Francis Wickham diary  1796
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Francis Wickham diary contains approximately 75 pages of entries, covering August 23-October 5, 1796, while Wickham served with the British Royal Navy in Martinique. In his diary, Wickham wrote articulately about the climate, plant and animal life, habits of the British sailors, places he visited, and the ubiquity of illness among the sailors.

In early entries, Wickham showed a particular interest in Martinique's wildlife and climate. He described birds and speculated about their migrations (August 24, 1796), discussed fruits, reptiles, and insects, and in several entries, expressed sadness at the high mortality rate for the British in Martinique, which he attributed to the "vile" climate (September 20, 1796). He also frequently commented on the habits of the British sailors, including their tendency toward melancholy (August 27, 1796), the "riot and debauchery" in which they participated, and their love of "accursed grog" (September 4, 1796).

In later entries, Wickham wrote more frequently about travel and political events. On September 10, 1796, he described a trip to Lamantine, a small town in eastern Martinique, where he visited a market and was offended by several Frenchmen playing billiards on a Sunday. He also noted his surprise about a visit from Sir Hyde Parker, Jr., and gave accounts of several political developments, such as Admiral Joseph de Richery's escape from Cadiz, Spain, and the activities of privateers, whom he called "perfect desperadoes each arm'd with a brace of pistols and cutlass" (September 14, 1796). In late September, he expressed anxiety that he and others would be stationed in a more dangerous climate, and gave an account of magical powers used by a local woman after the poisoning of several slaves (September 23, 1796). In early October, he described his trip to Fort Royal and St. Pierre, Martinique, and a play he attended called "Two Misers." Wickham's last entry in the volume on October 5, 1796, is lengthy; it describes an upcoming exchange of prisoners with the French, as well as the annoyance Wickham and other sailors felt in the presence of Admiral Parker, who had been "order'd from this station."

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