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Friday, July 25, 2014

Around the cabin table ...

... on the Indiaman Edward Hughes.

Lady Anne Barnard recommences her voyage ... and her shipboard journal.

On 25 February 1797, after the untrustworthy HMS Trusty was fixed, and the convoy had successfully made its departure from England, Lady Anne settled down to describe her fellow passengers, one by one, according to their seating in the cuddy—the ship’s big saloon. 

Presiding at the head of the table was Captain Urmston. “A well bred worthy Irish Man of 48, whose complexion varies from yellow to Orange and from Orange to black as matters go ill or well.” 

At his right was Lady Anne herself, with Mr. Barnard at her elbow. Opposite was Miss Anne Elizabeth Barnard, Lady Anne’s cousin, who was sailing partly as her companion, and partly to find a husband.  Next to Miss Anne Elizabeth was General Hartley, who was gentle, brave, sensible and rich, and very pleased to be heading out to India, where he would have a command. 

“By the General’s left hand sits ‘notre belle’”—Mrs. Campbell, wife of Captain Campbell, an army captain who appears to be firmly under her thumb—“When things go ill with her, then woe to the Captain . . . for then in a low voice ‘Brute’ is often heard, which makes the Men gaze at her and bless their Stars if they are Bachelors and still more if they are Married men.”

Next to this commanding figure sits Dr. Patterson, who sits opposite his wife, who is sister to Little Mary Mein. At Dr. Patterson’s elbow is Mr. Keith, whom Lady Anne calls a “pretty” young man, in the fashion of the time. He is going out as an “aid du Camp at the Cape . . . and by him Colonel Lloyd an honest Welch man, hot . . . hearty . . . Brave and good natured.” And right at the bottom of the table sits the first mate, Timothy Goldsmith, “the picture and model of a Chief Mate of an India Man”—who is in love with Mrs. Saul, “and hopes earnestly to hear of Saul’s death when we arrive at the Cape.”

Obviously, it was going to be an interesting voyage!   

So what did this lady with the malicious, entertaining pen have to say about little Mary Mein?

Half a line should be sufficient to describe the Body & mind conversation and powers of the little—little Miss Mein,” Lady Anne wrote; “Sister to Mrs. Patterson, to whom she sticks fast, and who is a comely unaffected Girl, who makes the doctor very happy and who will make me also a very reasonable companion at the Cape.  

“‘Doctor . . . Doctor’ said I, ‘with so many handsome Sisters in law round you in the House of Mr. Mien, what could induce you to select this Crumb for the Cape?’  

“He shook his head sorrowfully . . . ‘Ah’ said he—‘you may wonder! but I am more grieved at it than you can be surprised.’ He then told me that Mrs. Patterson had petitioned for a good looking cheerful lass to go with her who infinitely wished to be of the party, but Mr. Mein the Contractor for prisoners, I could see had been so much in the habit of putting off bad stock on a hungry market that there being one little daughter at home who was no favourite, contracted in mind and body so much that . . . ‘She is to sleep in one of my Wifes bandboxes’ said the Doctor.

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