After expressing his commiseration for me, he continues:—
“For you, I cannot tell you the admiration I have for you. Your affection and care and assiduity were to be expected. I knew you well enough to take them as a matter of course from you to him. But your mental and physical capacity, your power of sustaining him by your own cheerfulness, and supporting him by your own attention, are marvellous. When I consider all the circumstances I hardly know how to reconcile so much love with so much self-control.”
Every word true! And what he saw for a few hours in each of a couple of days, I saw every hour of the day and night for four terrible months!
But all this is a parenthesis into which I have been led, I hope excusably, by Mrs. Lewes’s mention of my illness.
N.B.—I said at an early page of these recollections that I had never been confined to my bed by illness for a single day during more than sixty years. The above-mentioned illness leaves the statement still true. The sciatica was bad, but never kept me in bed. Indeed I was perhaps in less torment out of it.
Here is the last letter of George Eliot’s which reached us. It is written by Mrs. Lewes to my wife, from “The Priory, 30 December, 1879":—
* * * * *
“DEAR MRS. TROLLOPE,—I inclose the best photograph within my reach. To me all portraits of him are objectionable, because I see him more vividly and truly without them. But I think this is the most like what he was as you knew him. I have sent your anecdote about the boy to Mr. Du Maurier, whom it will suit exactly. I asked Charles Lewes to copy it from your letter with your own pretty words of introduction.
* * * * *
It is pretty well too late in the day for me to lament the loss of old friends. They have been well-nigh some time past all gone. I have been exceptionally fortunate in an aftermath belonging to a younger generation. But they too are dropping around me! And few losses from this second crop have left a more regretted void than George Henry Lewes and his wife.
I have thought that it might be more convenient to the reader to have the letters contained in the foregoing chapter all together, and have not interrupted them therefore to speak of any of the events which were meantime happening in my own life.
But during the period which the letters cover the two greatest sorrows of my life had fallen upon me—I had lost first my mother, then my wife.
The bereavement, however, was very different in the two cases. If my mother had died a dozen years earlier I should have felt the loss as the end of all things to me—as leaving me desolate and causing a void which nothing could ever fill. But when she died at eighty-three she had lived her life, upon the whole a very happy one, to the happiness of which I had (and have) the satisfaction of believing I largely contributed.