Correspondence

3355.  Bryan Waller Procter to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 20, 136–138.

32 Weymouth Street

Portland Place

March 13th 1854.

My dear Browning.

It is a long time since I saw or heard of you,—too long. Let me have a few lines saying how you are & what you are doing—& how Mrs Browning is—& your little boy. That I may [be] sure of hearing from you, I am going to ask you a favor. I want you to send me a scrap of verse—& to prevail on your wife to send me another—for the Keepsake.[1] The year before last I got something from Carlyle—& something from Tennyson.[2] Now I come to the Brownings.

The book is edited by Miss Power (Lady Blessington’s niece)[3]—a young woman who is very respectable—very hard-working—& wretchedly poor. It forms almost her whole subsistence. Last year she failed in getting her usual contributions– Amongst others I—most unintentionally—neglected her—forgetting her in fact, in the whirl of moving (from Harley Street) & other things.[4] I know that I need not say two words to excite your kindness. It is not necessary to say that Miss Power has exchanged a luxurious life—for poverty—that she has been neglected by some that ought not to have forgotten her—that she has (a few months ago) had the small pox in its worst form—& that she is now working for bread. All this you may surmise, with its attendant miseries.

Kenyon tells me that your Sister (or Sister in law) is getting autographs for some charity-bazaar, & that she has written or is writing to you & Mrs B. for verses. Cut one piece of verse (each of you) from the abundance that your [sic] about to give her, for me & I will give her in exchange (my brass for your gold) some rhymes by your humble Servant (B.C.)[5]—for her charity. They shall be moral & smell of the Closet.

I hope that you are writing more lyrics—& that you will publish them, together with those already printed, in a small pocket popular shape.

For News—I have little to send. We are pretty well here. My daughter Adelaide is with her Aunt,[6] at Turin. I am happy to say that she is getting tolerably well. She gave us great uneasiness, a year ago.

Kenyon is growing younger. Landor I believe (for I have not seen him lately) maintains his youth. Forster I have seen only once since August last.– You will not be surprized to hear that the charlatanrie of Table turning has driven poor Mrs Crowe mad.[7] I heard yesterday that she was not likely to live.

Yesterday I met a friend in the street who introduced me to his companion—& I shook hands accordingly with—Garibaldi. He is a sad looking man—with his history in his face. Poor fellow. He must have good qualities in him, to have induced his wife to follow him through all his flight & dangers—& to die for him—for her fatigue killed her—at last.[8]

Give my kind Regards (when you see any of them) to Thackeray, Mrs Kemble, Mrs Sartoris, Miss Wynne, & any other English that I know. Do it in the high Roman fashion, for the sake of your very sincere

B. W. Procter.

My wife sends her kind regards to you & Mrs Browning.

Kenyon has kindly promised to forward this.

Address, on integral page: Robert Browning Esqre / 43 Bocca di Leone / Rome / 3rd Piano.

Publication: Richard W. Armour, Barry Cornwall: A Biography of Bryan Waller Procter (Boston, 1935), pp. 233–235.

Manuscript: Huntington Library.

1. EBB’s “My Kate” was published in The Keepsake for 1855 (pp. 116–117), and RB’s “Ben Karshook’s Wisdom,” in The Keepsake for 1856 (p. 16).

2. Alfred Tennyson contributed “Stanzas”: “What time I wasted youthful hours” and “Come not when I am dead” to The Keepsake for 1851 (pp. 22 and 122). Thomas Carlyle’s essay, “The Opera,” appeared in the 1852 Keepsake (pp. 86–92).

3. Marguerite Agnes Power (1821–67), author and after the death of her aunt, Lady Blessington, editor of The Keepsake from 1851 to 1857. She was born in St. Helena, the daughter of Robert Power (1794–1869), of Tasmania, and his wife Agnes Mary (née Brooke); they had married in July 1819. Miss Power had been living in Paris since 1849 and is listed in the Brownings’ address book of this period (AB-3) at 5 Rue de Courcelles.

4. The Procters had moved from 13 Harley Street to 32 Weymouth Street in the spring of 1853 (see Richard Willard Armour, Barry Cornwall: A Biography of Bryan Waller Procter, Boston, 1935, p. 109).

5. i.e., “Barry Cornwall,” Procter’s pseudonym. As letter 3384 indicates, Procter sent Arabella “some rhymes” via John Kenyon. Procter may have sent a song entitled “Weep no more!” The manuscript was offered for sale as part of lot 198 (along with a similar item from Mary Russell Mitford; see letter 3378, note 6) at the Hingson sale in 1908 (see letter 3372, note 2). Although the verses are dated 1851 and may actually be taken from song XLV in English Songs (1851) where the last stanza begins “Weep no more!”, it is possible that the 1851 date was a mistranscription of “1854.” The present whereabouts of this item is unknown (see Reconstruction, L225).

6. Adelaide Procter was visiting her aunt, Emily de Viry (née Montagu, d. 1861, aged 49), Mrs. Procter’s younger half-sister. She had married in 1840 William Augustus Victor Joseph, Chevalier de Viry (1805–46), Equerry to the King of Sardinia.

7. A story was in circulation at this time that Catherine Ann Crowe (see letter 3157, note 5) had been discovered walking naked on a street in Edinburgh, having been directed to do so by rapping spirits. An account of the incident is given by Charles Dickens in a 7 March 1854 letter to the Rev. James White: “Mrs. [Crowe] has gone stark mad—and stark naked—on the spirit-rapping imposition. She was found t’other day in the street, clothed only in her chastity, a pocket-handkerchief and a visiting card. She had been informed, it appeared, by the spirits, that if she went out in that trim she would be invisible. She is now in a madhouse, and, I fear, hopelessly insane” (Dickens, 7, 285–286). The story became public when a version quite similar to Dickens’s was printed in the April issue of The Zoist: A Journal of Cerebral Physiology & Mesmerism (p. 33). This version was picked up by several publications including The Critic and The Manchester Examiner and Times of 15 April 1854. In a letter dated 26 April 1854, Malvern, that appeared in The Daily News and elsewhere, Mrs. Crowe denied that she had been mad: “I am very sorry to trouble the public about my private maladies or misfortunes, but since the press had made my late illness the subject of a paragraph, stating that I have gone mad on the subject of the spirit rapping, I must beg leave to contradict the assertion. I have been for some time suffering from chronic gastric inflammation; and, after a journey to Edinburgh and a week of considerable fatigue and anxiety, I was taken ill on the 26th of February, and was certainly for five or six days—not more—in a state of unconsciousness. During this aberration, I talked of the spirit rapping, and fancied spirits were directing me, because the phenomena, so called, have been engaging my attention, and I was writing on the subject; but I was not—and am not—mad about spirits or anything else” (The Daily News, 29 April 1854, p. 2). In spite of Mrs. Crowe’s protestations, she evidently spent a short time at the Hanwell Asylum, just west of Ealing, at the insistence of some friends (see Dickens, 7, 286).

8. Giuseppe Maria Garibaldi (1807–82), principal military leader of the Risorgimento, had arrived in England in early February 1854. His Brazilian first wife Ana Maria (“Anita”) de Jesus Ribeiro (1812–49), had fought beside him during the defence of the Roman Republic in 1848–49. She died in 1849 near Ravenna during their escape through Italy after the fall of Rome.

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