Irving, John to William Elphinstone Malcolm (1834/12/08)
Malta, Dec. 8, 1834.
My dear Malcolm,—I am glad to hear you are getting on so well with your studies, and that before another year has gone by you will have commenced your University course. I have always had a sort of misgiving that you would be inclined, by your friends, and by finding yourself in such good health, to come to sea again, when I know you must be so much happier where you are. I can fancy you laughing at this. However, you know that, with you, I speak just what I think, and I have no one else in the world whom I can do that to but yourself. In this ship I am on good terms with all, but intimate with none. And I am getting quite tired for want of some one with whom I might talk of something besides seamanship and points of service. We have been now lying here for five weeks, and in all probability we shall remain here until March or April. The “Revenge” has gone on a cruise accompanied by the “Vernon” and “Barham,” of whose sailing she is the umpire. From what we could see during two or three days, it seemed that they sailed as nearly equal as possible, keeping abreast of each other for hours. However, it is generally thought Captain Symond’s ship “Vernon“ has an advantage on a wind, while the “Barham” beats her going free. There are many bets depending upon it, and their return is anxiously expected. They have had strong breezes, and it is hoped that the trial will be decisive. I suppose you are little interested in this, but I will confess I am very much, the shape of Captain S.’s ship being so different. The “Columbine,” one of his brigs, has sailed a great deal with the squadron, and it is wonderful to see her going away two miles an hour dead to windward, under two topsails, while we are cracking on everything we can carry. The great difference seems to consist in the immense beam at the water’s edge, which prevents their heeling over, and so making lee-way.
I get books from the garrison library, and read a good deal, and of all descriptions. I occasionally go to the opera. Miss Briggs’s marriage with Captain Martin takes place on the 9th inst.; he has become Flag-Captain, and it is considered a good match, though he is old enough to be her father. You inquire about our chaplain. I do not know what to make of him. He makes good sermons; and as far as facts go he is a very good man; but he is very loose in his conversation, and joins in the laugh at improper jokes, and I have sometimes heard him use a polite oath. However, he is considered a very good sort of fellow. I was shocked to hear the Captain publish his intention of celebrating the Lord’s Supper in his cabin the other day. He is a man very passionate, and easily put out of temper. When he is so, he makes use of the most horrible terms— old Festing was reverence compared to him,—and our Commander, a very good old man, has the same fault. Both he and the Captain hail men aloft, and express their wishes for their damnation, always adding “for all eternity.” The Sacrament was received by them, and most of the lieutenants, and some of the men, one of whom got drunk the same night; and next day I heard in the ward-room enough to make me glad that I did not go, as I at first intended. I have always seen so much solemnity, and such careful preparation insisted on in the Scotch Church, that this seemed so different; and as I see I must have done harm instead of good, I thought it better not to go. I heard from Kingston some time ago; but I daresay you have more recent accounts of him. We shall probably be paid off by this time next year, and I look forward with great pleasure to paying you a visit at the College, where I suppose you will have a room, etc.; but as I shall be on my way home, I shall not trespass long on your hospitality. However, it is still a long time to look forward to. I believe my friends are trying everything in their power to obtain my promotion, but with little or no chance of success. But as I cannot blame myself if I am not promoted for ten years, I do not trouble myself about it. I will now finish my letter with expressing my delight with your last.—I am, your affectionate friend,