Letter #54

There is a hint here of the unpopularity of the Governor of the Windward and Leeward Islands, Sir Lionel Smith. Sturge and Harvey (see Further Reading) compare him unfavourably with his successor Sir Evan MacGregor.

Demerara 2d May 1836

It appears an age my dear Kate since I received accounts from Wickham. By the last Packet no letter arrived, occasioned doubtlessly thro the delay at Pall Mall office. Probably Sir F Mulcaster was out of town as I observe the last two dispatches from you have been franked direct by him without being enclosed to Sir Charles Smith. The 27th Feby date of your last letter now before me almost disheartens all effort to write in good spirit, however Nil desperandum and I am determined not to knock under. Thank God my health continues excellent and the energies in status quo notwithstand continued rain followed by sultry close atmosphere. All the change that I am aware of is getting very gray in the head piece and not quite so stout as when at St Lucia, being equipped about ten days back in my plain clothes which have not been on me since I left the Mother bank. Oh that morning! I never think of it without a sigh. All were too large or rather easy, much to my delight. I cannot add they were very sound, for in thrusting my right arm as usual not very slowly I carried it clear off like a piece of silver paper. Every article, both clothing &c, destroys rapidly in this detestable climate. I now despair of promotion as the loup hole to get out of this Colony, or rather the West Indies, but it’s said that 3 years is to be the term of our sojourn here for the future. In fact they appear now to be now acting less on this much to wished for reform. Capt Thompson is ordered home only 4 years out, Capt Barry do. Both these officer wish to remain, the former having his daughter married at Berbice, the latter until next spring. Thus you see the Tropics are by some in repute. Thompson must go – Sir C S won’t keep him, and my residence at Demerara required no longer as senior officer. And now my dear Kate new [word missing] appear to be breaking forth [word missing] destiny, the spring leg is likely to be in action again, to wit, read the following extract from Capt Tait’s letter by last Packet which somewhat counteracted my disappointment at not receiving intelligence from home and has given me a new subject to think over: ‘Yr friend Harpur is quite himself again after rather a long confinement. I am in hopes that he will write to you by this opportunity and give you all the on dits of this place. He is in high favor at Shot Hall and hears of intended changes amongst us REs before any one else. However, lest he should not write I will trust you with a piece of news he gave me yesterday upon condition that you do not mention it or allude to it in any way. If it were less interesting to you I would not tell it to you. He says that you are to be my successor at this station. I hope this news will have the good effect of assisting you to keep up yr spirits in yr present low damp situation. Capt Barry does not want to go home till next spring & I am in hopes that Sir Chas will allow me to go home soon after the arrival of Lt Mould who is under orders for this station. Mind – Mum’s the word upon this news. I have not mentioned it to anyone but you. Our worthy Govr sailed in the Vestal Frigate last Wed for Grenada. He took his family with him to remain a month or 6 weeks. A french frigate came in here the following day commanded by Capt La Place to stay a fortnight. Sir Charles has feasted him, danced him, and we are to do so likewise on Tuesday 18 April and on friday evening 21st April.’ Another move, but Sir Chas means it for the best & I may escape the disagreeable season here. I shd be delighted to get away & it will assist to make the time pass quickly, moreover it seems a step towards home. A little interest made on the part of my good Uncle with Sir F Mulcaster shortly would I think have the effect of getting me home at the end of the 3 years. Tait’s letter has revived me considerably – every thing is disagreeable here. The Govr no longer draws with the military, all is at variance, Garrison and Govr, Govr and people, that is the proprietors & Merchants. I have not dined with him for 4 months, he is sulky about a trifle and I am not disposed to bow but he is a dangerous person and so vindictive that I shd not regret getting out of his comd. The 86th Regt expect to move to Barbados next week, thus I shall lose those I am most acquainted with & with the exception of a few, the 69th are not particularly engaging. As Lt Mould has been expected some time it is very probable that I shall move shortly. One thing – my kit will not be quite so heavy as when I left Barbados. All my goods and chattels in the wardrobe way are departing without much vestage of their former shape and make. Still, I think they will hold out until I return. The 67 Regt relieve the 86th here & are coming in the Men of War on the Station as the steamers are all out of repair. Here we have been comparatively gay since I last wrote, at least I think the wedding at a Dutch family took place since – Miss Manget to Mr Best. The lady expected a soldier but the red coat would not buckle to. So sure as I get into an out of the way room to write to you, I am bothered by someone or other. ‘English! English!! John, Edward, is Capt English at home.’ I remained upstairs as long as I possibly could when I had to go down to Sir M Creagh who, after sitting an hour taking a glass of Madeira & a crust, has departed. The 86th give their farewell dinner to the Garrison today of which I am to partake. ‘Oh English,’ Sir Mic said, ‘how I do detest this place – if I thought that we were not to be relieved for six months I would leave the Army’, but he is annoyed with the Govr and rather a simple sort of man at any time but exceedingly gentlemanly and good humoured. You will think these letters by the regular bag rather short, still they contain as much as I can scribble in the sheet, but I feel as yet uncertain whether Wells can send them on in consequence of the late order & do not therefore make double letters by writing to the dear girls. The next packet will decide something as to my change of station. I must say Sir Charles has never lost sight of serving me in any trifling way he has the opportunity of. This is a vile expensive place, still you must allow I have not been over extravagant. I think it was the 19th of May that I drew 20£ – I must soon do so again but defer the evil day as long as I can. Fred I fear is playing foolish – his story respecting leave – so long as his application has been made for it must have been granted had he followed it up. Something keeps him with his Regt. He is somewhat thoughtless and his letters would lead one to decide flippant but he will improve. My best regards to him & tell him humbug won’t do with me – I’m not yet old enough and from being constantly with Regimental officers have some little knowledge of what’s what in those matters. I hope he will not be led away for if so the very leaders will out laugh at him. I read every day – your remarks about John and Catisfield caused me a hearty laugh. Poor John appears looking for the main chance in very doubtful quarters. Never mind my good dear Kit – we will rough in spite of poverty on King’s pay &c &c without looking out. No thanks, not to nobody. Best regards to my Uncle Hawker & may he enjoy himself for years to come. I have some rare tales to relate to him. Gusto’s affair has changed my system – I cannot get over it. Get his name on the list at Lord Hill’s whilst I’m on service. I shall meet Ad Sir – Halket at Barbados. I shall soon send you more ginger & Mrs N her Arrow root – Barbados is the place. The races were laughable in the extreme – so many falls, bolting & upsets I never beheld. One black Jockey, if to be so called, lost the first day on a favorite horse in top new boots. ‘Massa’ he said ‘let me ride tomorrow without those tam boots – me win den.’ New day he was clear of all & with his bare black legs like pendulums he did beat them all. A queer ball next day ended the fun. Love to all. God bless you

Yours Fred