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i n august 1813, Robert Garraway had expectations. His father, the merchant John Garraway of Cadogan Place, Sloane Street, London, had died a few months before, leaving his estate, which included prime property on the harbor of St. George’s, Grenada, to Robert and his older brother. Robert Garraway was now able to persuade the beautiful seventeen-year-old Dorothea Christina Thomas that he had good prospects and she should allow him to take her to his bed. To seal the deal he made a legal agreement, with a bond of 2,000, to marry Dorothea Christina according to the rites of the Church of England. Besotted though he was, Garraway was still a lawyer,however,and he included the escape clause that “if he arrives in England before she is 21 the said obligation shall become null and void.” In other words, he was only prepared to marry her in the Caribbean, but such a clause probably had no legal status if tested in the courts.¹ Dorothea Christina was the youngest of Dorothy Thomas’s seven daughters . She had just returned to the Caribbean after spending several years at a school in London, where she had learned to sketch and paint, do needlepoint , play piano, keep accounts, and write letters in an elegant hand. She was on her way home to Demerara,where her mother hoped she could find a suitable husband. But when the convoy reached Caribbean waters, Dorothea Christina went to Grenada instead. Her grandmother Betty was there, and so was her older sister Ann, whose husband was John Gloster Garraway ,Robert’s older brother.Living with her sister and her brother-in-law, it was not long before Dorothea Christina had rashly fallen into the younger brother’s embrace. Her journey to Demerara was not resumed. Dorothy Thomas was furious; she had other plans for her accomplished daughter. Dorothy Thomas had known Robert Garraway for over twenty-five years and had little time for him. His father had been a business associate of JoBy Habit and Repute the intimate frontier of empire chapter six By Habit and Repute ~ 127 seph Thomas, and both Robert and his brother had always been closely associated with her family. John Gloster Garraway was a successful merchant who had been living with her daughter Ann for many years. Robert Garraway was in partnership with his brother, but so far had lived a dissolute life, managing affairs for absentee planters and displaying scant evidence of enterprise. He acted for Dorothy’s business in Grenada, but that was of small consequence to her. She had no need of a lawyer in her family, especially a dissolute one, and no need for a man who already had a number of children with at least two other women. Doubtless, Dorothy Thomas knew Elizabeth Nunes, with whom Robert Garraway had a child who was baptized on March 17,1803,and Margaret Campbell,with whom he had at least three more children.² There was no way she would agree to let her youngest and most educated daughter squander her beauty and talent on this wastrel. Unfortunately, the formidable Dorothy Thomas, hampered by the limited communications of wartime, was trapped in distant Demerara so there was not much she could do to stop the liaison. Dorothea Christina Thomas was under no illusion that her mother would give permission for her to marry Robert Garraway; hence the odd contract to marry when she reached her majority. Apparently she did not consider that it was four years away, which was time enough for him to take advantage of her youth and then beat a hasty exit to England.That this inherent flaw in the contract did not cause the intervention of her more worldly sister is revealing. One possible explanation is that in making a promise to marry followed by cohabitation, Robert Garraway was entering into a form of marriage with Dorothea Christina. Ann had a similar kind of marriage with John Gloster Garraway, as Dorothy Thomas probably had with the sisters’father,Joseph Thomas.A marriage of this kind was not blessed by the church but involved formal promises and obligations,the exchange of a ring or token, and most important, public recognition that they were a stable, monogamous, respectable couple, that they were indeed husband and wife. This was a form of marriage still common among the creole community in Grenada, where the Marriage Act that had been introduced in England in 1753 did not apply.³ In...


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