Irving, John to William Elphinstone Malcolm (1837/06/13)

106 Princes Street,
Tuesday, June 13th, 1837.

My dear Malcolm,—I have received your very kind letter of the 6th inst., and I have to thank you for your attention in procuring me the papers relative to South Australia. I am glad to say that it is fixed that I am to go to New South Wales; for the state of uncertainty was very disagreeable. Two of my father’s old friends, upon whose interest he principally relied for getting the promotion, have been cut off during the past winter, and Sir George Clerk will require all the interest he can muster to get his own son, a mate, promoted; so, all things considered, my father has made up his mind that it will be better for me to leave the Navy—to which I most willingly agree, thinking that almost any condition is to be preferred to that of a hopeless old mate.   My brother (David) and I purpose sailing from Leith in a very fine vessel bound for Sydney, which will sail about the 20th of August. As he knows very little about farming, and I, if possible, less, we have been advised by some people here, who have been there, to go immediately on our arrival to board in the country with some respectable settler for a year or two, before we purchase land and set up for ourselves. It appears very doubtful whether it will be better for us to settle finally in N. S. Wales, or in the new colony of South Australia; but, as I have obtained letters of introduction to several gentlemen, large proprietors in New South Wales, and as stock of all kinds is procured cheaper in the older colony, and sent to the new, it is thought the best plan for us to go, in the first place, to N. S. Wales; and, in the course of a year or two, I shall be better able to judge, and have obtained the best advice as to the best place to settle in finally. By all accounts, sheep-farming seems best adapted for those inexperienced in agriculture to engage in; and it is to that I think we shall confine ourselves. Whether N. S. Wales or South Australia is the best sheep country will be best found out on the spot. And, as I must serve an apprenticeship for a year or two, I shall have time enough to ascertain that point. As a person leaving the Navy or Army for the purpose of settling is apt to be suspected to have been in some scrape which has caused him to leave, or, in other words, to have been turned out, he is liable not to meet with a very favourable reception as a new-comer. And I understand that the old settlers regard every new one that comes with an eye of suspicion, as persons who have left their country because it was too hot to hold them. It is therefore of great consequence to me to procure as many credentials of respectability as possible, and I will, therefore, most gladly avail myself of your offer to procure me a letter to Captain Hindmarsh, or any other person in that quarter of the world.

I trust we shall get on as well as many others have done, and I much prefer having my success depending on my own exertions than entirely on the favour of other people. As far as my own private happiness is concerned, I have no hesitation in leaving the Navy. It is true I am bidding adieu to all my relations and friends, but my only chance of success in the Navy would consist in keeping constantly employed, and I should be equally separated from my friends in that case. And besides, I shall have my brother with me, and my being of use to him is also to be considered.

My father intends giving us a couple of thousand pounds to begin with. I ought not to have troubled you with such a long story about it; but I should be sorry were you to blame me for quitting the Navy. I can assure you that in this business I have gone quite by the wishes of my friends, and I was not the proposer of it. My father says he has been thinking of it for several months past; but this affair of Master Clerk’s clinched the business. My brother is only seventeen years of age, and I have no doubt that when he is four or five years older, and has seen more of the world, he will get on very well by himself, or, if he then wishes it, we can remain as partners. You will think this a dreadfully egotistical letter.—I am, my dear Malcolm, your most affectionate,

John Irving.

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