty things to write but cannot recollect what they are at this moment. How are Annie’s eyes? She could not exist here the place is so dreadful from the White Coral Rock of which the whole Island is composed. I have not drawn any money since the 25th when in town, nor shall I for a time I think. Let me know everything that passes how you all are &c [words obliterated] keep a journal putting a line down as any occurrence takes place. I suppose ere this you have dismissed your Footy. He seemed a heavy fellow – he has the car Harness Collar & both carriage Do. Take two into store and look at our saddle old enough to be sure still it will serve you & fail not to inspect your carriage – it would serve you well out here. How are Mr & Mrs Hawker? I think if I had the former here we should laugh our sides flat at the adventures, grotesque figures & other matters. Tell my dear dear girls that they would be enchanted with the Flowers, the colors are superb – I shall try to dry some when at rest. The plumage of the Macaw is perfectly beautiful. I am now seated at the Col’s desk, the office being as cool as you ever feel it in a summer’s day. There’s nothing very shocking to my taste in the landscape,

Pale ink starts here

some of the tints on the shore certainly are divine & there choice bits for the [words illegible] into high mountains opposite but a tame outline & background. There is a Theatre & some amateur performers who have drawn all the society together. Tell my good dear Aunt OB & Mary their jams shall not be forgotten, nor Mrs Hawkers. Remember me to all Wickham [words illegible] such as are civil. All your money matter troubles I trust are trifles and go right. God bless you all. Regards to Miss Parker & not forgetting her Aunt & sister. How is Jane? Are poor Trig & the old horse in condition? I wish you were with me but would not have you go thro the misery of the heat & [wordsillegible] without a berth to go to for any thing. If I am to remain long & can prepare for you something might be thought of a trip here. Write to Fred & Gusto & kiss my maidens for me. Adieu – I see Blue Peter flying & the vessel will sail without my letter. Believe me your ever afft Fred.

The hurricane mentioned here is that of August 1831, one of the worst recorded in the West Indies, which destroyed much of Bridgetown.