April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON; 29 November 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18481129-TC-LA-01; CL 23: 164-165


Chelsea, 29 Novr, 1848—

Alas, alas, what sad tragedy is this,—the saddest, I think, that ever befel among friends of mine!1 “Five minutes to six”: about the very moment I awoke, this morning, with the thought of him painfully blazing in me. And it was all over. And we shall never see that blithe face more; for the rest of our pilgrimage, never more!—

That Monday you went away, the last time I saw him, he was unusually cheerful; spoke of his operation for the morrow as a thing of no significance, like the mere drawing of a tooth or less; and invited me to come and talk with him “next Wednesday.”— I privately believe, it is the chloroform that has done it:—but, alas, of what moment is that now?2

To all of us his death is a sore loss; not to any living creature, I think, could it seem a gain: for his presence was cheering and beneficent to all, and hurtful or afflictive to none that lived. But to you, dear Friend,—alas, it is a loss which I fear none of us can ever repair! In his own form he was by far the brightest soul in your circle; or indeed in all the world, that I know of. A great blank indeed to you; and who can console you?— For himself it is perhaps happy: he passes away in the flower of his years, with the love of all the world following him; had he lived to see old age, perhaps its austerities, sadnesses, and sterner duties might have less suited him. The Eternal Power has willed it so.

I do not forbid you to weep: Nature will have its due; and an immense unexpected loss, one is permitted to bewail it. But you will not indulge in grief; no, you will rouse your better heart to conquer grief, to transform it into heroic determination. For us it is appointed still to live; and Destiny is striking as with an iron hammer on our hearts to say, “Remember to live well!” That is the one way of conquering grief. All pious thoughts be near you, dear Lady!—

It was soon after nine when our Messenger returned, this morning; my Wife went off directly after to attend poor Mrs Buller. What in the world will become of that poor bereaved old Mother,3 already at the point of death! Her calmness yesterday, Jane said, was almost frightful.

Lady Sandwich, whom I saw yesterday, did not seem to me so well as I expected. She was very cheerful, talkative, amid a crowd of people; but her head was sickly, in her voice was some cold;—however, I was to “report her better”; and perhaps so she is, for I did not see her before.

God be merciful to us all. We ought to be silent; and accept, with pious submission,—with profitable thoughts, unknown in these times,—whatever bitter cup is sent us. May God bless you evermore, dear Lady, and make all turn to good for you! That is the prayer of those still left.