Among the many fascinating documents we found in the Pellew archive at Devon Records Office last month is this charming and highly entertaining letter from Lady Caroline Warren. Lady Caroline was the wife of Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, a contemporary of Pellew’s and commander of the Western Squadron of detached frigates which Pellew joined in 1794 and later commanded.
The Captain John Thomson Lady Caroline refers to is former Indefatigable midshipman John Thomson (2), so named in the ship’s muster to distinguish him from his father, Lieutenant John Thomson (1). In 1812 Thomson (2) was serving on the North American Station where Admiral Borlase Warren had been commander in chief between 1807 and 1810. Sadly we have found no reply to Lady Caroline’s letter, but it’s not hard to imagine Pellew’s response to being chided for being “a very naughty admiral”!
S. Hall June 2nd 1812
Dear Sir Edward
I have this day a letter from Captain John Thomson of HMS Colibin, from North America, which disappointed me much, as from all I had entreated you expecting him, and your own apparent wish to serve him, I concluded you would have long ere this have added this sloop to your fleet. I quite depended on your exertions in his favour and I am persuaded that the Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet would not have been refuse that request of the Admiralty Board. You ought to have insisted upon it, that he might have the chance of your being able to Post him. Indeed I am quite angry with you. It is so unlike an old friend, so unlike what I expected of you! And we must quarrel forever unless you immediately demand of the Admiralty Board the Colibin to join your fleet. I shall only quarrel with you, for you know I am much too sincerely attached to your dear Lady Pellew and your children, to give up the comfort of their friendship, but you are a very naughty admiral indeed and poor John Thomson, who has for years been devoted to you, is suffering from it. Altho’ you have been so forgetful of your promise to me about J Thomson, I yet believe you will be sincerely sorry to hear our beloved daughter is still a great invalid if it pleases the Almighty to preserve her to us over this summer we must try a warm climate…..Sir John has run up to town for the Installation or would assist in this scolding letter, for it is no joke, that we are all quite angry with you therefore you must hasten to reform.
It’s unclear if Pellew did intervene on Thomson’s behalf at this time however we did find the following minute from “Adml Lord Exmouth for Lord Melvilles favor” dated August 1815:
Capt. Thomson (Chanticleer, N. America) and Capt. Kempthorn (Harlequin at Newfoundland) – Lord Exmouth requests may be sent out to him having no other Friends, both good officers.
Having finally been made post captain in 1815, Thomson retired from active service in 1816 and towards the end of that year he married Constantia Henrietta Spriddle, daughter of Pellew’s twin sister Jane Constantia Pellew. One can only hope he forgave his uncle-by-marriage for his former naughtiness!