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1839-1840; MR DRUMMOND'S HEALTH; HIS LAST ILLNESS
AND DEATH ; EXPRESSIONS OF OPINION AND FEELING EVOKED BY HIS DEATH ; HIS CHARACTER.
In the winter of 1839 Mr Drummond's health again became visibly impaired. “Illness," says Larcom, “succeeded illness, each inconsiderable, but together showing that while the mind increased in grasp and power, and from every exercise and every conquest sprung to yet loftier efforts, mortality prevailed and strength declined.”
There is a budget before me of the letters which he wrote to his “dearest dear mother" in these few last months of his life. They are mostly occupied by statements intended to allay her solicitude and calm her fears. His own courage seems never to have failed ; his own fears never to have been fairly aroused. He was suffering in these months from a throat affection, which he affected to take lightly, probably with the view of saving his mother distress.
“ I do assure you, my dearest dear mother,” he wrote on February 2, 1840, " that you are distressing yourself very unnecessarily about me. I have carefully told you the whole extent of throat affection, which is really very trifling. It is so much diminished that I am going to the office to-morrow; but if it be not gone entirely by the end of the week, I shall probably run over to Cheltenham for seven or eight days. I have no cough, and really very little discomfort."
The visit to Cheltenham had to be paid. On the 16th February he wrote
“MY DEAREST DEAR MOTHER-I have just time to say that we are on the point of starting to sail this evening by the halfpast eleven o'clock packet for Liverpool ; the night calm and pleasant. All well here, pets and all. We go by railway to Birmingham, and thence to Cheltenham, where we shall remain. Maria sends her kindest love to you. Adieu, my dearest dear mother, and with kindest love to my ever dear Eliza, and affectionate remembrances to John, believe me, ever most affectionately yours,
« T. DRUMMOND."
There were subsequent letters, no doubt, but they have not been preserved. So far as appears, this was a last farewell.
He returned to Dublin by the end of February, and set to work again. On Friday, the 10th of April, he entertained a party of friends at dinner. He rode to the Castle as usual on Saturday morning, and spent nearly nine hours in his office. On Sunday morning he became seriously unwell. He became worse on Monday and Tuesday, and on Wednesday afternoon, April 15, 1840, he died. All that medical skill could do to avert death was done. Dr Johnstone was in constant attendance, while Sir Henry Marsh sat up all of one of the nights with him; and a young physician, a nephew of Sir Henry's, never left him night or day. The disease was considered to be internal erysipelas.
The incidents of his last illness are singular and affecting. I give them as they have been supplied to me.
“On the night before he died he asked to see his children. He was dissuaded from this. He then begged Dr Johnstone to open a drawer, which he pointed out, where there were three small Bibles, each with a history attached to it. "Give these,' he said, 'to my children, with their papa's blessing. It is the best legacy I can leave them.'
“ A few hours before all was over, Dr Johnstone told him, in answer to his inquiries, that the closing scene was near. He laid his hand on his heart, and said, • Doctor, all is peace.'
“ Referring to this inward peace, he spoke of his mother, saying, “Tell my dear mother that, on my deathbed, I remembered the instructions I had received from her in childhood.'
“ In parting with his wife, he said to her, ' Dearest, beloved Maria, you have been an angel wife to me. Your admonitions have been blessed to me also.' They parted before the last. He was most anxious that she should be spared the pain of witnessing his last moments, and begged the doctor to take care that she should be removed from the room.
“ When he was dying, Dr Johnstone, his friend and physician, asked him where he wished to be laid, “In Ireland or in Scotland ?' 'In Ireland, the land of my adoption,' was the immediate answer. "I have loved her well and served her faithfully, and lost my life in her service.”
“ Thus he died," says Larcom,“ in the plenitude of mental power and the maturity of knowledge, beloved in private and esteemed in public life, undimmed by failure and unclouded by reverse.”
In the three kingdoms his death was announced as a public loss. Testimony was everywhere borne to his
unwearied industry, high talent, and spotless character. It was the general verdict that he was as good a man in private life, and as efficient a public officer, as ever the world produced. In Ireland his death was bewailed as a national calamity. The simplicity of his devotion to her, before known to many, and now believed by all on the evidence of his dying words, combined Irishmen of all classes and parties in a common lamentation.
Among his friends, some thought first of his beloved and bereaved widow; others of the beloved and devoted mother, the pride of whose heart had perished.
Each of his old, and, to the last, cherished comrades of Woolwich and the Survey, hastened to offer to his mother the duty of a son, claiming to have loved him as a brother.
Newer friends hastened also to console her by demonstrations of their esteem and affection.
“How severe your affliction must be," wrote Lord Ebrington, “I can but too well understand, after the opportunities which I derived from our daily and confidential intercourse of observing those noble and endearing qualities of heart and of mind which made me feel for him quite the affection of a brother.”*
“If ever a man died for his country,” wrote Lord Spencer, “he did so, and that country ought not, and I believe will not, be sparing in its expressions of gratitude to his memory..
When I saw him last I deceived myself, he looked so well and appeared so young that I hoped the illness which he had suffered from before had passed away. But I still knew that the labour he was going through was beyond human endurance, and I urged upon him to take the first opportunity he could with honour to retire from his position in Ireland, to come into Parliament, and to apply himself to what is considered the higher, though it certainly is not a more useful or honourable line of political life. I did so for the reasons I have given, and also because I was confident that in this, as in everything he had undertaken, his abilities and high character would soon place him in the most eminent position. He promised me he would do so; but I was obliged to agree with him, that unless some change took place in the Irish Government, he could not with honour to himself resign his office. My loss is great indeed, in the loss of such a friend ; the loss of the country is great in the loss of such a public.man; but yours, my
* May 4, 1840.
dear madam, is so much beyond all, that I can find no words to express it. It is not the loss of a mother merely, it is not even the loss of a mother in losing such a son; but my intimacy with him led me to know the peculiar attachment between you and him. I know he was to you everything. Had he fallen in his military profession, you
would have had the consolation of feeling, in common with other mothers who have had to lament their sons who have died fighting for their country, that he died doing his duty; but you would not have had the consolation of knowing that he had left behind him works which will be beneficial to his fellow-creatures for ages, perhaps, to come. He has died for his country, and it is his extraofficial labours which have been the cause of his death ; and you
must reflect with satisfaction that, whenever Ireland does attain to the state of wealth and prosperity she will ultimately come to, it will be owing to Drummond's Report on the Railway System; that if disturbance is checked in that country, it will be owing to the able arrangements he has made with respect to the con