The Collected Letters, Volume 28


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 27 December 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18531227-JWC-TC-01; CL 28: 358-360


5 Cheyne Row / Tuesday [27 December 1853]

Oh my Dear! Never does one feel oneself so utterly helpless as in trying to speak comfort for a great bereavement. I will not try it. Time is the only Comforter for the loss of a Mother. One does not believe in Time while the grief is quite new. One feels as if it could never be less. and yet all griefs, when there is no bitterness in them, are soothed down by Time. And your grief for your Mother must be altogether sweet and soft. For you must feel that you have always been a good son to her, that you have always appreciated her as she deserved, and that she knew this, and loved you to the last moment. How thankful we may be that you went when you did, in time to have the assurance of her love surviving all bodily weakness, made doubly sure to you by her last look and words. Oh what I would have given for last words; to keep in my innermost heart all the rest of my Life—but the words that awaited me were; “your Mother is DEAD”!— And I deserved it should so end—I was not the dutiful child to my Mother that you have been to yours.

Strange that I should have passed that Sunday in such utter seclusion here—as if in sympathy with what was going on there.

It is a great mercy you have had some sleep. It will surely be a comfortable reflection for you in coming home this time, that you will look out over a perfectly empty hencourt,—part of it even already pulled down, as all the rest, I dare say, will soon be. There are cocks enough in all directions, as poor Shuttleworth1 remarked; but none will plague you like these which had become a fixed idea, and a question, shall I, a man of Genius, or you “a sooty washerman” be master here? If you would like to know the ultimate fate of the poultry; it was sold away to a Postman, who has “a hobby for fowls,” in Milman's Row.2 I let them make what profit they could of their fowls—for we had no right to deprive them of them—only the right of hummanity to have the people forced to do us a favour voluntarily for a suitable compensation. I am on terms of good neighbourhood now with all the Roncas except the old Laundress herself—who “took to her bed nearly mad,” the married daughter told me, “at lying under a penalty”— “She must leave the place” she said—“her husband would sooner have died than broken his word, when he had passed it and to be bound under a penalty”!! I got quite sorry for the people so soon as I had got them in my power, and have done what I could to sooth them down.

Chorley has just brought me my money—how absurd to plague you about that at such a moment.3 He came after your second letter of today—(the one I should have had last night came at nine—the second at 2) And told me very kindly to say all that was kind from him. He would not write, for “nothing could be written.” I am glad to hear poor Jane is gone Home—

My love to Jamie and Isabella who are now all that remain beside you I suppose— Come the end of the week or stay a little while— Do whatever best suits yourself You will be welcome or I can await

Ever yours /