The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO ARCHIBALD GLEN ; 21 June 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520621-TC-AG-01; CL 27: 147-148


Chelsea, 21 june, 1852—

My dear Sir,

There has no message arrived here this long time which struck upon us with a more impressive, sad and altogether tragic and affectionate feeling, than the poor little black-edged Note we received from Carstammon when the finis had taken place there! Poor William, the strong soul involved for so many years in black baleful clouds, has at length got his release: in this earnest fact, what a multitude of strange reflexions for those who had known him well and loved him! This world, we often hear, is a mystery throughout; and surely the aspect of such a Sampson spirit, blinded, and yet to stumble darkly grinding in the mill,1 is of a kind to give us pause in our pretensions to understand the ways of Omniscience and Omnipotence. I have seen in my time few more unspeakable sights, fitter for pious silence instead of speech, than the Life of him who is now gone from us.

We have the satisfaction of thinking that his sufferings were by no means excessive or unendurable in his dark state; indeed, so far as I remarked, his personal “happiness” (if such a term can be used) was fully superior, his burden on the whole lighter, than when he used to be with me in London long ago. He enjoyed free air, quiet hillsides, and had his own strange phantasmagory of thoughts amid the solitary moors. The Austins, I do believe, were honestly kind and respectful to him always, and both out of conscience and attachment (not to speak of meaner motives, which to them were important also) strove to do a real duty to him;—and surely, in all his wanderings and confused meditatings, there attended him one blessed feeling, that he had a Brother,—warm as life-blood to him, true as steel; who had never failed him, and would never fail! I remember still, with a pleasant and kind emotion, how he used to speak of “Archy,” with what honest pride, and love, to which gratitude rather added wings than burden:—the good soul, he had a generous heart; and his great intellect, tho' all shattered to ruin, was still there, strangely illuminated by Hope and Love, hardly visited by Rage or Hatred of any kind even for moments. One thinks of him now as of a glorious child that is dead; whom the fates forbade to fulfil our hopes, but who has left us no regrets except kind and blessed ones. To you, who have your natural sorrows, and peculiar reminiscences of good and evil, awakened into sad vitality by this event, let the consolations also which are peculiar be present—among the chief of which, I think, there may well stand the way in which your duty was continually done, and continually recognized to be done.

Adieu, my dear Sir. We shall ever wish you well in this house, for our poor William's sake, and for your own; and hope as heretofore, to hear good news of you, from time to time, in this world—God bless you.

Yours always very truly

T. Carlyle