January-July 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 14


TC TO THOMAS ERSKINE ; 5 April 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420405-TC-TE-01; CL 14: 121-122


Templand: April 5 [1842].

Dear Mr. Erskine,—I know not whether my poor wife has yet answered the letter you sent to her, but I know that, if not, yet she means with her earliest strength to do so; for she described it as having been a true solace to her, as having “told her the very things she was thinking”—a most naïve and complete definition of a letter that deserved to be written. Thanks to you in her name and my own. The poor heart seems gathering composure gradually, though still very weak; and in weak bodily health too, imprisoned by the rough spring weather. A young cousin is with her at Chelsea: a cheery, sensible, affectionate girl, whom she describes as a great support to her. Mrs. Rich1 and all her friends, summoned by a great calamity, had shown themselves full of sympathy and help. It is what mortals owe to one another in such a season. The little birds shrink lovingly together when a great gyrfalcon has smitten one of them. Death I account always as a great deliverance, a dark door into Peace, into everlasting Hope. But it is also well named from of old the King of Terrors—a huge demon-falcon rising miraculously we know not whence, to snatch us away from one another's sight we know not whither! Had not a God made this world, and made Death too, it were an insupportable place. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Even so. In whom else, or in what else?

My days pass along here, where a multiplicity of small things still detains but does not occupy me, in a most silent, almost sabbath-like manner. I avoid all company whatever—except the few poor greedy-minded very stupid rustics who have some affairs with me, which I struggle always to despatch and cut short. I see nobody; I do not even read much. The old hills and rivers, the old earth with her star firmaments and burial-vaults, carry on a mysterious unfathomable dialogue with me. It is eight years since I have seen a spring, and in such a mood I never saw one. It seems all new and original to me—beautiful, almost solemn. Whose great laboratory is that? The hills stand snow-powdered, pale, bright. The black hailstorm awakens in them, rushes down like a black swift ocean tide, valley answering valley; and again the sun blinks out, and the poor sower is casting his grain into the furrow, hopeful he that the Zodiacs and far Heavenly Horologes have not faltered; that there will be yet another summer added for us and another harvest. Our whole heart asks with Napoleon: ‘Messieurs, who made all that? Be silent, foolish Messieurs!’2