Irving, John to William Elphinstone Malcolm (1844/01/27)

Plymouth, H.M.S. “Volage,”
January 27, 1844.

My dear Malcolm,—I was very glad to get your letter of the 20th instant, as I was afraid you had not received mine. As to your quite forgetting me, I never thought of such a thing. I am very sorry that I did not see you at all when I was on shore, as I will not have another opportunity for some time. The “Volage” is now ready for sea—sails bent, etc.,—and we are daily expecting our orders. Our probable destination is the Irish coast, as the ship’s time is up next August. We had not suffered much damage by getting on shore in Bantry Bay. When she was taken into dock, we found 32 feet of the false keel, and a small piece of the main keel, had been knocked off. We have spent a month very comfortably in Plymouth on board a hulk, and feel the change back into the ship very disagreeable, owing to her having been fresh painted.

I rather like being in Ireland; indeed, anywhere on the home station is a novelty to me, having been so many years away from everything English.

If you are at Burnfoot next summer, I daresay, on the “Volage” being paid off, I may be able to make out a visit to you. What a pleasure I anticipate in going over all that has befallen us since we last met, and in recalling those days when you used to be everything to me! Guess whom I met the other day?—Cook the carpenter, whose cabin we used to go and read in. He was looking old and feeble, and hardly recollected me. He is in some ordinary ship here.

I quite agree with you in your sentiments about the Kirk matters, of which I heard much pro and con. during my short stay in Scotland. My brother has been called by the Falkirk people, and is now the Free man there. I was very sorry to find he had given up his parish; it was such a beautiful place on the Forth, only twelve miles from Edinburgh. I hear very bad accounts from my brother in New South Wales of the embarrassment and distressed state of matters there. I am afraid that he also may be a sufferer. I have every reason to be glad I embraced the opportunity of returning to the service offered to me there, and that I did not persevere in a hopeless pursuit for which I was unfit from my previous habits. Had I gone out there six years sooner I might have done well; but the day was past, and if I had been serving as a mate all the time, I believe I should not have been made lieutenant above a couple of years sooner, so I did not lose very much in the Navy. I must now stick to it. My only interest is Sir George Clerk, Secretary to the Treasury. He has no other connection now in the service, so I must try before another change in the Ministry to get made Commander; for a lieutenant’s half-pay, 4s. per diem, is rather too small to retire upon. I am so used to the ship life that it comes quite natural to me, and I seldom find myself thinking about the shore. I expect next summer to have two or three months’ run on shore when the “Volage” is paid off.

I was very glad to hear such good accounts of Kingston, our old friend. His success, however, is nothing but what I expected. He has a great deal of energy and perseverance, besides no common ability. I will send this to Burnfoot, and write you in what part of Ireland we are likely to be stationed, in a few weeks’ time.

I delivered your message to Godden. He said that he remembered you, and that you were a nice little fellow. What changes do ten years make! How queer you must feel on going on board ship! There is a great difference however betwixt being the Captain’s guest, and belonging to it. Do you remember the names and uses of the different ropes, sails, etc.? I daresay you do. I know that I remember things which happened ten or twelve years ago better than those only five or six years ago. How you must have enjoyed revisiting the Mediterranean! Were you in Greece, or at Malta, or any other place where we had been in the old “Belvidera”? I met Captain Dundas in London; he was very kind. I have never met his equal since. He was in all respects a perfect officer and gentleman. I must conclude for the present.— Always your affectionate friend, 

John Irving.

I have had some thoughts of joining the “Excellent” if I can, as I believe it is a help to being promoted.

Back to John Irving’s Letters Overview