November 6, 2005: On the Loss of Control

I cannot lose control. Even the slightest slip can bring about very grave consequences. Though one time which haunts me the most, despite being very nearly entirely in control, I was fortunate enough for their to be no lasting consequences outside my own soul.
I found it necessary for professional reasons to kill two men: a certain Andrew Wray, and his associate, Ledward. Wray had done his level best out of spite and jealousy to destroy both my and Jack's lives, and the pain he caused Jack, with Ledward's aid, I found unforgivable. During the actual killing, I intended to keep this out of my head, as it is by far better to be detached when doing these things.
I remained mostly detached during the shooting of Ledward, who fell first, possibly dying before he so much as realized he had been shot. I should have shot again immediately. I should have killed Wray before he could understand what was going on. But I was unable to stop myself from moving just enough, so that when Wray turned in the clear direction the bullet had come from, he saw me holding the rifle, and knew. The need for true vengeance had taken me over, and even just that little bit could have resulted in a disastrous fallout had it occurred to Wray to run, and he had run faster than I fired the rifle I was using, a weapon with which I was just inexperienced enough to make that a risk. And that I gave into such a black, despicable impulse at all still disturbs me greatly.

November 16: Fog in Portsmouth

In his attempts to make it on board whichever ship Jack has newly taken command on, Dr. Maturin has occasionally arrived at the pier at an extremely odd time. Once, when he believed he had further to travel than he actually did, he ended up on the pier several hours earlier than he anticipated, early in the morning, trying to figure out which of the ships was his destination when none of them were in his convenient line of sight, due to the fog.
He finally gave up for the time being, choosing instead to simply enjoy the unique beauty of the morning, which everything seemed to add to, even the smell of the sea which he knew he would be sick of within the next few months, and the normally bothersome chill. Indeed, they added to the sense of melancholy, too much with him to cause him constant pain, which he found himself bathing in. He would remember this later, when his life seemed again nothing but ugliness.
"Morning, Stephen. I must say, I'm very surprised to find you here. Normally you're late, not early."
Jack, of course. Stephen did not have to turn around to feel his presence right behind him.
Saying no more, he placed his hand on Stephen's shoulder. Stephen felt himself relax into that hand, felt the melancholy lift somewhat.

November 20: What are you like in the morning?

Downright savage until I am supplied with a cup of hot coffee. Perhaps the one good thing about Killick, besides his loyalty, is his ability to make coffee for myself and Jack, who is of like mind about mornings. Though since both of us are often obliged to rise at truly ungodly hours when at sea, we can of course function perfectly well for more practical purposes, and Jack even possesses the famed sailor's ability to sleep soundly whenever he has the opportunity, and wake immediately whenever there is need.

November 30: A Letter to My Younger Self

My dearest Esteve,

Forgive me for writing in the English language, but I would advise you to study this language more closely. You will speak many languages in your life, but you will eventually discover, as unbelievable as it may seem to you now, that the people you will live with and love all grew up speaking it, and not all of them will have sufficient knowledge of any other language. Be advised that this will be the least shocking element of the way your life will turn out, in fact, you won't even notice it until it long has happened.
I'm afraid you will be very unhappy for very great parts of the time. I would advise you on how to avoid it, but I am not sure just how you can. I can only tell you to never give in and die, because salvation will come for you, sometimes when you most despaired of it. Certainly do not think too ill of any heavyset navy captains who tap their hands half a beat behind the music when sitting next to you at a concert in Minorca. They just might end up becoming the most important person in your life.
And if you find yourself in a carriage with the woman you love, and a moment comes when it is clear she is expecting you to propose, for God's sake, do so! Until you do I remain,

Your most affectionate future self,
Stephen Maturin

December 5: On Regrets, Part 3

What do you most regret not saying?

Most of what I regret not saying is to my godfather, En Ramon. Shortly before his death, we were reunited after an age of seperation, when I had to in fact convince him to change from Bonaparte's side to mine. Though I had evidence enough to accomplish this, I was aware that I could not easily win his approval for much of what I had done with my life, for throwing my lot in with the English, and with an English naval captain. I told him some of the story, and I believe he understood a limited part of the reason I was where I was, but I wanted to say more to him about it. I decided it would be better to speak at some later date, when he had fully processed what he had already heard. But the later date never came, for he was dead not half a year after we parted, before I could see him again. All my hopes of letting him truly understand the new form of his godson, getting him to like Jack, even introducing him to Diana, whom I had newly married, were dashed.
But more than understanding, I sought acceptance, which we certainly did not have the time needed for. And I wanted to tell him that I still loved him, still looked up to him, in a way I would never look up to any other person in my life. How I would say that, what words I would use, I still do not know, but were I given the opportunity again, I am certain the words would come to me.

December 13: On Happiness

What are you happy about right now?

That I am with Jack, that he has his flag, and thus the necessities for his happiness are fulfilled, that my daughter is well, and hopefully I will see her soon, that his family is also well, even his daughters, despite their unkindness to Brigid, that Chile has its independence, and of course that Bonaparte's power is long gone, and unlikely to return. Indeed, this appears to be an unusually happy time in my life.

December 18: On Karma

I learned a great deal of this concept while in India, around the time I performed the actions I described in my post on shame. I noted in the same post that I thought being abandoned by Diana due recompense for my misdeeds. One may see this, if one wishes, as a clear example of the concept of karma at work.
But as karma is an aspect of a religion foreign to me, I do not believe in it, per se. Yet I do believe God rewards and punishes us for our deeds, in either this life or the next, and when the next life is to inhabitants of India is a mortal one like their current life, it ought to be another thing influenced by deeds in the current life. If they believed in one mortal life only, I assume their karma would be very similar to Christain beliefs on reward and punishment.

December 26: On Kindness

Talk about a moving act of kindness you experienced or witnessed.

To me, in the end, there was no act of kindness greater than when Jack forgot the quarrel we had started our acquaintance with the day after it occurred, and invited me for chocolate, and then to sail with him as his surgeon. One might argue the latter invitation was out of a practical motivation on his part, as he needed one, but I still feel he took a chance on me, and at any rate the first invitation was not. It was thoughtless on his part, the first indication of his generous nature which warmed me when I needed it most. How moving it was may be a reflection more of my frame of mind than the act itself, but it is always the one I will describe.

January 8, 2006: A Letter to My Late Wife

My Dearest Diana,

It has now been two years since we were parted, though I admit it surprises me that it has truly been that long. You may think that unlikely, considering that I did propose to another woman, but it is in fact true. I ask you hold no grudge against a lonely, confused man, who erred enough against both himself and the woman in question in making his proposal. But certainly had I been the one to die, I would not expect you to remain alone if you did not want to. I hope if I do someday marry again, you will be understanding.
But let me put fears to rest you may recieve that I am unhappy. Indeed, right now, I am very well. I regret, yes, but I am well. Jack and Sophie are well, which I know will please you. It might surprise you, or if you are already aware it might have surprised you, to hear Clarissa Oakes, Clarissa Andrews now, has remarried. I have not met her husband, but I have heard nothing ill of him, and I hope she is happy. Brigid has come to sea, and as I am sure you are aware, that is the place where she is at her best. Yet sometimes I wonder what happen if she grows up so completely a sailor. Will there be any place in the world for her when Jack and I retire from the sea? But she will be what she must be, whatever the consequences.
If you are in acquaintance with my godfather or any of my family or old friends, you may give them my love. If you meet Dil, kiss her for me, and if you happen to run across a man by the name of Barrett Bonden, remember me to him also. I remain,

Your most affectionate widowed husband,
Stephen Maturin

FannyFae: Please forgive me my intrusion, Stephen. I am not in the habit of reading over anyone's shoulder, but ....I am curious, how do you deal with the pain of losing someone whom you love? How do staunch the flow of melancholy and the lonliness?
I know that I will have to deal with this soon enough, myself.
Stephen: Usually I have wallowed in my own self-pity, or worse, my laudanum, to an absurd degree. Though the timing of my wife's death did not afford me this luxury; I was forced to focus on my work. Perhaps I have never properly faced my wifeless state; my misguided attempt to replace Diana was an attempt to move on from her before I actually grieved, because the loss was so great, I was afraid to let myself.
But I must express my concern. Whom do you fear losing?
FannyFae: It is very easy to slip into melancholy and self-pity, and the lure of the poppy, or some other substance to deaden the pain.
(Fanny looks up at her friend and gives a wan smile.) I do not merely fear, Stephen. I know that I will probably lose my husband, John, this year. Things in Tombstone are getting very bad, and his spells of melancholy are at times worse. I say endless prayers, pour over endless books and grimoires hoping to staunch the flow of time toward that day, or change the course of events.

January 16: On Superstitions

Are you superstitious about anything? Is someone you know superstitious?

My friend Jack is the superstitious one. It comes with being a sailor. They will not so much as make sail on a Friday, because of their superstitions. I suppose it is impossible not to be affected by it by too many years at sea. I do not touch wood every time I express a hope out loud, but occasionally a particularly omnious sign which I might have otherwise ignored unnerves me. The strongest example is from when I was about to be put ashore into a particularly dangerous situation, Jack attempted to toast me, and the glass broke off in his hand. Jack had been worried enough, and how he let me go after that I am not sure. I admit the incident could not leave me unmoved. My own possible death weighed on me after, more so than I expected it to.
On the other hand, when my mission went perfectly, Jack was temporarily freed from the tyrannical grip of his numerous sailor's superstitions, even making sail on a Friday. Though when the voyage home went ill, all superstition returned.

January 26: On Sacrifice

For Jack I have sacrificed much. A life on land, life spent with Diana even after I married her, most of my chances for fame, my pride, and so on. Which was the greatest? My answer varies from day to day. It scarcely matters in the end, for the sacrifice was more than worth it for a life spent with Jack.
Perhaps I made equally great sacrifices, and in vain, before I met Jack. For Ireland and the United Irishmen, and their leader, I sacrificed most of my sense, and the detachment that had kept me safe from the whims of the world. Yet I had already sacrificed my inability to be hurt for love of an abstract concept, that being liberty and the revolution. For the French Revolution I put my faith on the line, and that too was lost, though that was a risk, rather than a sacrifice. Yet my detachment I gained back, all too much, only to sacrifice again for Jack, for Diana, even for others besides them to a certain extent.

February-April 2006