Irving, John to Catherine Irving (née Caddell) (1845/02/12)
February 12, 1845.
My dear Kate,—As I don’t wish to get another scold for being remiss in writing, I have a letter under weigh, though I have nothing very particular to tell you. I had a letter last night from my father, and was glad to hear all my friends are well. I am very comfortable on board this ship, as far as comfort of accommodation and a good mess is concerned. We have generally twenty at dinner, and our wardroom is carpeted, and a stove in it, so it is very snug for the winter. I regret Ireland very much. I know some people there I liked very much, and with whom I was quite at home. That is the great evil of a sailor’s life; he has always to bid farewell. I do not know a single creature at Portsmouth, and have no inducement to go on shore, and seldom do so. I attend an Independent church; just like the Scotch, only they sing Dr. Watts’ hymns instead of the Psalms. The Free Church deputation had the use of it when they came here. Our chaplain preaches on board in the forenoons, and I go ashore in the afternoons. During the week I am busied in various duties, and have not much spare time. There is a constant drilling at great guns, and firing shot and shell at targets, going on here, preparing the men previous to their being sent to sea as gunners. Gunnery is now being paid much more attention to as a scientific art. Should there be another war, more will be done by steam and proficiency in gunnery than by the old, though more dashing style, of going alongside the enemy. I have a night-watch to keep every other night, of four hours, but I don’t dislike it, as it is solitary, and I think of old times and of my absent friends. It is now three years since I quitted the bush and rejoined a man-of-war life, so totally different, that on looking back it seems quite a dream. I have not heard from David since the last letter which Lewis saw. I hope you get good accounts from your brother. I shall be glad to hear from you, my dear Katie; I have always felt you were very kind in taking the trouble of writing to me, whom you did not know much about; and I hope that any neglect, which was not intentional, will not lead you to write seldomer than you did. Indeed, it was the leaving Ireland, the journey here, and so on, that put it out of my head. I had, on arriving here, mentioned to my father that I should like to go on a discovery voyage to the Arctic regions, which is now being projected. I have just heard from him that he had informed Sir George Clerk of my wishes, and had got no answer. So I am waiting the result. It would give me a chance of promotion, on returning after two or three years, and would, at all events, be a change of scene, a relief, and, if one came back, something to talk of. I see my old ship, the “ Volage,” was paid off at Plymouth last Saturday. —With love to dear Lewis, believe me ever, dear Katie, your very affectionate brother,