Irving, John to William Elphinstone Malcolm (1838/05/24)

[Sydney, May 24, 1838]


My dwelling is about 150 miles from Sydney. I have 500 sheep and 20 cows, and I hope in a few years to be, like the patriarchs of old, master of flocks and herds. No change could be greater than from the crowded and busy life of a man-of-war to the solitude of the life in the bush, where you may go forty miles and not see a living being. It is quite a pastoral country, and we cultivate only enough for our own use. There is a great freedom and independence about the way of life, which is quite pleasing. I had no idea before I came out that this country was so completely covered with trees as it is. If you could fancy the low rounded hills in the south of Scotland covered with wood to the top you would have a tolerable idea of the general features of the country. Round the settlers’ houses there are spaces of a few acres of the forest hewn for cultivation. After five months’ experience, I can only say that I do not in the least seriously regret leaving the Navy, though sometimes when I see a goodly ship clearing the heads with a tearing breeze I cannot help having a kind of wish to be on board of her, there is something so cheering in dashing along through the piping water which one never feels on shore. I have become owner of a horse, and have had some severe falls, which have not much improved my taste for horsemanship. Do you remember “tooling” out to Argos? I shall stay here a few days longer with my brother, and will then return to my pastoral pursuits. I am at present enjoying the delightful sensation one feels on recovering health after a long and severe illness, though I am very thin and weak; it seems a pleasure even to breathe the fresh air. The weather here is delightful, cool and clear. How time flies and changes take place in the lot of men! A year ago I had no idea of being a settler in New South Wales. I hope whenever you have leisure you will not fail to write to me, if only a few words. Although it is 10,000 miles distant the postage is but a trifle, and any information will be interesting. I am in a hurry, as the ship sails this afternoon. I must now conclude.—Ever your very affectionate friend,

John Irving.

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