Letter #8

This letter has no cover – he wrote to Augustus by the same packet, so perhaps there was one cover for both.

Pigeon Island is in the extreme north of St Lucia. Fortifications were built there for surveillance of the neighbouring French island of Martinique. It is now a nature reserve with a man-made causeway joining it to the mainland.

We are introduced to Roche Court, the home of Lady Gardiner and her daughters, to whom English refers as his nieces, though I have not been able to establish the relationship. In letter 45 he appears to call them his cousins, so perhaps Lady Gardiner was his aunt or cousin. The house, a couple of miles down the Meon valley from Wickham, is of medieval origin, but much altered; it is now a school.

Lord Sussex Lennox was a younger son of the 4th Duke of Richmond. English makes it sound as though he and his wife were on a honeymoon trip; in fact, Lady Mary was pregnant with their third son.

Here for the first time of many, English likens his posting to the West Indies to transportation, comparing his lot with that of convicts transported to penal colonies in Australia, a practice not ended until 1868. It is not surprising that he should resent the privations forced upon the military for defending the commercial interests of empire. It is also worth noting that some of the soldiers in the garrison had been found guilty of crimes in English courts, and given the choice of enlisting in the Army rather than being shipped to Australia.

The ‘shades’, or silhouettes, were a form of cheap portraiture popular at the time. Specialist artists cut them out of black paper and pasted them to white card. English’s criticism spurred the family into another attempt – see letter 32.

Pigeon Island St Lucia
24th May 1834

I had commenced a letter to you My Dear Kate yesterday morning with a view of completing it here and forwarding both it and one for little Annie by the Sandwich, a sugar vessel now laying at Castries, which I did not expect would sail for some days but which I have learnt by signal this evening is to depart tomorrow evening. My letter of yesterday has been regularly sopped by the violent rain of this day which pays no respect to a roof or other covering, in fact my poor old black leather case has been completely wet thro. No rain that you have ever witnessed can be compared to the sudden falls we have in this Island. However, I must begin regularly with my story or you will be at a loss to know where I am & how I came here. Pigeon Island is a small but strong post, the Island not being more than about a mile in circumference, about the same from St Lucia and 10 from Mourne Fortuné, our station, or the Town of Castries. The works are under my charge, Barracks &c, and Sir C and Lady Smith having left their quarters to get sea bathing for a time expressed a wish that I shd join the party. This induced me to mount a long tailed pony which I ought to have carried, belonging to one of our people, and crawl along exceedingly bad roads to the village opposite where Sir C had a boat to meet me. This all occurred after eleven yesterday and after completing the best portion of a letter to you my dear Kit in reply to yours of the 1st April recd on the 2 May but which was detained with all but one from Fred in the Post office since the 16th, the day when the Jamaica packet sent the bags ashore. When I recd Fred’s letter I cannot describe to you my disappointment at not finding dispatches from Wickham. I thought what a time it would be before I could obtain any intelligence of you all. The day before yesterday I was agreeably surprised by your large packet enclosed in the Estimates for the present year. It was a perfect feast receiving all your letters. I wish my time would admit of answering them by this vessel, but I must be content to write to you my poor dear widow. To this life so new I trust you are becoming more reconciled. I cannot add that I am – it seems as a term of transportation, and so long as the days pass it little matters where I eat, drink or sleep. I wrote last night until 12 oclock, a very unusual hour for any person in this climate to be out of his bed. At last I was so hot and fatigued with wandering all day that inclination was forced to give way to sleep. I threw myself on the old stretcher which I sent by water to this place. The vermin took pity on me and this morning I felt like a Lion, walked down in dressing gown to the sea. Fritz who is here also with his domestic Charley and we floundered together off the wharf in spite of sharks, whales or what not, one of the latter amusing himself all the time within musket shot. Our bathing party consisted – refer to the Army List – Lt L Smith whom I like much, a Mr Lloyd son of the President, Trinity College Dublin – Ah! What a pen [his pen had become scratchy] – Trevelyan, I think his name is, brother of the person in our Corps, you have heard the Burgoynes speak off, and a Mr Hilton and your old buck diving and jumping in the water like a young un. I had returned as my letter will shew & was scribbling not in the best of spirits to start something of a letter to you by a boat that returns to Castries this morning, when Sir C Smith in an audible voice at door exclaimed ‘Capt English, letter!’ He then put yours of the 15th into my hand. I am perfectly overwhelmed with delight but have only yet read the envelope fearing the boat which is merely a chance affair may leave at a moment’s warning and the Sandwich sail without a line to my dear Kate. In about a week the regular packet leaves for England when you shall have replies to all queries in the two last bundle of letters. They perfectly delight me and in place of feeling ill here the receipt of them acts as a charm. Capt Martin 76 has just sent me a new tool, as you may observe but the fishing boat has departed and on board a long story to little Anne being determined to get off one dispatch in due time. In consequence of your packet being addressed to Barbados, I recd it by a private vessel in the Governor’s bag; the Packet has not reached St Lucia yet. I have not read your long and agreeable epistle Kate’s, Fop Fan’s and Miss Parker’s, all of which have afforded me pleasure beyond any description I can put to paper. I feel exceedingly obliged to Miss P who I trust will continue in the friendly road so well commenced upon, not failing to give me at her leisure the most trifling information. All is acceptable at this distance from home. Col F C Smith and his lady are all kindness and as yet we get on together beyond my expectation. When at Barbados I held back – perfectly remote – toward her Ladyship, which had a good effect and we are now upon an excellent footing. This is as well, it contributes everything to my comfort whilst in this country & it would be extreme folly on my part not to receive their hospitality as intended. At all event policy dictates the proper course. Sir C and his lady were much pleased learning that our friend Admiral Brace was well and made several enquiries respecting him. The Belvedere has arrived; I do not regret as matters have turned out that I did not wait for her. The Forte took her Money Freight on to Jamaica & the former now remains at Barbados. Lord Sussex Lenox and his larking bride did not go by her. It’s said mind you dear lady that some passenger was a little attentive, and notwithstanding Comd Pell wished even to wait for his Lordship, he could not get ready in time. Capt Pell took some of the passengers on as part of his Freight – make what you can out of this to laugh, there is a good soul. You wish to know how my time is occupied. I forget what has been put to paper in former letters, however you must be made acquainted with the fact that I rise by six, sometimes before, look at my Black Military Labr over my little all in the small way observe gate. Cup Coffee made by Alex – very strong, take the dip & shower bath the only one on the Mountain of Mourne Fortuné, dress, walk to see my improvement for I am making a stir and with what Sir C has done & is still doing, the old stagers fancy the evil one is adrift for the total want of energy & the abject state of roguing here is beyond conception. However, to continue – breakfast [small drawing of kettle and teapot] my first and only one, tea, toast, ham, eggs, Marmalade when you can get it, a stock in hand now sent me by the Quarter Master’s wife who was making it for her children. After breakfast try read, write journal &c until the Musquitoes & flies turn me mad when I commence a chase killing right and left this with a look over my desk, which I do with as much interest as a schoolboy, passes some little time when Clerk of Work, overseers and other break into my privacy & off I start, meeting of course the officers in every direction, have a chat, look at the workpeople now right and left, return with a fellow sufferer either to my own pretty little cottage or to their quarters, lunch off Pineapple bisquit & drink quantities of Porter. I can hard believe it possible that I could dispose of so much without feeling the effect, particularly in the middle of the day, but it has no other than that of completely renovating. It is inelegant I confess, but the perspiration is continual from the moment you are out of the bath & dressed until you again visit the water next morning more or less night and day a check to this is the danger. I have no horse yet – probably the exercise that I am thus forced to take is far from being detrimental. I never have felt sick excepting the first week at Barbados, but then I did not give up & the thing passed off. As far as I have witnessed, I prefer the climate, altho exceedingly damp, of St Lucia to the former. I have five thousand things to write to you but cannot collect them. The evenings at 4 oclock are cool when I take my gun or saunter about with some of the Garrison until about ½ past 5. Dress from top to toe which tends much your health in such a climate, lots of cold water and then dinner which is always tough & vile. At tea we have Claret: bad, Madeira &c not over good & Porter. Again I drink the same quantity of wine & live the same as at home. Break up, get cool for about and hour & then to bed. The only change is that I have half lived with Sir C Smith until they came here which is on campaign & we all mess together. My Establishment consisting of the Capt’s own self, Charley Nigger about 12 year old and Fritz who has grown a most superb dog [sketch of Charley and dog] & the favorite of all. He followed me into the sea this morning and gambolled about like a Porpoise. He is quite a treasure, sleeps in my room & is the most watchful creature possible. Yesterday morning he got out very early & dipped himself. I was fast asleep when he returned, but the creature came & put his huge head, wet as it was, on to my face. I thought I had tumbled overboard I was so startled. My finishing this abruptly must not astonish you for I am only going on until the letter is called for. Tell the dear girls I shall collect for them. There are some good shells around this Island and quantities of Land Crabs, the sight of which I detest. Your amusing remark quoted from the village Doctor I enjoyed much. You may depend upon it, bad as this sort of Article may be here, it is not one half so bad as represented & is improving daily, I mean with respect to young men who are of a better class in society than formerly. I will take every precaution my good wife. Positively I am at the end of this sheet & written nothing to entertain yet. My next will be the letter you’ll see. When on the shore just now I picked up some weed – I shall enclose a small piece – the colors are now beautiful but I think they will not stand. The account Miss Parker gives of you all delights me. I wish you would go to some of the Balls – it is not right to shut yourself or daughters up entirely. I cannot say I think the shades much like – there is some resemblance to your profile but your head looks as if it had been dressed up in trifle by the Cook. The Jugs I could not make out – I opened their letters first wherein no mention was made of the enclosures. Kate’s is the most like. The man cannot have much talent in him. I shall still keep them until I get better. Offer my best regards if acceptable to all the Roche Court family. At first sight I liked them and for their congregating with those I hold dear I must always highly esteem them. I have not yet read all the letters. I can only now send my love to all. Charles’ & Mr Wilmot’s shall be read when this is sent off. As to money I have not drawn any yet therefore the finances must be rather in order & I shall not do so for a time. A horse I must have when it is to be found but in this Island it’s almost impossible to procure one. Any Bill I can draw must be six weeks or two months before presented. Adieu regards to Mr Hawker, Mrs H, Aunt OB & Mary. Never mind little heart burning, all will go right presently. You will soon hear from me again. Regard to Miss Parker Aunt & my little favourite. Has the work box been presented? The Governor is waiting to take this across. Say all that’s kind to those I may have forgotten and believe me Your ever afft Fred

I have letters half written for Augustus & Fred but they cannot go by this chance

My sisters’ affairs make me wretched. Be kind to them – never let it be said we went with the tide because everybody is willing so to do. Write & cheer them. We cannot assist at present but may.

A separate sheet, explained in the final paragraph:

Beginning is half ending on dit my dear Kate, then I commence this letter to you at ½ past five, the Mess hour being six, but if possible and I am sober my best to fill the paper shall be put in force after dinner. My excellent black Alexander, who is the one I keep about me, has just poked his polished face into the door way and said, ‘Massa him time dress for dinner him ½ past 5’, & by the clatter he now makes in my bed room I have no doubt he will again stir me up for he is indefatigable in his attention. He lived with Mr Robinson and some Engineer Officers before, having served them well for the last 10 years. Here he comes. ‘Massa Dress, Bugle go.’ So my dear dear Kit, observe I’m a little beside myself at having recd all your letters. I shall put this into my desk for the present. What a comfort it is to me, notwithstanding I fear its being stolen every day. We have such a set of infamous refugee blacks about us who have run – by water – from Martinique.

Fred’s letter as were Augustus’ afforded me much pleasure. Tell them the former was an excellent one. And direct your letters always by Barbados. I may get them sooner thus.

Pigeon Island All well 25th May 1834. Add this always up to the time of sealing.

This was written the day before yesterday, no thursday evening. I have just found it amongst the writing paper & shall fold it with my other letter –
Pigeon Island Sunday 25 May 1834