January-July 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 14


JWC TO MARGARET WELSH ; 8 July 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420708-JWC-MW-01; CL 14: 216-219


Friday [8 July? 1842].

MY DEAR MRS. WELSH,—I have read your letter with the deepest interest—not a word of this ‘ugly story,’ as you may well call it,1 had reached me and I cannot express to you the astonishment and indignation it has filled me with—I always considered Mrs. Robert Welsh a cold and worldly-minded woman, but the very prudence which seemed to me to have outgrown in her all other good qualities, and to have rendered her almost unamiable in the conduct of her life, would have guarded her, I should have supposed, from such a flagrant transaction as this you tell me of. That the woman should not see that by throwing dishonour on her husband's memory, and making an act of downright dishonesty the basis of her own and her children's future fortunes, betokens a short-sightedness of intellect in her which surprises me, more than the abominable selfishness with which she pursues her own immediate advantage at all costs to others! Dear Mrs. Welsh whatever hardships this injustice may expose you to—depend upon it your John enters the world under better auspices than that other poor boy whom she seeks to advance by such unworthy means. I pity him more than I pity your son—the loss to your son is definite—so many hundred pounds—who knows but it may turn out a gain by the new stimulus it will give to his own exertions—but to John May the evil done is incalculable, and may spread itself over his whole existence—such a lesson in base worldliness given to him at such an age and by one whom he is bound to reverence,—and a stigma thrown on the name he bears!—Oh the blind Mother that she is! But as you say very dignifiedly and properly ‘it is useless casting out reflections on her conduct’—to commit her to destiny is indeed all one can do with such a person—and destiny in its own good time will set that and whatever else is so glaringly wrong—to rights again one way or other. Meanwhile be assured that it would be a true satisfaction for me if my husband or I could in any way serve my young cousin—who besides being so related to me, is I understand a well conducted clever youth. In the way you mention nothing I am afraid is possible for us—I know only one person connected with civil Engineers—George Rennie my old lover at Haddington, who is my cousin and brother-in-law to Sir John Rennie2 the great person here in that line. To him I wrote immediately on receiving your letter, and I shall enclose his answer that you may see the little hope he holds out—for next to having possible hopes realized I hold it best to have impossible ones at once set aside—to leave the ground clear for new schemes. I may add that I am perfectly certain that Mr. Rennie does not throw cold water on the subject from mere indisposition to give himself trouble about it. He would like nothing better than to do me a kindness for the sake of old times, if it lay at all within his ability.

My Cousin Jeanie who is here with me has a cousin in Liverpool3—a practical engineer—and even he, she tells me has been obliged to dismiss a great many of his people lately—all trade is going so rapidly to perdition. But if a young man have talent, patience, and good conduct, never fear but he will make out for himself even in ‘the present distressed state of the country’ a respectable and useful existence. John has good gifts from nature, and he has the inestimable blessing of an affectionate and brave hearted Mother to sympathize in his struggles and encourage him on. It cannot be but that after so much hardship as you have had in life and borne so creditably some fruits of your cares and struggles should not arise to gladden you even here below.— Write to me whenever you see the shadow of a chance that my husband's influence may be of any help to you—tho' the present may offer nothing in which we can be of use it may not be always so.

Thank you for the kind letter you wrote to me a good while ago. I meant to answer it at the time, but my health and spirits have been so bad ever since that fearful February; that I am hardly to be accused for the many things I have left undone, above all the many letters I have left unanswered—I am stronger of late—but so sad always—and when I look forward to what they call ‘the effects of time,’ it seems to me as if these would be to deepen my sadness rather than clear it away.— I do not know how it is, but I feel as if something had broken within me, and however long I may live, that my mind can never recover its elasticity any more.

Pray take every care of your health—I know these sicknesses that come with vexations and know that no sicknesses need more to be looked to. Give my cousinly regards to John, and believe me always

Affectionately yours /