Letter #55

Not dated at head, but begun at Demerara on 15 May 1836 

‘Mr Steward MP’ is John Stewart, illegitimate son and heir of John Stewart, owner of several West Indian sugar estates. His mother was Mary Duncan of Demerara, either black or of mixed race. He represented Lymington in parliament from 1832 to 1847, and is believed to have been the first person of mixed race to sit in the House of Commons. In 1833, he presented a petition to the House against slave emancipation, and continued to support the West Indian interest throughout his time in parliament. 

What shall I collect that is new or out of the common uninteresting routine of my life here to give you by the Posthumous Capt Rimmington, about to sail tomorrow?  I have already stated that he is a connection of Lt R Rl Engr. His daughter, a very interesting lively girl, returns to England with her father, poor girl, I much fear, not to last long in that doubtful climate. However, she has so much renovated under a tropical sun, some few years may yet remain to her lot. Part owner and a man of large property, Mr Steward MP, who has been in Demerara to look after his dollars and doubloons, is another passenger, and I believe our pottering old noodle of a Brigade Major, also crosses the Atlantic with your letter – much too good company for them. I am now interrupted in the writing by T Naghten, it must be his voice, come to partake of my Sunday dinner – so it is, & the youth has gone to tie up his nag in the stable, my blacks being out, as usual, of the way. Sergt just came in with the agreeable tidings, ‘No parade’, in truth we have few men here at present to form one, the 86th having embarked on board the Vestal, Capt Jones and Gannet, Capt Maxwell for Barbados, relieved by the 67th from St Kitts. So far as society is interested in the change, it is for the worse, the latter officers a sorry set Comd by Lt Col Bunbury, formerly of the 54th at Ipswich. I have called and we recognised each other. He has become a most frightfully stout figure. When riding with him yesterday all the black people exclaimed in passing, ‘Eh, ‘im really big man’. The 86th having departed makes me still more anxious to remove from Demerara to Barbados, where I believe there is little doubt I shall be stationed & from thence embark for Old England, I trust again to be united to all I value in life. Master Tom is now waiting to make a visit or two with me, he is lounging in the old camp sopha without a coat & doing his best to read. A Major Staples, introduced to you in my former letters and visit to this Colony, has just made his appearance, thus the thread of my thoughts has been cut and I must submit to lay this by until the evening or tomorrow morning. Tell the dear children that my pets are all in dire disgrace, and for your information relative to my ménage, John Wiltshire, after some months of fever which all Blacks get here, and some weeks of sham [word missing] away, has departed under the wing of Capt Halliday, I taking his footy James – as black as a coal – in place of my old humbug. Mon 16: Mr Tickler the monkey a few days back contrived to unlink his chain. I was upstairs but heard him talking in his way very earnestly in the gallery that goes round the house and scampered down as fast as possible expecting that he would visit the breakfast things. I found the rascal looking extremely pleased and just pulling up the last of a set of beautiful Balsams which were just a treasure and the seed intended for Wickham. He had also taken the tops off all my choice creepers & others totally destroyed. He well knew that he had done wrong and began kissing my hand. I could not resist a laugh altho vexed. The same day my cat, a horrid thief, eat or destroyed a whole dish of sliced Belona sausage intended for breakfast, and the following, my Parrot, who wanders loose, went into my bed room, got on the dressing table, and broke the teeth out of two combs, cut my pet shaving brush to pieces & carried away another new one, broke the frame of a looking glass & departed out of the window as I entered at the door. I have not yet heard more of my move to Barbados but have little doubt I shall be ordered there. Capt Streatfield, I am informed by the 67th officers, met with a dreadful accident just as they came away, out shooting birds for a collection. A lad staying with him carrying his gun carelessly behind him, it went off & the whole charge passed thro his thigh high up, indeed from their account it appears somewhat doubtful whether he will recover. He is ordered home, I hear, this looks like giving us a shorter period of transportation. Oh that I were with you again! I am perfectly disgusted with this country, and now all novelty is over I at times find my spirit fail me, the wish to get home keeping me constantly in a state of anxiety. I would talk it off now could I but mention the chance of a move but Tait has requested silence on that subject. My companions of the 86th I now feel the loss of. Several were agreeable men and those who relieve them do not promise much in making up for the loss. T Naghten who they call my son dined here yesterday as you would have already concluded from the first part of my letter. We talked much of home – he enjoys his sunday here – the Bands of the Regts play and collect all the natives. Yesterday the novelty of a new set of officers & their music brought more people together than I have seen for a long time – 8 or nine carriages with gig &c &c innumerable. Today I ought to have been at the levée but excused myself as a shower came on – most likely shall get a rub for it, but I always avoid a visit to Sir James C S, he is so excessively disagreeable & we do not  get on well at present. The Posthumous does not sail until the 18th. I intended writing by the Sandbrach, but the change of troops and constant movement throughout the Garrison took all my time up. 17th May 1836: all well, the Gannet sloop of War has sailed this morning with invalids & baggage of the 86th, leaving all the women behind. Capt Maxwell would not take one and such a set they are I am not surprised. 18th: the Posthumous does not depart until tomorrow or next day. This will be started therefore by the Demerara Planter, report says sails today. On Wed last I had a great party entirely, you know I sometimes do thing on the qui vive. I wished to be civil to Capt Jones as an old friend of Charley’s & having met him in Barbados I was riding out late when fortunately I met him full fig walking towards the Barracks. ‘How are ye, Capt Jones?’ &c ‘Where are you to dine?’ ‘I have declined dining at the Govr’s, giving some excuse or other & am now going to the 69th Mess.’ ‘Come and dine with me.’ ‘Very well, with all my heart.’ ‘At ½ past 6 or 7.’ I then collected Sir M Creagh, Col Monins & Lt Jenkins and galloped in search of provisions which on an immergency are soon collected here in tins of fish &c. Fortunately I had bought a small ham the evening before to feed several of the 86 officers at breakfast before they embarked so that my entertainment went off with éclat. I wash my cat’s claws with [word missing] she has been robbing again. We had a merry party enough [word missing]. Have draw 25£ dated 11 Inst at thirty days after sight & trust this may last me some time. Do you think Mrs Wiltshire’s remark about Fred was written with the humour of the milk of human kindness? However, I do not like Fred’s letter to you. Still, I think he is a steady well disposed fellow – he may be misled a little but all right at heart. The stability will emancipate after a little experience. It is to be hoped that a Capt of Engrs may live any where on his pay. If he spends it on himself he might by comparison, as his brother officers have told him, with officers of the line live splendidly, but he has been greatly misinformed as to this country – it is expensive in the extreme. You cannot open your lips to require the most trifling article scarcely under a Dollar. Maps – I do think Augt has been hardly treated, still much he has to blame himself – losing 9 places at any period was looked upon with astonishment. What would it be then at a moment when they were glad to get a vacancy. His name shd be got on the Candidate list for the Army, even if never joins it will be an employment to look ford to & something better may turn up in the mean time. Write a short application to Ld FitzRoy stating that I am serving abroad. Whilst in office both he & Ld Hill know me. Say nothing to Gusto about it until some thing definite is fixed upon. Fred may get his step without purchase – the chance is now in his favor. If I were at home I think his Lt would have got before this. I want to write to my dear Girls but must be content to send single letters. I have not yet learnt if Mjr Wells received his pickles &c. If I return to Barbados I shall meet the Halletts. So John has left you – I hope you will get a sert that you like in his place. If Gusto will work for himself his failure may yet prove a fortunate era in his life but my pride is wounded. Stir him up & if Charles goes abroad, beg him to allow Augustus to look to him as Hd Quarters & let the boy see the Continent or parts of it by making excursion from Charles for a few months. He will improve & think liberally. God bless you dear Kit – love to all


Find out from Mjr Wells if I may still send my letters thro Pall Mall office. Regards to Charley & his wife.

This letter is addressed to ‘Mrs English, Catisfield, near Fareham, Hants’ and redirected to Wickham. It is annotated, probably in the hand of one of FE’s daughters: ‘11th July better: this was sent to & opened by CE by mistake. Will write soon.’