Letter #73

Demerara 10th March 1837

What days of anxiety were those of the 10, 11, 12 March this time 3 years, my dear Kate, to me. It is matter of wonder how those years have passed so quickly. On your side of the Atlantic the seasons mark the time and call to remembrance what may have passed, Xmas two years or midsummer twelve months. Here all the months appear the same, one continued sunshine even during the periods termed wet or dry season no material change, the trees always in leaf and flowering shrubs in blossom. This picture of Demerara may be inviting but I shall sound the advance with delight the moment the necessary order comes forth. Last evening I met Tom Naghten in full bloom, flirting with the beauties of the Colony, waltzing and looking as gay as it was possible, for his good hearted countenance could express he was in high glee. From the information he gave me, I now prepare this letter either to be forwarded by the Underwood or another vessel expected to sail this evening. I hope to be in time and to have sufficient to fill my paper with the old tale respecting my proceedings since the report forwarded on the same date as the Mail boat brought accounts of the Brevet. Not a paper have we recd from that day to clear up the uncertainty whether our vacancies are filled up or not. Thus I have been in suspense & tormented at all parties with ‘Major – I beg pardon, Col – but pray Capt English, do tell me which is it, are you a Col or a Major? We all thought there was no such rank in the Engineers.’ I scarcely know which to congratulate myself on, as getting home is the point I look to. As a Major, I may obtain orders to depart so soon as the term of servitude considered at Pall Mall to be the tour expires. As a Lt Col, I most likely shall remain in Command of the W Indies, and find some difficulty in getting relieved. It will therefore be a good time for my excellent Uncle to brush up our Inspector General to get me clear of this vile climate. In truth my ambition to command here is altogether evaporated, and if the Pall Mall folk will not take umbrage by my declining or rather take advantage and refuse to give me another near home, I shall be most anxious to turn over the honor & emolument to the first unfortunate fellow sent out. On tuesday the 27th Feby, detachts landed here from Barbados where they touched on their way from home. The 5 officers look full of colour and health. How long that will last is doubtful, but I immagine they will like all others soon become interestingly pale. By this vessel, we learnt that Sir Charles Smith, Col Story RA, Lt St George who you met at Major Gordon’s, & the famed Leicester Smith were gone to Berbice. On the morning of the 28th they landed here. Sir C Smith was exceedingly hearty, regretted he could not move me, Capt Lewis having gone demented, congratulated me on the promotion of Lt Col of which he did not express a doubt, & in fact quite cheered me by his hearty manner, made mention of his satisfaction & finding the Berbice Engrs Establishment renovated and every thing going on at both stations in such order. Moreover, remarked that the whole correspondence with the Govr here had been carried on with extreme temper & judgement. He rarely pays a compliment; in this case however he was evidently much pleased. Sir Charles also stated that he had in his capacity as Comdg the Troops ford the orders Genl Com issued respecting myself to the Horse Guards & Inspector Genl on the score of Garrison duty with his report wherein he stated that if a shaddow of blame existed, it was on part not on mine. Thus Com has been completely floored in all his vindictive attacks on me & forced at last, before the Brevet came out, to strick me off the Garrison duty. If I repeat some few words over and over again, correct as you read, for Col Monins is now seated on the opposite side of the table, talking, smoking and reading the Times paper of the 21st Feby, so that I have some credit in keeping my pen on the move. Sir Charles told me he intended to accept Gibraltar, which station I understood was offered to him. At all events he shd relieve me by sending Capt Briscoe, daily expected at Barbados, to Demerara. Therefore, unless the Mail Boat expected today brings orders to proceed on promotion to England, I shall find that your old Major will take possession of Capt Tait’s quarters, or, if a Lt Col, at the present moment to relieve Sir Charles Smith. This puts me in a fright, as of course they will not succeed in getting a Man to take the Berth before the end of this or commencement of the next year. This is a long story but uppermost in my thoughts at present. Well, on Wed the 1st March my chief came after inspecting the Barracks & we all dined at Col Goodman’s. Music filled up the hours of the evening. The following morning they breakfasted with me, saw the office books & proceeded to the Storekeeper’s & Resp officers. This day we dined at the Mess of the 67th when, amongst other toast, that wretch Bunbury gave my health as Lt Col English. Altogether we had much laughing & retired to a Champaign supper in the Town. I do not exceed in this way but lent a hand in making some noise. Sir C here got his rubber & went home. Friday we all dined at Mr Rose’s with a Ball in the evening. Leicester Smith made a considerable noodle of himself as to dress, attitude &c, but in other respects was considered very agreeable. Your old Major drank, laughed with the married & danced with the single like mad. How Kate & Cary would be entertained to see their dear Pa larking like a boy. Saturday we all lunched at Mr Glen & at 3 my chief & his train embarked on board a Mail Boat taken up for their trip and left us to our fate. They take Tobago, pass a week at Trinidad, on to St Lucia, Grenada, St Vincent’s &c &c, in fact thro the Islands, returning the 1st week in april to Barbados. From Trinidad the order will go to Briskcoe. I suppose therefore I may be here some weeks, but if he is arrived not, longer. Sir Stam-Ford Wittingham then makes his tour & will be here the 2nd week in April. Old Bunbury is in a fuss selling off – he is ordered to administer the Government at St Lucia during Sir Dudley Hill’s leave of absence for six months to Europe. Here things go on much as usual with me – I dine out almost every day, in truth the people are extremely friendly to me & I escape Com’s dull dinners which is no trifling blessing in this hot climate. Tell the children that Tickler the monkey charged a party of about 14 Buck Indians this morning who were trying a short cut through my domain, broke his chain & caught one. I never have laughed so hearty since I came out, I think. Such a scurry in all directions, but the worst part was the sert did not mend his chain properly & Master Jacko untied the string. I was reading up stairs but came to look after my crokery which he was diminishing with great delight – books, paper, all on the ground. During my absence down stairs the Red Macaw mounted the table & turned the cock of Miss Parker’s tea kettle, thus the office below was a perfect deluge. I scarcely knew which way to run first. I do hope your next dispatch will be directed Lt Col & then my dear Kate I have hopes of seeing you. What think you of Barbados & Shot Hall for a time, hey? The thought will warm you, I opine. Jenny must prepare her Thimble. I am all adrift as wardrobe. I fully expect, shld the promotion be given that you will send me a pr of Epaulettes – their arrival may be the first intimation of my rank. Love [word missing] kiss the bairns, Miss Gardiners, regards at Catisfield & to Miss Parker. Your afft Fred E.

What is doing for my unfortunate sisters? Their affairs make me unhappy the moment I think of them. Adieu dear Kit.

I hope you have made Capt Tait’s acquaintance, he is a first rate person. I shd have like to shake Fred by the hand.

Sir Charles Smith indeed became Commanding Royal Engineer, Gibraltar, with the rank of Colonel.