“Poverty prevents me from everything”
The 3rd December 1838 Johan Wilhelm Negithon applied to Thorvaldsen to ask for financial support to buy a case with mathematical drawing requisites, new or second hand.
From Negithon’s letter we get an insight into his life and existence. 14 years old in 1802 he got a berth as a ship’s boy or sailor in the Danish navy. 20 years old he lost his right arm here in the Battle at the point of Zealand, when the ship of the line Prince Christian Frederik commanded by captain Carl Wilhelm Jessen (1764-1823) fought against a large British naval force. In the naval battle which took place 22nd March 1808 and which was fought in a heavy gunfire 69 Danish and Norwegian and 55 British sailors lost their lives.
After the crushing battle (and after he apparently had tried his hand at coining, cf. geni.com) Negithon was employed as a messenger at the Court and City Court in Copenhagen. From here he was awarded a small pension in 1830 and thus had status as a “Royal Pensioner”, cf. FT-1834.
Parallel with his job as a messenger, and after having taught himself to write with his left hand Negithon studied law, possibly at the University of Copenhagen, but because of lack of money he did not get his final exam.
In that period of time Negithon had also taught himself mathematics and geometry and in 1816 he had designed a horse mill which he presented to the administrative and executive power of the Danish navy, the department of the Admiralty. The horse mill was intended for the use of employed and private people at the naval station of Holmen and it was to grind the grain at half price. The idea of the horse mill probably originated from Negithon’s own experience from living at Holmen where he was born and had grown up, and where people spent time on “waiting for the wind” which was to set the existing wind mill in motion, as he wrote in his letter to Thorvaldsen. Once again because of lack of money Negithon did not finish the final model and the horse mill was not carried out.
Negithon finishes his letter to Thorvaldsen by saying that he knows a little about ship design and as he asks Thorvaldsen for help to buy a case with mathematical drawing requisites, it is obvious to assume that in 1838 he tried to take up just ship design for a career. We do not know whether Thorvaldsen lent him a hand financially, or whether he succeeded in his project, but we get the impression that Negithon continuously defied his handicap and sought other ways trying to escape poverty.
Negithon was married when he was 22 years old to the then 17-year-old Emilie Margrethe Jørgensen (1793-1875) in Holmen’s Church the 21st January 1811. The same year the couple had their first child. They had nine children in all, but three died when they were little, cf. geni.com.
Negithon died 30th December 1850 at St Hans Hospital in Roskilde.
[Translated by Karen Husum]
Last updated 07.06.2017