1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 9 May 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540509-TC-JAC-01; CL 29: 91-93


Chelsea, 9 May, 1854—

My dear Brother,

I myself have been often thinking of that small sad and sacred matter;1 the last duty, as you say, that we can render to one who will be forever dear to us! Jamie & I had been speaking of it before I left Scotsbrig; but at that time the date of birth was only in process of being ascertained: it is probably quite ascertained now; and I was often thinking, in these days, of writing to Jamie about it, when you now write. By all means, let us set about it straightway. The inscription, as you say, should [be]2 very simple (honest like her dear self);—if any mark of our universal love and reverence for her could be introduced, it would of course be gratifying to us; but I suppose it cannot, after what has been inscribed upon the stone already?

The first thing will be to ascertain what room there is (for how many lines, and the average number of letters a line admits); also what is said already on the stone:3 if the date and place of birth are then ascertained, we can at once proceed to draw out the little Inscription. If you like, you may try something, and let me see it; or if you like better, I will do it myself and leave you to be critic. Let us lose no time now, however; that poor act of mournful piety will be good to have done.— Alas, I can well understand how you should still feel “all your existence changed” by the Event which had been so long foreseen as inevitable! With me too, who lay at any rate divorced from the scene, and could mostly commune with her only in thought, it has made a most sad breach, into the very heart of my whole way of life, and is generally present with me still at all hours of the day; speaking with a voice that puts all “language” to silence. Oh, Alas!— But we must say no more. It is by the oldest law of Nature; and is right, doubtless, tho' infinitely stern. We shall all follow soon; let us be ready, if we can!—

Redwood's Clerk, at my request, has sent me the inclosed account of that catastrophe.4 Pray return it when you next write. It seems to me poor R. had produced some congestion in the brain by that incessant puddling and bathing &c, and most probably brought about his end, by excessive caution to keep his health perfect. It was not fear of death either; it was a kind of religion in him, a reverence for cleanliness and the virtues of temperance. Poor soul, I shall miss him considerably: no truer being lived on the Earth, and to me he was faithfully attached,—I cannot well spare any out of that small list now left me. His Christmas message5 (silent and certain as the course of the sun) will come hither no more.

I am getting very ill on with my work; in fact, not in the least “getting on” with it at all, only incessantly struggling with it. In very bad circumstances too; but in fine it is my only chance; I must stand by it, or be lost without salvage!

We have fine splashes of real rain, for this day or two, at last; thunder is growling even now: hours of hearty rain there have been; mud (very temporary at this season), and yesterday a shower of hail. For the rest we are quiet as mice in the wall; walk in the morning (I, after bathing), read at night, and are hardly ever out or interrupted. Jane has a cold; and it was got by a contrary course, however! We went to Procter's to dine, on Saturday night,—partly by accident, after refusing once. Dickens & Wife, Eastlake and Do6 &c &c were there: I know not completely, but to me it was the most hideous evening I have had for years, and I shan't go soon back again! Jane (who defends it) expects to be well in a day or two.— One Noel (from Dresden, with a Czech Wife, Lady Byron's nephew I think) seems to have known you at Rome;7 and was making inquiries,—not specially at Procter's, tho' we saw him there:—an innocent gentlemanly wooden kind of man, who was very good to me at Dresden. His wife & he are coming hither on saturday next to tea: Kinglake (Eothen) and Tom Taylor,8 we hope, may absorb them a good deal! Not to speak of Neuberg, if he have returned in time.

Grahame gets from me weekly, for the last month or so, an Edinburgh Newspaper (Guardian, rather goodish) whh they send to me: the other morning by way of counter-sign he sends me Daily Mail9 from which I make that clipping.— Adieu dear Brother. Give my best regards to your Phoebe, in hope of meeting again soon.—

Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle