Annie Grace Transcripts

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

Joseph Fenton Transcripts

Date: 2 March 1855
Recipient: Letter to Grace Fenton
Book: Joseph Fenton letter-book, Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin

March 2d 1855 Near Cape Mapan [Matapan]

Dear Grace

A few minutes after writing the last lines of my letter of the 27th we were in Valletta Harbour & in a few minutes were being fought for by boatmen – Having learned from an officer belonging of the Port, that the 88th were quartered at the Auberge de Bonvière, I set off in that direction with eyes as wide open as the bright sun would allow & chuckling inwardly at the prospect of a good days sight seeing – Having reached the Aubergè [sic] which is very beautifully situated close to the edge of the water in a little bay I found Edmunds room but no Edmund[.] Capt [Maklevern?] who was lolling lazily in his camp bed told me he had gone boating so leaving word I would be back soon I set off with my fellow voyagers to St Johns Church [ – ] having seen so many more magnificent churches & having heard so much of this from Edmund I was somewhat disappointed at his first appearance but found plenty of interest in the examination of its details & of the Tombs of the grand masters buried there [ – ] we walked all about Valletta & then went to the quarter called Floriana where the public gardens are – The brilliant sunshine, flowers in full bloom & the Novel Architecture & varied costume seemed like a page taken from the Arabian Nights[.] Having walked admired & enjoyed to our hearts content we returned to the town went to the Post Office where I found the paper & your letter shopped a little buying some collars & mits 1 pr of which I send in my letter advising Hannah to secure them as I have more for you (if I find you have behaved yourself properly) when I return.

Then we went to find Edmund [ – ] he was on the look out & met me on the stairs – Dismissing Sparling & William to go & see after forage for the horses we with Mr Mack the purser Mr Fullerton a fellow passenger & myself went into his room & rested a bit[.] Afterwards he accompanied us to the Hotel where we ordered dinner & then went with us to the other part of the Town[.] I left my name at the Governors [ – ] they were all out but Edward was to dine there in the evening & would tell them I had come to offer to convey anything they might wish to send to Hallewell. Before returning to dine we went on to the ramparts to see what was doing on board our ships & while standing the blue Peter or flag saying the vessel was just going to sail was put up [ – ] we were not going to be done out of a good civilised dinner however, so made the best of our way to the Hotel [ – ] comforted the inner man in a deliberate manner [ – ] got guilty on board [ – ] in ten minutes were steaming out to sea [ – ] The sun having just sunk below the horizon as we lifted the anchor – After the excitement & bustle of the day our quiet calm was really very refreshing. I read your letter with great delight & then went on deck to think about it & then got dreaming about the stars & the sea whose breast was quietly heaving like an infant asleep & so at last seeing every things sleeping found myself so I rolled into bed[.] I left my letter to us you for Edmund to finish & send[.]

It is now dinner time (Friday) so I must stop as with the weather we have now & the sea stomach I am getting [ – ] dinners have no terrors for me [ – ] as for our progress we can just see a faint blue tint on the horizon which is pronounced to be Cape Matapan the South point of the Morea[.] The 2 days after leaving Malta were really worth coming all the way for calm, sunny, skies with just enough to fill the sails & prevent the deck from becoming too hot, little streaks of clouds floating about the horizon “Mill down” as the sailors say – Now & then a sail in the distance or a porpoise lazily emerging & again subsiding with the water now leaping out with a dart as in the bay of Biscay, watching these & varying the dolce for [miette?] with the study of the heaps of newspapers I got at Mata [sic] the days pass very pleasantly & in the evenings I have occupied in the study of the stars with a map of the Heavens & telescope & the aid of the Mate[.] I keep at it 3 or 4 hours every night & as as pleased with my new studies as Aimie with a new doll.

when we get near the Cape Matapan a little breeze spring up & a fine mass of clouds gathered round the mountains which form the centre of the Cape [ – ] coming nearer every eye was busy to catch a glimpse of the horses houses & people but we could see little but bare rocks & deep ravines running up the mountains sides [ – ] even the little Island of Cerigo (the old Cathara [Kythera]) seemed to have been deserted since Venus ceased to take refuge there. It was moonlight on Friday night so we passed between it & Cape Malça what with the stars the ships we met & passed the green rocks under the shadow of which the vessel glided it was 1 in the morning before I turned in & at dawn the Capt awoke me to look at the coast of Attica [ – ] owing to a mistake of the mate we went to the right instead of the left side of the Island of Gea [Kea] & so saw nothing but a distant view of Attica tho by the aid of the chart & glass I made out the Valley of Marathon or fancied I did which was quite the same.

In Eubea [Euboea] which we approached about 8 A.M. the highest mountains were tipped with snow & looked agreeably cold in the midst of the glowing sunshine. All day long we glided on over a blue sea passing island after island famed in history & once no doubt populous & rich but now barren looking & half deserted. Knowing that we should be in the Dardanelles during the night I turned in at 10½ in order to get a little sleep first & was roused by the Capt at 1– & went on deck. The Hecla was steaming carefully along a narrow channel a rock on the right so close that we could have thrown a stone onto it & on the left the Island of Tenedos nearly as close. In a little Natural Harbour were lying several small vessels where I suppose lay once on a time Agamemnon’s fleet. Passing the rock on the right was the mainland where stood old Troy. I looked out for Prince Hercule & the rest of the family but they did not shew. I made out to my own satisfaction the mountains where venus & father Enchises were first acquaint[.] Most assuredly I shall next winter rub up & polish my rusty recollections of the Trojan campaign. Having looked in vain for any of the departed Heroes whose souvenirs might incline them to haunt the scene of their exploits & finding none my eyes being weary with sleep I again lay down for an hour till the vessel was at the entrance of the Dardanelles then went up to look at the Forts gaurding [sic] the entrance & had my first peep of the tall minarets of a Turkish form.

During the night my grey horse untied the knots of his head rope lifted out of its groove with his teeth the board which barred him into his stall & set out on a tour of the decks. He was some time walking about before we knew as there was no one up but myself & the watch & they were at the ships head [ – ] the Grey has made himself very much at home on board [ – ] yesterday we had him out & the sailors had a ride on him. We have some chickens & mules on board too so that there is a regular farm yard amid ships. Just as day dawned we passed the narrower part of the passage where are placed nearly opposite to each other the forts called the castles of Europe & Asia & a little further on Abydos where Leander used to swim across to see his lady love. One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen was the sunrise this morning [ – ] the change was marvellous from the deep mysterious gloom in which the hills & water were shrouded to the light which streamed over the Asiatic hills sparkling on the drowsy water & bathing in rosy brilliancy the grey hill sides & misty vallies of the European shore – all day after passing Gallipoli & emerging from the straits we have been on the sea of Marmara surrounded by a fleet of vessels with sails hanging idly unstretched by a breath of air the water smooth as a pond undisturbed except by the track or (fiz?) of a lazy porpoise warming himself in the sun [ – ] a mass of snow topped the hills of a small strip of clear horizontal front behind which lies Constantinople.

We met early in the morning the Alps steamer going down the straits her deck forward crowded with men looking at us & this afternoon we met a 2 decker man of war sauntering down the strait going home most likely – Tho’ Sunday we have had no service today there has been too much to do on board. I have spent the morning in reading & basking in the sun enjoying the wonderful beauty of the scene & thinking of you all – After dinner I fell asleep being weary alike from long watching & excitement [ – ] since tea I have had more star gazing & found the places of a few more constellations – It is now dark but moonlight & we are slowly steaming along among little fishing boats with 2 or 3 men in each & expect to drop the anchor before Constantinople in an hour.

(½ past 10) we have just cast anchor in the golden Horn if the town looks half as well tomorrow in the day light as it does now I shall be well pleased [ – ] we have steamed slowly around the Seraglio point the Minerets of St Sophia glistening in the moonlight [ – ] we are now lying near Pera on the other side of the harbour close to a 3 decker & in the midst of a crowd of boats [ – ] 2 huge transport man of war all full of men & yet everything as still as if we were in a desert –

(Fenton has not ended the above & does not say where he was when it was posted the Post Mark on the envelope says British Army March 5th and Mrs Fenton received it on the 16th of March.)

[This letter was continued on 8 March 1855.]