April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 29 September 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440929-TC-RWE-01; CL 18: 224-226


Chelsea, 29 September, 1844—

Dear Emerson,

There should a Letter have come for you by that Steamer; for I wrote one duly, and posted it in good time myself: I will hope therefore it was but some delay of some subaltern official, such as I am told occasionally chances, and that you got the Letter after all in a day or two.1 It would give you notice, more or less, up to its date, of all the points you had inquired about: there is now little to be added; except concerning the main point, That the Catastrophe has arrived there, as we foresaw, and all is ended.

John Sterling died at his house in Ventnor on the night of Wednesday 18th September, about eleven o'clock; unexpectedly at last, and to appearance without pain. His Sister-in-law, Mrs Maurice, had gone down to him from this place about a week before; other friends were waiting as it were in view of him; but he wished generally to be alone, to continue to the last setting his house and his heart more and more in order for the Great Journey. For about a fortnight back he had ceased to have himself formally dressed; had sat only in his dressinggown, but I believe was still daily wheeled into his Library, and sat very calmly sorting and working there. He sent me two Notes, and various messages, and gifts of little keepsakes to my Wife and myself: the Notes were brief, stern and loving; altogether noble; never to be forgotten in this world. His Brother Anthony, who had been in the Isle of Wight within call for several weeks, had now come up to Town again; but, after about a week, decided that he would run down again, and look. He arrived on the Wednesday night, about nine o'clock; found no visible change; the brave Patient calm as ever, ready to speak as ever,—to say, in direct words which he would often do, or indirectly as his whole speech and conduct did, “God is Great.” Anthony and he talked for a while, then took leave for the night; in few minutes more, Anthony was summoned to the bedside, and at 11 o'clock as I said the curtain dropt, and it was all ended.— Euge [Alas]!

Whether the American Mss. had arrived I do not yet know,2 but probably shall before this Letter goes; for Anthony is to return hither on Tuesday, and I will inquire. Our Friend is buried in Ventnor Churchyard; four big Elms overshadow the little spot; it is situated on the South-east side of that green Island, on the slope of steep hills (as I understand it) that look towards the Sun, and are close within sight and hearing of the Sea. There shall he rest, and have fit lullaby, this brave one. He has died, as a man should; like an old Roman, yet with the Christian Bibles and all newest revelations present to him. He refused to see friends; men whom I think he loved as well as any, me for one when I obliquely proposed it, he refused. He was even a little stern on his nearest relatives when they came to him: Do I need your help to die? Phocion-like he seemed to feel degraded by physical decay; to feel that he ought to wrap his mantle round him, and say, “I come, Persephoneia; it is not I that linger!”3— His Sister-in-law, Anthony's Wife, probably about a month ago, while they were still in Wight, had begged that she might see him yet once; her husband would be there too, she engaged not to speak. Anthony had not yet persuaded him, when she, finding the door half open, went in: His pale changed countenance almost made her shriek; she stept forward silently, kissed his brow in silence; he burst into tears. Let us speak no more of this.— — A great quantity of papers, I understand, are left for my [determ]ination;4 what is to be done with them I will sacredly endeavour to do.

I have visited your Bookseller Chapman; seen the Proofsheets lying on his table; taken order that the reprint shall be well corrected,—indeed I am to read every sheet myself, and in that way get acquainted with it, before it go into stereotype.5 Chapman is a tall lank youth of five-and-twenty;6 full of goodwill, but of what other equipment time must yet try. By a little Book of his, which I looked at some months ago, he seemed to me sunk very deep in the dust-hole of extinct Socianianism; a painful predicament for a man!7 He is not sure of saving much copyright for you; but he will do honestly what in that respect is doable; and he will print the Book correctly, and publish it decently, I saying imprimatur [let it be printed] if occasion be,—and your ever-increasing little congregation here will do with the new word what they can. I add no more today; reserving a little nook for the answer I hope to get two days hence. Adieu my friend: it is silent Sunday; the populace not yet admitted to their beershops, till the respectabilities conclude their rubric-mummeries (a much more audacious feat than beer!); we have wet wind at North-east, and a sky somewhat of the dreariest:—Courage! a little way above it, reigns mere blue and sunshine eternally!— T. C.

Wednesday, 2 Octr.— The Letter had to wait till today, and is still in time. Anthony Sterling, who is yet at Ventnor, apprises me this morning that according to his and the Governess's belief the Russell Mss. arrived duly, and were spoken of more than once by our Friend.— On Monday I received from this same Anthony a big packet by Post; it contains among other things all your Letters to John, wrapt up carefully, and addressed in his hand “Emerson's Letters, to be returned thro' the hands of Carlyle”: they shall go towards you next week, by Mr James, who is about returning.8 Among the other Papers was one containing seven stanzas of verse addressed “to T. Carlyle,” 14 Septr; full of love and enthusiasm;—the Friday before his death: I was visiting the old City of Winchester that day, among the tombs of Canutes and eldest noble ones: you may judge how sacred the memory of those hours now is!

I have read your Slavery Address;9 this morning the first half-sheet, in Proof, of the Essays has come: perfectly correct, and right good reading.— Yours ever T. Carlyle