April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


JWC TO MARGARET WELSH; 19 March 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490319-JWC-MW-01; CL 23: 255-256


5 Cheyne Row Monday ([19 or 26] March 1849).

MY DEAR MRS. WELSH,—Unless you had been ‘up thro' me and down thro' me with a lighted candle’ (as the highly figurative Annandale phrase is); you could never believe how often and how kindly I have thought of you during this long screed of silence! and yet, if you had not written; God knows if I would ever have written to you again! unless indeed I had had one of those wonderful strokes of good fortune to communicate, on occasion of which it is said one should ‘thank God, and write to one's friends’! Not that, for any inconceivable reason, I had taken perverse determination; on the contrary I often wished and meant to write—but it is an unfortunate way of mine, that if ever, with or without reason, I fail to do a thing at the right time I go on from bad to worse, thro' sheer shame of myself, and end in not doing it at all.

But I will make no more apology which, so far as my own experience goes, is in most cases more impertinent looking and, bothering than the omission.

You do Mr. C and me no more than justice in believing us ready and willing to do anything in our power for John's interest.1 Besides the fact of his being my full cousin (not much to build upon when the cousin is unsatisfactory, as was proved in the instance of the other John)2 he seems from all I have heard and hear of him, especially from this letter of his own, to be a very loveable and deserving young man—one whom it would be a pleasure to help on in the world— But our power is so little! Knowing as we do so many official people, and people of high rank and large fortune it were only to be believed, by having lived and tried, in that sort of society, oneself, how difficult, actually impossible it is, to get any post for ones dearest friend; unless oneself or the friend have claims on some political party, or can in some way forward such party's interests. When Mr. C was writing his Cromwell he needed someone to copy at the British Museum, and a young Scotchman with a doctor's diploma and no practice,3 starving here with a young wife and one child, thankfully undertook the work—for many months all they had had to live on was, what the beautiful wife earned by sitting and standing to Artists as a model at a shilling an hour!! He satisfied Mr. C entirely during the two years he worked for him—not little to do!—and both he and I took a quite painful interest in him and his wife, and talked about him and wrote about him and recommended him, and entreated for him—to right and left— After he had done Mr. C's work we got him some little jobs but nothing of a permanent sort by all our exertions—till the young wife broke down in it—died of consumption—and the man seemed to be following her. Then we made new and desperate efforts.— I actually cried about him to Lady Ashburton and Charles Buller—but the answer then as ever was ‘you know ones whole influence must be given to one's constituents.’ At last a place—of nearly eighty pounds a year in the Record Office fell to him thro' happy accident and partly thro' Mr. C's letters of recommendation—but too late—his long struggle had worn him out—he only filled his clerkship two months then returned to Aberdeen to die bequeathing his child to me! But it's grandmother is a better guardian for it.— I tell you this tragedy not to discourage you Dear, few people are so very unfortunate as poor Christy was—but to shew little influence of a practical sort one gets thro all ones celebrityDinners one may have at the rate of a dozen a day if one could eat them, and soirées and applications for autographs by every post, and declarations of deathless enthusiasm from young Ladies, &c. &c.—but never the paltriest office to give away!— However accident sometimes offers what no efforts can obtain and you may depend upon it no opportunity of aiding John will be allowed to slip by us.— Meanwhile Mr. C. had employed a friend4 to consult Lyell the Geologist on the subject the only scientific man we know much about—whatever comes of the enquiry I will communicate to you. Meanwhile I need not say to you to keep up your heart, for you have shown the bravest heart in worst difficulties—nor to John to be patient and persisting—for has he not been so all these past years— Better to work his own way in the sweat of his soul—with clean hands, than to be helped to fortune thro dishonour as his more prosperous fool of a cousin5 has been.