Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 49

Endymion liked his new official life very much. Whitehall was a great improvement on Somerset House, and he had sufficient experience of the civil service to duly appreciate the advantage of being permanently quartered in one of the chief departments of the state, instead of obscurely labouring in a subordinate office, with a limited future, and detached from all the keenly interesting details of public life. But it was not this permanent and substantial advantage which occasioned him such lively and such novel pleasure, as the fact of his being a private secretary, and a private secretary to a cabinet minister.

The relations between a minister and his secretary are, or at least should be, among the finest that can subsist between two individuals. Except the married state, there is none in which so great a degree of confidence is involved, in which more forbearance ought to be exercised, or more sympathy ought to exist. There is usually in the relation an identity of interest, and that of the highest kind; and the perpetual difficulties, the alternations of triumph and defeat, develop devotion. A youthful secretary will naturally feel some degree of enthusiasm for his chief, and a wise minister will never stint his regard for one in whose intelligence and honour he finds he can place confidence.

There never was a happier prospect of these relations being established on the most satisfactory basis than in the instance of Endymion and his new master. Mr. Sidney Wilton was a man of noble disposition, fine manners, considerable culture, and was generally gracious. But he was disposed to be more than gracious to Endymion, and when he found that our young friend had a capacity for work — that his perception was quick and clear — that he wrote with facility — never made difficulties — was calm, sedulous, and patient, the interest which Mr. Wilton took in him as the son of William Ferrars, and, we must add, as the brother of Lady Roehampton, became absorbed in the personal regard which the minister soon entertained for his secretary. Mr. Wilton found a pleasure in forming the mind of Endymion to the consideration and comprehension of public affairs; he spoke to him both of men and things without reserve; revealed to him the characters of leading personages on both sides, illustrated their antecedents, and threw light upon their future; taught him the real condition of parties in parliament, rarely to be found in newspapers; and finally, when he was sufficiently initiated, obtained for his secretary a key for his cabinet boxes, which left little of the business of government unknown to Endymion.

Such great confidence, and that exhibited by one who possessed so many winning qualities, excited in the breast of Endymion the most lively feelings of gratitude and respect. He tried to prove them by the vigilant and unwearying labour with which he served his master, and he served him every day more effectually, because every day he became more intimate with the mind and method of Mr. Wilton. Every one to a certain degree is a mannerist; every one has his ways; and a secretary will be assisted in the transaction of business if a vigilant observation has made him acquainted with the idiosyncrasy of his chief.

The regulations of the office which authorise a clerk, appointed to a private secretaryship, to deviate from the routine duties of the department, and devote his time entirely to the special requirements of his master, of course much assisted Endymion, and proved also a pleasant relief, for he had had enough at Somerset House of copying documents and drawing up formal reports. But it was not only at Whitehall that he saw Mr. Wilton, and experienced his kindness. Endymion was a frequent guest under Mr. Wilton’s roof, and Mr. Wilton’s establishment was one of the most distinguished in London. They met also much in the evenings, and always at Lady Roehampton’s, where Mr. Wilton was never absent. Whenever and wherever they met, even if they had been working together the whole morning, Mr. Wilton always greeted Endymion with the utmost consideration — because he knew such a recognition would raise Endymion in the eyes of the social herd, who always observe little things, and generally form from them their opinions of great affairs.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19