1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 8 April 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540408-TC-AC-01; CL 29: 55-57


Chelsea, 8 April, 1854—

My dear Brother,—I have seen one Letter from you since that sad one I wrote from Scotsbrig in winter: I have often meant to write to you again in these weeks; for it seems to be really a shame that I, whose trade is writing, should ever fall into such a state of silence towards you, and have so many feelings in my mind to which I give no utterance to a Brother who is the object of them. Alas, I fall always short nevertheless; for indeed I am quite torn to pieces in this wild roaring whirlpool of a place:—and so even at this moment I write at a galloping pace, as better than not writing at all; and must beg you to interpret kindly my obstructions, dispiritments, confusions; and never, in your saddest humour, to interpret my silence into neglect or forgetfulness.— Oh no, that will never be the meaning of it, nor can, while I continue in this world.— Do you know there is an old reaping-hook you got me at Carlisle almost twenty years ago, which has hung in the garden ever since; and the rusty ghost of which still hangs there, awakening strange remembrances in me! Moreover, I still have somewhere the little Note which did not find you at Liverpool when you were embarking, but was sent back to me:1 I would have sent it this day, after so long an interval of waiting; and will yet send it; but at present it is not to be found in the drawer where I thought it lay, and there is not a moment to spend in searching.

The loss of our dear Mother has fallen heavy on me, as on us all; heavier almost on myself than I could have fully anticipated, considering how old I had grown, and how weak and heavy-laden the last year or two had been to her who is now gone. Oh, God teach us pious thoughts on that subject; for it is great and deep to me, and rises as a most sad background in my mind ever since. The poor Mother, I saw her that day I got to Scotsbrig after a night's railwaying: she had still all her wits and clearness of sense, distinct to a singular degree, but utterly worn down (as it were) with weakness and weariness: I remember her eyes, as she lay in bed, after I had done speaking with her, and her faint but true smile of gladness at sight of me had passed away again: the winter-light shone in, at that end window you remember; the poor Mother was as if both awake and asleep; her eyes always opening, and then again closing, as if pressed down by leaden weight: nev[er] can I forget that sight;—she that had always loved us all, as none other ever will or can, was now about to take her leave of us; and all scenes of Time with her were soon to be transfigured and become Eternal. Ah me, ah me!— But I will not speak another word on all this: why should I incite you also to sad thoughts? Tho' there is blessedness in such sorrow withal; and we may say truly, God be ever thanked that He gave us such a Mother; and continued her with us till she could no longer stay!

I get rather fewer Letters of late out of Annandale; but suppose there is no point of news that escapes me either. They are all in their usual health, and course of work; doing well enough, all of them. Martha Park of Relief2 (whom I suppose you knew) has had a sad death (by Cancer) since I was in that Country; which has no doubt saddened them at Scotsbrig, tho' otherwise all seems to be going well enough there. Farming, I understand, is a good trade for the last year or two,—seems to go mainly upon sheep now,—the railways having opened all the large Towns with their markets; and Commerce having been very brisk till lately. Poor Grahame at Burnswark is himself grown very dull and old; and I fear his Sister3 is very poorly, in some kind of lethargic or half paralytic condition; which of course grieves and weighs on him extremely: but I have got no special word from John about him for some time.— John's last tidings to me were about the sale of those poor Houses at Ecclefechan: how they had announced a Roup; and positively nobody came, so that they had to postpone it till a new season.4

Jack, poor fellow, is very busy searching for a House just now. He can find nothing quite suitable in Moffat; is trying up and down Dumfriesshire, Deanbie, &c &c, but has not yet decided: I sometimes rather guess he will land in London at the tail of the account. His Wife, of whom you have now often heard, is a very reasonable-looking person, of lady habits, and still pleasing enough appearance,—turned of forty, and in good health, with good store of money (it appears),—and Jack & she seem to do very well together. I saw her for some two weeks very often in winter gone a year, and was well contented with all I saw; but we did not get to any intimacy, and I have never seen her again.

Dear Brother, I am sorry and ashamed to break off here: I had so many things to say, and am but just getting my wallet open! I promise to write again before long. You must remember me to Jenny, to the other Jenny & Household at Hamilton; to your own good Tom,5 whom I fancy to be an effectual useful fellow by this time. We rejoice to hear that your farming affairs go rather better; above all that you have health, and a heart whole yet: God bless you dear Brother, dear to me for above half a century now!

Yours ever

T. Carlyle