Irving, John to William Elphinstone Malcolm (1834/05/16)

106 Princes St., Edinburgh, May 16, 1834. 

My dear Malcolm, —I received your kind letter of 11th April some time ago, and I hope you will get this previous to your departure from Cambridge for your summer residence, which I trust you will find a pleasant one, though I am sorry to hear that you have little prospect of coming to Edinburgh.

My father had a letter from a friend the other day, saying that if I intended remaining in the Navy, I should get employment immediately. Informing me of this, my father told me that for the last twelve months he had been thinking of my going out to New South Wales as a settler, having lost this last winter, by death, almost all the friends he had of influence, and so, my prospects in the Navy having become so bad that I can hardly do worse than remain in it. My father has also been buying, or going to buy, some shares in the South Australian Company, and hopes to get me some situation there, besides investing my own capital— purchasing land or whatever may seem best,—and also my youngest brother to go with me, and me to look after him. I have told my father that I shall be glad to leave the Navy, and that I cannot imagine the situation of a settler to be a more uncomfortable one than what I should be in on board ship with no hopes of promotion; and that I hope that I might be of some use to my brother, who has studied medicine for a year or two, and left it, and is now boarded with a farmer in the country to learn farming. As to leaving my friends and connections, though much to be deplored, still the choice is not between going to New South Wales and staying at home, but between these and going to sea. So, upon the whole, I think it will be better for me to go to New South Wales than to remain, for six or seven years, in a mid’s berth, and then serve for all the rest of my life as a lieutenant, in the style of F., and hundreds of others. It is not fixed at all what time,—or indeed even named when,—I should set off. My father has not yet got an answer to his application to the Australian Company on my behalf.

Now, my dear Malcolm, I have laid the whole thing before you, and I will feel thankful to you for your advice as to what I ought to do. (I should have told you that my father seemed glad at my volunteering to take charge of my brother.) Perhaps, as your brother is coming home from that colony, you may be able to furnish me with some useful information about what I ought to do on arriving there, or what I ought to take with me as useful articles, or what people there it would be useful to me, as a settler, to get letters of introduction to. My capital will be but a few hundred pounds. But do not give yourself the least trouble about it; but any information, however trifling, will be thankfully received. Perhaps some of your brother’s old letters contain information about the settlers, their customs, servants, convicts, etc.; but do not give yourself any trouble about it. You may imagine that I am in a state of considerable anxiety till it is all arranged. In going to settle there, I must take leave of Scotland and its inhabitants for ever; but it will be better than being dependent on the bounty of my friends all my life at home; and my father is an old man, not far from fourscore, and he is anxious to have Davie settled in some way or other. People can live there at a very small expense. I hope you will write soon and give me your counsel. Another thing to be looked at is, that, as a settler, I should have my own house, however small, and I should be more out of temptation to sin, and be able to lead a life fitted better to my improvement as a Christian, than on board ship.—My dearest and oldest friend, I am ever yours,

  John Irving.

I shall be anxious to hear the result of your examination, and your address after leaving Cambridge.

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