Captain Bligh (of Mutiny on the Bounty fame) wrote this letter to his wife on 27 January 1800 when, as captain of the Director, he was returning from convoy duty at St Helena during the Napoleonic Wars. The letter reveals Bligh the family man, buying tea, sugar, china, and material for his daughters’ gowns, all cheaper at St Helena where East Indiamen stopped on the route home. It also gives an insight into the frustrations of convoy duty – thanks to stormy weather, Bligh arrived too late to pick up the East Indiaman he was supposed to escort back to Britain. Bligh also mentions his indifferent health, possibly a nervous complaint, and comments on the condition of the plants and seeds which he continues to collect for his patron, Sir Joseph Banks. This single letter offers a fascinating glimpse of Bligh’s relations with his wife, the links that sea captains might have with horticulture, and the stress of wartime command.
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