Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sketch of the life of John Irving

In researching for this blog the manner in which the bones believed to be Irving's were returned, I was delighted to find that the little memoir of his life, published in Edinburgh after his funeral, had been scanned and made available here by Harvard University Libraries. While there is no portrait -- I am unsure as to whether Irving was ever photographed -- there is a frontispiece featuring a lovely reproduction of Irving's maths medal. It's been cleaned up, and the engraved name is quite clear -- certainly, given its size and significance, it's not unreasonable to assume that it was laid within the tomb as a memorial. If you click on the image above, you can see it in much better detail.

I would encourage everyone unfamiliar with this delightful little book to take advantage of the online version. It gives a good many of Irving's letters home in full, and reproduces a sketch he made of the "Erebus" and "Terror" at their final port of call in Greenland. The final letter, enclosed with this sketch, concludes with this poignant reflection:
We are going to have a school for the men, and our Captain reads prayers in Sundays. We are exempt from many of the temptations of the world, and I hope we shall have grace to find that it has been good for us to have been separated from the world, and that God has been with us in all our wanderings. May we submit ourselves to His pleasure in all things.

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