January-July 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 14


JWC TO ELIZA AITKEN ; 3 June 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420603-JWC-EA-01; CL 14: 196-197


5 Cheyne Row / Friday [3 June 1842]

My dear Eliza

I know that I wrote part of a letter to you some few weeks ago—immediately after receiving your last—but whether I finished it, and sent it off or whether it shared the fate of many others of my late undertakings and came to an untimely close, I cannot remember, tho' it were to save my life!— From this you may infer that my memory is tolerably bad—indeed all about me has been tolerably bad this long while—and I do not feel as if I could ever gather myself up into the old state again in this world.— Parted as I had been from my Mother so many years and with so many new objects of interest about me it was not to have been foreseen that her loss could have so completely changed the whole face of my existence—indeed I had never thought about losing her—her life seemed always better than my own,— What I had thought about, and always the longer the more anxiously, was getting her beside me again that I might show her more love and care in her old age than in the thoughtlessness of my heart I had done heretofore— And she had promised me not to keep me unquiet by passing any more winters in that lonely place— Had just promised me that “if it pleased God we should meet this summer, it should be all arranged according to my wish”— So many fine schemes I had in my head for her future comfort!—too late—for her death was already on her and I did not know it— She had taken every pains and forced those about her to take every pains to keep me in ignorance of her state—“a journey at that season would be so dangerous for me.”— All her last weeks seemed one continued thought about me—to ward off anxiety from me while she lived and to soften the shock for me should she die—in a letter she wrote to Dr Russel—after many directions about what was to be done for me if I must be sent for she concluded with these words which stick for ever in my heart—“for Jeannie must be saved in every way—or there is much to be dreaded”— And when the first stroke came upon her, Margaret Macqueen being by—she uttered no thought for her own future only in sinking down exclaimed “I am dying Margaret! Oh my poor Jeannie”— On the Saturday I received a letter from her—tender and cheerful as all her late letters had been— She had written the day before she said and had nothing new to tell me—but as there was no post in London on Sunday if I was kept waiting till Monday I “would be making myself uneasy again”!—and at the time I read that letter she was already dead!— On the Monday came no letter from her as promised—but one from the Dr stating her to be dangerously ill—yet not precluding all hope—for he feared the blow for me altho at the time he wrote he had no hope himself—of course I set out by the next Railway train—not despairing—Oh no—or I could not have gone— I thought I had little hope—but when all hope was taken from me I found that I had had much. You know the rest—I travelled all night in the cruellest suspense and arriving in Liverpool in the morning was told that my uncle and Walter were already gone—to her funeral!— Oh Bess is it not a wonder that I kept my senses— I am better in health now—but still very feeble and nervous—and so sad!— Oh there is such a perpetual weight on my heart as I cannot describe to you— I feel as helpless and desolate as a little child turned adrift in the world! I who have so many friends!—but what are friends?— What is a husband even compared with ones Mother?— Of her love one is always so sure!—it is the only love that nothing—not even misconduct on our part can take away from us—. If the letter I began went to you, I have said all this before—for it is the only sort of thing I have to say to anyone—and accordingly I write none at all except to the few whose sympathy I have perfect confidence in—

When shall I see you again? here I mean—for I do not think I shall ever have the heart to set foot in Scotland any more— Alas Alas What a changed Scotland for me—a place of graves—

My Sweet little Cousin Jeannie is still here with me—a comfort so far any companionship can be a comfort to me—

Write to me dear Eliza and do not mind my silences That I have thought of you much during this time is a sufficient proof of the constancy of regard

Ever your affectionate /

Jane Carlyle