The figure of the Doctor is a mountain of deformity and disgust. His colour is sallow, his motions paralytic, his sentences pronounced to be repeated
backward hellholes, and the assumption was that Anne would remain at home. When she told Dundas she would be accompanying her husband he snorted: “Good God! You go to live with the Hottentots?”
In the event, the Cape brought Anne the happiest years of her life. She and Andrew lived in a simple cottage called Paradise at the foot of Table Mountain where she kept a small menagerie of wildlife. At the same time she acted as the governor’s hostess, extending hospitality to suspicious Dutch residents and nabobs passing to India alike. Her egalitarian nature found expression in dealings with the Khoikhoi population and slaves. The most astonishing poem ever to come from her pen dates from this time and concerns the love between a white woman and a slave.
She had a wider vision too. In 1799, when the Barnards set off on a wagon tour of the interior, Pitt’s government saw the Cape as no more than a strategic bastion to protect its vital shipping network to India from the French. Anne did her best to convince Dundas that Africa too had potential. “Here is scarcity, but here will be plenty,” she wrote to him. “It is in the power of activity to make this the finest scene in the world by planting.”
Over the five years she spent at the Cape, Anne wrote constantly to inform Dundas of what she called “every point which regards publick concern”. She was as good as her word, and ultimately it was in large part thanks to these visionary letters that she can now be restored to history.
Andrew Barnard died at the Cape. It is clear from their correspondence that the marriage had been supremely happy and nothing could replace him in her life. Anne lived at Berkeley Square until her death aged 74 in 1825, devoting her final years to the creation of six volumes of memoirs in which she recorded her life with wit and irony, along with a searing honesty that almost places her in another age
Lady Anne was single until she was 42, when she agreed to marry Andrew Barnard, a former army officer 12 years her junior. The couple then moved to South Africa where Anne enjoyed the happiest years of her life