In the first decade of Victoria’s reign, the British regarded India as an exotic land of limitless opportunity, full of potential for romance and adventure. Taking up a Commission as subaltern with the ‘Honourable East India Company’ was a respectable and exciting choice for upper and middle class gentlemen, who could live a little dangerously but in a manner reflecting their status in society.
So in August 1840 when Samuel Waller travelled from Cuckfield to Portsmouth and boarded the Madras-bound ‘True Briton’ as a ‘John Company’ cadet, his was a popular choice amongst sons of the ‘best and wealthiest families’(1) in England. From twenty year old Samuel’s perspective, army life was a thrilling prospect, especially when compared to the ‘dreary’ legal career he expected to follow.
He kept the journal to honour a promise made to his mother, Bridget Waller; but the task also served to pass many tedious hours on board. Waller notes the diverse pursuits followed by other passengers including: boxing, broadsword exercise, cards, draughts, chess, reading and sleeping. By immersing himself in this pursuit, Samuel generally resisted diversions of the kind to which some other male passengers typically resorted. The more dissolute were reduced to gambling, frequent excessive drinking, or slaughtering unfortunate wildlife that strayed within shooting distance. Albatrosses, Cape pigeons, sharks, dolphins etc, indeed any passing sentient wild creature was fair game for an armed and bored cadet.
Young Waller took his recording role seriously and seems to have worked at it enthusiastically; he provides his intended readers (family and close friends only, as he thought), with a careful and intriguing insight into everyday life during the four month long sea-journey. As the vessel lurched fitfully along over 13,280 kilometres (8,251 miles) from Portsmouth to Madras through uncertain weather conditions, he documented a remarkable range of emotions and novel experiences. Frustration, fear, love, disgust, delight, and boredom are all evident in this Journal; and he was often clearly awe-stricken by the spectacularly beautiful panoramic views surrounding him.
Sea travel at this time was extremely hazardous, uncomfortable and noisy, as the Journal often reminds us. A deafening clamour generated by stormy weather, a cacophony from the livestock, together with the constant creaking and groaning of the ship’s motion, regularly assaulted travellers’ ears.
Smells were of course among the most notable features of life on board; although Samuel Waller conspicuously avoids drawing any attention to it, a combination of human and animal excrement would certainly have pervaded many parts of vessel; whiff of foul water slopping around the bottom of the ship, odour of cow, sheep, pig, goat, duck, hen and human were all unrelieved by any ventilation system.
Night time brought a different hardship, as cockroaches crawled around and crept into sleepers’ open mouths or ‘nibbled their finger and toe nails’.
More favourable by the standard of the times were food and eating conditions. In an East Indiaman, proper formalities were closely observed and meal service was as good as it could be, considering the serving facilities available and the small farmyard the vessel carried. In terms of cuisine quality, Samuel Waller strongly criticises the ‘tough fowls, ‘stinking mutton’, ‘curry as tough as rope yarn,’ and ‘filthy rice’ but notes ‘The vegetables are very good….’, the plum pudding is ‘capital’ and ‘the pastry’….’ is without exception the best I have ever ate’.
Both crew and passengers on board the ‘True Briton’ appreciated the enormous part music and dance played in their lives. A fiddle signalled the time for diverse events:- getting up, mealtimes and preparing for social interaction; dancing quadrilles to the melody of a fiddle, fife and tambourine was almost a daily event for passengers; the sailors danced expertly to reels for the delight of onlookers and the professional pride among participants.
Samuel Waller found sailors’ rituals both intriguing and moving; he struggled stoically but unsuccessfully to keep items of food on his plate as the ship jerked about during stormy weather; he endured severe bouts of sea sickness which he partially relieved by immersing himself in writing a ship’s magazine, ‘The True Briton weekly Advertiser’ for his fellow passengers’ amusement; he exhorted other cadets to rehearse and perform a play, Sheridan’s ‘St Patrick’s Day or The Scheming Lieutenant’, which he both directed and acted in; he willingly shared in drunken birthday celebrations with his peers; and, as soon to become clear in letters home, he was emotionally involved with an attractive seventeen year old female passenger, ‘Miss Young’; later on shore he discovered she considered the encounter to be only a mild flirtation. At first he was shattered by the news before becoming rather bitter that he had swapped regiments in order to maintain their relationship.
Subaltern Waller died on October 2nd 1841 in Secunderabad,(2) central India where he served his final months as Ensign in the 1st Madras European Regiment, without once being called into military action. At just 21 years he contracted a bacterial infection and died of a burst abscess that had slowly developed in his liver. In keeping with tradition at the time, a couple of his bones were sent home and buried within the family plot in Cuckfield churchyard.
His short story may be one of tragic, unfulfilled promise, yet the ephemera survives. His journal, letters and handwritten magazine, sent to his mother in Cuckfield, vividly reveal a capricious, enthusiastic, life-affirming personality with a keen sense of humour and fun.
It is easy to warm to him; such youthful exuberance remains fresh and immediate even one hundred and eighty years on.
At 10 a.m. came on board the True Briton(3) with my father, my Uncles Jas: & Tom, Fred & young Cherry, my Uncle John & Mr Graves were too unwell to accompany us. After they left the Ship I watched the boat until it reached the shore, saw them land and go through the gate in the Fortification, went below and altered the arrangement of my cabin. While thus engaged, the transport ship, which was at anchor not far off, passed in full sail; the soldiers gave three cheers, which were answered by the men of our ship. At half after three the Captain and his wife came on board, and at 4 we sat down to dinner to the number of 36. Our names had been written on a slip of paper and placed opposite the chairs we are to occupy during the voyage. This is done to prevent confusion attendant upon everyone scrambling to obtain a seat beside a lady. I found myself between Miss Tompkyns on my left and a Cadet named Brooking on my right with my back to the cuddy door, which I shall find very pleasant in warmer latitudes. As soon as we sat down the anchor was weighed to the tune of Rosie O'Moore and in about two hours we were fairly under sail. After dinner walked on the poop and distinctly saw Chanctonbury Ring(4) as we got out to sea; hired a boy as my servant, Dan by name, and brother to the steward. As soon as we rounded the Isle of Wight and got into the open channel I with many others became sick. Went below and turned in as soon as possible, but owing to beating against a contrary wind and that a smart one, I didn‘t make out much. I found the motion of the cot very disagreeable but I hope soon to get used to it.
Wednesday 26th. August
Was awakened many times during the night by the Boatswain's piping "All hands to bout Ship”(5); the noise attendant upon this execrable order is perfectly dreadful. Got up when the first fiddle played and was very sick. Lay down again, then tried to dress but found it perfectly impossible to do anything but to feel miserable. Towards the middle of the day, crawled on deck and was very sick again; found many more in my plight. I hear all the Ladies are suffering with the exception of 1 or 2. Took nothing but a little brandy & a biscuit all day. Towards evening began a letter to my mother, which made me very homesick; never felt so wretched before; went to bed about 9 and passed a tolerable night.
Thursday 27th August 1840
Felt better this morning but still unwell, a foggy morning and a calm sea. Got up and wrote again to my mother. Miserable. Breakfasted in the cuddy and walked on deck. Found Mr. Morris, the Clergyman, a very good fellow. Spent part of the morning below arranging my books. Dined in the cuddy and then in the evening danced the quadrille to the melody of the fiddle and fife and a tambourine. Made no way all day. Couldn‘t see land though close in shore, perhaps this was the most miserable day of my life. Took some grog, wine and water and went to bed.
Friday 28th August
Got up at half after six and wrote again to my mother; saw lots of porpoises this morning. After dinner, the weather cleared up and the coast of Devon from Torbay to the Start Point(6) discovered itself; the coast is very bold and fertile and the scenery the most beautiful I have ever witnessed. Here the pilot the last but sad link between dear England and the outward bound hoisted a whiff (7) as a signal for a boat to take him ashore. I never felt so thoroughly wretched as now. A boat soon came alongside from one of the numerous fishing craft in the bay. A bargain was struck; I wrote a last line to my mother. The letter bag was sewn up by the sail maker, the pilot shook hands with the Captain and Chief Officers, turned round to the passengers on the poop and wishing us a safe and speedy voyage went down the side of the vessel into the boat and dropped astern. What would I have not given to have gone with him? How bitter my feelings at having left home! I wept; and many a one‘s heart just then was as full and sorrowful as mine. More music, a strong glass of grog(8) to ‘drown dull care’ and turned in.
Saturday 29th August
Nearly a calm all day. During the morning The Start and a line of coast to the East of it was very faintly discernible and towards evening England altogether disappeared, perhaps never to be seen again. Very hot all day, the awning spread over the poop and quarterdeck. Read a little during the morning; in the evening a quadrille. (9)
The allowance of fresh water is a pint and a half per diem, though I never get more than a pint. The water is very bad and filled with all kinds of filth; it imparts a particularly disagreeable taste in the tea and coffee.
Sunday 30th August Latitude 49° 00’ north Longitude 6° 38’ west.
The breeze freshened this morning and we sailed before it at the rate of 9 1/2 knots(10) all day. At four bells, ten a.m., a full dress parade of the detachment; at 5 bells, half after 10, prayers read in the cuddy, by Mr. Morris, the doctor officiating as clerk, which were attended by the passengers and Chief Officers. It is usual to have them read on the quarterdeck in fine weather for the benefit of the Ship‘s Company. Sundays and Thursdays are Champagne days, the chief feature in the dinner on Sunday is invariably roast turkey and capital plum puddings. After dinner the sea rose a good deal and the ship lurched very much. In the evening prayers and a sermon in the cuddy. When I went below, I was very sick; my boy Dan being in the same plight I had to shift him myself which didn‘t in any wise add to my comfort. From this morning we are to have hot rolls and loaves for breakfast during the voyage. I miss the butter very much, that on the table being of so rancid & liquid a nature as to prevent my even tasting it.
Monday 31st August Latitude 42° 39’ Longitude 12° 57’
Very rough all night; those who have standing bed places complained of having had no sleep. I find great benefit in having a swinging cot. Exceedingly rough & a stiff breeze all the morning; began to south a little; felt qualmish & kept on Deck; in consequence of this breeze we shall entirely avoid the Bay of Biscay. We are now between 300 and 400 miles off Lands End, west by south.
Tuesday 1st September Latitude 42° 39’ Longitude 12° 57’
Sea not quite so rough, very qualmish all morning; got better after dinner. About 12 a strange sail discovered six or seven miles ahead, presently found to be The Windsor for Calcutta. The Windsor is an exact model of the True Briton and sailed 12 hours before us from Spithead. Great jealousy exists as to which is the best sailer of the two vessels; crowded all sail and so did she. By nightfall we were within four miles of her. Great excitement prevails as to the result of this of the chase. Hitherto we have beaten hand over hand every vessel bearing our course. We are now off the coast of Spain and have quite cleared the Bay. Have given up the practice of taking grog for lunch and supper; grog is any spirit or wine diluted with water. At present I am unable to read or write or follow any useful employment. Even this Journal I write at intervals in a Memorandum Book. The fellows at our end of the table are pleased to be facetious in the matter of Miss Tompkyns and myself; this happens merely from us sitting next to each other at dinner. It affords them a fund of amusement and I bear it with good humour. I find great benefit from having a whole cabin, I am very thankful to my father for his indulgence in this respect. I have diligently applied myself for the last day or two to the utter expulsion of all thoughts about home and find myself much better therefrom.
Wednesday 2nd September Latitude 41° 7’ Longitude 30° 17’
Spent the night in delicious dreams of home. A beautiful morning but a dead calm; gained upon The Windsor considerably during the night; signalised all the morning. Read a good deal before dinner and employed myself in my Cabin for the first time. A merry country dance this evening which was broken off by the call of “Pipe All Hands on Deck” and before the ladies could get down to the quarterdeck a smart squall of wind and heavy shower of rain had overtaken us. This came on without the slightest notice and was as sudden as unpleasant. We are now off the coast of Portugal though not within sight of it. A change in the temperature is very perceptible.
Thursday 3rd September Latitude 38° 46’ Longitude 14°17’
The pillows of my cot are so hard that my ears have become painfully sore. I can’t sleep for any length of time together. A stiff breeze this morning, The Windsor astern, signalised; the vessel lurches, rolls confoundedly; plenty of fun at dinner. At 12 a.m. abreast of Lisbon.
Friday 4th September Latitude 36° 16’ Longitude 16° 33’
Running all day before a steady breeze; expect to be in sight of the Madeiras tomorrow. The Windsor far astern we have fairly beaten her; dancing this evening, the air very soft and pleasant.
Saturday 5th September Latitude 33° 29’ Longitude 17° 8’
At 1/2 after 11 a.m. Madeira(11) reported in sight & was soon distinctly visible to all the Ship‘s company.
After dinner we were within about 7 miles off the West coast which is composed of the most stupendous mountains & cliffs rising perpendicularly from the Sea, some to the height of 4,000 ft.; it was tantalising enough to be so near to the Island which boasts of the most delightful climate in the whole world, without having the power to go ashore, the more so as the inhabitants are engaged in harvesting the grapes, oranges and other fruits for which the islands are celebrated. Towards evening, land gradually faded from our view and though the site of land created many a pang yet we wisely danced away our care, went to bed as happy as usual. This day was the most delicious I have ever passed, the softness of the climate is beyond any description, the sun (not too hot, and tempered by the most delightful zephyrs), prevails in these latitudes.
Sunday 6th September Latitude 31° 28’ Longitude 18° 15’
The weather being heavy, prayers this morning in the cuddy. After service, Sergeant Young's child was christened, Miss Retalic being Godmother and the doctor and Butler being godfathers. The names were Edwin Briton. I saw for the first time a shoal of small flying fish, a turtle also floated past the ship. Prayers again this evening; a very smart breeze right aft to the tune of 10 knots an hour(12).
Monday 7th September Latitude 28° 9' Longitude 19° 25’
Annoyed by light, baffling winds all the morning; these are supposed to precede the trade winds; very hot all day. Was excessively sick about the middle of the day. I have never been entirely free from headache since I came on board. I attribute it partly to seasickness and I expect to suffer from it more or less all the voyage.
Tuesday 8th September Latitude 35° 39’ Longitude 30° 14’
We are now fairly in the trade wind; a beautiful breeze carries us along at the rate of 8 to 10 knots.(13) Exceedingly hot, so much so that I was obliged to get my white clothing out of the hold; dancing this evening.
Wednesday 9th September Latitude 22° 0’ Longitude 20° 45’
The trades have taken us from 8 to 11 all day. The heat excessive; it will perhaps be hardly believed that while sitting quite still in my cabin with only my trousers on, the perspiration trickles down in large drops.
Thursday 10th September Latitude 18° 13’ Longitude 22° 50’
Having found the heat and noise of the cuddy always increased my headache, I for the first time dined in my cabin. The flying fish(14) are becoming very numerous.
The time, just six o’clock and hardly any twilight follows; indeed at half past six it is quite dark. At present we have a splendid moon; I wish I had the power to describe the extreme loveliness of the tropical evening; how the deep blue wave, so beautifully crested with the whitest spray, glitters and sparkles in the wanton moonbeam, and that I could paint the soft and azure heaven and the quiet and the stillness of the night relieved only by the splashing of the water under the vessel’s boughs, which now increases and anon entirely dies away. To me it is more like a dream than veritable reality. The ladies do not retire until 10 o’clock tho’ a heavy dew falls much before that hour. The lights are put out precisely at 5 bells, half after ten, under the superintendence of the officer of the watch. The difference in the time of these latitudes and that of England is about 2 and a half hours.
Friday 11th September Latitude 15° 8’ Longitude 20° 40’
The breeze not quite so strong this morning. About half past two as I was reading in the Mizen Top my attention was arrested by the particularly long and loud whistle of the bosun; on looking about me a tremendous cloud seemed to be pursuing us with incredible rapidity; before all hands were on deck, the squall had overtaken us.
The ship laboured exceedingly, her lee gunwale(15) being frequently under water. We were carrying a heavy press of sail and all hands including soldiers, passengers, servants and every available person were instantly at their places and by their great exertions saved the masts which were in the greatest danger of going by the board. The shouting of the officers, the halloing of the men, the heaving and pitching of the vessel, the roaring of the wind, the torrents of rain, the dashing of the waves, the bending of the masts, and the fear depicted more or less on the countenance of all, displayed the most extraordinary, most awful as well as the most magnificent scene that can be well conceived. The Captain and his Officers behaved admirably; luckily no accident occurred, but many a narrow escape was afterwards narrated. It happened to be the soldiers washing day and the ropes forward were entirely covered with clothes, the greater part of which were washed overboard. By six o'clock the wind had lulled and order soon took possession of the ship. A few sails were again set, the moon rose in unequalled splendour and the most beautiful evening followed this untoward gale. When the squall came on we were between the Cape de Verd Islands and the coast of Africa.
Saturday 12th September Latitude 13° 39’ Longitude 20° 51’
A dead calm; the weather inclined to be squally all day; a sail discovered about 7 miles to the leeward, supposed to be The Windsor; the heat so dreadfully oppressive as to prevent one doing anything at all. Mr Morris the civilian said the heat we have experienced today will never be equalled in India, except in the monsoon.
Sunday 13th September Latitude 12° 54’ Longitude 20° 52’
Still becalmed; weather very lowering; prayers in the cuddy(17) as usual. I dined in the cuddy today not finding my head relieved by absenting myself from it. The Windsor in sight; the heat excessive.
Monday 14th September Latitude 12°15’ Longitude 20° 44’
A dead calm, the sun very fierce; The Windsor 5 miles to leeward. After dinner the Captain allowed the boats to be lowered and we rowed to within a couple of miles to The Windsor. I never enjoyed anything more half so much. The only disappointment was in not being able to reach The Windsor. Subscribed three shirts towards renovating the wardrobes of those unfortunates whose clothes were washed away during the squall. Bye the bye a pair of trousers of mine went by the board.
Tuesday 15th September Latitude 11° 49’ Longitude 20° 59’
Six o’clock a.m. “by Jove the main two gal masts have gone” shouted a voice hard to my cabin door; I immediately scrambled out of my cot. The ship gave a tremendous lurch which was loudly responded to by the crockery in the Steward’s pantry. I pulled on my trousers and rough coat and made my way as best I could towards the cuddy. The hatches were all down, the steerage nearly dark, the passengers hurrying from their cabins towards the cuddy stairs; the cries of “there goes the mizzen”, “by God
they’re all three gone” occasioned a scene of confusion more easily to be conceived than described. By the time I got on deck everything was comparatively quiet. The Captain and Chief Officers, only half dressed and drenched to the skin by the rain which fell in torrents, were standing on the poop. The wind and waves roared in an awful manner but the vessel didn‘t labour much for her fore royal mast; main and mizen top gallant masts were gone, the top sails doubled reefed and the main sail furled. The decks were strewed with broken cordage, riven sails and other gear, the broken masts were hanging and flapping in the rigging and we presented the appearance of a wreck.
The men had been ordered to the forecastle, no man was allowed to go aloft, and the elements obtained uncontrolled dominion over the ship. We had been overtaken by a squall not perhaps so furious as that of a day or two since but so sudden that, almost before the hands could be turned up, the damage I have mentioned had occurred. Only a moment before it had come on, the Officer of the Watch was observing the peculiar calmness of the sea and the unclouded state of the sky, little thinking how soon the one was to rage and the other to be overcast. As soon as the bustle and excitement had to some degree subsided, The Windsor was discovered about 2 miles astern and strange to relate had not suffered at all. In about 2 hours the fury of the gale had abated and the men were turned up to clear the wreck. The Windsor bore down upon us and when within about a couple of pistol shots offered assistance. As no boat could live at this time she shot ahead and hove to, promising to send a boat as soon as possible. This was a very fine sight. The passengers’ faces could be distinguished and I have no doubt the greatest excitement prevailed on board. The ladies, some on deck and others from the starboard ports, displayed great interest in our deplorable situation. She has been cruising about us all day and, should we not part company with her during the night, expect a boat tomorrow. By 8 o‘clock this evening spars were hoisted on the fore and main masts and we hope to get on tomorrow. At one time a man was reported to have gone over with the main to ‘gal’ yard; it proved however that he was on the yard at the time it went but somehow or other let himself down on a boon and saved himself. I can never forget the thrill of horror the report caused me. I couldn‘t have supposed that, had half a dozen men gone over, I could have experienced so acute a feeling; there was many a stouter heart than mine that was equally affected. The Ladies all through the gale behaved right gallantly. By 2 o‘clock p.m. the sea had settled down to a dead calm. Several sharks followed in the ships wake this afternoon but we were not fortunate enough to catch one. 10 o‘clock p.m. they are hauling up the mizen spar.
Wednesday 16th September Latitude 11° 13’ Longitude 21° 10’
Parted company with The Windsor during the night, extremely squally and wet all the morning but without wind; tropical rain is very different from the heaviest I have seen in England. Towards evening the wind freshened and the vessel pitched confoundedly. Though we have got our spars up,(16) we are not able to make much sail. We are getting gradually out of the confusion occasioned by yesterday's disasters.
Thursday 17th September Latitude 10° 32’ Longitude 22° 20’
A beautiful morning; a steady but a contrary wind, the vessel pitched excessively, very inclined to be sick before dinner. A good deal of squally rain this afternoon. Danced this evening; hands busy in making main mast.
Friday 18th September Latitude 9° 30’ Longitude 80° 48’
Very squally all the morning, main to gal mast to be ready by tomorrow. A few days ago Captain Smith and Reid proposed the publication of a newspaper and wished me to become the Editor. I agreed to do so according to the best of my ability, Saturday being the day of publication and The True Briton Weekly Advertizer the name of this embryo journal.
I have been the greater part of the morning in composing the leading or inauguration article and in writing out various communications which cover the space of six or seven foolscap pages. I have just tied them up with “a piece of blue ribbon”, the gift of Miss Tompkyns. If the thing succeeds it will be a source of great amusement; and as for the trouble of arranging and transcribing the miscellaneous matter which will be contributed, I shall rather like it than otherwise; my hands will be a good deal employed. The first number will be placed in the Captain‘s plate tomorrow morning at breakfast.
Saturday 19th September Latitude 8° 5’ Longitude 18° 3’
A very beautiful morning; about 12 o‘clock a squall came on and the rain fell in torrents, breeze right aft; standing on our course, all hands employed fixing the main to ‘gal’ mast. The journal has succeeded much beyond my expectation. The ladies were pleased to commend the leading article etc. etc., the Captain to propose the editor’s health and success to his paper and the editor to make a fool of himself in returning thanks; so I suppose the affair is likely to answer well.
Sunday 20th September Latitude 4° 55’ Longitude 17° 50’
A very stiff breeze; prayers in the cuddy. It is a little odd and very unfortunate that out of so much fine weather as we have had, not one Sunday should have happened to be fine enough for service on deck; towards evening squally, we expect to cross the line about Tuesday.
Monday 21st September Latitude 4° 5’ Longitude 30°32’
A heavy squall in the night, but being all snug we suffered no harm. A fine wind, but one that obliges us to go a deal out of our course. The Captain rather thinks it will turn out to be the Trade wind, though the vessel strained very much, her lee/starboard/ ports being nearly under water; we had some capital country dances on the quarter deck. Mrs Cousitt dances admirably and promotes it every evening, it being the only exercise the ladies can obtain. There are several nice girls on board: Miss Young very, very sweet girl and Miss McDonald perhaps more pretty than witty.
Tuesday 22nd September Latitude 3° 9’ Longitude 70° 20’
The breeze proves to be really the South East Trade which will take us nearly to the coast of Brazil in about a fortnight. My cabin being on the leeside, the position of the vessel will be very bad for me as we shall be close hauled all this wind. After dinner fell in with the John Knox, a small vessel homeward bound from the Cape. She passed close on our stern; we hailed each other and she promised to report us. We were both carrying too much sail to heave too to send letters.
Wednesday 23rd September Latitude 1° 27’ Longitude 19° 20’
Fell in with a British Man of War early this morning; in answer to our ensign, she hoisted a white whiff to signify that someone of distinction was on board. A good deal employed in making arrangements for the paper. In the evening a shout from the forecastle proclaimed ‘boat ahead’. “Get a rope ready for the boat” answered the Officer of the Watch. “Aye, aye sir”. The sea was running very high and the wind fresh, but the ladies went instantly on the poop, this being the beginning of the ceremony of Crossing the Line. “Ship Ahoy! What ship’s that?” sung out Neptune. “True Briton” shouted the Officer. “Ah! how is Captain Cousitt? I hope he is quite well.” “All well”. “Have you seen anything of The Windsor?” “Yes, left her far behind”. “I‘ll send my Ambassador. Have you any of my children (meaning anyone who had never passed) on board?” “Yes plenty” “Ha Ha Ha”. This happened between a sailor on the forecastle and the Officer of the Watch on the poop. They used trumpets and the effect was very startling. As soon as his Excellency, who was grotesquely dressed in rope yarn etc came on board; he appeared on the poop, the Captain being ready to receive him after a great deal of ceremony he informed the Captain that next morning “his Majesty” would come on board in all state & that all persons were to hold themselves in readiness to be presented. He then took leave in due form, and in a short time Neptune & his crew dropped astern in his flaming boat (a tar barrel on fire) which was soon out, the sea being too rough to allow it to live.
Thursday 24th September Latitude 0° 51’ South Longitude 20° 25’
A very beautiful morning; crossed the line about 3 o’clock this morning; all hands ready for Neptune; at 10 a.m. “Ship ahead”, and after a great deal of shouting from the Officers of the Watch and a great deal of bustle forward, “Rule Britannia” struck up.
A tarpaulin was hauled from across the main deck and Neptune, Amphitrite and their blooming, little girl (my boy Dan), seated under a canopy formed by stanchions covered with a flag and placed on a gun carriage, were drawn along the quarter deck surrounded by numerous attendants in proper costume to the cuddy awning where all the passengers, Ships Officers, etc. were assembled.(18) The music ceased and Neptune, his Royal spouse (a rawboned high cheeked disagreeable looking sailor decorated with a ladies dressing gown and an exceedingly elegant blue silk bonnet, the gift of Miss Young and rejoicing in a very black eye, a gift of His Majesty), and their child alighted from their car. Neptune, as fine and handsome a man as eyes ever beheld and whose grotesque dress of rope yarn in no wise detracted from his manly beauty, bowed to the Captain who immediately stepped forward and shook hands with him. A variety of questions followed and were answered by the Captain. A good deal of mirth was created in consequence of Mrs. Neptune’s black eye, into the circumstances attending which her spouse was pleased to dwell at great length. A glass of grog was here served to the royal suite and the business then commenced. The Secretary stepped forward and out of his book read the names of every soul on board; everyone answered and was duly interrogated as to this being the first time of crossing etc, the answer to which were duly written down. The doctor was then introduced and answered numerous enquiries as to Her Majesty's state of health and how soon the accouchement might be expected etc. etc., which were put by the Captain after the Chief officers of state such as Ambassador Chief Constable etc. etc. had been duly introduced and Questions as to matters relating to the peculiar officers had been put. A jig and Reels were beautifully danced, in a manner by the by which none but sailors can dance. The procession again formed and marched forward amid the cheers of the whole ship’s company. No shaving was allowed; I was fool enough to be almost affected to tears during this, what is generally termed absurd, mumming but which I call interesting ceremony. I had read of it scores of times and in the witnessing of it I confess I was much moved. I couldn‘t but observe that even in this all-levelling exhibition, the sailors would not allow the soldiers to participate in the slightest degree. I heard a main top man say in answer to a question whether they didn‘t intend to have great fun in shaving the lobsters. “Don‘t you know that sailors and soldiers never have anything to do with one another. If the jollies likes to shave each other all well and good but the sailors won’t touch you,” nor did they. Employed all day in my editorial capacity.
Friday 25th September Latitude 3° 35’ Longitude 21° 40’
Fagging all day at the newspaper; was duly visited by the Chief Constable to whom I paid the shaving money £1; dancing as usual.
Saturday 26th September Latitude 6° 23’ Longitude 22° 40’
This being Kerr‘s birthday, he celebrated the event by inviting a few good fellows to a ‘soiree’. My cabin and the next, the bulkheads being removed, was the scene of action. Champagne and arack-punch(19) was the order of the day. I sat next to the officer of the Middle Watch who dared not get drunk and dare leave no heeltaps. From charitable motives only, I helped him off with his grog and consequently had no very distinct recollection of the latter part of the evening, particularly as we both happened to have tumblers instead of wine glasses.
Sunday 27th September Latitude 9° 3’ Longitude 23° 46’
Got up at 4 o’clock this morning to give Inglefield my bed, he having lost his in the confusion of last night. Even at this hour the eastern horizon was magnificently illumined though the sun does not rise till 6 o’clock. An English sunrise is the mere lighting of a rush light compared to that of these latitudes. It is almost worth the voyage here to witness it. Prayers on the quarterdeck to all ships company; it was very imposing, the capstan covered with a flag serving as desk. The weather is delightful and by no means so hot as a fortnight since, the breeze screening us from the heat of the vertical sun.
Monday 28th September Latitude 11° 58’ Longitude 22° 0’
I had made an arrangement to keep the middle watch last night; when they called me, they found me so ill that they called the officer of the watch down. I had been suffering from spasms for some hours and was unable to move or speak; however I took some raw arack which did momentary good and went on deck.
But I soon became so ill that the officer became alarmed and called the doctor, who put me to bed and gave me some croton oil which soon relieved me. In bed all the morning; breeze died away a good deal about the middle of the day. The Captain never recollects so favourable a south east trade, our average rate has been 8 knots(20) which, considering how close hauled we are to the wind, is very rapid. Got up mizen to ‘gal’ mast this morning. We look as well as ever again.
Tuesday 29th September Latitude 14° 27’ Longitude 28° 15’
A very beautiful day; employed all day in my editorial capacity. Dancing this evening.
Wednesday 30th September Latitude 16° 19’ Longitude 22° 54’
Nearly a calm all day; a very unusual thing in the heart of this trade; we are now about 900 miles due east of St. Helena.(21)
Thursday 1st October Latitude 17° 13’ Longitude 22° 10’
Quite a calm this morning; boatswain harpooned a shark; 15 feet, an enormous beast, but we didn't succeed in getting him on deck. Editorial labours employed me all day.
Friday 2nd October Latitude 18° 13’ Longitude 21° 10’
Still becalmed. Captain does not know what to think of it. Towards evening sky became very lowering, rough weather expected. The Advertiser is 17 pages this week.
Saturday 3rd October
A very, very stiff breeze which is supposed to be our lost friend, the Trade. We are going at a great rate but upwards of 6 points out of our course. A sail cruising to windward all morning hoisted a Dutch Ensign. Just before dinner, another vessel reported astern; didn’t come near us. Breeze freshened much towards evening, reefed top sails etc. Paper gave great satisfaction.
Sunday 4th October Latitude 20° 55’ Longitude 22° 12’
Vessel pitched awfully all night and it was so cold that I was obliged to use both sheet and counterpane, which had for a long time been discarded. Prayers in the cuddy. Most of the ladies sick; those on the lee-side of the stanchions at dinner obliged to lash themselves to them; taken to a coat and waistcoat again. Ship pitches tremendously tonight.
Monday 5th October Latitude 22° 52’ Longitude 23° 10’
Breeze still very stiff. Everybody almost is sick. I am not, which I attribute to the fact of my mind being always employed in arranging and writing for the paper. A ship on our larboard bow all day. Danced this evening very merrily, in spite of the lurching and pitching. Had a sea pie for dinner, a dish not to be had but in rough weather and a deuced good thing it is. I intend to give a “soiree”(22) on Wednesday night. Wednesday is my birthday and it is necessary to have some excuse for doing so.
Tuesday 6th October Latitude 24° 55’ Longitude 23° 20’
Wind very variable, weather still cold. Capital dance this evening.
Wednesday 7th October Latitude 26° 51’ Longitude 23° 24’
Wind changeable. Expect to lose the trade every hour. I have thought a good deal of home all day and couldn‘t help fancying my mother’s tears when she drunk my health. I fancied; but there is no use in making oneself low spirited. My cabin and the adjoining were again thrown open; a long table was rigged by the carpenter, a number of lamps hung down the centre of it and with the assistance of numerous flags tastefully arranged, a really good effect was given. The ladies came down to view the preparations. About 28 fellows were invited. The arack punch was excellent and everything went off admirably. The Captain even promised me to come but was prevented. I had the honour of putting several fellows under the mahogany.(23) I kept quite sober myself. We seem to have quite lost the trade.
Thursday 8th October Latitude 27° 38' Longitude 23° 28’
Uncertain wind all day. In my office all the morning. After dinner, supported by Captain Smith I got about 14 fellows to agree to act a play. I have been stirring them up on this subject for some time, and I think now I am in a fair way of carrying out my idea, a thing above all others to be devoutly wished for as it opens a very fertile source of amusement.
Friday 9th October Latitude 28° 51’ Longitude 22° 50'
What with the newspaper and the play, I wasn't able to leave my Cabin until half past eight this evening. We have fixed upon a farce and have cast the characters. An advertisement will appear in tomorrow’s paper. I am thoroughly tired tonight; my cabin is the favourite lounge of all the passengers. I am generally employed in it and everyone makes “Sam Weller's” berth a convenience; three fellows on my bed (for I have turned my cot into a standing bed place) and five or six more seated on my trunks etc. is no uncommon thing and that for hours together. If anything is to be discussed, Waller’s Cabin is the place for it. In fact nothing goes on without my playing some principle part in it. The sailors even came to me to use my interest with the ladies toward decorating Amphitrite and her daughter. I have plenty on my hands and sometime more that I can well manage.
Saturday 10th October Latitude 30° 38’ Longitude 20° 0’
As I have more time than usual on my hands this morning, I shall give a list of the passengers etc.
Mr Morris - the civilian,
Mr Morris - the clergyman,
Captain Smith - Her Majesty's 15th Hussars
Reid - Comet in ditto
Butler - Lt Commander detachment Her Majesty's 41st Regiment
Fleming - Ensign in ditto
Phillott - Lieutenant: 25th Madras Native Infantry
Haultain* - A thorough gentleman * Regiment at Secunderabad
Griffith* - Nephew of Doctor Bailley
Stevens - Cousin of Longcroft’s and turned out a fool
Duval - My chum and schoolfellow
Scott - Artillery - a very dull fellow
They are very smart fellows and really deserved the artillery. Scott had interest.
Notes: Butler joined his Regiment in India, he went home sick and was employed in the recruiting service in Ireland his native country. He was ordered to command the detachment at two days notice and was on the point of being married and could not exchange being the first for purchase, his regiment will return in a few years. Was anything so unfortunate? His health is very delicate, the climate not agreeing with him. I have seen a great deal of him since we landed. He is to go to Bombay in which presidency his regiment is on active service.
Mrs Morris (wife of the civilian and two children)
Mrs Smith, wife of Captain Smith-
Mrs Tomkyns -
Miss Tomkyns -
Mrs Young - stepmother of stationed at Secunderabad
Miss Young -
Miss Taylor -
Their father is the Colonel of the 39th - Under the protection of Mrs Young; all scotch
Miss Taylor –
Miss Fletcher - A Spanish Lady of colour - under the protection of the Captain.
Miss Retalic* -
Captain and wife -
Four mates -
Seven midshipmen -
Boatswain - two mates - quartermaster - butcher - mate - baker - mate
Steward - cuddy servants
Thirty able sailors
42 of the rank and file of the 41st Regiment
Several black female servants, etc. etc.….make the total of our company.
A very smart breeze all day. Ten knots.(24) Before breakfast, fell in with an American Whaler on our lee quarter; exchanged, at the same time our Dutch friend was on our weather quarter in full sail, having stolen upon us a good deal in the night; exchanged. Both ships were close to us and presented a very beautiful sight; the whaler, being fishing, was soon out of sight and the Dutchman is very nearly so this evening. The paper caused much amusement. In the evening an unpleasant circumstance happened; the fifer’s grog had been stopped for some days, the natural consequence of which is that everyone subscribes a portion of his allowance which amounts to a great deal, more than one mans joram. After the dancing was over, the ladies were singing on the poop. The fifer, a very large and athletic man came to the Captain on the poop, and after some conversation had passed between them, the Captain finding the man was not exactly sober called to the Officer of the Watch to order him forward. The man hesitated a little and the Officer pushed him down the ladder to the quarterdeck. Here the man turned round and swore at the Officer. The Captain called the after guard aft and ordered the man back to the poop at the same time calling to the boatswain to bring the irons. The man returned to the poop, rushed at the Skipper and struck him a severe blow. (This offence is death in the Navy). Butler who was leaning over the sail of the poop immediately went aft and as soon as he had vented his Military indignation “the damned rascal why he has struck his superior Officer”, dealt the fellow such a blow as laid him along the hencoops.(25) He yet made a good deal of resistance but was soon overpowered by the passengers who instantly went to the Captain's assistance. He was at length put in irons, but still continuing extremely abusive, it was found necessary to gag him which was done by lashing an iron bar across his mouth, bitwise. What his punishment will be no one yet knows. I hope flogged until he can’t stand. The men declare he shall not be flogged and swear they will rescue him. God knows how this affair may end as a mutinous spirit is very prevalent among the crew. We are, however more than a match for them. The soldiers and passengers could beat twice the number of our crew. The ladies, barring Mrs Cousitt behaved very well. Mrs Cousitt was of course alarmed for the safety of her husband. I wonder whether the Skipper will have courage to flog the rascal.
Sunday 11th October Latitude 32° 16’ Longitude 16° 14’
Breeze more aft, consequently the ship rolls a good deal. Service on quarterdeck this morning. A very dull and cold day. Mr Fifer still in irons. The gag was removed not until 7 o'clock this morning, so he must have passed a comfortable night. The men appear still dissatisfied and it is a good deal doubted that the Captain will have heart enough to flog the man.
Monday 12th October Latitude 53° 7’ Longitude 13° 32'
Wind shifted, rained in torrents till noon; motion very disagreeable indeed. As soon as the weather cleared up, all hands were mustered and the Fifer brought up. The Captain asked him if he were willing to return to his duties. The fellow of course answered Yes. The Captain, in a devil of a funk, had told the crew that he had the power to flog him but didn't choose to do so; that he could show them the Act of Parliament and other humbug too cowardly to be repeated. He thought fit to apologise to the men because their grog had been mixed yesterday and on the whole behaved very unbecoming the high authority with which he is legally invested. He had his own reasons for being lenient and doubtless good ones. Captain Smith remarked he hoped the Captain wouldn’t do us the honour to invite his crew to the cuddy table as we are a good deal crowded already, which coming from a man of the Captain’s quiet and gentlemanlike habits conveyed the bitterest satire. The motion much worse towards evening. Had a capital dance; it was so cold many danced in rough coats. A few days ago in the course of the conversation Mr. Morris the civilian, a perfect gentleman beloved and respected by every individual passengers on account of his quiet and unobtrusive but courteous engaging manners and of whom it would be impossible to speak too highly – I say in consequence of what he told me, I shall not go to the Advocate's house, Mrs. Norton not being a very refined woman and Norton by no means popular, but shall deliver my letter to Mr. Cherry who is held in the highest esteem in Madras, is of high consequence and who Mr. Morris assures me will receive me with the greatest of kindness. I am lucky in being thus advised as the mere fact of being introduced to the society of Madras through Norton might be prejudicial to my prospects.
Tuesday 13th October Latitude 35° 5’ Longitude 13° 12’
Our captain has never been popular with any of the passengers; he is a man who affects the gentleman without the remotest pretentions to that character. His manners are haughty and reserved; in short, for I won’t annoy myself with a description of the fellow, he is without exception the most disagreeable puppy that any of us had the luck to come near. I am writing this journal in the hopes of amusing my father and mother and I intend to send it home as soon as I arrive in India and one thing I would wish particularly to impress upon them: that should Sidney(26) ever be sent out, for my sake and for Sidney’s, I beg that Captain Cousitt be especially avoided.
I can’t find words to express the indignation I feel towards the Jackanapes. His wife is a nice little women, but very silly, and the Captain is uncommonly jealous of her. In speaking of the skipper, I don‘t impugn his character as sailor for I understand him to be a good one. Mr Lovewell, the Officer with whom my mother was so pleased and my Aunt O'Shea so much offended, our Chief Mate, is the best and most worthy fellow that ever breathed. His kind manner and unswaying civility, together with his thorough manliness of character, has obtained the regard of every one. I myself am as fond of him as a brother and if any man existed that I would wish to do a real service, Lovewell is he. The Second Mate is a very good fellow and so are all the Officers and mids but the Second Mate is desperately spooney about Miss McDonald and affords us infinite amusement by the expensive habits it has produced in him; a clean shirt, greatest of extravagances on board ship, a clean pair of socks and patent leather shoes, and a clean pair of white trousers, every day, are among the many topics in him which cause us amusement.; he’s a deuced smart and handsome fellow and the son of an Officer in the Army, so there is no telling how it may end. The devil of a breeze all the morning; I am as usual on the leeside and ever and anon my port goes quite under water. All hands employed in taking down and stowing away royal, sky-to-‘gal’ sails and yards, and in making everything snug for going around the Cape, where a vast deal of rough weather is always encountered. We shall go round very nearly under bare poles, under double reefed top sails all the afternoon. A good deal of rough weather expected tonight. The rain poured all the evening; the ladies spent the evening in the cuddy, some at work, others playing chess and draughts; whist and other games at cards was the order of the night for the gentlemen. Our rate tonight at 5 bells, 10 1/2 knots.(27)
Wednesday 14th October Latitude 35° 35’ Longitude 9° 20’
Couldn‘t sleep at all, the motion all night quite horrible. It would be impossible to describe the noises which occur on board ship during the night in fair weather, but during foul it would defy description herself to enumerate them. Last night it was quite vain to attempt to carry on a conversation in my cabin; the creaking and straining of the bulkheads, the heavy sea breaking against the vessels side and the innumerable other noises which no one can conceive but he who has experienced them, entirely prevented the hope of such a thing. At first the turning out the watch(28) every four hours annoyed me but now anything save a broadside would not disturb me. So much does custom for one; I would I could get over the nasty sensations the motion produces as well as I have got over the nocturnal noises. The breeze very stiff and the sea very high; a good deal of rain and dreadfully cold and miserable. Towards evening the breeze died away somewhat and the ship became steady enough for dancing. Vast numbers of Albatrosses and Cape Pigeons, which afford those who are fools enough to expose their fowling pieces to the pernicious effect of the sea air a great deal of amusement.
Thursday 15th October Latitude 35° 45’ Longitude 7° 12’
A dead calm, the swell very great and the motion of the vessel worse than ever. A cold, dull, cheerless morning with now and then a shower. Towards night the breeze freshened a little.
Friday 16th October Latitude 35° 7’ Longitude 5° 50’
A very fresh favourable wind, a bright, dry, bracing, beautiful English October morning, but I was too much engaged to be able to stay on deck. A short paper this week, the motion having been too great to allow of my writing. Thank goodness this breeze is on our starboard quarter and I am on the weather side. It was too cold for dancing so the cuddy was the place of resort for the ladies again this evening. The mutinous spirit of the crew seems to have subsided in a great measure. I don‘t think that I have mentioned that Duvall is an old Hackney schoolfellow of mine. He is a particularly quiet gentleman-like fellow and a great friend of mine. It is by a curious circumstance that he happens to be a passenger by this ship. An Uncle of his holds an appointment in the India House. My licence was made out for the Argyle by mistake and upon my applying for a fresh one, it was necessary that I should present myself to his Uncle to verify the mistake; while the licence was being altered, in the course of conversation he said he had a nephew going out and he would like him to go in my ship and made enquiries about the passengers etc., which ended in my giving him a list I had with me; and from this was the True Briton fixed upon. I, of course knew nothing of him until he one day told me that he came by this ship in the consequence of a conversation that his Uncle had had with one of the cadets, a passenger. Fred would perhaps recollect his name.
Saturday 17th October Latitude 35° 18’ Longitude 2° 15’
Just such a morning as yesterday, from eight till eight and a half all night, a capital run. An idle day with me; a great deal of dissatisfaction exists among the passengers in consequence of Wigram(29) the owner having admitted ten more cadets than the ship can properly carry; it is the intention of some of the older ones to kick up a row at Madras. A fine clear but cloudy day; very cold; the ladies danced a little and then retired to the cuddy.
Sunday 18th October Latitude 35° 25’ Longitude 0° 25’
Fine, clear but cold day, breeze fresh; prayers on quarterdeck; almost frozen. Towards evening the breeze very stiff. Double reefed top sales etc. etc. The vessel very much over and I of course am on the leeside.
Monday 19th October Latitude 36° 18’ Longitude 3° 13’
What the sailors call “a fresh breeze and squally”, but what landsman would call a deuced heavy gale; this is our first taste of Cape weather. My port under water half of the day; the wind roared through the rigging in a terrific manner. Topsails double reefed and mainsails reefed and furled. The sea breaking over the deck, and though the hatches were battened down, a great deal of water found its way into the steerage; my cabin in about 3 inches of water all night and all day. Sea pie for dinner. As I couldn‘t stay in my cabin, spent the morning on deck though the vessel lay over so much that everyone was obliged to hold on by a weather rope. To add to the comfort to this “fresh breeze”, it rained hard all day; no one could sit in the cuddy, for the dead lights were in and the floor covered with water; one sea I saw come in over the forecastle(30) and reached the cuddy awning before it dispersed. I pity the poor ladies very much; their cabins are half full of water and some of them are sick. The gale seems lulled a little this evening and the motion is of course proportionally increased; I thought I should like to see a little foul weather, but this “fresh breeze” has quite satiated my desire. A theft was committed on Saturday night; the Third Mate’s chest was broken open, and from a desk was taken between £18 and £19, money belonging to the Mids Mess. All the soldiers and men‘s kits were searched after prayers on Sunday but without discovering any clue to the thief; he will never be discovered now. It is a serious loss to the Mess as the money was to purchase little Indian necessaries for the homeward voyage.
Tuesday 20th October Latitude 37° 22’ Longitude 6° 0’
The breeze gradually subsided during the night. This morning it only carried us from 6 to 8. The motion very great. A dry cold morning; towards noon the sun faintly appeared. My cabin still uncommonly wet. Dry bracing air all the afternoon and evening. Danced and afterwards the ladies brought their work into the cuddy; very cold.
Wednesday 21st October Latitude 37° 30’ Longitude 8° 10’
A delicious morning. Nearly a calm, not a cloud to be seen; a dry cold air. This weather is very unusual of the Cape and the skipper is getting out of humour. A rehearsal in my cabin this morning. In the early part of the evening a famously spirited dance after which the ladies retired to the cuddy.
Thursday 22nd October Latitude 37° 40’ Longitude 10° 52’
A calm continued all day; the sun shone quite warmly this morning. Employed in getting up paper. A capital dance. A very heavy dew fell this evening, which denotes a continuation of calm, a blessing not to be endured in these latitudes, the swell being very great.
Friday 23rd October Latitude 37° 50’ Longitude 11° 50’
A dead calm; a very beautiful morning; towards noon a light breeze sprung up. After dinner a number of whales were reported on our larboard beam. We all, including the ladies, went out and were no less astonished than amused at the gambols of these enormous animals. They spouted quantities of water into the air and immediately after appeared half out of the water; they continued close to us for upwards of an hour. Sometime after they had disappeared, a prodigious shoal of porpoises appeared all around the ship leaping and splashing about in an absurd manner. The boatswain(31) was soon ready with his harpoon but did not succeed in fixing one. Employed all day in my editorial capacity. Dancing. Towards evening breeze gradually increased and the ship lay over a good deal. I am happy to say that the breeze is on the larboard quarter this time.
Saturday 24th October Latitude 37° 30’ Longitude 14° 0’
Saturday is an idle day with me. I shall endeavour to give a slight idea of the way in which we spend our time etc. At 7 bells, half past seven, the fiddle to get up plays and at one bell, half past eight, it plays to breakfast.
Only about a dozen passengers, the Captain, first and second officers attend the breakfast table. The ladies, with the exception of Mrs and Miss Tomkyns, never attend the cuddy table. They are never seen in hot weather till dinner, but in the cold weather they sometimes walk the quarterdeck from 12 o‘clock until half past. The remainder of the male passengers lie in bed; some sleep, some read, others play cards etc. A few lie in bed until three o’clock, others get up at 11 in time for grog. I never take breakfast in bed, except when unwell. The breakfast consists of hot rolls and bread, dishes of cold fowl and pork, pigs fry, red herrings, rice, butter; the tea and coffee (sadly miscalled) is supplied by the steward from a side board. Great complaint is made by those who have made the voyage before, of the scantiness of the supply at breakfast. After breakfast, weather permitting, a walk on the poop. I then go below to my cabin having always plenty to employ me. At eight bells, 12, spirits, wine and biscuits are placed on the cuddy table and if I have time I generally go up for half an hour; shooting at bottles or if any at sea fowl. Boxing, broadsword exercise, cards, draughts, chess, reading but particularly sleeping, a habit I always indulge in warm weather, is the order of the day until six bells, three o’clock, when the fiddle plays for dressing. At seven bells, half past three, “Oh! ye roast beef of old England!”(32) strikes up and every one in full dress appears for dinner. You greet the ladies near you and sit down, grace is said, and dinner commences with soup. The covers are then removed and you have a choice of tough fowls, roasted or boiled, salt or fresh pork, stinking mutton, sheep’s head, Irish stew, salt junk, curry as tough as rope yarn, and filthy rice. The vegetables are very good potatoes, which are served up both baked and boiled; pastry follows, it is without exception the best I have ever ate. The desert consists of a little dried fruit. On Sunday, instead of soup, preserved salmon appears; a turkey smokes before the skipper and a large ham is placed before the doctor. On Sunday and Thursday, vile champagne is twice served round, and excellent “duff” (the nautical term for plum pudding) is placed before us. In hot weather, a light French wine and sherry are used at dinner and Claret and Port after; the Claret is very decent but the Port and Sherry are perfectly beastly, being composed of brandy and the devil knows what beside. This may appear very sumptuous fare; it is in reality anything but even comfortable, and I suspect, as things go on board these ships, we are not treated by any means well; having ten more passengers than we ought to have, we are excessively crowded too. The skipper sits at the middle of the table with his back to the mizzenmast, the doctor opposite him, the first mate at the starboard end and the second mate at the larboard end. A rumour has obtained for some time past that I entertain a tender feeling for Miss Young. I‘ll confess she is a very nice girl. At the beginning of the voyage I was placed directly opposite her at dinner but as her stepmother, of whom I have a religious abomination, chose to keep a strict eye upon me, I got the Captain‘s permission and changed my place to the starboard end close to my friend Mr. Lovewell. The gentlemen generally sit over their wine about 20 minutes after the ladies have retired. The skipper is in very deservedly bad odour on account of the stingy manner in which he gives his wine. Pistol shooting, smoking, a practice in which I congratulate myself I do not indulge, walking the deck etc,. is then resorted to. About half after six the ladies appear; if fine weather, they sit on the poop; if cold or rough under the cuddy awning.(33) At 2 bells, 7 o‘clock, tea is brought out to the ladies, the gentlemen taking theirs in the cuddy. Dancing now commences and generally continues, weather permitting, till three bells, half past nine, when the ladies retire. I forgot to say at one bell, half after eight, grog may be had in the cuddy. At five bells, half past ten, all the lights are put out by the third officer. Most of the cadets sit up the first watch till twelve and a few the second, until four; in warm weather, I usually turn in about one bell, half past twelve. We amuse ourselves by sitting down to leeward and chatting and singing songs. We have three or four very good voices; Griffiths, a nephew of Dr. Bailey has an excellent voice; I have become a bit of a songster too. By this morning, the breeze had increased so much we double reefed top sales. As the breeze is from the Southeast, we drove a good deal to leeward. The skipper is getting terribly out of heart. A large ship, supposed to be our old friend the Dutchman, beating about to windward all the morning. About noon she tacked and crossing boughs, apparently stood in for the Cape. The sea has been heavy all day and the ship lies over exceedingly; though it has been a cloudy day, we have luckily escaped rain. A few heavy seas have passed over the main deck.
Sunday 25th October Latitude 36° 27’ Longitude 15° 46’
Breeze not at all diminished. We have been drifting greatly to leeward during the night. At noon the Captain tacked and I am in my old position; thank goodness the weather is dry or we should be in a bad plight indeed. Prayers in the cuddy. Skipper very low spirited. Some of the ladies sick. We‘re going under reef topped sales; this untoward southeastern may last many days.
Monday 26th October Latitude 38 degree 54’ Longitude 14° 30’
Breeze as fresh and contrary as ever; the weather still fine and clear. The skipper has determined not beat about here any longer but to go due south as the breeze will permit. Still drifting to leeward. Countless number of whales birds appeared all round the ship this afternoon and presented a very animated appearance. We are now nearly in the heart of the whale fishery. A few whales were seen to windward. No appearance of a change this evening. Still very cold. It is feared that we shall not weather the Cape in very gallant style. This ship was three weeks last voyage before she could succeed in getting into Table Bay.(34) However, I suppose we shall get to Madras before the year is out.
Tuesday 27th October Latitude 41° 17’ Longitude 15° 46’
An alteration of 3 points in our favour took place about six this morning; the Captain looks comparatively cheerful again. We have put on more sail and have let out our reefs. A very beautiful morning not a cloud to be seen It reminds one of a fine October morning in England. I have been walking on the poop and the fine air has put me in fine spirits again. I was terribly low and home sick yesterday. We sailed from Portsmouth this day nine weeks and may calculated in getting to Madras six weeks after we have weathered the Cape. Very cold all day; no alteration in the breeze this evening. We are so far south that the Officers of the watch have orders to keep a keen lookout for Icebergs.
Wednesday 28th October Latitude 42° 52’ Longitude 80° 15’
An Iceberg discovered this morning at seven o‘clock a few miles to windward under our larboard bow; the news was soon spread over the ship and most of the passengers were soon on deck. It was very distinctly visible and exceedingly large, supposed to be much higher than our main mast. It was in sight about an hour and half. It is a very unusual thing to see on a voyage to the East Indies and I am much concerned that this unfavourable breeze occasions us to go so far out of our course. It is painfully cold, my thermometer stands at 50 in my cabin this morning, though the port and venetians are shut. The breeze inclined to freshen towards evening. Reefed topsails and made all snug for the night; raining and inclined to be rough tonight.
Thursday 29th October Latitude 43 degree 28 Longitude 21’° 40’
Blew hard at 12 o’clock last night, after which the rain cleared up. The breeze as usual this morning; shaken out a reef in topsails. Cold and dreary; we are now very much to the south and a little, very little, to the East of the Cape. We have been ten days in doing this and are not out of our difficulties yet. I am getting heartily tired of the voyage. Though I am a good deal employed I find the monotony very tedious and wearisome. I am excessively anxious too to hear from home and I look forward to receiving letters at Madras more than anything else. I wonder very often how they all are and what they may be doing, but the precarious state of my grandmother‘s health and the uncertainty my mother was in when I left, relative to Miss Robinson prevent my even forming any satisfactory conjectures. Fine, clear but cold afternoon. Breeze getting a point or two in our favour this evening.
Friday 30th October Latitude 43° 46 Longitude 24° 2
A thick, foggy, dreary, cold morning. Towards noon the breeze nearly died away and a light wind sprung up which sent us on our course. The sun shone and things looked cheerful again. Studding, sails were set and every face looked happy at dinner. A splendid evening but very cold; breeze freshening.
Saturday 31st October Latitude 42° 48’ Longitude 27° 20’
Another infinitely large Iceberg many miles to windward this morning. It is very unfortunate that this should have been to windward too; had it been to leeward we should have tacked and run in close to it which I should have much enjoyed. We have been running right before the breeze all night at the rate of 8 knots.(35) It seems inclined to get forward this morning. A very fine but extremely cold morning. Squally all the afternoon; the ladies always pass the evening in the cuddy now. The play is getting on admirably; we shall perform it about the time we recross the line. The dresses are in making under the direction of Mrs Smith and Mrs Young. We are running our course East North East tonight. We have fairly rounded the Cape, but the motion of the vessel is great and the weather too cold and changeable to be agreeable. I shall be glad enough when we get up into warmer latitudes.
Sunday 1st November Latitude 41° 58’ Longitude 31° 50’
A wet foggy morning. We‘re still running our course which makes up for the bad weather. The Officer has just reported “Prayers in the cuddy at five bells”. Touching the parson, or as he is more often called “the Shepherd”, I have somewhere said that I have found him a good sort of fellow. I have had a great reason to think differently; he is a very young man and on his way to take the head mastership of the Vepery School Madras. Besides being the most conceited egotistical coxcomb that I have every met with, he is one of the worst specimens of the very bad style of young clergymen of the present day. Some six or eight weeks since, he chose to apply some blackguard expressions to a transaction, about which he knew nothing, a mere joke and no wise coming within his province to notice. As he made use of the expressions at the cuddy table, it was thought necessary to seek an explanation, Reid and myself being deported to wait on him. He refused both explanation and apology, whereupon an account of the affair was written and signed and deposited in the hands of the Captain. For a week or ten days matters remained in this state but at length being cut dead by half of the male passengers and many of the ladies not at all admiring his conduct he, parson like, sent us the most abject apology which he chose to interland with the grossest falsehoods. Scarcely anyone takes any notice of him save the ladies upon whose company he invariably forces himself; such is the man from whom we listen to lessons of morality. There is one thing I cannot forebear to mention; he has a practice of omitting the ten commandments and the gospel and epistle, that most important part of our service, in order that he may preach us his own paltry compositions, as if forsooth he could improve upon the lessons for conduct and morality contained in the parables of our Saviour. Our parson is the most consummate of nuisances on board ship. He is in nine cases out of ten cause of more mischief and bad feeling than any six other individuals. Wind light but right aft. Squally and now and then a shower. An Albatross caught this afternoon with a hook and line; it measured nine feet from wing to wing; a small bird, no one has any idea but those who have been on a voyage what excitement is caused by the fact a simple bird being brought alive on the deck. One would have supposed the ship‘s passengers mere children. The ladies were summoned and remained on the wet decks for some time and the unfortunate animal was hauled on board amid the huzzars of the bystanders. It must not be supposed that I was not excited, for I was probably the greatest mad man of the party. The bird as handed over to the tender mercies of the men forward and its feathers were soon floating astern. Prayers in the cuddy this evening. Raining hard tonight.
Monday 2nd November Latitude 41° 2’ Longitude 35° 1’
Still cold and squally. The breeze is fresh and on our starboard beam, which I am happy to say makes me to windward. This evening the breeze being very inclined to freshen, reefed topsails etc. and made all snug for the night. We have been going nine knots(36) all day. Five bells, blowing hard in the squalls of rain.
Tuesday 3rd November Latitude 40° 9’ Longitude 39° 5’
The coldest morning we have had yet. Cloudy but cheerful; breeze fresh. We‘re beginning now to look forward to our arrival at Madras with a little certainty. Though I am very comfortable myself, I would not again on any account whatever take my passage in a ship with more than half a dozen cadets, though there are several on board older than myself and many of very excellent families. Our Skipper treats us in the most improper and unwarranted manner; School was a paradise in comparison to what we undergo here. However it is taken notice of by older heads than ours and the fellow will gain nothing by his conduct. There is but one feeling among all the passengers as to his manners. A cadetship is all very well for a boy just let loose from school but to a young fellow who may have been his own master for a year or two it is indeed poor work and calculated to break and weigh down his spirit. I consider that it is impossible for a young man, a cadet to be placed in more ignominious situations or situations more to be dreaded than on a voyage to India. To me it is beyond endurance. By all the older passengers we are all treated as gentlemen, but the Captain never deigns to wish any of us good morning. Once or twice he has left my salute unanswered. However I have not hitherto forgotten the respect to myself and hope not to do so. Whenever he is civil I am always civil too. For the first six weeks he did not take wine with me. Towards afternoon nearly becalmed. What little wind there is is contrary. A very cold but beautiful evening.
Wednesday 4th November Latitude 39° 17’ Longitude 40° 37’
Winds still light and contrary; two and half only all night. A beautiful but exceedingly cold morning. Cold is very bad weather on board ship. You have no means of keeping yourself warm except by walking the deck or lying in bed. But any weather is better infinitely than wet, which confines you below entirely and entails a dark steerage, hatches being closed. And so hot as hardly to be endurable. Your cabin leaking in every quarter and the caddie an inch under water. This is misery indeed. This evening the breeze having freshened, we are once more going on course.
Thursday 5th November Latitude 38° 36’ Longitude 44° 12’
Becalmed. A fine morning and not so cold. Employed all day at newspaper; a very good one this week. Slight breeze towards evening, favourable, not near so cold tonight. A small “soiree”, not at all slewed.
Friday 6th November Latitude 38° 55’ Longitude 46° 30’
A beautiful morning and quite mild. We have been running before a light breeze all night to the tune of seven. Studding sails (38) let and consequently plenty of rolling.
A lovely afternoon and evening; dancing. Employed all day at paper.
Saturday 7th November Latitude 38 degree 54’ Longitude 51° 12’
At half past four this morning blowing so fresh that Captain and all hands called up to double reef topsails. A cloudy but beautiful morning and a breeze from the right quarter; the motion horrible. No alteration all day. Deadlights(37) all in this evening, the sea heavy and the rolling increasing.
Sunday 8th November Latitude 39° 4’ Longitude 56° 17’
My cabin under water; the motion beyond description all night. On going on deck, found we were going along on double-reefed topsails; jolly boat and spars lashed down, extra tiller ropes and two men at the wheel and all hands employed in lowering yards. The sea is very heavy and ever and anon breaks completely over the decks; the sight is very fine. The breeze, I suspect from the snugness of matters on deck, is likely to freshen. The only consolation we have is that we are going our course. A great deal of damage done in the night by furniture etc. fetching away. Every time my port goes under water I ship at least a pint. I rejoice in several leaks from the main deck and am moreover favoured with the society of all the stray water from the steerage. A man has no idea of discomfort & downright misery till he has been to sea; 5 bells, I am off to prayers in the cuddy; Sea Pie, an olla podrida,(39) and "duff" only for dinner. There is something very absurd in the idea of your furniture moving with every lurch across your cabin and in the potatoes parting company with the dish & scampering away to leeward,(40) and while clinging to a stanchion or the table, your plate taking it into its head to follow their wandering propensities, your tumbler discharging its contents deliberately into your lap & then tumbling over & rolling down the table as if laughing at you; which evil does not rest here as your wine glass is certain to follow its pernicious example. 12am, we have run 239 miles since 12 o'clock yesterday. Yesterday after dinner Mrs Smith was sitting in her Cabin when a rifle, which was hung to a timber, fetched away & falling upon the crown of her head, cut it open. The wound bled much & made her very ill; she is better today & intends to come to prayers this evening. She is of a noble Irish family, a woman of excellent understanding and possessed of manners which seem to say, "I care not what anybody thinks”, which with her natural Irish vivacity makes her a universal favourite; she presents a lively contrast to Mrs Young and Mrs Tompkyns whose husbands are both in the Cos' military Service; the heads of these women are filled with the usual Indian maggots, right of precedence & and the numerous attendants upon this absurd desire of priority. Mrs Morris again, tho' infinitely superior to Mrs Young and Mrs Tompkyns, has her failings; she treats those of her own sex whose husbands belong to the Cos' Military Service with the utmost haughtiness; she is an uncommonly fine woman both personally and mentally & in her manners perfectly magnificent, she leads her husband the devil of a life. She is not generally liked but I admire her very much. She often, very often, puts me in mind of my mother. A man must wilfully shut his eyes who could make the voyage to India without becoming intimately acquainted with the customs of society etc etc; I believe I have as good an idea of what I am to undergo & of my manner of life as if I had actually experience. I don't know what to think as to my father’s acceptance of a cadetship for Sidney, there are many arguments available, pro and con but on the whole I think I would keep him at home; but I shall reserve my opinions till I am better able to form correct ones. It must not be supposed that I am sorry for the step I have taken. I am confident I was not calculated for the profession I have given up and therefore this is to be greatly preferred, but I think I would recommend my father to consider well before he sends out to Sid. We are all military on board with two exceptions and I have of course have imbibed very military ideas like all soldiers; for instance I, who have never put on my uniform, have a great contempt for the dress and I positively dread the time when I shall be obliged to bedeck myself in lace and frippery. It would be difficult…. impossible, to make Sidney think as I now do. He has it not in his power to put on a red coat. I am obliged to do so. A man never affects what he really is. The parson spun a very long yarn this evening which considering the weather was in very bad taste; who could listen to a wishy washy sermon when in constant jeopardy of going to leeward? The motion just as bad as ever tonight.
Monday 9th November Latitude 39° 2’ Longitude 61° 0’
The breeze not so strong this morning. The sea still heavy and the motion not improved. I think it is gradually getting a little warmer. The daylight bursts a few minutes after four and lasts until half past seven. The difference of time between these latitudes and England is four hours. It is now four o'clock and they are now about to sit down for breakfast at home. I wonder how they all are. I am exceedingly hungry and should much like to be spared a piece of bread of butter and a cup of tea, neither of which I have tasted for nearly three long months. The breeze not near so strong and the sea a good deal abated this evening. Still very cold.
Tuesday 10th November Latitude 38° 23’ Longitude 64° 50’
Kept the first watch(41) last night; a beautiful morning, the breeze getting aft, the rolling not near so great. We had a terrible row in cuddy immediately the cloth was removed. Butler had been grossly insulted by the Captain the previous day at dinner and went below; today also he dined in his cabin. When he enquired for his wine, the Steward told him his orders were not to let him have any except a glass full at a time from the cuddy table. Butler ordered a glass which was sent through the steerage, passing through the hands of seven or eight servants. Butler went up and expostulated with Cousitt, who refused to countermand his order. Another glass was sent and up again went Butler and wigged him before all the passengers, a greater insult could not have been offered to a man in Butler's situation, commanding a detachment, and second to none in the ship but the Skipper. A strong feeling had been previously excited in consequence of his having wigged me in regard to my having admitted into the paper a most clever and facetious letter, which among other things described too truly the fare at breakfast. However he got nothing out of me and all this ill feeling is roused, not because we are badly treated with regard to accommodation, but simply because everyone of us have experienced a series of insults from this puppy which is no longer to be borne. Butler has refused any interview and will not take any advantage of the fellow in any way, although being Commanding Officer he has very many opportunities. He may report him to the Commander in Chief. When Captain Smith, the most quiet and gentleman-like man in existence and to whom the Captain was very anxious to excuse himself and implicate Butler, but without success, was asked what he thought of Butler’s conduct, he replied "had I been placed in Butler's situation, I hope I would've acted in a precisely similar manner". We're going our course beautifully; dancing this evening.
Wednesday 11th November Latitude 36° 44’ Longitude 68° 28’
Have been going eight all night. A lovely morning. We have been north a little for a day or two; breeze increased gradually all through the morning. Employed at paper all day. I have from the first been a favourite of the stewards, a position to be in no wise despised. I am next his berth. While I was sick, he always attended me himself; he gave me his brother as my exclusive servant, he is infinitely more gentlemanlike than the Captain. Never am I at a loss for anything. He is a person who fancies he is a literary man and from his having a vast deal of spare time upon his hands, he has amassed a good deal of information. He frequently comes into my cabin to give me advice about the conduct of my paper and makes all manner of suggestions etc. but as he always backs his arguments by the production of a bottle of champagne, or rattifia,(42) or cherry brandy, they are uncommonly palatable. ‘Rap tap tap’, I always know the rascal's knock. "Come in Steward”, in accents bland and in he comes and, the door being first bolted, places himself with his back to the drawers. "I hope I am not intruding sir", "The devil a bit Steward”, "Well sir, how goes on the paper?" pulling out a bottle of champagne and taking off the lead "Oh, I don't know nothing very particular this week" ‘wheeze, wheeze’ goes the corkscrew, (for it is still champagne), " nothing very particular sir", pouring out a tumbler full "then I tell you what it is sir", (his usual expression), "I tell you what it is Steward. This is a deuced good bottle", putting down the empty glass; and thus do we discuss both paper and bottle. Oh there's nothing like being friends with the Steward; he’s a man of authority having charge of many servants and others and holds allegiance to none but the great gun himself. In fact he can do anything for you if he chooses; he has supplied me with a capital mat and really handsome carpet and my cabin is quite comfortable. He gave me a feather pillow, canvas shoes and fifty other unmentionable things. My advice to everyone making the voyage to India is: "Make friends with the Steward". Breeze dying away this evening.
Thursday 12th November Latitude 35° 35’ Longitude 70° 40’
A dead calm. Half past ten. Six albatrosses caught already. Engaged all day. Five bells; still a perfect calm.
Friday 13th November Latitude 35° 31’ Longitude 71° 18’
A light breeze which takes us very much out of our course. A heavenly morning, a good deal warmer. Engaged from breakfast till bedtime at paper. Towards evening a sale reported on our larboard bow, supposed to be The Windsor. We both hoisted signals but were too far apart to make out anything but the British Ensign. The breeze being foul we have tacked several times during the day. The breeze has freshened so much that we have reefed topsails and furled to 'gal' sails; we are going close to the wind which causes us to lie over dreadfully and the sea getting heavy we pitch a good deal. I am as usual on the leeside.
Saturday 14th November Latitude 37° 16’ Longitude 73° 35’
Blowing hard this morning. All hands lowering yards. The motion so great as to make me feel very qualmish. Sail still ahead. Our Skipper tried to cut off a corner and save the sighting of the Island of St Paul(43) but this wind is driving him down Southeast and now we shall probably do so. About a week ago we had a wind which would have taken us admirably there, but no, the Captain must point out a new track, and this is the consequence. Rained in torrents all the forenoon and afternoon and is raining hard now, half past ten. The breeze is becoming a little more favourable tonight. The motion has been very great all day.
Sunday 15th November Latitude 37° 33’ Longitude 76° 23’
Ship much steadier this morning; I had no sleep all night, blew very hard all the middle watch. Reefed mainsail though going under double reefed topsails. I got a little sleep towards morning but was soon awakened by the dropping of water on my face, having sprung a leak over my pillow. I have in all about 11 leaks from the deck, besides having a very fair share of all seas which come down the main hatch. I am in a very enviable plight, particularly as a good deal of rain is expected between this and India. Mr Lovewell has however promised to attend to me. The pitching motion has been worse than anything we have yet had. It was almost impossible to sit before the table at dinner. At 12 o'clock we were fifty miles only north west of St Pauls. The Captain at that hour stood north; the breeze very fresh tonight. Prayers in the cuddy as usual.
Monday 16th November Latitude 36° 25’ Longitude 78° 20’
About three o’clock, the breeze, which had nearly become a gale, was at the highest and on awaking this morning it was a dead calm. About 12, a light breeze sprung up which however soon died away. In consequence of the newspaper, having gradually assumed a complexion which certainly was not my intention that it should have done, and which was not altogether in accordance with the prospectus, I this morning resigned the Editorship, to the great surprise and disappointment of a great many. However, I had my private reasons for so doing and was not to be prevailed on to continue it. Butler, Reid and I have agreed to carry it on. One of Butler's men is to write it out and I have undertaken to arrange and write; in point of fact to be as much Editor as ever. I will say that it has been very well conducted. I had hoped to have sent them all home to my mother, to whom they would have caused much amusement, but I have had so many applications to allow them to be distributed at Madras that I fear it would be out my power to do so. Butler has determined that he will report the Captain to the Commander in Chief. A dead calm tonight.
Tuesday 17th November
10 o'clock a.m. It has been raining hard since three o'clock. Becalmed, an extraordinary heavy swell which Mr Lovewell cannot account for. I went out just now in the rain to look at it. We are at one time in an immense trough, at another on a dull heavy wave as high as our main mast, and this without a breath of air except that caused by the motion of the water. This is certainly an agreeable prospect. I forgot to mention that we had a rehearsal yesterday, the fourth, and that there is every prospect of the play going off well.
The dresses are all in readiness. About dusk the rain cleared up. A very light breeze has sprung up but we are unable to make much way against a head sea.
Wednesday 18th November Latitude 34° 0’ Longitude 80° 45’
A lovely morning; not a cloud to be seen. A light favourable wind which, the swell having subsided a good deal, carries us along at about five knots.(44) A great press of sail on. The weather is not hot enough to be uncomfortable and everyone is able to enjoy the deck. Employed all the morning in superintending the newspaper. I hope in about three weeks we shall make Madras. Towards evening the breeze freshened. Dancing.
Thursday 19th November Latitude 31° 13’ Longitude 82° 17’
A beautiful morning, light breeze. We expect to get into the trade in a day or two. Employed all day in superintending the paper. We have altered the day of publication. It will come out tomorrow evening. A lovely night, breeze decreasing. The ladies stayed on deck until half past nine as of yore.
Friday 20th November Latitude 29° 54’ Longitude 82° 32’
I kept the first and middle watches. A splendid night; fell calm at 6 bells, eleven, and is still a dead calm. Getting quite hot again. I take to white clothing again today. Employed at newspaper all the morning. When I put on my white trousers for dinner I found myself so fat that I could not wear them. It is a great nuisance and I don't deserve to be fat, for I eat no meat. A lovely night, dancing; a very light breeze.
Saturday 21st November Latitude 28° 17' Longitude 82° 32’
The breeze very light and not fair. Uncommonly warm this morning; we are just within the tropics again. I am very impatient to hear from home; I look forward to my letters at Madras more than to anything else in the world. Breeze died away towards night.
Sunday 22nd November Latitude 27° 13’ Longitude 82° 16’
Dreadfully hot and no white trousers can I get on. No wind and the air there is unfair. Prayers on quarterdeck. Not a ripple on the water all day. This evening prayers in cuddy. I have become a most inveterate punster, indeed it is a principle thing I have done since I came on board. I never was guilty of a good thing at home. A lovely night.
Monday 23rd November Latitude 25° 50’ Longitude 82° 30’
Breeze sprung up about 1 o'clock this morning which I hope will carry us into the Trade. A cloudy, squally day but very hot. I have been engaged in making arrangements for affairs of honour all the morning. The breeze proves to be the trade which, if we are fortunate, will carry us over the line a degree or two. The ship is being painted and undergoing divers other processes for the purpose of making her look smart. Begin to get very "jolly" as we used to say at school. As we get nearer Madras, my pride struggles hard to make me promise not to go to any house but to stay in quarters at the fort.
I am to belong to the Club immediately I hold my commission. Phillott will propose me. I am afraid I have kept this journal very badly. I will make up my mind to be more observant and careful in India. The thought that in three weeks I am to hear from home is such inconceivable happiness that I fear that it will be marred by some ill news. I hope everyone has written: my father, mother, Fred, Sid and dear little Lou.(45) How often do I think of them all! I often, very often, think of my father's last walk with me on the ramparts. If I can but act as he then told me, I shall have nothing to fear. I thought then that he dwelt a little too long on the hope that I should never forget him and my mother and Louisa and the home I voluntarily left. There is little fear of that. I forget that my conduct in leaving that home would fully, and more than fully, justify his fears on that head. I can safely assert that my home is never for an hour together forgotten by me. The breeze is nearly aft and we are going along beautifully, with no motion. Dancing tonight.
Tuesday 24th November Latitude 22° 51’ Longitude 83° 40’
I have succeeded in settling two affairs of a delicate nature alluded to yesterday. One remains yet unsettled and which I fear will end on the beach on Madras. Thank my stars I am not second in this matter. I am pleased that the conduct I pursued yesterday was highly approved of by men of experience and that I was instrumental in extricating a poor fellow with honour unsullied from one of those silly but cruel positions in which men in the Army are placed as in these instances, not by any wilful misconduct, but merely by unfortunate expression made use of in the heat of the moment and perhaps caused by the greatest provocation; there is so much responsibility resting on the friend on these occasions that I would prefer the position of Principal. I think I have observed before that a Cadet is liable to be placed in more embarrassing and cruel situations on the voyage than I have ever heard or read of. Only yesterday, one poor fellow was to have fought three men successively, not because he himself had been insulted but because from his doing what he firmly believed to be his duty, aspertions were cast on his honour(46) of three others and in their behalf was he to fight, not to clear himself but them, and yet this man dared not show the white feather. Oh! custom, honour, fashion - however needful you may be for the proper working of that machine, society, you are indeed a tyrant and as cruel as tyrannical. The trade is unusually fair and we are all in excellent spirits. The evenings are very fine and the dance is kept up with spirit.
Wednesday 25th November Latitude 19° 4’ Longitude 83° 56’
Dress rehearsal this morning. The play(50) is come off on Monday night, weather permitting. The dresses are admirable. We had a good run; the Trade is unusually fine but owing to its coming via the south is not expected to last long. Very busy all day, play and newspaper. Very hot.
Thursday 26th November Latitude 15° 1’ Longitude 83° 50’
We shall make a splendid run today between 10 and 11 all night and continuing this morning. Studding and sky sails taken in. I am on the weather side but do not in this scorching sun derive much benefit, not being able to keep open the Port. Just now not being able to breathe, though nearly naked, I opened it and in less than five minutes a wave sent me four or five buckets of water to cool me. Beside I have become so used to the leeside that I don't know how to appreciate the windward. Playing up for breakfast. Engaged at newspaper all day. A thick cloudy day and the heat so dreadful that it is impossible to stay in your cabin for above 10 minutes at a time. Not a port open either to windward or leeward. The motion very disagreeable and the sea heavy. We ran 243 miles; no dancing this evening.
Friday 27th November Latitude 11° 40’ Longitude 83° 41’
A fierce sun but a much more preferable heat to that of yesterday. The Trade much lighter. We have the ports open, which is indeed delightful. It is impossible to sleep all night in a closed cabin during hot weather; nothing but sitting on deck until you can no sit longer will make you bear the heat. Many keep on deck all night; I cannot on account of my head; about two hours sleep suffices. The sheet is drawn very tightly over the mattress on which you lie with shirt and calico trousers.(47) I often think of the fuss and nonsense I used to make at home; how different am I now! There is nothing like a voyage to India as a Cadet to make a fellow manly. I believe I yet retain a good many of my old ways particularly as to my toilet. My drawers are arranged precisely the same way as at home. I brush my hair as much as ever, and I am very regular in my habits. Fred will laugh at all of this: I have the same antipathy to studs and rings and pins as of old and I am famous for the "build" of my trousers whether Legg's or Ford's.(48) I very often reproach myself for not having called upon Legg before I left. It was a thing I really ought to have done and admits of no excuse. Kenchin too requested I would call upon him and I often regret having been unable to do so. With the exception of not writing young Ellis a line apologising for neglecting to send him copies of the brasses in Cuckfield Church, I believe I left nothing undone beside. This is an idle day. Now for a book "One in a thousand"(49) which Mrs Smith insists that I shall read. My chair placed well to windward and my feet against a box to leeward, nothing on but my trousers and socks, I mean to lounge away the morning as careless as a child, for that's the only animal that has nothing to vex and trouble it. By noon nearly a calm. We are certainly very unlucky to lose this trade so early. A lovely evening but hotter than ever.
Saturday 28th November Latitude 10° 27’ Longitude 83° 20’
Breeze very light. The sun exceedingly fierce. Sat in my cabin all day almost naked. White jackets are in great request and are as unbecoming as necessary. The effect is very bad at dinner; I have not given up my practice of wearing a coat at dinner yet and hope not to do so. It is too hot for dancing, the ladies sit on the poop and a few of us sing. Miss Young sings very beautifully and is always ready to oblige. She is an exquisite musician. I think I sing some seven or eight songs, a thing I never did at home.
Sunday 29th November Latitude 8° 46’ Longitude 82° 40’
A four knot breeze, not quite so hot on the whole, a sail on our starboard beam. Prayers on the quarterdeck. Weather looks squally towards night. Playing practical jokes all night.
Monday 30th November Latitude 6° 1’ Longitude 82° 0’
Breeze increasing, a splendid morning. The play is to come off tonight; I know my part perfectly by heart but I don't think myself adapted to it. I am cast for "Dr. Rosy”, one of the principal characters of Sheridan's celebrated farce. I am in a precious funk, my dress is an antique black coat, very large waistcoat embroidered with pockets reaching to the middle, knee breeches and black silk stockings, ruffles, buckles etc. etc. I wish the matter was well over. We are to have supper etc. after.
The performance went off admirably, everybody was pleased, a very good theatre was rigged on the quarterdeck and adorned with excellent taste. One of the awning cabins was turned into a green room; the dresses, thanks to Captain and Mrs Smith, were excellently got up. I wasn't so nervous as I expected; a supper equal to any I have seen on shore followed. Champagne, hot claret etc; some of the ladies are reported to have left the cuddy with a motion certainly not imparted to them by the vessel. Speeches, toasts, songs all were plentiful. The Commodore conducted himself very decently for him and I hope that the feeling against him will subside a little. The acting was very fair, at all events gave great amusement.
Tuesday 1st December Latitude 3° 38’ Longitude 82° 30’
The breeze light but fair; we are lucky at having it all. For when the trade is lost as with us, early, it frequently happens that baffling winds prevail. We have had an unusually bad passage. We have gone further south and have had more wet weather than one East Indian man in a thousand experience. For a month the cold was excessive; plenty of headaches today. Soda water in great request. Very squally all the afternoon and evening. A dead calm for an hour or two and then a heavy shower and a stiff breeze, which being ended, the sun shines forth fiercer than ever. These squalls push us along famously but they are not agreeable. Too hot for dancing.
Wednesday 2nd December Latitude 2° 20’ Longitude 83° 10’
A heavy squall in the night. Everyone is getting very anxious now. The middle of the day is looked forward to for the latitude with great impatience. We expect to be within a degree or a degree and half of the line today; though the awning is rigged it is impossible to stay on deck. The after hatchway(51) of the hold was left open after dusk tonight into which I nearly fell, being only saved by a couple of fellows catching hold of me when in the cherubinical situation of head and shoulders only insight; hurt my knee a little; my shoulder too got a smart rap. A perfect calm, heavy squalls of rain at intervals.
Thursday 3rd December Latitude 1 degree 17’ Longitude 83° 15’
In the night I awoke in great agony from my knee and I couldn't move it at all, not even turn round; lay in this state until the middle watch turned out, one of whom called the doctor; he pronounced it a strain of one of the ligatures passing from the thigh to the calf. He applied lotions which gave relief. In the morning formentations and laudanum; in bed until 7 o'clock this evening when, as I could no longer lie from headache in consequence of the numbers of fellows who had been all day in my cabin. I dressed and went on deck. A perfect calm. More formentations and laudanum and calomel.
Friday 4th December Latitude 0° 12’ Longitude 83° 10’
A very heavy squall of rain lasting an hour and a half in the middle watch. My knee easier this morning; no sleep all night. The cockroaches are becoming exceedingly plentiful. They are most disgusting insects, something like a cockchafer but infinitely larger and more ugly. Although every cabin swarms with them I have heard of no one getting reconciled to them. They have a nasty smell with them, have very long antenna, but are quite harmless. They run with incredible rapidity and require great dexterity to catch them. They run over you in the night and will walk into your mouth if open. They are fond of finger and toenails and will nibble them to the quick. Lady, wife of Sir Walter Scott of the 15th Hussars, had her nails eaten very much; they never, or very seldom, appear in the daytime. If we are not particularly unlucky we must arrive in ten days. How I long to get my letters! At noon 12 miles south of the line. Alternate calms and squalls all day. Very hot. This evening Mrs Smith sent for the Captain's, (her husband's) guitar; Miss Young’s was also bought out and we had perhaps the most delightful evening I have ever spent. A perfectly still night, not a ripple on the water, and a splendid moon. The Captain plays in fine style and Miss Young sung more sweetly than ever. We had some well executed duets; the guitar is a better instrument than I was aware of, and in the hands of a good musician is powerful. There is nothing so unpleasant as not being able to get anything to drink which is not quite hot. The water, beer and indeed everything liquid could not be drunk except to assuage one's excessive thirst. The wine, though cooled in a proper machine, after it has been 10 minutes on a table is almost unpalatable.
Saturday 5th December Latitude 1 degree 4’ Longitude 83° 42’
I have been up since 4 o’clock; squalls and calms. I always bathe when I can; a large tub is filled with salt water and placed on the quarterdeck which is used by anyone during the time of washing decks. The quartermaster of the watch stands by and pours as many buckets over you as is liked. We, that is the young fellows, and quite independent of the dons, purpose to present Mr Lovewell with some token of our great esteem for him. Thirty pounds is the amount of subscription. It will perhaps be considered insulting to the Commodore and may appear done only in revenge for the many insults we have all experienced at his hands. It is however hard, that because Cousitt is a blackguard and his first officer the contrary, we cannot pay the latter a mark of regard. To keep the matter as private as possible the money is to be paid by several subscribers to my account at Scott and Binney's(52) immediately on landing. If there ever was a man who deserved anything of the kind, Lovewell is he. We are now in the midst of a heavy squall of rain; playing up to breakfast. My knee, I think is somewhat better this morning. Squall lasted some couple of hours after which a stiff breeze sprung up, which carried us eight to half past seven, when a gale of wind obliged us to take in sail and reef. The vessel lay over very much all the afternoon and many of us were very seedy one or two of the ladies also. When the gale came on the ladies were sitting on the poop, it was too sudden to allow them to go down and they were obliged to hold on till the fury was passed. They behaved very well barring the Commodore's wife. Eleven o’clock, a four knot breeze, all quiet. I shall sleep like a top I hope.
Monday 6th December Latitude 2° 18’ Longitude 85° 20’
Squally early this morning. A calm during the morning watch. A shark close astern; I hooked him, but a breeze springing up, we lost him. Four bells, 10 o’clock, prayers in the cuddy, the weather being too squally for the deck. Not so hot as it has been, the sky being cloudy and a good deal of rain having fallen. Yesterday the heat in our cabins was awful, the sea running too heavily to allow of open ports. I wonder if we shall hear the canting Morris next Sunday. I hope not most sincerely. These breezes have put everyone in good spirits and once we get into the Southeast monsoon we shall bear down upon Madras in gallant style. We may get it tomorrow; perhaps by this day week, I may have read my letters from home. I have made a vow to go to the cathedral the first Sunday after our arrival. How shall I feel when I once again hear the peeling organ? A homeward bound ship on our starboard quarter going before the wind with studding sails set; too far to speak with. Five bells, half past ten; I am off to prayers. Towards noon breeze freshened and became foul. Found we had ran many miles east. Not so hot tonight. We are all getting into bad spirits again. Prayers etc. in cuddy this evening.
Monday 7th December Latitude 2° 40’ Longitude 86° 28’
Breeze fresh and foul as yesterday. At 12 found we had run very much east, breeze decreasing; it may turn into the monsoon. Towards night a dead calm. A lovely evening, singing as usual on the poop.
Tuesday 8th December Latitude 3° 20’ Longitude 86° 2’
Near the morning a light and favourable breeze springing up. A lovely day, not so overpoweringly hot. All the decks, masts, sails etc etc are being painted; the smell insufferable. Spent all the morning in Captain Smith's cabin. Half after three, a dead calm. There goes "Oh ye roast beef”, nearly a calm all the evening. A lovely night, dancing and singing on the poop. Being very tired turned in at 6 bells, 11 o'clock; have been up since 5 o'clock.
Wednesday 9th December
A light breeze, the ghost of one. We have been making about 2 knots(53) all night, but this is indeed tedious. There is no knowing when we may get the monsoon now; everyone is in low spirits. The Skipper and officers out of humour. Very hot this morning. It is now half after eight; I have been up for some hours and feel very cool after my bath. From being, I believe a morose, sulky fellow, I am become, and have been the whole voyage, the noisiest and most mischievous chap on board. I do nothing but laugh and make puns from morning till night, particularly since I have given up the soul direction of the newspaper. I always look on the bright side of things as much as possible; I never speak or take the slightest notice of any of the dons unless spoken to first, then I melt into politeness itself. I am sure it is the best way of treating them. Mr & Mrs Morris have wished to be particularly civil to me but I won't allow them to be so. I suspect that practice is liable to make me more dependant upon my self than upon the favour of other people, but I would infinitely prefer that to being considered forward or intrusive or being thought to count the smiles of my superiors. I hate that word. If I were to address Mr. Morris at Madras and Mr Morris did not think fit to recollect me, I should be confoundedly mortified and should ill brook such an insult. Playing out to breakfast "Come arouse thee". A dead calm from breakfast till night when a stiff but foul breeze sprung up. A great number of small dolphins and three sharks, with myriads of small fish, played around the ship all the morning. Captain Smith caught two or three dolphins. A lovely night, dancing.
Thursday 10th December Latitude 5° 13’ Longitude 83° 45’
Towards 12 o'clock last night breeze freshened and became more foul. Tacked in middle watch. On going on deck at half after five this morning, found we were running under a stiff breeze, East by South instead of due north. Mr Lovewell and his watch in wretched spirits. A little before seven tacked again. It is a very beautiful sight at any time but during the night when it is perfectly diabolical. "Mr. McCray" "Aye aye sir", "All hands bout ship”; down darts one mid to the boatswain's cabin and off goes another to the officers not on duty. Soon is the thrice-shrill whistle heard and then the shout in a harsh gruff voice of the boatswain, "all hands bout ship”, which is reiterated by the sergeant of the watch down the soldiers' hatchway. First all the men and then all the soldiers stand by the several ropes allotted to them. One by one, the lazy cuddy servants crawl on deck and take their positions. The second officer stations himself on the forecastle and the mids, to whom the whole management of the poop is given, with their quartermasters who have all been just turned out of bed and are standing half asleep by their ropes: "all ready on the forecastle" shouts Mr. Lovewell “Aye, aye sir" to the men at the helm. "Wear ship" round goes the wheel, a dead silence prevails though upwards of a hundred men are on deck. Flap go the sails as she wheels round "let go the…." something quite unintelligible to the understanding of landsman and up fly the numerous small ropes around the decks which being done, the men from those at the braces and another pause prevails. "Mainsail haul”, and away go the men with a heavy and measured quick tread up the decks. The yards gradually come round and we stand on the opposite tack. To any but a nautical eye the greatest confusion follows here, the Officers shouting to the several watches. "Belay" "avast" "one pull more", "pull all together”, "soldiers come aft" etc. etc; in about a quarter of an hour the pully-hauling is finished and the men go below. At breakfast a dead calm.
At 10 o'clock a breeze sprung up which proves to be monsoon, but owing to our having run so far out of our own course it is a foul wind and we shall be obliged to beat up against it. Was anything so devilish unlucky? When we shall anchor in Madras Roads(54) it is now impossible to conjecture. A very smart squall of wind and rain about 6 this evening, and another about half after eight which drove the ladies down. The ship lied over a good deal, but it being a cool night we managed to have a capital dance. I only had half an hours sleep today so I turn in at half after ten.
Friday 11th December Latitude 5° 55’ Longitude 85° 42’
Tacked at 12 o'clock last night. We go on one tack 16, and on the other, 8 hours, and uncommonly poor work this beating about is when within only a day or two of Madras with a fair breeze. Cousitt is said to be an excellent sailor, but he has acted with very ill judgement this voyage. If he hadn't made a great mistake a few days ago we should, certainly ought to have been so situated as to have had the monsoon a fair wind. A tremendous squall of rain in the night. The monsoon is very steady but squally which is not usual. I forgot to say that yesterday at dinner a sail was reported on our larboard quarter. She was on the other tack, and the weather being hazy we didn't distinguish her nation. I am just come down from bathing; I am afraid I have kept this diary very indifferently. On board ship an excuse can be offered owing to rough weather and a thousand other things, but on shore if I do not make a better thing of it I can say nothing. There are various conjectures as to the day of arrival from Tuesday next to Saturday week. How many are looking out for us at Madras? The Miss Taylors have not seen their father since they can recollect, Miss Tomkyns has never seen hers and Miss Young, who is not quite 17 and a devilish nice girl, at least in my opinion, has not seen her father for 14 years. The several papas will all come on board to meet them. Fancy the meeting! Miss McDonald , a very pretty little doll, and about as sensible as one, has such an affection for her sister, the wife of some fellow in the Calvary, that she has travelled some 15 or 16 thousand miles to pay her a visit. What sisterly solicitude the little lady displays! Miss Young is as simple minded, but clever a girl as I ever met with; not surpassingly beautiful but very well looking. She has a very sweet voice and has a slight Scotch accent which added to large blue eyes make her perfectly bewitching; she is reported to have a good many admirers on board. Some say she smiles upon one of them; whether that is the case or whether she retains them for a nabob with guineas yellow as his chaps, I have not been able to discover, probably the latter. They have played up to dress some time, put a few things in order for going ashore. Very squally all the evening. Dancing. We have run a wretched distance since yesterday.
Saturday 12th December Latitude 6° 58’ Longitude 84° 52’
The monsoon provokingly steady; everyone now is perfectly resigned. The Steward walks about in a state of absolute distraction, fearful lest the provisions should fail us; the flour is getting very low; the men and soldiers are put upon potatoes twice a week. We are shortly to be put on an allowance of water in the cuddy, a pleasing prospect this thirsty weather! The innumerable chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks which my Uncle Tom was so amused with, have dwindled into two or three brace of chickens. In fact we are not in a desirable plight just now. The weather very squally all day. Our latitude today at 12 o'clock was six° 48 minutes north, a miserable run. Between the squalls we had dancing and singing this evening. My knee, though does not confine me, is troublesome and very weak, at times painful. The cockroaches are more numerous and more gigantic than ever. Butler last night lifted his pillow and nine large fellows ran over the bed in full retreat. I found five or six at one time in my cabin too, one of which was slain, one maimed but escaped, the rest retreated scot free.
Sunday 13th December Latitude 7° 36’ Longitude 84° 41’
Beating about off Ceylon latitude 7° 35 only. Thank goodness we are on the starboard tack all night which sends me against the bulkhead instead of into the middle of the cabin. Mrs Smith has had no sleep for a week; our anxiety to get to Madras has been all expended; no one seems to care now how long we may be on board, not a face looks cheerful. We had prayers, I hope for the last time, on the quarterdeck. Half past one, we have come up a little better during the last hour; It does not signify if our provender does run short; we have a large cargo of gun powder for some Nabob and can render that available, at least I hope so. We have had two or three squalls of rain since prayers. I am now going to sleep an hour before dinner; another squall just coming on. I am happy to say I'm not quite so fat as I was a short time since. I live principally on jam and bread and potatoes with wine and water, so I ought not to be fat; this inclination to obesity is a source of perpetual annoyance to me. Prayers as usual in the cuddy this evening. Squalls during the evening which drove the ladies under the awning.
Monday 14th December Latitude 8° 19’ Longitude 84° 38’
Numerous squalls and tackings in the night which were not conducive to sleep. The Bay of Bengal (57)is subject during the monsoons to heavy squalls. A native vessel in sight standing across the bay. After breakfast the men were all employed in hauling the guns on deck, when a thick heavy cloud extending some three or four miles along the horizon was discovered to windward. "Haul in clothes lines", shouted the Captain. The clothes of the watches of last night being hung over the decks today, down come the lines, "Close down the hatches”; up come the men out of the hold, and down go the hatches. "Let go the royals”; in an instant they are flying in the wind. Now hurries the carpenter along the deck and dives down the hatchway to shut the ports. "Stand by the gallant halyards”, and out come the watch in the weather clothing and take their places. The Captain and Officer's servants are running about to their several masters with south-westers and rough coats and carrying down the uniforms. The men not engaged at the halyards are huddled to leeward of the masts to escape the coming torrent. Meanwhile the sea assumes a dark angry appearance, the wind gradually tips the before lazy wave with a foamy ridge, the vessel begins to lie over. Soon she darts through water at the rate of 10 knots;(55) ”Luff, luff" to the men at the helm. The rain begins to fall in heavy drops, the vessel strains more and more, "let go the topgallant halyards”; away they go, and the men shelter themselves under the gun carriages. Down comes the rain in perfect streams and fiercely blows the wind. The leeports are nearly under. The Captain walks the poop muffled in his rough coat and southwester, and now and then breaks the silence by giving an order to the men at the helm. In 10 minutes it is all over, the decks dripping with rain and everything looking wretched. The men all employed again in making sail and the guns are now being hauled up by my cabin door. "Handsomely, handsomely" hallows the boatswain to the men on deck. "That will do, lower away." "Taught, taught," “alright, " and now they go over my head, "high enough, let go the jigger"(56) and now the gun is in the carriage. These squalls happen every two or three hours. We are going very miserably. I believe the Commodore thinks his ship is bewitched. About 11 o'clock a large whirlwind was seen coming over the sea towards us at a great rate. It luckily dispersed before it reached us. At dinner another was reported but that also didn't come on us though it passed astern within a few yards of the ship. They are not a frequent occurrence and present an astonishing appearance. A dark isolated cloud appeared scudding along at an incredible rate pouring down torrents of rain, the surface of the water immediately beneath it foamed and looked like a surf though covering an area not many hundred yards. Had either of them come upon the ship our small sails and probably our top masts would have gone by the board. A succession of squalls the whole afternoon and evening which coupled with occasional tacks made one feel as miserable as can be conceived.
Tuesday 15th December
A very heavy squall in the middle watch, and during the morning watch the poor fellows have done nothing but stand by the topgallant halyards. We are now seven o'clock a.m.; on the starboard tack, on which we shall remain for twenty-four hours, if she does not break off much. The wind blows rather stiff; the incessant squalls make the air very damp and at times cold. The sky, being always cloudy does not increase our cheerfulness; we are all so disgusted that I believe no one would care if we beat about in this confounded Bay for another month. The ship pitches a good deal this morning. Breeze so stiff that at breakfast time we were going under reefed top sails. Repeated squalls with heavy rain the whole day. One lasted four hours. The ship labours tremendously; a heavy sea is on her and the short chopping wave peculiar to the Bay renders the motion very unpleasant. We have not laid over so much before. I was very sick all the morning. This evening the weather is not so squally. The breeze blows very hard very steady and as contrarily for us as possible. We are on the larboard tack tonight and how I am to sleep I don't know.
Wednesday 16th December Latitude 9° 10’ Longitude 85° 20’
The breeze blows as hard as ever this morning. I was obliged to put my bed on the deck in my cabin last night the ship laid over so much but sleep was out of the question, the motion horrible. My cabin is as dark as pitch. The Skipper has known the Bay of Bengal(57) for 14 years in this month and has invariably experienced a fine clear sky with a light steady monsoon. He and Lovewell can only account for this unusually heavy weather by supposing the monsoon at Madras was very late and that we are now in the very midst of that periodical phenomenon. The spirits of the passengers couldn't have been affected more than they were before this. But to be tossed about within two hundred miles of Madras in a gale of wind with heavy rain without any prospect of reaching it for another week is indeed depressing; never was so thoroughly an unfortunate voyage made as this. The weather looks somewhat finer this morning, but the breeze is as furious as ever. My port is at the waters edge - everyone is obliged to hold on. The top sails are reefed the halyards all hauled down. The dinner is worse and worse every day. To add to our comfort, we don't know where we are for no observations could be taken yesterday which I suspect accounts for us standing so much to the east for fear of Ceylon. We are scudding along, close hauled(58) of course, at a great rate but we are also driving very much to leeward. We expect every day to be put on a short allowance of water; let me see, we have got one cow, one horse and seven or eight terriers with numerous cats which no doubt the cook could transmogrify into delicious ragouts so there really is no reason to grumble. I have got the devil of a headache this morning. Confound her how she pitches. The day turned out tolerably fine. We had a shower or two in the early part of the evening. The observations were taken and we found that we had made a much worse run than the least sanguine of us had expected. We had some singing and two capital dances on the quarterdeck. The sea is going down gradually, the breeze is not so fresh. The motion is still very bad. We should out our reefs this evening. I was very sick this morning.
Thursday 17th December Latitude 9° 32’ Longitude 86° 28’
Up as usual this morning at six o'clock. A fine clear morning without any appearance of squalls. What a comfort, the breeze too much lighter; we are on the larboard tack. Half past eight a.m. where we have been since yesterday at noon. She is lying up pretty well just now at least comparatively - but we must make Madras on the other tack. If we could get along forward our case would not be so deplorable, for then in the course of time we could beat it but a strong current sets fully against us which we are unable, on account of our having no cargo and not enough ballast, to stem. The consequence is that for every three miles we make we drive two miles to leeward. We are all getting quite cheerful again, not because there is any prospect of reaching Madras, but because we are thoroughly resigned to stay in the good ship True Briton as long as the good ship pleases to detain us. We are going to be very jolly on Christmas Day and pay every honour we possibly can to that at-home merry-and-happy season which follows it. After all, this is a deuced deal better than being wrecked on the island of St Paul with only cabbages to live upon. I am trying hard to look always on the sunny side of the melon and comparing one situation with something worse to congratulate oneself on being placed in the better of the two. For a man who is destined to live, either by necessity but particularly as in my case by choice, in a foreign land far, far way from all who take the slightest interest in him; and especially in a country possessing as India does a climate so fearfully precarious, I am confident the only way of ensuring the small portion of happiness which, under the most auspicious circumstances it is only possible to enjoy, is to consider everything for the best. To bless one’s stars that it is no worse than it is and as much as possible to view all things through a cheerful medium. How plainly do now I see what my mother, my dear mother, so often tried to impress on me - that I little knew the comfort and value of my home. I need not conceal how bitterly, aye and more than bitterly, have I repented having ever left it. I did indeed little value those luxuries of which not having known the want, I was unable to appreciate. Now do I see when it is too late, to how respectable a profession was I placed by my father; but I declare to God that I would infinitely prefer the position my father holds in society than the highest military preferment which can by any possibility be before me. I have been used to deprecate in others that which I am now doing, the making of my dear parents unhappy by complaining of my present situation in life, obtained for me against the will of my father and at infinite trouble and considerable expense; but I have reasons for so doing. First because I am aware that, when I assure my father and mother that I am fully prepared to undergo anything that may happen to me with the utmost cheerfulness, without a murmur, that they will cease to feel unhappy about me and will put that confidence in my own courage and steadiness of character, which I hope to some degree to deserve. All through the voyage I have been the gayest of the gay, the happiest of the happy and have no reason to doubt that my high spirits will forsake me when I am called upon to figure in a more conspicuous theatre. But my chief reason for this disclosure of my feelings is the hope that my brothers will take example by me that they will try to believe what is most assuredly the fact, that following a profession at home is not only more respectable but to be preferred beyond expression to the, I'd almost said disreputable life, I have chalked out by my own wilful obstinacy. I have spoken just now in a moral point of view, with regard to the personal comforts I had rather reside in England upon a hundred and fifty pounds per annum than in India upon the most princely fortune. Mr Morris the civilian who has held in India appointments from which he derived magnificent emolument has declared to me that he would prefer the meanest employment in England to even a short residence in that dreaded country. If Fred should ever feel impatient, disgusted or discontented with his profession let him think of me and that how gladly would I exchange with him my situation for his, which I once had the power of enjoying and the rejection of which I can never cease to regret. Sidney, I am fearful has been led to believe that he too is destined for India. I would, for his future health and happiness, he could be made to think as I do now without undergoing what I have already undergone; were it possible that he could, he would receive with thankfulness and pleasure any profession or employment his father might think proper to present him with and would follow it content and cheerful merely in the recollection that his father was not compelled from his circumstances to send him to pass his days in following a miserable profession in the pestilential climate of India. Half after eleven a.m. Somebody has just put his head into my cabin and delighted me with the comfortable intelligence that we are fifty five miles further from Madras than we were yesterday. It is now a calm and perhaps when a breeze springs up it may be point or two more favourable. The current is driving us along with it at a very unsatisfactory rate. The Captain looks in a very good humour and I don't wonder at it. Puppy as he is, I feel rather inclined to pity him under his present distress. We are restricted in the consumption of bread. It continued all but a calm the whole evening, capital dancing and singing; feel in high spirits tonight.
Friday 18th December Latitude 9° 25’ Longitude 87° 6’
A dead calm all night and this morning. A fine, but exceedingly hot day. Immediately after breakfast the 2nd officer and a boat's crew were ordered to shore ahead for the purpose of ascertaining the real strength and direction of the current. Lovewell gave me permission to go. The jolly boat(59) was soon lowered and away we went about a mile from the ship. The lead(60) was let down to 90 fathom(61) the compass log line etc all things put in order when lo! the minute glass was found to have been forgotten; what to do, Ward didn't know, but it was of course useless to attempt anything without it and back we pulled; what excuse to make was now the question. To tell the real state of affairs was not to be thought of; at last Ward suggested the our lead wasn't heavy eno’, tho in fact ‘twould have almost held a 74; as soon as we got alongside up jumped the Mid: with Ward's excuse and by a stratagem obtained the glass unperceived as well as another lead, the former clandestinely found its way into my pocket: "What the devil, Sir, brought you back?" said the Captain bustling up to the gangway, "What's the matter now?" "Lead isn't heavy eno' to keep her steady, Sir" "How's that Sir? The current must be uncommonly strong Sir”, "Sets in from the North East Sir" stammered Ward. We thought 'twas well over, but we were anything but agreeably surprised to see the chief Officer and his boatswain come down the side and take their places, "Let go the painter”, "all gone”, Ward couldn't make this out; "We are going round the ship, Sir" said Lovewell to Ward, "starboard, starboard" and we shot under the stern; the painting, copper, masts and everything having been surveyed and discussed by Lovewell and the boatswain. "Now Sir, we'll shoot ahead and try the current if you please”.
"So Sir - the lead was too light, eh!" “Yes, Sir, too light" answers poor Ward; "too light eh!" lifting up a huge weight of many pounds and putting it down again. "I recollect, Sir when I was a youngster being sent in a calm to a ship in the distance, and when I came back I had forgotten her name forgotten her name - Sir" "indeed Sir”, mutters poor Ward. "However my memory's improved since that”, "Lay to”; in come the oars. "Now Sir, we shall find the leads heavy eno'-" The men, enjoying the joke much, soon brought us to an anchor; the log line was all ready; out I pulled the minute glass as unconcernedly as possible . "Oh! you've brought a glass have ye, I should have supposed you might have calculated its strength near en' without that - Sir!”. Ward made his observations as soon as possible, and the leads were now to be hauled in; tough work it was too; after pulling for 20 minutes they were got in, during which time Lovewell couldn't sit still an instant "come pull away my lads, the lead's heavy eno' now for you, eh!" as if the poor devils had anything to do with it; “now, Sir, we’ll go round her once more and then pull in”; after half an hours pull we were again alongside, Ward makes his report to the Commodore; the Cadets are enquiring of me if it was hot etc, questions sarcastically put because Lovewell would allow no one but me to go; the boat again is lashed to the davits and Ward and I have been enjoying a hearty laugh over our morning’s adventure. The ship is drifting away with the current; 1/2 after 1 pm; the weather looks inclined to be squally, a light breeze appears to be springing up; by 2 o'clock the breeze took us 5 knots(62) and what is more within 2 or 3 points of our course; a beautiful evening the breeze having freshened a little; dancing, everyone in high spirits; should the monsoon blow steadily from this quarter Tuesday or Wednesday will do it.
Saturday 19th December Latitude 9° 50’ Longitude 85° 36’
A lovely morning about 9 o’clock, a sail discovered right ahead bearing down upon us; studding sails and a large press of canvas on her; in an hour and a 1/2 she was close to us, we having both shortened sail; she proved to be a barque from Calcutta bound, we couldn't understand where; she told us nothing had been settled in the Chinese matter(63) and a few other nautical questions having been put and answered; we both stood on, she right before and we close hauled to the winds. It was a beautiful sight, the excitement caused was infinite; the breeze continuous very steady tho' not quite so favourable; at 12 o'clock the greatest dismay was caused by finding we had made only 25 miles of Latitude, 80 being considered the least number we could have made it was now known that Madras could not be made with this wind against an adverse current with our Copper(64) 2 or 3 feet out of water. All hands were soon employed in filling all the empty casks with salt water; the guns were run to windward and everything done to remedy our situation. This evening the breeze blows very fresh and we are lying over exceedingly. Altho' the ladies could not stand without assistance, to raise the spirits we made them dance, and fine fun we had; in the morning we were all elated with absolute joy, and never were people so thoroughly flabbergasted as at the result of the observations. I have been very unwell all day. The doctor is going to take me in hand tonight; we have one chicken and two ducks left.
Sunday 20th December Latitude 11° 20’ Longitude 84° 5’
A lovely morning; I am very unwell today, the doctor is not quite certain that my exposure to the sun the other day in the boat did me any good; I shall soon get round again. Prayers on the quarter deck but I wasn't able to attend them; contrary to all expectations, we have had a capital run since yesterday; it appears that the water etc have had the desired effect; the ship holds the wind much better and we are able to stem the current which is perhaps not quite so strong as it was. We are in latitude 11° 20, and of course the spirits of all are proportionally high. I don't think we have much Longitude to run down and Madras being in Latitude 13° we must make it by Wednesday; I hope I shall be well by that time. It is now 1/2 after 1 and that would be in England about 7 o'clock pm; I can fancy them sitting around the fire at home, perhaps at tea, Syd just returned from Midhurst,(65) looking forward to Xmas and Fred's coming down and the pleasure Syd anticipates in skating and the walks Loo intends to have with Fred. How I wish I was with them. I almost dread that I shall never see them again; my father reading, my dear mother perhaps thinking of me. I shall be the only absent one this Christmas. My mother, I am afraid, depended on hearing from me thro' some passing ship and I have no doubt has become by this time very anxious about me. It is once in ten voyages that an opportunity occurs of sending letters by a passing sail, but my mother does not know this and very likely thinks me neglectful. Very ill all the afternoon; got better towards the evening and went to prayers in the cuddy but was obliged to go below. I never recollect being so thoroughly ill before. Went to bed as soon as possible.
Monday 21st December Latitude 12° 38’ Longitude 81° 20’
I am a good deal better today tho' still very unwell; everyone in the highest spirits. We may get in before midnight but certainly tomorrow. The cables are all ready, the anchor over them. The Captain's portmanteau(66) is packed ready to go ashore with him the instant the anchor is dropped. I am all ready for tomorrow morning. We are going along at a capital rate with stunsails and royals set. The wind having come up a point or two. I have been as usual spending part of the morning in Mrs Smith's Cabin. I shall go up to dinner today. I hope I shall be well by tomorrow. At dinner land reported on our lee bow. Soon a long line of hills appeared for many miles both to leeward and windward. It was presently discovered that we had made the coast South of Madras and consequently we had to tack immediately. This was a great damper, as crashing about in sight of land after 4 1/2 months voyage is not agreeable. We had fine fun this evening. The ladies danced and sang right merrily and did not retire till 12 o'clock. We hope to get in about noon tomorrow. The Captain has been particularly insulting the whole evening which very bad policy as the strong feeling against him had in some measure subsided.
The lighthouse at Madras visible from the Cross trees.(67)
Tuesday 22nd December Latitude 11° 20’ Longitude 84° 5’
Out of sight of land. A heavy squall and afterwards a dead calm of three hours in the night. We have been tacking all night and this morning I do not know our position and therefore can form no idea when we shall arrive. A stiff land breeze; it is nearly 12 so I must go on deck to hear where we are and what is to be done. A very heavy swell which causes the surf. Found we were 2 miles further South than at 12 yesterday; a stiff breeze all the afternoon which took us East and slightly north. We have been going 9 and 10 though under reefed topsails. The motion at dinner very bad; all the stanchions in. It reminded us of the Cape. To add to the pleasures of our situation, it has been raining hard since noon. Not one of the ladies could leave their cabins; my cabin leaks again very much. The cuddy and steerage are under water. The hatches all fastened down. The ports shut and the heat is positively insufferable. If this wind holds, which is not likely we must get a good deal North of Madras before we can make it available. 1/2 after 10 pm; the breeze has become fair and we are squaring yards to stand right in.
Wednesday 23rd December
The breeze as favourable as could be wished. We have made a good deal during the night and expect to see land every moment. It is now 1/4 past 8. I have been up to bathe. I have been very unwell for the last four or five days, but feel better this morning. I have lost my knife and can't mend my pen. A most beautiful morning. I am almost fearful this breeze will desert us as we make the shore. The thought of there being a chance of hearing from home today is almost beyond endurance. 1/2 past 3 - at 12 o'clock by observation we were 42 miles North of Madras. The land was reported from the Masthead some hours ago but it is not visible from the deck. The breeze is lighter but we have never been below 3 knots (68) an hour. The skipper, it was reported will stand in close on shore and coast down with some of his damned currents; a conceited coxcomb! He has been blundering here for some days and will positively not consult his chief officer who is probably a much better sailor, assuredly as good as he is. A splendid day but confoundedly hot. I have been on the fore topsail yard 1/2 the morning but the devil an inch of land could I see; we have no hopes of getting in before tomorrow now, unless indeed an unusually stiff breeze sets in towards land. There goes "O ye roast beef”, I hope for the last time. Now for mutton and salt junk,(69) for there is nothing else left. Dancing; about 8 o’clock, a light reported forward; in a few hours it was found to be the Madras Lighthouse. We stood off from shore and kept continually tacking until 1/2 after 1 at which time I went below and lay down.
Thursday 24th December
Up at 4 o'clock. The lighthouse quite visible from deck; as the morning broke the land gradually appeared. A long line of low coast crowned with trees of densely thick foliage and here and there a pagoda white as snow. The surf roaring and fuming as far as the eye could reach. Soon we bore down upon the town, a long line of white and somewhat handsome buildings were seen. The ships in the Roads soon stood out in the horizon. The day got lighter and lighter. The scene became more interesting.
A gentle breeze presently carried us into the midst of the shipping and we dropped anchor; soon was the sea covered with hundreds of catamarans on their way to the fishing station and a more strikingly novel, as well as picturesque sight cannot be conceived. In an hour the decks were covered with multitudes of natives, but as for describing the meeting of parents and children, the going ashore in the massolah boats, under the direction of an officer sent from the fort, the extraordinary song which the 16 or 17 perfectly naked crew indulge in on the perilous voyage thro' the surf, our visits to the different authorities to report our arrival, the astonishing impression caused by witnessing oriental costumes, manners and architecture, the palankeens; in fact I can't collect my faculties tonight and I must confess the being in the fort, the booming gun, the bugles, the dining and fifes, the saluting, the pomp, the mess - and the very fact of every thing I have yet seen reminding me of the beautiful and faithful descriptions of the Arabian Nights, put it quite out my power to give even a faint idea of my feelings. I will shut up my Journal and begin a letter to my mother with, I hope, better success.
The first few days ashore were so novel and bustling that the Journal was neglected and being forgotten was never resumed.
The plate, two very handsome Claret vases of silver with a suitable inscription on both of them was presented to Mr Lovewell and gave him great satisfaction (value £35)
The Captain has been treated in the way he richly deserves by those who had courage to let him know that they considered themselves only casually thrown with him and that tho' obliged to submit to his puppyisms on board his ship thought fit to resume their proper station in regard to him by never taking the slightest notice of him.
I send a few of our editorial productions as specimens of the character of the "True Briton Weekly Advertizer". I hope our motto "non Omnia etc" will not be forgotten during the perusal.
I am nearly as fat as ever - but a little jungle fever on the march will soon reduce me.
I hope this will not be shown to any but the immediate members of the family, including my Uncles and Miss Pockney. I am sure my mother will attend to my request.
I have made a remark or two in red ink but in so hurried a manner as hardly I fear to be understood.
1 quoted from Hervey Captain A. A Soldier of the Company Life of an Indian Ensign 1833-43, 1843, edited by Charles Allen 1988 in association with the National Army Museum, London
2 Secunderabad is the twin City of Hyderabad in the Indian state or Telangana; it was establish as a British cantonment or military garrison in 1806
3 The True Briton was built by Wigram’s at Blackwall and launched in 1835
5 A command to all sailors in tacking ship from one tack to another
7 This rather obscure phrase seemingly refers to a small neutral flag displayed at half mast
8 Grog is a mixture of water and rum
9 A quadrille is a type of dance for four couples, with each couple forming a single side of a square.
10 11 m.p.h.
11 The Madeira Islands are an archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic, renowned for its lush greenery and rugged mountains 1,000km from the European mainland.
12 11 m.ph.
13 11.5 m.p.h.
14 ‘flying fish’ don’t actually fly in the same way as birds; self-propelled leaps out of water where their long wing-like fins enable gliding for considerable distances above the water's surface. The main reason for this behaviour is thought to be to escape from predators.
17 In the 19th century ‘the cuddy’ referred to a saloon cabin at the stern of transport ships, where wealthy travellers could travel in greater comfort than the steerage passengers below.
18 Naval tradition dictates that any ship crossing the equator must pay their respects to the Lord of the Seas, King Neptune to gain his acceptance. This ritual requires all those who had never previously crossed the line (and a few extras) to be ‘charged for their crimes’ and get the justice they deserve.
19 Arack punch as a mixture has very old roots and proof is in the name: punch is the predecessor to the cocktail, while arack is among the oldest known distilled spirits. The ingredients are fermented coconut sugar or sugarcane
20 9 m.p.h.
21 St. Helena island, part of the British Overseas Territory also encompassing Ascension and Tristan da Cunha islands, is a remote volcanic outpost in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is famous as the place of Napoleon Bonaparte's exile and death, as commemorated by a now-empty tomb.
22 a soiree is an evening party or gathering, typically in a private house, for conversation or music.
23 helping drunken comrades to their beds
24 11.5 m.p.h.
25 Hens were usually carried on the poop in order to protect them from the thieving propensities of the crew who were often tempted to steal eggs.
26 Sidney Waller was Samuel’s younger brother; he joined the East India Company in 1841.
27 12 m.p.h.
28A watch system, watch schedule, or watch bill is a method of assigning regular periods of watchkeeping duty aboard ships and some other areas of employment. A watch system allows the ship's crew to operate the ship 24 hours a day while also allowing individual personnel adequate time for rest and other duties.
29 Sir Robert Wigram, 1st Baronet (30 January 1744 – 6 November 1830) was a British merchant shipbuilder and Tory politician
30 The forecastle is the upper deck of a sailing ship forward of the foremast
31 A Boatswain is a Petty Officer, the senior most rank of the deck department. distinguished from other seamen by the supervisory roles: planning, scheduling, and assigning work.
32 The song was Written and composed by Henry Fielding & Richard Leveridge in 1731. The song praises the Roast Beef as national dish and at the same time it is a lamentation over the decline of the British Empire
33 a roof of canvas or other material supported by a frame to provide protection from the weather
35 9 m.p.h.
36 10 m.p.h.
38 A strong shutter or plate fastened over a ship's porthole or cabin window in stormy weather.
40 Leeward is the side sheltered or away from the wind
41 The first watch is from 20.00 until midnight; the middle watch is from midnight to 04.00; the morning watch is from 04.00 until 08.00; the forenoon watch is from 08.00 until noon; the afternoon watch is from noon to 16.00
44 5 knots is 5.75 m.p.h.
45 Samuel Waller (father 1794-1857) Bridget Waller (mother 1795-1867) Frederick Waller (brother 1823-1893), Sidney Waller (brother 1825-1845), Louise Waller (sister 1828-1892)
46 The duel was based on a code of honour. Duels were fought not so much to kill the opponent as to gain "satisfaction", that is, to restore one's honor by demonstrating a willingness to risk one's life for it, and as such the tradition of dueling was originally reserved for the male members of nobility.
48 Popular contemporary outfitters
49 Unknown contemporary novel which may refer to Tales from the Arabian Nights
50 Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s ‘St. Patrick’s Day or The Scheming Lieutenant’ is a One Act Farce written in 1775
51 The after-hatchway is an opening between the main and mizen mast
52 Scott and Binney was an East India Company agency
53 2 knots is just over 2 m.p.h.
54 A roadstead (or roads - the earlier form) is a body of water sheltered from rip currents, spring tides or ocean swell where ships can lie reasonably safely at anchor without dragging or snatching.
55 10 knots is 11.5 m.p.h.
56 noun colloq. A thingamajig . noun (Naut.) The small mast set at the stern of a yawl-rigged boat
57 The Bay of Bengal is the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean, bounded on the west and northwest by India, on the north by Bangladesh, and on the east by Myanmar and the Andaman Islands of India and Myanmar and the Nicobar Islands of India.
58 Close Hauled means as close to the wind as possible. The sails are pulled in tight.
59 The jolly boat was used mainly to ferry personnel to and from the ship, or for other small-scale activities.
60 Depth was measured using a tool called a lead line. This was simply a hemp rope with a heavy piece of lead tied to one end. A mark was made on the rope every six feet, which is equal to one fathom.
61 540 feet or just under 165 meters
62 5.75 m.p.h.
63 In 1840, Britain went to war with China over questions of trade, diplomacy, national dignity and, most importantly, drug trafficking. While British officials tried to play down the illicit origins of the conflict, opponents gave it a name that made the link quite clear: the Opium War.
64 Copper sheathing is the practice of protecting the under-water hull of a ship or boat from the corrosive effects of salt water and biofouling through the use of copper plates affixed to the outside of the hull.
65 A free grammar school was founded in 1672 by Gilbert Hannam, a coverlet maker of Midhurst. The terms of the foundation provided for 12 boys, to have been resident in Midhurst and of Protestant upbringing.
66 a large travelling bag, typically made of stiff leather and opening into two equal parts.
67 Crosstrees are the two horizontal spars at the upper ends of the topmasts of sailing ships, used to anchor the shrouds from the topgallant mast. Similarly, they may be mounted at the upper end of the topgallant to anchor the shrouds from the royal mast (if fitted).
68 3.75 m.p.h.
69 Salt-cured meat or salted meat is meat or fish preserved or cured with salt.