August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


JWC TO JOHN STERLING ; 16 December 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421216-JWC-JOST-01; CL 15: 236-237


[16 December 1842]

My dear friend

I would have written by return of post, only that I thought it would be more satisfactory for you if I sent Alicia Campbells opinion along with my own— I have several times already for my own satisfaction, sounded her on the subject of your Mother's illness—but whether it be that she really has no decided opinion, or that she thinks it most prudent to keep it to herself, the fact is that I have never been able to get anything out of her but what a person walking in from the street might have seen with his own eyes—with your authority however to question her, it seemed possible she might be more communicative— and so I went to Knightsbridge yesterday to try—but no Alicia was there nor your Mother either— They were both “gone in a fly”—I suppose to the Dentist's— To day I do not feel well enough myself to repeat so long a journey; so I will not keep you waiting any longer—but give you my own notions in the mean time and if Alicia throws any more light for me on the question I will write again.

Your Father sees and hears and speaks so much thro' the state of his own spirits at the moment that I do not wonder his letters should perplex you— To judge from his general speech about your Mother—she has a decided disease of the heart, pronounced incurable, and making rapid progress—but when I take him up tightly, and beg him to “stick by the fact of what the Drs said”—it has always been reduced to no more than this, “that there is a decided tendency to disease of the heart—which disease is incurable—but that with care she may stave it off for years”— He will come in sometimes looking the picture of despair and answer to my question how is she? “sinking rapidly; there is nothing for me now, but to prepare myself for the worst”—and when I go; I will find Her at her worsted work not worse to appearance than I have seen her a hundred times over— Not that I do not think her very unwell— I have thought her so for a long time—before she went to Dublin1—when no one was taking any notice of it—there was an unrest of body and mind about her then which looked quite as alarming to me and more painful than her present prostration of strength: but I do not for my own part, with such light as a mere chance visitor can have, fancy her in any immediate danger. Some days she looks very low and weak indeed—and if that state were continual or seeming to tend always towards greater weakness, I should fear that she could not bear up against it many months—but suddenly she revives—is able to talk quite cheerfully—to walk several times round the garden—and pronounces herself “very much better thank God”—which seems to indicate that her strength is not so much cut away from her by an incurable malady, as prostrated from time to time by disorder of the stomach or nervous ailments—

I expect the visit of Charlotte Reddy2 will do her more good—than those of so many Drs as have lately been worrying and flurrying her— Her life at Knightsbridge is very lonely—and your Father is not a good hand to be near a person who needs to be kept as tranquil as possible. The very sighs he gives in looking at her would do me a world of mischief I know, were I in her place— Alicia is very kind and willing—but there is no moral result out of her for a person needing to be encouraged, and amused and sometimes—calmed—and for myself I am always so weakly that I cannot go to her nearly so often as I wish—and when I am there cannot do her the good I wish— God bless you my dear friend— Remember me to your wife—and believe me always your affectionate

Jane Carlyle

Would not the best way for you to get at the real state of the case be to write to Dr Hume?3 or shall I make my Brother in law ask him!