932.  EBB to Hugh Stuart Boyd

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 5, 284–286.


March 29th 1842.

My very dear friend,

I received your long letter & receive your short one, & thank you for the pleasure of both. Of course I am very very glad of your approval in the matter of the papers[1]—& your kindness could not have wished to give me more satisfaction than it gave actually– Mr Kenyon tells me that Mr Burgess has been reading & commending the papers—& has brought me from him a newly discovered scene of the Bacchæ of Euripides, edited by Mr Burgess himself for the Gentlemen’s magazine, & of which he considers that the Planctus Mariæ, at least the passage I extracted from it, is an imitation.[2] Should you care to see it? Say ‘yes’—& I will send it to you.

Do you think it was wrong to make eternity feminine? I knew that the Greek word was not feminine; but imagined that the English personification should be so.[3] Am I wrong in this? Will you consider the subject again?

Ah, yes! That was a mistake of mine about putting Constantine for Constantius. I wrote from memory—& the memory betrayed me–[4] But say nothing about it. Nobody will find it out. I send you Silentiarius & some poems of Pisida in the same volume–[5] Even if you had not asked for them, I shd have asked you to look at some passages which are fine in both. It appears to me that Silentiarius writes difficult Greek—overlaying his description with a multitude of architectural & other far fetched words! Pisida is hard too occasionally from other causes—particularly in the Hexaëmeron which is not in the book I send you but in another very gigantic one[6] (as tall as the Irish giant!)[7] which you may see if you please. I will send a coach & six with it if you please.

John Mauropus of the three towns,[8] I owe the knowledge of to you. You lent me the book with his poems, you know. He is a great favorite of mine in all ways– I very much admire his poetry–

Believe me ever

your affectionate & grateful

Elizabeth B Barrett–

Pray tell me what you think. I am sorry to observe that the book I send you, is marked very irregularly—that is, marked in some places, unmarked in others, just as I happened to be near or far from my pencil & inkstand. Otherwise I shd have liked to compare judgments with you.

Keep the book as long as you please—it is my own.

Address: H S Boyd Esqr / Downshire Hill.

Publication: LEBB, I, 102–103.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. i.e., her papers on the Greek Christian Poets.

2. George Burges (1786?–1864), classical author, editor and translator, contributed to The Classical Journal and The Gentleman’s Magazine; the scene from the Bacchæ was printed in the latter in the issues of September and December 1832 (pp. 195–199 and 522–524). EBB, in the fourth of her papers (The Athenæum, no. 751, 19 March 1842, pp. 249–252) had quoted a passage from “Planctus Mariæ” (“Mary’s Lament”) by Simeon Metaphrastes (fl. 950–1000 A.D.).

3. In the third paper (The Athenæum, no. 750, 12 March, pp. 229–231), EBB, in her translation of the ninth ode of Synesius, had ascribed the feminine gender to Eternity.

4. In the second paper (The Athenæum, no. 749, 5 March, pp. 210–212), EBB had quoted a remark of Gregory Nazianzen, saying it was spoken of Constantine. Julius Constantius was Constantine’s brother.

5. In the third paper, EBB had discussed the works of Paul Silentiarius (fl. 550 A.D.) and George Pisida (fl. 630 A.D.). The volume EBB refers to is Corpus Scriptorum Historiæ Byzantinæ, ed. August Immanuel Bekker, 1837. EBB’s copy formed lot 593 of Browning Collections and is now in the Brighton Area Library (see Reconstruction, A711).

6. The Hexaëmeron, Pisida’s chief work, is discussed by EBB in the third paper, on p. 230. The “very gigantic” book was probably the 1777 folio edition of his Opera.

7. We assume this to be a reference to Murphy, the celebrated Irish giant of the late 18th century, who was 8 ft. 10 in. tall.

8. “John Mauropus, of Euchaita, Euchania, Theodoropolis” was discussed in the fourth paper.


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