The Collected Letters, Volume 28


JWC TO HELEN WELSH ; 28 October 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18531028-JWC-HW-01; CL 28: 299-300


Friday [28 October 1853]

Dearest Helen

I have had a little worry which nature prompts me to communicate to you, as the best way to get it off my mind. The day before yesterday Pen Sketchly called. “Bless me, she said, are you ill? I am sorry to see you look so low.” Yes I have been ten days confined with a cold. “Oh—really—well I am come on what you will think an odd errand—(with a coarse laugh)—I want you to lend my mother five pounds,” I will pay you again—in two or three weeks—when I get the price of some of my pictures.” Now you must know I have long had a notion that the Sketchleys live on in that expensive house in the enjoyment apparently of all material good things just by dint of a hard face and borrowing,—and what is equivalent to begging,—forcing these wretched “pictures” on people from right to left. So I had contemplated the possibility of some such application to myself, and predetermined to meet it with an equally hard face, and refuse— They live in a house at 15£ a year more rent than ours—they have always little luxuries—cakes, fruit, wine &c &c about them which for years of my life here, I never ventured on—and I did not see why I should go without a necessary gown, or bonnet, or both, to lend that is to say give them 5£— I have no doubt Pen thought I would at once give her 10£ as price of that odious picture she compelled me to sit for,1 and which I had such difficulty in getting rid of. When she saw I did not at once jump to this, she said bullyingly “why you dont mean to say you havn't got it?”—“Indeed I do”—I said (and it was a truth I had not 5£ of my own hardly 5s left)—“I have just spent all my own allowance on the mourning I needed—and I could not lend you the money without asking it from Mr Carlyle,” and—“Well ask him!—there's a Dear!—go and ask him—our Landlord will come for his rent tomorrow and we shall only have a few shillings left”— “But,” said I gathering boldness from her boldness—“If you are in such a hurry its no use asking Mr C even if I could bring myself to ask him—his money lies in the bank in Dumfries, and a week always passes before we can get it here—so you had better think of some one who could lend it you at once”—“Humph—that is unlucky that makes a difference—I really dont know anybody but yourself to get it from.” However she went off into speaking about the shabbiness of people who kept her waiting for the price of her pictures; and I advising her to ask for the money that was her own—after a time I took out my purse and showing her a sovereign and some silver I said—There—if you care to take this one sovereign just to put you over the immediate difficulty; but it is so little I am ashamed to offer it”—“Oh, no—never mind—I wont embarress2 you since you havnt got it.” And she staid half an hour talking with apparent interest about capt Sterling and indifferent matters. I am sure I felt more at refusing her than she at being refused and the notion of having behaved shabbily has worried me ever since. And yet I know I did right to refuse—especially when I hadn't the money of my own—I wonder if she thought of writing off to you, she asked me coarsely “how much money has Mr Welsh left?— He was immensely rich we always understood— Your cousins will be fortunes wont they.” I hope my cousins will always be able to live independently; I said with severity—for I was disgusted to the last degree at the ideas of this woman But I never understood my Uncle had any exorbitant wealth. He was too honourable in paying up his old debts and too generous to every one for making “immensely rich”— Finally she went away. and I hope she wont come back—I have not told you the worst thing she said it was too indelicate for repetition even— I think you ought to know what is in their hearts in case of their troubling you for money From Pen's manner of proceeding yesterday I havn't a doubt that she lives by raising the wind from one year to another— Still I feel put in a false position3 by her assault on me.

I wish much to hear from Liverpool again.

God bless you all / Your affectionate Cousin4