Letter #78

Admiral Sir Francis and Lady Collier were Hampshire neighbours. The admiral had served as a midshipman on Nelson’s Victory, was an ADC to Queen Victoria, Superintendent of Woolwich Dockyard, and Commissioner at Greenwich. He died in command of the China station in 1849. Lady Collier, the admiral’s second wife, was the daughter of Thomas Thistlethwaite MP, of Southwick Park, Hampshire. The admiral is not to be confused with his father, Admiral Sir George Collier, who served with distinction in the American War of Independence. 

For more about Lady Knighton, see letter 107.

Barbados 26th May 1837

Not one letter have I recd my dear Kate from home for the last three packets, that is no letters have reached me yet of 15 March, 1 April, 15 April. By the latter which came in here since my arrival there was no dispatch & all that were in the bags of the two former, Leicester Smith, like a goose, sent on to Demerara by a Mail Boat that sailed from hence on the 4th Inst. This vessel I much fear is lost and my long expected letters with her, as she was due here on the 18th inst. I trust they may come to hand but my hopes of receiving accounts from Wickham now rest with the Mail due about the 3rd June. Fortunately I have heard through a round about channel that you were all well at a very recent date. This was from a Lt Monday R Artillery who is now here waiting for his passage to Trinidad to take charge of the Artillery in that Island. He landed with two companies of RA from the Sovereign Transport on the 20th after a passage of 33 days. Ask my niece Miss Fanny Gardiner to describe the good looking Bombardier. He is a merry and gentlemanly fellow & I think he told me he had met you all, moreover corresponds with some of the ladies at Roche Court. You may scold about sugar ships and letters not coming regularly, my lady – have you ever been 3 months without a letter? It has made me feel out of temper from the moment I found that Smith had sent them away. There is another gentlemanly and agreeable young officer here who has some knowledge of you – Mr Thistlewayte of the 36th Regt. Is he not a brother of Lady Collier’s? I dined at their mess yesterday when we drank champagne together. Capt Tinling’s brother in the Navy is here in command of a fine Steamer. He has been to call frequently. He is another young man and looks upon me quite as an old acquaintance. The Belvidera is here waiting to be relieved. Of course I have renewed my acquaintance with Capt Strong and his officers, in fact I have found so many old friends here that I seldom dine at our mess. Lady Smith still occupies the Comding Engr’s quarters, consequently I have not yet enjoyed any of its comforts, of which all, from the General downwards, envy me. If it were possible, I would gladly allow her Ladyship to act as Engr, could I by the exchange just find myself with my Wickham pets. I have the same feeling today as you occasionally complain of, and for the life of me cannot write with spirit. By the next packet you will have something more worthy the appellation of a letter. The truth is yours have not reached me and altogether I feel so unsettled until I obtain possession of my own abode, unpack, and find out what I shall require, that I find it impossible to fix my mind to any occupation, and have so suddenly been transformed into a great man that I have no command of myself. So many visitors & so many dinner parties overwhelm a poor sedate going old gentleman, and my first fit out will out ruin me. You are aware that the Comdg Engr here has an extensive tract of grazing ground. To keep up the right & prevent applications I have commenced farming by purchasing 20 sheep of Lady Smith. Their number was increased to 21 the following day & I am informed that several lambs are expected. I have also purchased as follows: 2 young heifers of Mi-lady, and out of the Artillery’s Officer’s stock on board the Sovereign, a lady pig, a lady goat & kid. These, with my Horse, Monkey & 2 Macaws, a Red & a Blue, & 3 black serts are the total of my live stock at present, but as the flock are likely to put a considerable revenue into the Lt Col’s pocket, I must get a stock gradually. Mr Mundy has just been here to ask what he shd say for me to my nieces to whom he is writing. I have requested him to add How dee &c & to certify that I am in good condition. Shot Hall is a pretty place with every convenience for a family, but what is all this to me without a soul to enjoy it? The Comd here is more lucrative than I supposed, unless they cut it down. In addition to my double pay, I understand the Command entitles me to a pound a day to cover expenses attending the inspection visits to the Islands. Keep this to yourself, I request, as I am not in the first place certain of more than 10s and it’s well not to have it talked of. I shall claim it on the Duke of Wellington’s order which is forthcoming if required. Sir C Smith recd 30s, the extra 10s as Senr Officer of Ordnance. Why my dear Kit, you would be a little queen out here could you but stand the baking. A signal now flies for a Mail Boat to Leward. This may be the one due from Demerara. I find myself so much the master of my time and as it were free from controul that I long to be on the move to feel the truth of my independence. I like the Genl very much thus far. I understood Dr Whyte he was well acquainted with Lady Knighton – I shall ask him. Where is my net? Epaulettes? What shall I do to fill that large house? What has been done about Gusto? I am exceedingly anxious to learn. Through T Naghten I think it was, the information came that Mrs O’Brien had been ill & that you were with her. I trust all is right again. Regards to her, Mary & my Uncle – I wish he would write to me. Remember me to Mrs Hawker & Mrs Naghten. Love to yourself & my dear children, not forgetting Miss Parker & Roche Court. Adieu dear Kate, Your aff Fred English.

How is Jane? Best wishes to my Brothers & unfortunate sisters.

I am almost sure it is the Mail Boat due from Demerara coming in now FE.

The change of air has performed wonders on me – I never felt better.