Some words unfamiliar to twenty-first century readers

Adirection (letter 112) ‘I have the address by one of the clerks from Pall Mall office who took the trouble to complete the adirection’: not traced.

Attached – ‘your attached Fred’ sounds strange to twenty-first century ears, but I am indebted to Claire Harman, who quotes no less an authority than the dying Charlotte Brontë (1855), referring to her own husband in a letter: ‘I have a good, kind, attached husband, and every day makes my own attachment stronger.’ The OED weighs in with this definition: ‘Joined by taste, predilection, affection, or sympathy; partial, fond, affectionate, devoted.’ Surely FE qualifies for all these epithets.

Buckeen (letter 117) ‘If Fred is wedded to Miss Keating, it is a consolation to reflect that the match is preferable a thousand times to an Irish wife with small patrimony & a hoste of buckeen relations.’ ‘A young man belonging to the “second-rate gentry” of Ireland, or a younger son of the poorer aristocracy, having no profession, and aping the habits of the wealthier classes.’ [OED] In letter 71 FE jokingly calls himself a buckeen.

Buckra (letter 83) a word used by black people to indicate a white person.

Cad (letter 77)   ‘an assistant or confederate of a lower grade’ [OED]

Camphire (letter 105) is an old spelling of ‘camphor’

Car (letter 1) ‘A wheeled, usually horse-drawn conveyance; a carriage, cart, or wagon.’ [OED]

Carfums or Cuffums (letter 87) ‘cuffum’ is a local name for the tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) a large freshwater fish found in tropical and sub-tropical regions on both sides of the Atlantic.

Coonancy (letter 44) not traced – it may be a private joke.

Cosey (letter 111) is not recorded in OED as a noun at this time, and never in this sense, that is, a letter.

Creole was used at that time to describe a person born free in the West Indies of non-native or mixed parentage of any race.

Cucarscum (letter 105) doubtful reading ‘red pepper with soap beads & vegetable coral or cucarscum beads, all from my garden or grounds’ not traced.

Dudeen (‘write on until all the household pens become dudeens’, letter 112) is an Irish word meaning a clay tobacco pipe. The OED’s earliest citation is dated 1825, just before FE’s tour in Ireland.

Humbug, both as noun and verb, is a favourite word indicating a tease, hoax or deception. It is no longer used as a verb, but there is evidence that it was common in FE’s day. Wellington is quoted as saying to the Duke of Richmond on the eve of Quatre Bras: ‘Napoleon has humbugged me, by G–! He has gained twenty-four hours’ march on me.’ [Quoted in Earl of Malmesbury: A Series of Letters, vol 2 (1870) pp 445-6; cited in Andrew Roberts: Napoleon and Wellington, 2001.]

Imboarded (letter 84) enclosed with planks [OED gives as synonym ‘implanked’]

Johny or Johnny (letter 99) a Whig or Liberal politician, from Lord John Russell, party leader from 1834.

Peg-gall (letter 105) OED prefers ‘pegall’, a Caribbean word for a covered basketwork container.

Pilgarlick (letter 33) is a bald-headed person, hence one to be pitied.

Praedials (letter 106) OED prefers ‘predial’, were the slaves working on plantations, as opposed to domestic slaves.

Pying (letter 31) ‘pying your horse’ OED has no definition to fit.

Reefer (letter 91) midshipman (FE’s use of the word antedates OED’s citation.)

Sey (letter 97) ‘sey looking lass’ not traced

Statues (letter 108) is a dubious reading.

Tasty (letters 85, 93, 101, 105) was then used where we would say ‘tasteful’ [OED]

Transportation is a term first used by FE in letter 8 and frequently repeated to refer to his tour of duty in the West Indies. Transportation of criminals to Australia was a common sentence in the British courts at this time, and remained so until it was abolished in 1868.

Understrapper (letter 80) is an underling [OED’s most recent citation is dated 1894]

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