Irving, John to William Elphinstone Malcolm (1837/03/02)

106 Princes Street, March, 2, 1837.

My dear Malcolm,—… As you may perhaps have a little curiosity about what befell me after bidding you good-bye, I will give you a little narrative. I continued eating toast and drinking coffee until your gyp came for my things. I then went down to the Eagle, and set off from the abode of learning, on the top of the stage, and after a very cold ride I was put down in Holborn, and went to my cousin at Somerset House, and saw the model room there. I then inquired about steamers to Edinburgh, and found there were none until the Saturday, and I was on my way to ship myself in a Leith smack, when I discovered there was a steamer to Dundee, which sailed the next morning, I then went and dined with my cousin, and slept at the inn in Holborn. After a rather rough passage, we arrived at Dundee, and came here on the top of the coach on Saturday evening, having left you on the Tuesday morning; so I was not long in coming, though a little round-about.

I found my friends all pretty well, and I was employed, for the first four or five days, in running about all over the town, calling upon my numerous aunts and cousins of every degree; and every night I was engaged at some party or other. All this, though not pleasant, I submitted to with a good grace, as it would not last long. Last Thursday I went out to Abercorn and stayed with my brother, the minister, till yesterday, when he and I came into Edinburgh, as he had some business requiring his presence. However, I shall soon go out and stay with him some time, as he is very lonely there by himself. Poor fellow! he was so pale, and thin, and altered, I did not know him, though he never speaks nor seems able to bear the slightest allusion to his wife. He must miss her very much sitting at his solitary fireside.

His schoolmaster had been promoted to a larger parish, and another had not yet come. So that my brother was occupied a great part of the day in the school teaching the children, and I also tried to make myself of some little use in hearing their lessons. He preached on Sunday, and we had some long conversation on religious subjects; and I feel much the better, and more able to understand the great doctrines of Christianity. But adverting to this subject, I cannot forbear telling you how great good came to me from my visit to you, and how, while with you, I felt my conscience accuse me of the greatest neglect of religion, and how much benefit I derived from your conversation, and the selections you made from books for my use; and how miserable the retrospect of my past life made me to feel. It seems to me that I must have been almost insane to neglect that which now seems to be of such great and overwhelming importance. I will always remember how, as if it had been on purpose, Mr. Melville’s text and sermon directly applied to me, and how distinctly I felt that I had been bewitched by my own depraved imagination and the snares of Satan. I have been reading the Bible every morning and evening, and have found much comfort and peace in so doing, as also from a number of sermons I have been reading. Still, the remembrance of my past life comes across me at times, and makes me very miserable. But this has a good effect in keeping me humble and mindful of what I should be, if I had nothing but my own strength to depend on, and how wretched I am by nature, having nothing to hope in of my own; but just the mercy of God in Christ, as it is promised in the Gospel.

I have been reading the Bridgewater Treatises, one of which, you know, is by Mr. Whewell; but I have not got through them yet.

Back to John Irving’s Letters Overview