The Cape Diaries of Lady Anne Barnard 1799-1800 Vol. I.

Edited by Margaret Lenta and Basil Le Cordeur

ISBN: 0-9584112-5-5

Margaret Lenta works in the Department of English at the University of Natal, Durban. Her research interests are eighteenth-century prose, especially by women, and twentieth-century South African writing.

 

The Cape Diaries are the private and unrevised records on which Lady Anne based her Journals. Consequently they express Lady Anne's uncensored views on a wide variety of topics, social and political. The diaries are not only illuminating but also vastly entertaining because of her brilliant command of language and the pleasure she took in the act of writing itself. They greatly enlarge our historical awareness of the transition in her day from the aristocratic, hierarchical world of the 18th to the fast-emerging bourgeois culture of the 19th century.

 

Paradise, Jan. 31st, 1799, Thursday; Friday, Feb.1; Sat., Feb.2

I am obliged you see to pack up half a week in one page, for want of time at the moment prevents individuality... Heavens what a fine long word from me! —but added to other business already too much almost for me — I am upper boy at present, my Dutch1 pickle having lately askd my permission to go to the Cape for a night . . . I gave it & a little money to boot — he dressd himself in his new cloaths — hat etc — left us in good faith and is gone off — probably has embarked on board of some of the ships now sailing & we shall never hear more of him.

I am not sure if I am tight in making myself so very great a Slave to saving the money of my dear Secretary, without Cook (two black slaves excepted who understand nothing above the roast and boil that I dont teach them) — without housekeeper — Ladys Maid — butter-dairy maid — as I have much of all this to do myself, the leisure for all the little elegancys or singularitys which by drawing or describing I coud fix on my paper & on my memory for the amusement of others are lost, nor am I sure that what I save him is equal to what I lose to myself— on the other hand, tho there is trouble & some fatigue to me there is peace — no quarreling amongst upper servants, no one to find fault with for omissions, as I have to do all, it is done however and pretty well done. Mr B. seems quite Happy & delighted to see his table well furnished his dinner good & well served, & altho I cook part of it & put it down myself, I am rewarded by his sweet words. I save too at least 100 per ann. of wages to him and in this world if one is usefull & not unhappy while being so it is ones business & certainly wisdom to think it much the same whether one spends time in one way or another. . . to sit light on circumstances which hobble beneath one is the best way of not being hurt by them.

Cousin Anne woud feel herself sadly demeaned by many of the acts I am in some degree necessitated to perform; she is not aware, nor is any one aware who see me trudging about a Housekeeper, that it is philosophy which assists me to carry the keys & that in my mind I feel myself rising by every circumstance which is beneath what I perhaps feel myself entitled to, but which I surmount; how easy & how right it is to be proud and conceited privately while bending to what must be endured.

Anne proposes to be a good wife to her poor Col by starving, eating chops for ever and ever, off the cleanest table cloth, the best wine, the best cooked chops & perhaps a soup: but that no one is to eat one along with her & him — I tell her she is proposing a Life of self indulgence instead of activity & attention, that she is shutting the door to his friends, and with the same money she shoud have to pay for the chops & clean table cloth washed out by the laundress and nice wine woud give them a little joint at home, a clean table cloth washd by her maid, Cape wine — & two or three friends. She is preferring the other way of living because it gives her no trouble — but all this I hope a little time will bring right — at 23 young people must be unutterably elegant and supinely dignified! it provokes me a little who am certainly as well born a woman as any of the Elegantes and who know and feel what is best, but the most generous people in large matters are often selfish in trifles & have a false high minded sett of notions which they despise those for not having who have them not, & which the other party recognises by returning secretly the sentiment tho on a still prouder Key.

Doctor Hare & Capt Holmes dined with us the 31 of Jan., Col Craufurd the first of Feb. — & on Saturday the 2nd, inspite of the most extraordinary deluge of rain which I ever saw, it occupied Mr B the whole morning in placing and emptying buckets & pails put judiciously under the parts of our old thatched roof where the water found its way; had we saved the Hogsheads full of wine instead of water (renderd the color of Madeira by the old thatch) we shoud have had enough for more than one years consumption tho that is of common wine 22 gallons per week — by B’s vigilance he prevented it from getting thro to the rooms below but all was a sea above & the clay of the floors mixing with the rains we were so many pigs in our stys.