Letter #85

Captain Martin was a member of a wealthy family of planters in Antigua. His father-in-law, Sir Reynold Abel Alleyne, was the head of a planter dynasty dating back to the first settlers in Barbados, and at that time speaker of the House of Assembly. 

‘Tasty’ was used where we would now say ‘tasteful’.

Barbados 24th Augst 1837

And now my dear Kate, what have I to scribble out of the usual routine that will be acceptable? The English packet day comes upon correspondents so rapidly and frequent that I appear to have just closed my dispatch when called upon to commence another. Fortunately those forwarded to Wickham are of the most agreeable description and a delightful recreation if the people would not interrupt me as they invariably make a point of doing when the mail is making up. The introduction being thus completed, now for a start to commence then. The Col, as I conclude you all term me in lieu of the Capt, is very well and rapidly furnishing, as we speak of a horse getting into condition, both in house and body. The buttons & buttonholes are now on the full pay establish and on constant duty, for I am nearly as stout as ever, notwithstanding the exercise I take riding and working in the garden. Neither amount to very laborious efforts, the excessive heat soon reminds one to be sparing. Still, I do a good deal, am up early with billhook in hand cutting away from 6 to 8, feeding stock, looking at my Nags, Pigs &c until 8 when away to my looking glass which I have bought on a spec in case you shd come out, shave & then into my glorious bath, which you must explain to Capt Tait has been altered in consequence of the bottom marble slabs being the property of Sir Charles Smith. They were sold and taking these up destroyed the whole concern of hot and cold dipping, which in a magic mood I had converted into one large plunging bath something more than 4 ft 6 deep and 7 or 8 long, do broad.  I have expended rather too much of my paper in this description, but forgive me dear Kit for it is such an exquisite luxury that even in this dog day sort of weather the very writing on the subject cools me. Shot Hall, or the Palace you all joke me about, begins to look furnish a little more than it when I last wrote, and the General, who has overcome all restraint and has paid me frequent visits of late, exclaimed at the tasty appearance of the lower part of the house. In my predecessor’s time, every door &c was shut, as from their long residence in this climate they always complained feeling chilly. Doors & windows all open now. Nothing is tolerated by your lord and master now but marble and immitation marble on the same level with the large room already described in a former letter. Connected with it by a vestibule, marbled again, and a large hall, immitation again, is a fine room made use of as a bed room before I took possession by a sort of a companion, a rum one, of Lady Smith’s. This room with the rest of the Palace has been painted. I have thrown open the folding doors and converted it into a working, reading and writing – what shall I call it? – a Studio, will that do? A Museum would be nearer the mark, for I have decorated with all that you would abuse as rubish. Bows, Arrows, poisoned and others, cover the walls. Birds, Tiger, monkey &c &c skins in every corner displayed to the best of my taste, in fact such a variation that I cannot enumerate all the specimens of putrefaction from Antigua, other curiosities from Jamaica & so on. Are you tired my dear Kate? – we will soon change the subject. Off my studio is a new constructed octagon building, marbled again, of prety dimensions intended as a dairy or pantry. This I have commenced upon, having procured thro my friend Mr McCleary a loan during my sojourn here, a handsome, marble again, which I have put into the centre, intending to place a powerful shower bath over it and ornament the interior of the building as a conservatory. You will laugh but this serves to amuse.

My remark as to interruption has come to pass and visitors without end have been to do the civil thing in addition to clerks. I have in former letters often alluded to Capt Martin, a son of Sir Byham Martin. He has been sitting here for two hours, very pleasant, but I wished with his wife whom he has lately been buckled to, a daughter of Sir Renard or Leonard Alleyne, a proprietor here. Martin is on the Quarter Master General’s Staff. Next came – but how it rains and sea roars, I hope we are not about to experience another Hurricane – ‘Shut up, Phillip, run, man, take care of my new swing Glass for it cost me 25 dolars at 4s 4d each. Put the crockery in the most secure place’ – but next came Capt Arthur Trollope & Mr Connor, two merry fellows as a West India hot day will permit. Next came Mr Moore, the Smith, horse doctor & goat do, mine having been indisposed. He bid at Mr Cunningham’s Auction for the few articles I nodded to. I began to think my letter was never going to be continued, however, as Augustus writes, says I ‘Mr Moore, how high those white handled knives sold, I wanted some.’ ‘I have a lot Black which came me from the Sovereign Transport when the officers broke up their mess, bought without seeing them,’ says he. ‘I’ve a lot bought at Sir Charles’s sale, white, & as yours have forks & mine none, I don’t mind changing some of my wife’s.’ ‘Agreeable, done,’ says I, ‘you shall have 22 large & small carving in the Bargain, a beauty to cut, for a dozen large & ½ dozen small white.’ ‘Well,’ say he, ‘them black will suit me for every day best,’ so the exchange took place. How fortunate it was you did not succeed in sending my famed Epaulettes by the Sovereign – she got on shore & they might have been lost. Certainly my dear touching wife, I never did more than laugh and joke respecting the non arrival of the said Epaulettes, for in truth I never felt vexed or hardly thought on the subject. Your letter 29th June is now in my hand and the following sweet extract of thorns in my eye: ‘All this you will learn after I have had my full share of abuse for want of thought, neglect and all sorts of Epithets, and every letter that comes till you get them will annoy me more and more.’ I cannot say more than that you are a very funny fellow. I did not owe Lloyd one shilling – Fred may. On the 21st of Feby or Jan 7 34 or Feb, I paid myself to Mr Something Faulkner for James Lloyd No 25 Coventry St 3£ 7 6 for 2 pr of boots with boxes in the heels & one pr of spurs, the receipt is now laying before me, so I am not to be so done, let him know, it must be Fred. Sir Samford Wittingham I reported to you is getting quite fond and very attentive – trust he won’t turn troublesome – dined there last Saturday & next Saturday the day after tomorrow dine with the Govr to meet him. Tomorrow dine at the Store Keeper’s, his first effort to the C R Engr. He has an ugly little flirting wife who patronises me, says I have such winning ways. I have only dined at Mess twice this month but occasionally chez moi. The sun is setting so by by for today. 25th: Well, I had just closed when Col Tyler rode up, ‘English, come on, dine with me, where do you dine? Come, man, come, Capt King, DA Adjt Genl has promised such a piece of mutton and the wine all ready in ice.’ ‘I’m writing to my wife & intended to have my soup at home, but am just closing for this day & will order my horse.’ This was ½ past six – rode & dined with him & home early to bed, heavy rain & sky looking queerish. On our way to Tyler’s overtook Col & Mrs Senior 65th – they dine at Mr Eaton’s today and I have just ordered a posie of Roses to be sent to Madame S and a bunch of cabbages & carrots to the latter little affair. This morning, 25th, a gale commenced and the Flamer steamer had scarcely anchored when both her and the Carron put to sea, the packet having shewn the example, thus no mail will be made up today. I shall therefore keep this open until the vessel returns. The wind & sea has been for the last 4 or 5 hours very high – one vessel I observed with a signal of distress, probably sprung a leak. All the others as yet ride the gale, or I may term it a hurricane’s infant, for it is unlike an honest English gale of wind that attacks you fairly. Here the wind takes unfair advantage and puffs away from all sides at once. On the 2d inst the Town and shipping suffered dreadfully – about 32 vessels driven on shore or sunk, a fire in town having the evening before commenced the mischief. The loss is to a great amount we are informed. Send me lots of garden seeds. Tell the chicks that I have butter every morning from my farm made in a bottle. The gale moderates. The shop I procured my silk neckband at was W H Abbott & Co, 37 Cornhill, two doors east of Birchin Lane & I gave 14s 6 making &c for two but they would have made 4 at the same time. I bought 1 Doz pr long Calico Drawers, 3 shil a pr, the last 6 are now in wear & a great comfort they have been. If Gusto has time, tell him to get me some and send them after the 30th of Sept, unless sent by packet which is generally a secure mode. Shall close until tomorrow.

Tomorrow 26th Augst: The new shirts are a right good fit, the most comfortable I have had for many a day, you aver. Steamer returned & Packet returning, will sail today at 2 oclock, quarantine still kept up. Will write my good friend Tait by next Packet. Sir Sam Ford ill, cannot dine at the Govr’s today, I just learn from Lt Col Falls. Am much pleased with dear Gusto’s letters & have actually laughed outright at his adventures. Lots of interuptors this morning. Dr Gill our pastor, Capt A Trollope 36th. Young knocks to say adieu, leaving the Army & going home by the Packet. Am happy to learn that Annie’s eye is better, poor dear pet. I will hunt her and skylark round the garden when I come home. Dinner party yesterday stupid in the extreme & vulgar beyond description, but Madame is a vulgar little person. You are mistaken as to the society at Demerara quite. Miss Wilday is not in England, she is a very amiable nice person, you must have misinformed, wants cash it’s true, but in other respects would make a good wife. I know nothing yet of Ford’s going home. Have you refined excellent Tait? Remember me to him, Col Read, Mrs Col Gradon & all old friends, the Gardiners, God bless them, & to Sir Moses Hawker. Is Gusto to go into Mr Dickson’s office eventually? – that is what I want to know. Dear old Fred & his flowers, we may meet over our port yet. The comd is important here, the most so of any, but what is it when separated from all that is dear to me? Since 1st Jany 37 I have drawn 240£, but the most of this will return to hand. Love to Mary OB & regards to Uncle H &c. Kiss the dear girls for me & pinch Miss P. Believe my dear Kate, yours Fred E.