Autograph letter, signed J. Lewis, American consul to Île de France (Mauritius), to the merchant house of Samuel Ward & Brothers of New York, informing them that one of their ship captains has taken up with and plans to marry a French actress—this despite the fact that the captain “has a family near Boston in the town of Marblehead.”

Mauritius, August 3, 1798. 3 pages on a folded sheet, plus integral address, 12.5 x 8 inches, approx. 480 words. Some slight loss from the seals; a little browned and soiled; in very good condition. Item #19505

Scandal and affairs of the heart from the remote outposts of American commerce. The American consul to the French colony in the Indian Ocean here writes back to New York, “I have to inform you of having dispatched your Ship Huron Capt. Brown for Newport R. Island, she left this Colony on 26 May for Bourbon to complete her chargement, & sailed from thence about 15 days after, for America – I must add, the malconduct of your Capt. here has been very injurious to the Voyage, by forming a connection with a bad woman, who came passenger with him from Bordeaut [sic] – with the greatest difficulty, he was made to sail without taking this person with him, however the whole Island interfered against it & prevented her leaving the Colony, because she was a favourite Actress & much wanted on the Stage, however she is placed here, at the expence of Capt. Brown, who has placed funds in the hands of Mr. Roussell [Manssell?], to be appropriated for her benefit, and altho’ Mr. Roussell is not ignorant, that he has a family near Boston in the town of Marblehead, he has become the confident & friend in this vile business. Capt. Brown on his arrival addressed himself to me & after finishing a part of his business, because I declined the propositions made me respecting the Woman, I explained to him with candour his Faults he after placed his property with Mr. Roussell who has engaged to pay her expences until Capt. B. returns to marry her. . . . This favourite woman in question was bound jointly with the other players in the sum of Ten Thousand dollars, that she would tarry three years in the Colony in that Company, of course these persons opposed her departure. Capt. Brown in order to effect it, in my presence, offered to destroy a bill of exchange of Ten Thousand dollars, which was the amount of the passage money for the same persons. Since that transaction I have been kept in the dark, for having found fault with Capt. B’s conduct, & threatening to put him in prison therefor, - he did not choose to consult me thereafter.” Lewis, a Boston merchant, had been appointed consul to Île de France by Adams and arrived in February, 1798—but owing to the Quasi-War and the interruption of commerce between the United States and France, arrived back in Boston with his family in June, 1799. (See the National Archives annotation to the summary memorial of Lewis to Thomas Jefferson, March 20, 1801.) Captain Brown of the Huron is certainly Elias Brown; a notice in the Halifax, N.C. Journal of October 15, 1798 dated Newport, September 15, reports the arrival of Brown and the Huron, and news that he had (prior to his adventures in love) been boarded somewhere east of the Cape by the British frigate Garland on June 28—seven of his seamen were impressed and Brown was detained before escaping under cover of a squall. Brown further reports “that the national soldiers were all sent from the Isle de France, but that the reports of it being declared independent are false.” The first theatre troupe had been established in Port Louis in 1790 by a M. Laglaine (though there was a hiatus after the smallpox epidemic of 1792) and one presumes the colonists were not likely to take kindly to seeing a keystone of their local entertainment whisked away by a Yankee merchant captain. (For a glance at theatre in Mauritius and some sense of the upheavals on the island in 1798—though this affair does not seem to merit mention—see the 1840 memoir by Andre Maure, Souvenirs d’un vieux colon de Maurice.) Samuel Ward (1756-1832), the owner of the merchant brig Huron, was a Revolutionary War veteran from a prominent Rhode Island family. Neat contemporary arithmetic problems in contemporary ink on the cover page.

Price: $850.00