The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 27 December 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18531227-TC-JWC-01; CL 28: 355-357


Scotsbrig, 27 decr, 1853—

My dear kind Jeannie's Letter came this morning again, and is a great comfort to me in my solitude. I wish they wd get into the way of delivering their Letters regularly at Chelsea, amid their Christmas festivities: it is there, not here that the failure lies: I saw a Letter for you put into the Postman's hand, so as to be due at your breakfast time today; perhaps that also may be delayed till night in the press of the season.

I slept better last night; I am what may be called well in bodily health; full of sadness, all manner of late and early things walking in funeral procession thro' my heart; but there is something soft and sacred in them too; and my mind is in a more composed and human state than for a long while past. I am left well alone in this East room: her Corpse and I the only tenants upstairs. Jamie is kind and honest as a soul can be; comes and sits with me, or walks with me when I like; goes gently away when he sees I had rather be alone. Isabella is the best and politest of landladies; keeps the rooms, this and the next, glowing with fires all day, and almost all night; makes me excellent coffee in the morning &c &c, and effaces herself altogether when not wanted. I have been once or twice in that deserted white-sheeted Place; have looked, in silence, on the sight that passes all speech there. “I'm muckle obliged t'ye” (I fear, it was “t'ye,” not “to thee”): these were about the last conscious words she spoke in this world. An hour after, when the laudanum began to operate, John asked her Are you easier mother? to which she answered “Yes”; and again some three hours later still, on his asking her, wd she have something (I think some sip of drink she had often been demanding earlier), she whispered “No”: she never spoke again, nor indeed did we like to speak to her in the Presence that was now evidently nigh.— Oh yes, Oh yes, I am bound to be forever thankful that I got here in time! Not by my own wisdom either, or by any worth in my own management in the affair: had I staid at The Grange, and received the news there, it would have driven me half-distracted, and been a remorse to me till the end of existence. Good old Mother, I was privileged to give her yet one faint gleam of joy in this world; and to get from her, as you say, her last kind look; and those unforgettable words, “I'm muckle obliged t'ye”—a kind of summary of all her relations towards me since I first came to her in this world. God be thanked, God be thanked. A few minutes before, she had bidden them light Isabella down. The more I think of that last night of wrestle with the King of Terrors,1 and of such clear insight, patience, generosity, and simple dignity and valour, I am the more struck by it, and the gratefuller to God that gave me such a mother. May I be worthier of her for the years I may yet have to live: no other good, worth mentioning, or wishing, is visible to me at present.

Tonight Jamie goes with me in the dusk to poor old Grahame, whom I have now surely not many times to see again here. We have to be back at nine: the Middlebie Joiner—Ah me!2 I mean to look upon her face once again, and not more. John, Jean &c, they all come back tomorrow night; and next day is Thursday. Last night I address about 150 letters;3 Jamie, his son John & the little lassie assisting. It was as good as sitting in the company of thoughts; as good or nearly so. I have a kind of wish to see her poor small heritage parted suitably among the four five4 whom it belongs to, before I go: after that, Eternity holds all that was my Mother for me. I think it likeliest I shall be home to you on Saturday, late, about midnight; but do not yet know.— Meanwhile I am really well in health here, as I said: two days ago, I got my morning tub of water again, my morning walk &c. Our bright weather is changed suddenly into bright iron frost; the Burn all bridged; such a frost as I have seldom seen in one night. Today already I have been on the top of Stockbridge Hill (the Moor road we used to ride from Lockerby); I was close-buttoned, with my shag waistcoat, and not too warm tho' walking hard. The world is bright as a diamond everywhere; Queensberry rose white and huge, behind Lochmaben on my right hand, I fancied I might see among the dimmer heights the Craig of Drumcore, and old Localities of ours: all was solitary as Hades, silent except for the universal rushing of a strong northwind. If no snow fall till after Thursday, it will be well.— —

Yes, indeed, I do rejoice at your victory, gained for me, over those unendurable Roncas; it is as I predicted always, once you had taken it in hand: that sordid, base and yet immense annoyance is away,—thank Heaven, and you, for really I could do no more in it, and was as good as beaten there. I am glad too you can see with your Glass; provision was for a change of glasses if needful, but it will not be so. It was a great relief to me, also, that you had got your money: that notion of John's, about Gladstone's stamps, had been bothering me since yesterday; and I had arranged to send you today, if necessary, payment for Chorley at least.

Surely this is enough, Dear: I know not why I have written so long, with really nothing to say but what was presupposable I know not whether it is good to write such things even to you.— I have still two Notes to do: Neuberg, Thos Erskine; but a couple of lines is all that either of them will get. John did write to Liverpool, I think, and to Auchtertool. My Mother spoke several things about Helen,5 and had woven her tragedy into her own in the last days.

And now good night, Dearest: it is fairly past 3, and you cannot get this till afternoon tomorrow.— I say again, take care of yourself; and let us both try to be better by these stern sorrows.

Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle