Her ambition, perhaps, more than anything else, had made Jane decide to marry. She had aspired to become the wife and literary companion to a great man of letters. It must, therefore, have been a very bitter cup of gall she drank when she discovered, not only that she could never be a wife to her husband in any sense of the word other than the legal, but also that she was to be divorced absolutely from his work, that she could not even hope for partnership.
Moreover, at Craigenputtock her life was that merely of a common menial. Carlyle was a faddist, and his wife was forced ever to be pampering his whims. She scrubbed his floors, she washed his plates, she baked his bread. And all the while he sat busily writing or, with a pipe between his lips, in gloomy silence watching her at work. To keep more than one servant was impossible, for those were years of poverty, and to keep a competent servant also was impossible, because one would not live in such a place.
To a woman of Jane's temperament, the strain of such a life was terrible. And when, at last, success and work called Carlyle to London, her spirit was so much crushed that she did not even want to leave her prison.
In 1834 Carlyle took a house in Cheyne Row. He was now rising rapidly in circumstances and in fame. But as he rose, so his wife's power of extracting joy from life declined. A martyr to neuralgia, she was now perpetually in pain, and, although still a brilliant woman, she became fretful and querulous. She had caught the infection of her husband's selfish manner.
Moreover, to her other troubles now was added jealousy. Carlyle had become greatly attached to Lady Ashburton and, although that attachment was purely platonic, it must have rankled sorely in Jane's heart to see her famous husband attentive to the wife of another man, and ignoring his own, who had done so much for him.
Her loyalty, however, never wavered. In 1856 she met with a serious carriage accident, how serious Carlyle did not know and was too blind to see. She implored that he should not be told; she feared that the news might handicap his work.
From this illness Jane never recovered; it was the beginning of her painful, slow, and lingering death, and it was only then, when death had already claimed her, that Carlyle realised what he had done.
"Blind and deaf that we are ! " he wrote in his "Reminiscences." "Oh, think if thou yet love anybody living, wait not until death sweeps down the paltry little dust-clouds and idle dissonances of the moment, and all be at last so mournfully clear and beautiful, when it is too late ! "
In November, 1865, Carryle was elected Lord Rector of the University of Edinburgh; and, in the following March, he began to journey north to deliver his inaugural address. Mrs. Carlyle was enthusiastic about her husband's triumph, and her parting from him was quite the prettiest episode in all her married life.
"Into a tumbler," wrote Professor Tyndall, Car-lyle's travelling companion, "Mrs. Carlyle poured a moderate quantity of this brandy, and filled it up with foaming water from the siphon. He drank it off, and they kissed each other - for the last time. At the door she suddenly said to me,' For God's sake, send me a wire when all is over!' This said, and the promise given, we drove away."
The journey north, and Carlyle's incomparable address at Edinburgh are history; it is unnecessary to repeat the story here. But Mrs. Carlyle took the greatest interest in his doings, and received Tyndall's wire with real enthusiasm : "To Mrs. Carlyle, - A perfect triumph."
' I read it to myself," she wrote to Carlyle; " and then read it aloud to the gaping chorus. And the chorus all began to dance and clap their hands. ' Eh, Mrs. Carlyle! Eh, hear to that!' cried Jessie. ' I told you, ma'am,' cried Mrs. Warren. . . . And they all went on clapping their hands, till there arose among them a sudden cry for brandy. . . . For, you see, the sudden solution of the nervous tension with which
Mrs. Thomas Carlyle, who paid to the full the traditional penalty of marrying a genius.
Hers is a sad but interesting story John Patrick, photographer, 1826. From a miniature by R. Maclean, U.s.a.
I had been holding in my anxiety for days - nay, weeks - past threw me into as pretty a little fit of hysterics as you ever saw."
Carlyle did not return immediately from Edinburgh to London. He delayed for a few days in Scotland to recuperate, and his wife awaited his arrival anxiously.
On the 21st "she went out in her brougham," writes Froude, " for the usual drive round Hyde Park, taking her little dog with her. . . . Near Victoria Gate she had put the dog out to run. A passing carriage went over its foot, and, more frightened than hurt, it lay on its back, crying. She sprang out, caught the dog in her arms, took it into the brougham, and was never more seen alive. The coachman went twice round the drive by Marble Arch, down to Stanhope Gate, and found again. Coming a second time neartheachilles statue, and, surprised to receive no directions, he turned round, saw indistinctly something was wrong. . . She was sitting with her hand folded in her lap, dead."
Carlyle, who was informed of the tragedy by telegram, returned to London immediately, and found his wife lying "in a stern, majestic calm."
"I have seen," declares Froude, "many faces beautiful in death, but none so grand as hers. It was a pathetic end, and the pathos was not wasted on Carlyle. " In the nave of the old abbey kirk," he writes, " long a ruin . . . with the sky looking down on her, there sleeps my little Jeannie, and the light of her face will never shine on me more."