October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 30 January 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320130-TC-MAC-01; CL 6:110-113.


4. Ampton Street, London, 30th January, 1832.

My Dear Mother,

I have determined to write you a few lines today; my mind, and I trust yours also being in a state of composure: tho' there is specially nothing more to be said, the very sound of my voice will do you good.

Since I wrote last, I have been at Scotsbrig rather than in London[;] the tumult of this chaos has rolled past me as a sound, all empty, with which I had nothing to do. My thought was in the house of mourning; present with you and with the Departed. I sent off a full Letter to John, the next day after yours: on him too I strove to impress the necessity there was not to grieve, but only to learn and do. The stroke is as a Lesson to us: well for us if we can know the solemn meaning of it, and lay it faithfully to heart. We had excluded all external communication from us till the Funeral should be passed; I dwelt with my deceased Father; our whole speech and action was of high solemn matters. I walked out, alone or with my Wife; meditating, peaceably conversing of that great event. I have reason to be very thankful that much composure has been vouchsafed me: I never so saw my honoured Father, and his earnest toilsome manful Life, as now when he was gone from me; I never so loved him, and felt as if his spirit were still living in me; as if my Life were but a continuation of his, and to be led in the same valiant spirit, that, in a quite other sphere, so distinguished. Be the great Father thanked for His goodness; chiefly for this, if he have given us any Light and Faith to discern and reverence His mysterious ways, and how from the depths of Grief itself there rises mildly a holy eternal Joy!

Edward Irving, on sending up his name, was admitted to me on Friday afternoon:1 his wife was with him; he prayed with us, I think about the time they would be in the Churchyard. I felt that he meant kindly; yet cannot say that either his prayer or his conversation worked otherwise on me than disturbingly. I had partly purposed sending for him; but was then thankful I had not done it. His whole mind is getting miserably crippled and weakened; his inane babble about his tongues and the like were for me like froth to the hungry and thirsty. My Father was a Man, and should be mourned for like a man. We had to forget our well-meaning visiters [sic]; and again take counsel with ourselves; and I trust, with the God that dwells in us,—were this last done only in silence. My Father's memory has become very holy to me; not sorrowful, but great and instructive. I could repeat, tho' with tears, yet with softly resolved heart: “Blessed are the Dead that die in the Lord; they do rest from their labours; and their works follow them.”2 Yes, their works are not lost; no grain of Truth that was in them but belongs to Eternity, and cannot die.

Jane faithfully bore and suffered with me: we spoke much, I trust that she too is one day to “become perfect thro' suffering,”3 and even in this Earth to struggle unweariedly towards perfection, as towards the one thing needful. We talked of Death and Life, with the significance of each; of the Friends we had lost; of the Friends still mercifully left us, and the Duties we owed to them. In our two Fathers we found a great similarity, with so much outward difference: both were true Men, such as the world has not many to show now; both faithfully laboured according to their calling in God's vineyard (which this world is): both are now in the Land of Truth and Light while we still toil in that of Falsehood and Shadows: a little while, and we too “shall reap if we faint not.”4 Of the other world it seems to me we do know this, and this only: that it too is God's World; and that for us and for our Buried ones he hath done, and will do, all things well,5 Let us rest here: it is the anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast;6 other safety is there none.

To you also, my dear Mother, I trust the call has not been made in vain. I know that you have borne yourself with heroism, for you have the true Strength in you. Sad doubtless will your mood long be: sadder perhaps than ours, than mine. Your loss is the keenest. The Companion, that had pilgrimed by your side for seven and thirty years, is suddenly called away; looking on that hand you now see yourself alone. Not alone, dear Mother, if God be with you! Your children also are still round you, to bear up your declining years, to propect [sic] and support you, to love you with the love we owed both our parents. Oh! Providence is very merciful to us.

Neither let any one of us, looking back on the Departed, mourn uselessly over our faults towards him,—as in all things we err and come short. How holy are the Dead; how we willingly take all the blame on ourselves, which in life we were so willing to divide! I say, let us not lament and afflict ourselves over these things. They were of the Earth, earthy;7 now he has done with them; they do him (nay, except for his own earthly sinfulness, they did him) no evil. Let us remember only, one and all of us, this Truth, and lay it well to heart, in our whole conduct: that the Living also will one day be Dead!—

On the whole, it is for the living only that we are called to live, “to work while it is still Today.”8 We will dismiss vain sorrows; and address ourselves, wi[th] new heart, and purer endeavour, to the Tasks appointed us in Life. Forward! Forward! Let us do more faithfully than ever, what yet remains to be done. All else is unprofitable, and a wasting of our strength.

We two are purposing to come homeward early in March; and shall most likely come to Scotsbrig first. I have (or found I had already) as good as concluded that Bargain about the Literary History: only about some Books necessary for it, and other etceteras, there is still some delay. I have a Paper of Johnson (as I told you) to write; and many little odds and ends to adjust: after which, we seem to have no business to do here, and shall march, and leave it for the time. For myself I fear not the world; or regard it a jot, except as the great Task-garden of the Highest; wherein I am called to do whatsoever work the Taskmaster of Men (wise are they that can hear and obey him!) shall please to appoint me.9 What are its frowns or its favours? What are its difficulties and falsehoods and hollow threatenings to me? With the spirit of my Father, I will front them, and conquer them. Let us fear nothing; only being the Slaves of Sin and Madness: these are the only real Slaves.

Make Jane at all events write to me. I have no reason to think you are in trouble and disturbance; all worldly things I think were settled and clear before this Event overtook us; these, let me trust, could not deepen your distress. Yet I long much to hear how it is; how you all are, you especially, dear Mother, who have the most to bear, and are the least able to bear it. As you said: God support us all! We are now without our Head, the All-wise has taken him from us: it behoves each of us to look the more strictly to his own goings.

Jane is out, or she would have sent you her blessing, her affection. She is distinctly growing better; and I hope will have recovered her usual strength ere long. Perhaps she too needed Affliction; as which of us does not? Remember us always, as we do you. Say to each of my Sisters that I love them, that their best interest is on my heart. God ever bless you all!— I remain, Dear Mother,— Your affectionate Son,

Thomas Carlyle—

If I can do anything, mention it to me.— If Jemmy do not like to show his Letter, let it remain private.