Summary and Analysis
Letter 2 - To Mrs. Saville, England
Now that he has reached Archangel in March, Robert Walton finds himself lonesome. He works steadily to ready a ship and crew but yearns for someone like himself to pass the time. Writing letters to his sister eases the loneliness somewhat, but he desires friendship. He tries to dismiss thoughts of failure and will perhaps return home via a different route, a changed man. The captain and lieutenant are possible choices for Robert's companions, but neither seems to fulfill that role for him.
Here several Romantic ideas are thrust upon the reader at once: first is the allusion to Coleridge and seafaring; the second, to regions that are "marvelous" and "mysterious;" and third, a quest for personal and factual knowledge. Also, a Romantic notion is that Walton is so open to finding a friend (showing his feelings).
Weather slows the beginning of the trip, but Walton reassures his sister that he will use caution and prudence. He alludes to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This one poem helped launch the Romantic period and gives us a story of a man banished for killing an albatross while at sea. The poem is an extended allegory symbolizing the death of imagination in man and an embarkment on a quest for spiritual and intellectual knowledge. Coleridge, a Romantic writer, was a friend of Mary's father.
The discussion about his educational background seems to be a continuation from his first letter. He regrets, "Now I am twenty-eight and am in reality more illiterate than many schoolboys of fifteen."
He mentions his desire for a companion, by saying, "I greatly need a friend who would have sense enough not to despise me as romantic, and affection enough for me to endeavour to regulate my mind."