Letter #7

In 1833, the Governorship of Barbados was combined with that of the Windward and Leeward Islands, and Major-General Sir Lionel Smith was appointed to the new post. It seems, however, that he had not yet arrived, so English reported to Lieutenant-General Sir James Frederick Lyon, the retiring Governor.

St Lucia was fought over by the French and British for much of the eighteenth century, but the British occupied it in 1803, and in 1814, by the Treaty of Paris, it became part of the British Windward Islands colony. The description of dinner parties in letters 30 and 33 give a good idea of the blend of English and French. English was proud of his mastery of French, acquired while campaigning in Europe, so he welcomed the opportunity to practise it. The hilltop fortress where the garrison was housed had been built by the British as part of the defences of the principal town, Castries.

St Lucia 29th April 1834

You will be surprised my dear Kate to observe the date from whence this is written. I arrived here yesterday about 11 oclock in the Forte Frigate Commodore Pell and am as well as ever notwithstand heat on board and heat on shore. I stated in my last letters that Sir Charles Smith was absent from Barbadoes as Governor in this Island and that we waited for his decision before any thing could be known respecting the final destination of the Mountaineer passengers. Saturday morning at 10 I recd his dispatch from this, directing myself to St Lucia, Capt Kay to Dominica and Mr Molesworth to Tobago to proceed forthwith when passages were provided for us by the Quarter Master Genl. Some delay and suspense would have ensued as the only mode of passing from Island to Island is by the Mail Boats. However, in due course of form started for Government House to obtain Sir James Lyon’s sanction to the distribution, which done, I proceeded to the Quarter M Genl &c &c, and on my way home, which I must so call my Barrack room, I paid a visit by appointment to Lady Smith to whom by some accident or caprice of the lady I had not been made know at either of the several parties I met her. This call led to various matters and to a little of Sir CM’s excellent porter. We got on famously & I think may continue very good friends. On the subject of joining her Lord she was very eloquent, having recd letters the evening previous begging her to proceed for St Lucia which had settled an immediate start for that station by the first packet. It is a long story but the cream is that there was some little heartburning that Capt Pell had not proposed taking her down in the Frigate, some old promise of the sort having been given and her Ladyship was a little sore on the subject but as Capt Tait & myself were quitting, the Commander, Capt Herringham, an old friend of Charles and known to Admiral Brace, came in coming on shore with a request from the Commodore that Madame would accept his cabin & sail Sunday the next day at 3 oclock, all which was arranged, and, hearing that my order had reached me, an invitation was sent stating that a berth was at my service. This I recd about 7 in the morning when in the Bath, and had all my traps packed and on the ship by about 2 or before, with your humble servant stowed in a corner out of the way. Whilst the ship got under weigh the wind was exceedingly light, but we made the land early yesterday & landed at the Town of Castries about ½ past eleven or 12. A miserable place but very picturesque. The former part of this letter was written on the tuesday the 29th at the office in town & in somewhat of a hurry as I had just learnt a ship was about to sail. However she remains in the harbour and I shall continue on this sheet for the Mail Boat expected here tomorrow. On landing, Lt Robinson horse was in waiting and we scrambled together up the Mountain, all very beautiful certainly. To the Govr Sir C Smith’s, who was agreeable & told me after an invitation to dine with him that he had ordered me to St Lucia being nearest to Barbados in case it should be necessary to put me in charge having applied for a senior officer to a person whom it was unnecessary to name. If I do not write sense, make it for me for the extraordinary change of climate and scene with a porter back.

This morning has deranged my whole system. I never was better in my life, can eat drink & sleep and am determined to go thro with the campaign with spirit – but I must get on regularly telling my tale progressively. From Government House climbing 500 feet higher up the mountain Mourne Fortuné, I reached the Barracks was introduced to Lt Robinson & the RE quarters consisting of 2 rooms with a small recess to breakfast in overlooking the sea, Martinique & Dominica in the distance with the harbour I had just entered immediately under the window, & the mountainous, wooded & wild coast of this Island as it were bounding the picture on the right, and looking towards Barbados. Sketches shall be sent you of all I can collect in due time, but no drawing or description can do justice to the scene. I took Mr Robinson by surprise and he does not move until Monday next, consequently I have put up in a Barrack room and a very irregular sort of a comfortable life I am leading. Every hour I bless my stars that you and our dear children did not venture out with me. Even as Comd of Engineers, unless everything was prepared to receive you, it would be miserable at the first landing & it is then I think people are so disgusted with the heat & the privation, ladies particularly, must endure, that they never are happy until at home again. It was more sultry at Barbados than here certainly. My Ther was 78 this morning & the water cold in which I washed. It is the constant sea breeze that keeps the air here particularly cool. Upon the whole the climate is not so horrid as represented, and were they to give me the Comd under the present prospect of remaining here for a time with the Comd Engineer’s House at Barbados, being on the spot to prepare your reception, I shd not object to your coming out, but as second and liable to be kicked about as the chances are I shall be, I am certain my spirit would knock under. I could not bear to see you toasting for Island to Island, pale like all the women from old England and half eaten by the villainous Mosquitos. Mind what you say before Mrs Chadds about what I may write, for everything comes out & travels from each Island to Head Quarters like wild fire. By the Bye the fire flies have the most beautiful appearance here of a night you can fancy they look like thousands of small lamps moving in every direction. My Cot, thanks to Mr Kean, is a perfect luxury; my Iron bed excellent & very handsome & the Mosquito net answers admirably, the Desk a very great comfort but at the present moment a great charge owing to the shameful plundering that is going on – something of the kind occurs almost every night. A Mr Lloyd 76 Regt was robbed of his desk, color box, his dressing case knocked to pieces & very valuable sisters’ gifts, College certificates and everything that could be laid hands on taken the night before last when we were at Mess. I have joined as an honorary Mem for the sake of society and find them a gentlemanly set of men – they belonged to Col Maberly when we were in Ireland – how strangely people meet. Mr Kennedy that we used to meet at Govr Man’s and who was Recruiting at Belfast is Paymaster in the Regt; he called on me a few days since. I am so fearful of forgetting anything that I must jumble all together as it comes into my head. Did I remember that the 1. Lt. Baker on board the Forte was in the same rank with Charles when in comd of the Kingdom? What I saw of him I liked; he begged I remember him to Charley – where is that wandering old sinner? I wish he had a ship on this station. But to return to myself and the quarters which are of wood, hut-like but passable for a single man, all suited to the little man, just leaving them a wee office. Do. Bath for which you can hardly get water, it being all collected in Tanks from the rain. A wee garden with some Pines, water lemons and other growing articles which in this climate vegetate rapidly from its extreme moisture. A stable with much daylight thro it & some other little outbuildings form the RE’s Residence, which having seen I care not how soon I pack the blue boxes again, tho in truth the operation in the heat of Barbados – Ther 87 in the shade – was far from pleasant. A bottle of Porter goes in at the mouth and out at the top of the nose and fire goes before you have put the bottle down. I drink no spirits & very little wine but about two bottles of Porter a day taking plenty of exercise and changing my linen constantly. Out of my story again. Well, got my barrack room, put up my bed & went the 500 ft, came up, down again to dine with the Governor. I was very much fatigued with the day’s work and the ship’s accommodation commonly so called. They were no doubt very civil, but save me from many days of such punishment. The close heat between decks the scuttles being all shut up at six in the officers’ cabins which were off the Gun room or wardroom. However, when I went to dress in Capt Herringham’s, I never shall forget the perspiration that horridly confined place put me into. They were nearly as bad altho accustomed to the place. We all dined together, all but Commodore, Lady Smith and the tots. Here I am off my dinner party at the Governor’s again. At the dinner few were present L. V. Smith RE who is here with the Col as his A.D.C. or something of that breed, a Capt Grubb of the 76, talking quirking little man, and a wretched old Dr of the Staff lately arrived, who could eat & drink in stile but croaked shamefully about climate, cold winds and who would have killed you with fright, with myself, Lady S & her Lord constituted the party. We broke up early and happy was I to retire to my own bed which I enjoyed exceedingly in spite of vermin of all kinds which I understand this Island abounds in if looked after, but seldom molest people who are not in search of them. I will now read over your letter of the 17th March. One thing I must tell you – for a man to get out of spirits in this country, relaxed as he is day and night, it is as bad as a fit of illness, & as the first step to it. You must not write to me when you feel hipped and out of sorts for it put me in the same state for months after I receive the letter & until one that proves you to be all comfortable & in comparative enjoyment reaches me. And now my dear Kate for your letter, that no part of it may remain unanswered. First and foremost you were right about Henderson. He is gone and forgotten ere this I trust. I would not take a married man but under very peculiar circumstances & character. I suppose the old horse is getting some grass by this time. Take care of his feet, remove the shoes every fortnight or three weeks, and have new shoes put on directly he trips the least. A man might have lived with Mr Hater, a jolly drinking old contractor and Foxhunter – this would not suit Mrs E. Warn dear Fred to be careful –he may of course regain a little money for his march. I have not drawn any money yet nor shall I for a week or two unless a horse appears that will suit me. I think I can manage to live at no very great expense whilst here. The last I drew on the Agents was 25£ when in London the day before I embarked. Has anything more transpired respecting the change of Uniform? I hope they will let the Army rest or give promotion at the same time and change their prospects. Aug’s letter was excellent. I am most anxious about him. If Charley is in England we must get him to make a stir at the Secretary M Gen’s office. Of climate I have made my remark it is not so bad & is supportable out very early and in the evening. Ladies oh! hide during the day and all go to bed early say 9-10 being rather late & up between 5 & 6, never miss bathing, living better than your usual habit. If you could unship at Barbados with me on one side of you in the boat Miss Parker – God bless her regards to her – on the other to pinch and land at the Government Wharf walking with the Comd Engr home with all ready for you. I shd fear nothing but to ship & unship you, to pack unpack, furnish and unfurnish here would expend all hands and purses. By keeping yourself and young Maidens gay and happy you will keep me so, therefore exert thyself merry Kate and shorten some of those long written words in your letters – these fill up one line. Harding may be away & doubtlessly the Gen. & Mrs Campbell are so. God bless you my dear Kit.

Pale ink starts here – see below.

The Ladies high & low are horridly ugly here – I never saw such devils. I dine at Sir C Smith’s today and called on the lady yesterday; they do not seem to like the dull life of this place after Barbados. All I want is another Red Jacket which you will probably tell Fitchett to send me & explain that the one I have seems too narrow between the shoulders at the back; the lining at that part has all given way. These are worn so constantly that a second is absolutely necessary. Send some of the children’s drawings in the package, a bundle of Reviews or any nicknack you can think of. I shall endeavour to send you some pickles or ginger by Capt Redman who has been all civility. We expect the Packet in this evening on her way to collect the letters at the other Islands, in fact the Regt bags are making up at the present moment, but Sir C Smith’s dispatches will not be sent off before the morning therefore I shall keep this open until the last moment. I shall now make a short reply to dear Katey’s nice letter and to Fred’s if time will permit. Adieu my dear Kate. I trust that some good fortune will soon cause us to meet again. It is miserable work being separate; the life to me is like a dream & will be insupportable in spite of all our determination to meet it with spirit should it endure long. There are various report afloat – some say Sir C Smith is to go home in July, others have spread for months that I was coming out to relieve him, that it is to be a Capt’s Command, others that he will remain Governor here. We shall see. With the certainty of remaining at Barbados it is no bad quarter for a few years. Kiss our dear children for me – I often wish for you all. Regard to Mr & Mrs Hawker, Mrs OB & Mary. I shall not forget the Tamarinds. Believe me your ever attached Fred E.

Capt Kay and Madame are expected by the Packet on their way to Dominica. Of the two Islands this is to be prefered. How is Jane? Remember me to all friends Lady Gardiner & others.

The latter part of this was written 2d May 34 from the pale ink.