At last I found it. There’s a New Hampshire novelist named Winston Churchill who wrote in the 1800s and is always confused with the British prime minister of the same name.
You see his books often, bound in red with gold trimming, so they must have been popular in their day, but I have never in all my experience ever met anyone who has read a novel by the other Winston Churchill.
I never would have, except that I stumbled upon Mr Crewe’s Career, which is about New Hampshire politics in the 1800s, and I happened to be a member of the Senate staff in New Hampshire for six years.
Though I have seen many copies of Mr. Crewe’s Career — I own three and have given one away — it is the sequel to a book called Coniston, of which I have only found one copy in thirty years of collecting.
I found another copy yesterday for a buck. I would have paid fifty, but the seller wouldn’t get more than a quarter from a used-book seller. No one buys or reads them.
I found it in a box of contemporary books, completely out of context. The young woman said she had not read it. I should have asked her where she got it, because now I’m really curious. Maybe her grandmother gve it to her and told her it was a really good book and she never got around to it.
Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the plot: A young New Hampshire bumpkin adores a young woman who marries another man, a wastrel. She dies and the bumpkin travels to Roxbury, a neighborhood in Boston, and takes the young woman’s daughter from the wastrel, who then dies as well.
So this old curmudgeon who becomes rich as a tanner and then as the immovable force in New Hampshire politics, who eats nothing but crackers and milk, has an adopted daughter, the child of his long-lost love.
Winston Churchill himself also makes a cameo appearance in this book.
Whenever I find someone who has read Coniston by the other Winston Churchill, I know I will have found a kindred spirit.