1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


JWC TO ISABELLA CARLYLE; 28 August 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540828-JWC-IC-01; CL 29: 141-142


5 Cheyne Row / Monday [28 August 1854]

Oh my dear Isabella what a horrible thing! I do not know if he have written to you himself. I write in case he has not, to tell you that Mrs John died on Saturday night1 at nine o'clock— After finishing my letter to you, I was on my way to some warm baths in this neighbourhood, to take one, feeling very unwell, and my friend Geraldine who was with me, having insisted a warm bath would do me good, when Dr Carlyle jumped out of a cab that met us, to say he had been going to our house to say that Phoebe had just been delivered of a dead child—the whole thing had passed over in ten minutes—Dr Rigby2 was leaving the house when the nurse ran after him to say she was sure Mrs C was in labour—he returned and the child was already half born— She was “doing well” John said and leapt into his cab again and drove home. I came home to tell Mr Carlyle then I went and had the bath and then I went to bed to keep quite still—between 8 and 9 Marianne Mrs John maid was shown up to my bedroom— She had come to see if I could give them “a quantity of napkins”—they had not any of the necessary linen at all—a boxful all ready packed had been left at Moffat!! and here were they as ill off as the poorest people!— She said her mistress had had a dreadful flooding which if Dr Hunter3 had not been at hand to stop would have carried her off. but now she was all right— I sent for Geraldine Jewsbury to take Marianne to a shop where everything needed could be got ready made—for among us all we could not raise as many things as would be needed— They had been gone about a quarter of an hour when Mr Carlyle came into my room crying out “Oh my Dear! my Dear! what a thing!— I said “She is dead!”— “Yes she is dead”!— Just in the brief time of her maid's absence who had never left her all the week the poor woman had expired— She was lying quite quiet when something came over her like a return of the fits with which her illness began—it never came to a fit exactly but her breathing became weaker and weaker till it ceased—a woman who had gone up from here with some sheets she had been washing in a hurry for them, had brought the news— Mr Carlyle went up immediately and did not return till about 12 when he brought John to sleep here. He continues to sleep here but is at his own lodging during the day— the funeral is to be on Wednesday. the poor baby who was to have been put under ground the night of its birth to be buried now with its mother— It was a large fine Baby Marianne told me—a boy. and “so like the Doctor”— All this horrible tragedy resulting Dr Rigby is perfectly sure from the fright she got on the railway, three days before the fits began— Oh if they had only been poor people, with no time or money for racketting about, she might have born him a living son and they might have been very happy over it. He is in a strange stupified state—indeed we are all quite stunned. When Dr Rigby came a little after nine for the fourth time that day, thinking after the flooding had been stopt she might still recover, he almost fainted with the shock of being told she was dead.

I suppose the Dr will be about here for some time settling their affairs. What he will do after I cant think—thrown all at sea again. without so much as a house of his own for a fixed point—

I will write again when I have anything to tell that Jamie and you may care to know—I feel so sick and nervous that I can settle to nothing

God keep you both

Affectionately yours /

Jane Carlyle

Nothing can be more kind and gentle than Mr Carlyle is with John