1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 14 January 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540114-TC-JAC-01; CL 29: 14-15


Chelsea, 14 jany, 1854

My dear Brother,

Your Letter was a real satisfaction to me, the other evening, in the loneliness of my mind. No welcomer news could now come from you than that the Task of Dante has been taken up again. That, and nothing but that, is at present capable of filling up the sad vacancy which has occurred in your life, in yours more than in that of any of us: a worthy piece of labour is beyond all precious in such circumstances. Often since we parted, have I thought sadly of your “collapse,” of your sudden total impoverishment, that sacred occupation,1 which had filled your late years with a generous and pious interest, being withdrawn. I will exhort your Phoebe and the others earnestly, to help you as they are doing with assiduous continuance; to keep you to the business, all they can, till you yourself get fairly fastened to it again: you will then need no keeping to it, but will be obliged to persist and finish!— I wish I had, myself, as suitable a task; for I too am not without need of it. But mine has the disadvantage, which yours is free from, that the place to begin at is not plain, is altogether obscure, and hitherto undiscoverable;—not to speak of other unsuitabilities &c &c. The whole of which I must try to vanquish, or do worse.

Hitherto I have striven not to be quite idle; every day there ought to be something done: but my labour is miserably languid; the heart within me is low and sad: I feel that, not on these terms, can the knots ever be split.— I have kept quite alone; seen nobody at all, but once Chorley,2 and last night Neuberg; neither of whom did me any good, especially not the latter, who stole a night from me withal. My thoughts are not angrily painful, they are sad and sombre, occasionally touched with soft pity and piety. I think of our dear Mother's end with a kind of mournful blessedness withal; her life was true, simple, generous, brave; her end, with the last traces of all these qualities still visible in it, was very beautiful if very sad to us. I would not, for much, want those two stern days at Scotsbrig from my memory. They lie consecrated there; as if baptised in sorrow, and with the great goodness of Eternity in them.—

I sent a very beautiful reply I had had from Mrs Johnston of Grange, to Dumfries the other day;3 with direction that you farther were to see it, and Jamie: after that, I wish it back. Jean has not yet written to me; but will soon, I suppose. The Dr Brown4 Note may entertain you for a minute or two; pray burn it when read. Neither do I want the Varnhagen back: his Book,5 whh occupies me at night, is worth little; nor indeed is his whole self worth much.— — We have today quite bright westerly weather; no express frost, but always till today a tacit one with much mud, since the snow went. Jane is gone out walking, and cannot send regards, or she would. I commend myself to Phoebe; and bid, Good be with you all. Your affectionate Brother T. Carlyle