GIBRALTAR 19 APRIL 1805
My Dear Maria,
I had begun a letter, which I intended to send you by the convoy that sailed on the 8th Inst, but the wind becoming suddenly favourable, I had not time to finish it.
In the beginning of the month I had received a letter from my mother together with one from William, (the first since my arrival, and indeed since last November when we were at Portsmouth). You may judge of the pleasure I received from these two letters, after so long an interval of silence, but it was not a little diminished, when I found you had written sometime previous to my mother & consequently that your letter must have miscarried. I wrote by the last convoy to my mother, John & William, directing to the first at Gloucester.John† has, I hope, got promotion before this time, as we received accounts some time since of a new battalion being about to be raised.
Everyone here is anxious for the arrival of the next mails, expecting to hear some news from England. The Toulon Fleet (as you will have heard long ago) has managed to elude the vigilance of Lord Nelson, and on the 9th of this month passed through the Gut. It consisted of 11 sail of the line & 8 or 9 frigates or smaller vessels. We have since heard they have formed a junction with the squadron at Cadiz, and that Sir John Orde is obliged to retire†. The general opinion is that their destination is Ireland, as they were known to have troops on board & have been seen steering that course. You can imagine how provoking it was to see so large an enemy’s fleet pass by without any Nelson pursuing them. He is supposed to have gone on to Egypt in search of them, as by making it public that GeneralReynier was to have a principal command in the expedition, and by artfully sailing towards that quarter when they got out of harbour some time ago, they had induced him to believe that was their object. However, someone will, I trust, be able to cope with this formidable force, although his Lordship will much regret the loss of the glory he would have acquired from an action with it.
The communication between Lisbon & Gibraltar is so very irregular, the mails being sent by ships of war which touch there and are going on to Gibraltar or the Mediterranean, and which does not often occur, that I fear we shall remain sometime in the dark as to the state of affairs in England. Be that as it may, not being given to croaking I shall continue under no apprehensions as to Ireland, or from the operations, of this combined force, whatever they may be.
My dear sister, do not forget amidst the cares of housekeeping &c, &c, the art, (which you once understood so well) of being a good correspondent. I did not till lately know the value of a letter, or at least I did not know it could afford so much gratification; since this discovery I have certainly given my correspondents no reason to complain of my neglect; and this attention probably proceeds more from the selfish wish of experiencing more frequently that gratification than from the vain one of affording it to my friends. Some Langport news would now be very interesting since a few months cannot pass there without some events worthy of attention. Bye the bye I suppose your fair cousins will soon be led to the Hymeneal altar†, or in other words Messrs. Elswood & Estlin be put in possession of all terrestrial happiness. I do not despair of getting your last letter, as some mail has been certainly left behind, a proof of which is that duplicates to dispatches have arrived here and the dispatches themselves have not been received: as no packet has been taken, some mistake must have occurred which will probably be rectified. Give my love to Mr S, Aunt Betsy, the Chamber’s and the Chudtonians & all friends and believe me your ever affectionate brotherE. T. Michell
PS:April 29 The wind has not been favourable till now and I shall send this on board now, it is more than probable, the ship will not sail for some time.