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SUMMARY: Horatio and his father exchange letters
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Father, 18 May, 1795
I wish to tell you how very happy I was that you made the effort to come all the way down to Spithead to see me while we were in port last week. I was pleased to see you looking well and so content.
It had been so long since we had seen each other that I must confess to some trepidation at the news that you were on the dock waiting to see me. I almost was afraid to come ashore to see you after our last parting, but I confess to being happy that Captain Pellew insisted that I do so.
We managed to finally say many things to each other that I fear were festering in us both for too long. I most sincerely hope that after the draining of some of our old wounds, we might both begin to heal.
I fear also that I have felt without any parent for so long that I was more awkward that I would have liked to have been with you. You must realize that I have been alone for so many years that I find great difficulty in speaking of my feelings openly. This is something that I regret and I only hope that some small amount of what I wish for us both was conveyed to you.
Your Affectionate Son, Horatio.
Dearest Horatio, 10 June, 1795
I received your letter of last month with great happiness. It pleases me more than I can say to know that we have begun to heal what was wrong for so very long. I know that, had your dear Mother lived, she would have been greatly pained to know of our rift. I suspect that were she here, it might never have begun in the first place.
But I speculate. Who knows? Perhaps had she been with us, we might still have rowed and you and she would be the only two who were close. You are so very like her.
I know that physically you resemble me, but in your manners and your thoughts and your ideas you are as her twin. You could not be more her son if you tried with all that is in you.
I know that you will take this as the compliment that it is intended. She was so very like perfection in my eyes.
I do miss her so desperately. I can say this to you now. For so very many years we could speak of nothing other than trivialities. I rejoice that we have begun to talk as two men who can share their thoughts and fears and dreams.
I am so very glad that we have managed to find each other again before it was too late for us both,
Your Loving Father
Dearest Father, 4 July, 1795
It is my birthday. Today I am nineteen years old. It hardly seems to be such a vast age, yet I feel as though my life has, even in so brief a time, been a full one. I cannot help but wonder what the next nineteen years will bring. I will then be thirty-eight. How odd it is for me to think on that.
In nineteen years… I would hope to be at least a Captain, should I still be a Naval Officer. I would hope to be in command of my own ship and I would like to believe that I might be suited to such a task.
I would like to think that I will have a wife whom I might be able to love and that we might have the good fortune of children. I believe that I would like that, Father. I worry that I will never find a woman who will have me, at least not one whom I would wish myself.
I don't say this lightly. We are at sea so much that I have yet to find a young lady who has managed to interest me in any but the most superficial ways. The other men aboard ship often tease me as a prude as I find no fascination with the women who are all too common in any harbor or on any dockside. I find the idea of them tawdry and avoid them.
I don't believe myself to be a prude, yet I must think that there is more to the sharing of our bodies than a few hurried minutes and an exchange of coins. I cannot think that I am wrong in this, though perhaps I am.
I find a great need to belong to someone, to be a part of another person. I can think of no higher aspiration than the complete joining of two souls, but in mind and in body. Yet, even as I write these words, I feel that I could never give myself completely to another. I must needs hold part of me back, to retain some part of myself wholly for me. I suppose that I am selfish in this.
Does this make any sense, Father? I try to understand it myself, and do not completely succeed.
To my surprise, Captain Pellew wished me regards of the day. It was very kind of him to make such an effort.
Your Affectionate Son, Horatio
Dearest Horatio, 1 August 1795
You are truly your mother's son. You quite amaze me.
Before we married, before she agreed to give me her hand, she said almost the same words that you wrote just a few weeks ago.
She, too, feared that she would never be able to truly join with another. We managed to resolve her dilemma, after a fashion, by agreeing that she would always retain the right to her own thoughts and by the removal of the word "obey" from our marriage vows. That was quite the scandal, as you may well imagine. She insisted that she must retain her own belief in her own self. What an original thinker she was.
I must confess that I do miss her so very much. I would say to you that you must be aware that, should you chose to marry, you will force the lady of your choosing to a life alone. I fear that you will also live a life alone as your career is one of a solitary man. Should you attain the rank and the position you desire, you will be forced to place yourself apart from your companions. The successful results of your rank will demand that of you.
It is necessary for you to do your job well, as you know. That is born in you.
I hope that the day will come when you can open yourself to another, as I believe that you wish. I fear, I confess, that the path you tred is one that will lead you away from that happiness. I pray that I am mistaken in this.
Should you ever find the woman with whom you wish to bind your life, I pray that you also find a way to be with her and not half a world away.
Your Loving Father.
Dearest Father, 25 August, 1795
You last letter has made me immeasurably sad.
I fear the same things that you confessed to me.
I fear that I shall never find the woman with whom I can openly share myself—my thoughts and my hopes and dreams and my body.
I so want to find that person. I know it is far too early in my life to despair of ever succeeding in this. I know also that in all likelihood, I may wait years for this rare being to make their existence known to me.
I know, also that should I ever manage to find her, we will be forced apart by my career.
I am forced to wonder what in life is truly important to me.
I so want to succeed at my Naval career. I find that it is so much a part of me that to fail would label me a failure in my own eyes. I don't know if I could bear that.
I also know that to marry and then to fail at that endeavor would be likewise devastating.
I don't know if the two can be reconciled.
I worry greatly over this, Father. I know that you have no answers for me in this, but I would so like to be able to sit across from you to speak with you on this.
Perhaps when next we anchor in England that may happen.
Your Affectionate Son, Horatio
My Dearest Son, 20 September 1795
By your last letter I now know that you are no longer the callow youth I sent away that bleak day two years ago.
I know that you have grown in your depth of thought and your degree of self-realization. You are no longer a child and I must remember this when next I see you. Pray God that be soon.
I miss you so, Horatio. I've never spoken on this to you, but after your Mother left us, you were all that kept me in this world. Without your needing me to be strong for you, I would surely have gladly joined Louisa without haste.
For so long I wanted to die along with her, but you were the reason I needed to stay behind. She demanded that of me, as she loved you so very much.
So many needs we had then. I needed her so desperately and then you needed me. I fear that I failed you more often than not. I pray that you've forgiven me for my many failings to you.
When you were so young, you needed your parents—as any child does. Now I find that the parent needs the child.
When next your ship puts into port on our island, do not forget me.
I ask you this.
Your loving Father
Dearest Father, 25 October, 1795
Indefatigable will arrive Portsmouth within the fortnight for a two-month refit and resupply. When my duties are completed, I will journey to Kent and to you with all haste.
The parent might well need the child, but the child still has need of the parent. Pray, be well, Father.
Your Affectionate Son, Horatio