Letter #82

Not dated at head, but marked on cover ‘Barbados nineteen July’ 

It appears to me my dear Kate that I have more than usual to write to you about. Nevertheless, when you have got thro my letter very little out of the usual subject will be forthcoming more than commonly to interest you I suspect, and the feeling that I enjoy of having much to write upon is owing to the spirits the change of climate has produced for in truth I am as well as ever and regaining all the round outline left at Demerara. It was fortunate I left that land of mud, Mosquitos & sand flies. When the fever once attacks a person violently in that Colony it is rare that it quits the sufferer unless he gets into another climate. Since I quitted the fevers have been dreadful, many have sunk under it. Col Monins, in a letter to the General, gives a most deplorable account of both the inhabitants and the Regts, particularly his, the 69th. Several of my acquaintance have been carried off. Notwithstanding I was recovering before I came away under the judicious treatment of Dr Whyte, I felt weaker & out of spirits. The rainy season had commenced in torrents, this with the general gloom would have in all probability have secured me another attack, therefore you may supose I rejoice & grow stout with the agreeable reflection that I have escaped the crapauds of British Guiana – King Com, fever and Rains – to become top sawyer as I am to remain in the Tropics so much longer than was expected. The Belvidera sails today for Vera Cruz and expects to be in Portsmouth Harbour about the end of November. Capt Strong is to get a freight of money I understand from some of the ports he is ordered to call at. He is a good old fellow, mush liked – be civil if you meet him. Lt Wood, his first, has taken charge of about 20 lb of ginger & in box no 2 and no 1 30 lb of arrow-root. It will be some time before you get it, still you will be assured you are always in mind. Wood has promised to see you all. He dined with me yesterday. With his & Capt Strong’s assistance I am now completed with a fine net, & you already know that I brought my boat from Demerara, a small gig of 19 ft given to me almost a wreck, but made as good as a new one by my carpenter mania, for in truth I worked at her for hours together. Lt Tylden’s steamer arrived during the night from Jamaica. He has not called yet but most probably will during the day as he promised to bring me some sheep from St Thomas. This reminds me to report the increase of the Flock & farm generally. I shall soon beat Isabella and Annie in the way of stock. The sheep number 25 & I expect some lambs yet – the grazing would support, indeed fatten, 150 or more – a goat & kid, which I have named Miss Kate, some ducks, a cock & hen presented by Col Tyler, a pig – could not do without that animal you know – 4 head of cattle, that is 2 cows & 2 young things, 3 horses, one of which an old pet of Sir Charles he has left to end his days at Shot Hall, still he is a very useful beast & cuts no bad figure when mounted by Mi Lord Proby – another pensioner turned over to me, many years a hanger on in Sir C Smith’s ménage, a most extraordinary diminutive Congo negro with 6 toes to each foot. In fact the stables of the Comd RE would be deserted as it were without him. His employment is to cut Grass and to perform the dwarf as in establishments of olden time. When Sir C left this, Mi Lord went up to him: ‘Massa, wat you go do wid me now you go away? Mi Lor too old, no can lib in barrack more.’ Thus mi lor remains & has his small room within the walls of the Shot Hall domain. Alexander, the black I introduced to you in my letters from St Lucia, I have ordered here. He now acts as orderly, closes the iron gates at night, protects the Roses, flowers & Cocao nuts from the curious who wander about to see the place and smouch what they can lay their hands upon. The Genl and your humble sert get well on together in spite of a good deal of jealous feeling. You may immagine that I have somewhat of a battle to fight to establish myself after such a man as Sir C Smith who had unlimited power, Comding the Troops in the West Indies &c &c, and some attempts have been made to encroach upon the C Engr’s inheritance without success. I have fought every step & yeilded nothing, thus I have firmly established my right to all the grass & all the grazing and care not for nobody. Still, it has kept me in constant excitement. Sir C Smith sold his stock of hay for 6 or 700£ on dit, this was owing to a long dry season. However, it put all hands from the top to the bottom staff – Commissary Genl, Storekeeper & Barrack master, Comd officers of Regt – on the alert to get a slice of the cake, but as yet I’m the best man & mean to be. It came to my ears that the BM had shewn some former correspondence on the subject in Col Diggins’ time to line officers & others insinuating his intention to make a claim, making me & my grass the conversation of the Garrison. I sent L Smith officially to him to desire he would make it immediately & I would meet it as promptly, or for ever be silent on the matter. If he again started the subject or made the official letters relating to it the gossip of the Regts, I would exert the power vested in me & bring him to book with the Board. This has effectively stopped these babblers, and now my boots being to fit & the duty clearly defined to your old veteran husband, I’ll ride, won’t I, the leading horse and be comdg Engr in truth. However quietly I may proceed to gain my point, persevere I repeat to myself often, & so it shall be. I am now making excellent hay and jockey’d the rogues that wished the Engr’s crop taken from him. It is to bad to write you such rubbish, but you will laugh and think of old squabbles of the like. A Mjr Hamilton and other persuaded the Gen, who by the bye is a gentlemanly, kind hearted old lady, that the grass was too long to exercise the troops. I knew what was coming – it was usual to cut it as one crop about December, thus they thought I was done. The Genl spoke to me, evidently predisposed to think I should make difficulties. To his astonishment I replied ‘certainly it must be cut’, & met his wishes in every way. The order was given that the troops shd furnish a party, two hours in the morning, the same time in the evening, so cut away they go, and I take the grass at no expence. Formerly Sir C Smith paid the men. All the time I am making a merit of having submitted so quietly. The rains have been more than usual & the growth so rapid that from the extent of ground it will be as high were they commenced as ever before they can mow the last of it, so it will end in my getting a second, thanks to the plotters, and free of expence, for I told the Genl I could not of course be called upon to pay a sixpence as it was ordered out of the usual season. My stack already looks respectable. And now, my dear potterers, you have sent your letters of the 15 May I presume, as not one of that date has reached me by the Seringapatam. The unfortunate Epaulettes also. Why, you country villagers, that ship is gone to the Havana and will not be here until Xmas. Your letter & Capt Tait’s will be rather old news. I am much pleased you like my friend Tait, he is an excellent person. Let me know how Augustus is getting on. If he is to be in lodgings in town, it is better if he reside with those who know something of him, altho I agree they are not exactly the set I should prefer. What is the arrangement with Mr Dickson? I am all in the dark. A name appears in your letter I never heard of. Fred must be landed ere now. My expences are more just at present, but I mean to live by my farm. I have not yet got to Shot Hall – it is painting inside. I wander thro the rooms and round the grounds & think how much you would enjoy yourselves, but the heat to a newcome irksome in the extreme. I will make the sketches you wish by the next mail. Dr & Mrs Whyte have been here & gone on to St Kits. They slept one night here at my quarters. They are sickly from Demerara fever. The paper hints that it is time to close although I have much to write. Adieu dear dear Kate. Regards to my Uncle & all at Catisfield & with love to all from your afft FE.

Regards to Miss P

The sailing of the Belvidera noted here was her last Atlantic crossing. She was used as a store ship in Portsmouth. 

The name Tylden must be a mistake. English was surely referring to Lieutenant Tinling, from whom he records receiving sheep in letter 84. 

‘In Col Diggins’ time’ refers to the former Barrack Master of letter 6.