Annie Grace Transcripts

Annie Grace Fenton’s letter–book does not contain this letter

Joseph Fenton Transcripts

Date: 27 February 1855
Recipient: Letter to Grace Fenton
Book: Joseph Fenton letter-book, Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin

Gibraltar February 27th 1855

The old rock has got his cap on and looks very sleepy not half so brisk as the last time I saw him, no doubt if he could speak he would say and you the same old fellow – We have had a weary passage, after leaving you we steamed down the river till dark, when we were getting near the Goodwin sands the Pilot anchored for the night [ – ] it was a great pity for the wind was blowing hard for the last from the East it would have carried us down the Channel at a famous rate. As it was we lost some hours which would have been of great use if properly employed. Before dawn however we got out and then began my troubles, it was the old story, sea sick as if I had never been on salt water before [ – ] at the Downs, the Pilot got down, towards dawn getting better I managed to get on deck & though there was a good wind there was little sea, & the afternoon went by very pleasantly as the boat glided along the coast. We kept alongside of England all night and then stood across the Channel towards the Bay of Biscay[.] The wind got fresh & the sea too but still I kept up, tho very sick & managed to enjoy myself for we were going at a fine pace with wind & steam, next day we were in the Bay of Biscay & I was floored the wind had become a gale. it was not jolly, still the pace was capital.

I managed to get on deck in the Afternoon in fact the Captain dragged me up as the sight was too fine to be lost, the ship was struggling along jumping from wave to wave, frisking, groaning, rushing against the walls of water, like a Bull & being brought up shaking its head half stunned the sea was white with foam as far as we could see, we got half across the Bay on that day, & were indulging in the idea of a quiet passage & an easy sail down the Portuguse [sic] coast sheltered from the east wind under the lea of the land when in the night the wind changed & we found to our great dismay that the steam power of the Engine was not sufficient & we could do little more than hold our own. That day & the next I lay prostrate, groaning in spirit unable to eat or drink. Sparling was if anything worse. William I heard was all right which was very improper, considering the state his master was in.

When we got out of the Bay matters were a little better, except that the wind shifted two or three points towards the West enabling us to get up some sail & keep the boat somewhat steadier. I got much better & tho’ unable to eat or drink except when lying down & then only tea or biscuit got on deck & enjoyed myself. We were never so near the land as during my last journey this way, never near enough to make out more than a faint outline, but there was plenty to do in watching the water & sky. The gulls were wheeling about, & working hard in their vocation [ – ] now & then a porpoise rolled alongside out of the water & in again & once a thrush came fluttering about the ship as if anxious for rest. On Tuesday we got on better, but I am still very sick & unable to dress myself or do more than just crawl up on deck [ – ] next morning we rounded Cape St Vincent & then the wind being turned a little to the North became a good one for us & we were at the same time sheltered by the land, all the half dead men in the ship rose up to different degrees of life. I actually sat up to dinner. In the Cabin, had soup, roast fat Pork, plum pudding & damson tart, & did not part with it.

In the evening I intended to have written to you but when evening came I had convincing internal reasons for changing my mind & going to bed, Thought of you all instead. The Captn told me we should be at Gibraltar the next day but, we were here so much earlier than I expected that I was not up to see the signal fired from the top of the rock. It is now breakfast time. The health officer is alongside asking stupid questions [ – ] in half an hour we go on shore where I have to buy mules if I can & also to go over the rock, if I can to add a postcript [sic] to this note before posting it.

9 p.m. A regular jolly day at 8½ am I went on shore with the Captn to the fort to the Govenor’s [sic] aide-de-camp. After hunting him up & down I found that he had gone over the Spanish frontier to San Roque a town 6 or 7 miles off where a lot of horses & mules were waiting for him to select from for the government [ – ] it was pouring with rain & seemed likely to do so but I determined to follow him so I got a guide & accompanied by Sparling set off on horse back after him – (here follows a race with Sparling which I win) When we got to San Roque we had not a dry thread on us we found there Captain Lawson surrounded with horse dealers, mule drivers etc, when he heard what I wanted he very kindly went round with me to the stables where were the mules & horses rejected as undersized, we had them turned out. I picked out a short legged black 14½ hands 6 years old, to begin with for which I paid £16. After looking at many others we got to the mules, but there the government had cleared out all worth having [ – ] Captn Lawson told me of some at Gibraltar which had been offered to him so back we went.

My ride today after leaving the shore was up a hilly road bordered by hedges of aloes & great thickets of cactus [ – ] in coming back there was a beautiful view of the rock the top capped with mist & beyond, the Bay covered with shipping [ – ] there was a magnificent background formed by the mountains of the African coast [ – ] so much for the poetry of the situation, as far as the prose of it they cannot get my portmanteau & if his Excellency the Govenor [sic] should ask me to dine with him I should be obliged to ask his Excellency to lend me a clean shirt. The steward has bought 1600 oranges for 16 shillings –