Irving, John to Catherine Irving (née Caddell) (1845/04/18)
Woolwich, 18th April 1845.
My dear Katie,—Many thanks for your very kind letter of the 11th, which would have been replied to before now; but I did not get it owing to one of our fellows taking care of it for two days instead of telling me of its arrival. As you say, my visit was one of the shortest, but better that than none at all. I can assure you there was no one it grieved me more to part with than yourself; for somehow or other, from the very first time we met, you and I seemed to understand each other wonderfully well. I got back here on the Monday morning to breakfast, and went about my occupations as usual We make some show now, having got the masts up and rigging complete, ready for sea, and are now busy stowing away everything, provender, etc. etc., for two years’ consumption. They talk of sailing on the 1st of May; but I suspect it will be some days later. As you observe, there must now be a long blank in our correspondence. However that may be, I hope when we meet next we shall not be obliged to part so quickly. . . . Whatever happens, it is the will of God.
I hope you do not think me so weak as to labour under any presentiment of evil; but remember this is no common voyage, and two years is a long period to look forward to in the life of the healthiest and the least exposed to risks. Only one half of Sir John Franklin’s former party returned with him, and our “Terror” in her last voyage with Captain Back was so crushed by the ice that she could not have been kept afloat another day, when they got into Loch Swilly. Two years is a long time without any tidings, and perhaps we may be three years at least. Do not give us up, if you hear nothing. But now I will throw over a new leaf with the rest of my letter, and tell you that I am very sanguine of succeeding in the object of our expedition. Everything has been done that the latest improvements in the various branches of arts relating to nautical matters could suggest; and every preservation against the climate provided for the health and comfort of the crews; and we must for the rest put ourselves, and, what is dearer, our hopes, into the hands of our Maker. Should it please Him to permit us to return to reap the fruits of our labours, I trust the greater the dangers we may have passed the more gratitude we may be enabled to show in our future lives for the protecting Hand without which, after all, our skill and devices and contrivances are in vain.
I intended to write something to amuse you, but I find I cannot help being serious. Everything around me, and every duty I am engaged in, tend at present to make me so,—I mean all keep so much alive the feeling of a long separation from those near and dear to me. Even in writing I am reminded that a terrible long pause of anxious suspense is before me, when I can only hope, without a prospect of tidings of good or ill. So, my dear Katie, do not blame me that you should have been, whilst reading this mass of scribbling, obliged to banish your usual smiles. I will write you yet again, so I shall not take a very formal farewell of you this time. My most brotherly love to my dear Lewis.—Yours very affectionately,