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My Dear Boy

Florence FULLER
(Paper boy) 1888
oil on canvas
61.2 x 45.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

“My dear boy, I am afraid you have drawn the short straw but do understand this happens regularly in India.

Parents die all the time and quite suddenly. One minute your dear father and mother are alive the next minute, there is a cholera outbreak. Thank your lucky stars you were at school and could avoid their fate.

There is no shame in being an orphan and you are blessed an uncle in Bombay has agreed to take you in. Many orphans do not have such an advantage.

Indeed, your kind uncle has arranged a train ticket to Bombay. Only second class but at least it is not third class. You are therefore spared the ordeal of travelling with natives.

You leave for Bombay tomorrow. So, spend your remaining time at the school thanking your masters for their thoughtful and comprehensive tutelage. If you cannot speak to each master individually, then a letter will suffice.

Do remember to write to my dear wife, Mrs Abbott, who has been most kind as well as your house matron.

Who knows we may see you in Simla in the years to come.

Unfortunately, your academic progress may not open the gates of Haileybury and the Indian Civil Service for you.

However, with sound study, Sandhurst and her Majesty’s British India Army may be on the cards. Can I recommend you aim for the Royal Fusiliers? The uniform is simply stunning, and my own academically challenged brother has risen to the rank of Major.

I very much hope your Uncle is willing to invest in your education.

If I have some advice, it would be to make yourself amiable to him. I understand he is a bachelor, and it is always easier to support a likeable child.

However, should he marry, and he may do so in the years ahead, you should also make yourself agreeable to his wife. Alas, a wife may see you as a financial burden.

Goodbye, you go with my best wishes. Remember those letters to your masters.

You are dismissed.”

A 10-minute write inspired by Florence FULLER’S 1888 painting, Paper boy.