The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JANET CARLYLE HANNING ; 28 December 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18531228-TC-JCHA-01; CL 28: 362-363



MY DEAR SISTER,—This letter brings very sorrowful news to you, probably the sorrowfullest I may ever have to send from Scotsbrig. Our dear and good old Mother is no more: she went from us, gently and calmly at last, on the Sunday just gone (Christmas Day the 25th) at four or ten minutes past four in the afternoon: The Dr., Jean, Isabella, Jamie, and I standing in sorrowful reverence at her bed-side; our poor suffering Mother had lain in a heavy kind of sleep for about 16 hours before; and died at last, rather unexpectedly to the watchers, so sudden was it, without struggle or seeming pain of any kind. We had to think “Her sufferings are over; and she has fought her fight well and nobly; and as for us,—we are left here alone; and the soul that never ceased to love us since we came into the world, is gone to God, her Maker and ours.” This is the heavy news I have to send you, dear Sister; and nobody can spare you the sorrow and tears it will occasion. For above a year-and-a-half past, our dear Mother had been visibly falling fast away; when I saw her in August gone a year, her weakness and sufferings were quite painful to me; and it seemed uncertain whether we should ever meet again in this scene of things. She had no disease at that time nor afterwards, but the springs of life were worn out, there was no strength left. Within the last six months the decay proceeded faster and was constant: she could not much rise from bed; she needed Mary and Jean alternately to watch always over her,—latterly it was Jean alone (Mary not being strong enough); and surely Jean has earned the gratitude of us all, and done a work that was blessed and beautiful, in so standing by her sacred task, and so performing it as she did. There has been no regular sleep to her for months past, often of late weeks and days not much sleep of any kind: but her affectionate patience, I think, never failed. I hope, though she is much worn out, she will not permanently suffer: and surely she will not want her reward. Our noble Mother too behaved like herself in all stages of her illness; never quailed into terror, lamentation or any weak temper of mind; had a wonderful clearness of intellect, clearness of heart, affection, piety and simple courage and beauty about her to the very end. She passed much of her time in the last weeks in a kind of sleep; used to awaken “with a smile” (as John described it to me), and has left a sacred remembrance with all of us consolatory in our natural grief.

I have written to Alick this day, a good many other details, and have bidden him send you the letter (which is larger and fuller than this),—as you probably in asking for it will send this to him. I am in great haste, tomorrow (Thursday 29th Dec.) being the funeral day, and many things occupying us still. I will therefore say no more here; your little pieces of worldly business will, I hope, be satisfactorily and easily adjusted before I return to Chelsea, and then it will be somebody's task (John's or mine) to write to you again. For the present I will only bid, God bless you, dear sister, you and yours;—and teach you to bear this great sorrow and bereavement (which is one chiefly to your heart, but to her a blessed relief) in the way that is fit, and worthy of the brave and noble Mother we have had, but have not any longer.

Your affectionate Brother,