977.  EBB to Mary Russell Mitford

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 6, 16–19.


June 22. 1842.

‘Ceux qui viennent me voir me font honneur—ceux qui n’y viennent pas me font plaisir’[1]—I shd be inclined to say so & openly if I were you my beloved friend! and if that wdn’t do, my next nearest inclination wd certainly go towards turning the geranium beds into cabbage beds, so as to diminish my superfluous attractions as far as possible. Fifty visitors a day! You make me tremble with sympathy at the very thought of it!– Indeed indeed it is too much for you to bear—besides all the reading & attention, & the dunning of sixteen letters a day in addition to mine! I did not write by the next post– I write half in fear now of doing harm to you my beloved friend. You are too kind in being patient with all the writs I serve upon you—but still patience herself will scarcely stand on her monument[2] against a thunderbolt—& the multitude of your teazers may well pass into the metaphor. So I take an excuse for writing, just to say “dont write to me until you come to a breathing time”. It is not a modest request in the way I have put it—nobody in the world wd find much virtue in the form of it—and yet & yet I love you so, & you have indulged me so into the impertinence of missing you, that I am not capable of being more virtuous than thus narrowly!– Do not write for a fortnight: ah, that is better! I shall be heroic in time perhaps,—& help Flushie to an example.[3]

I am a little angry & still more astonished at the silence connected with the “wine”. Is there not a tendency to that species of amreeta in the author of Ion?–[4] But to forget you in it was inexcusable,—if you were really forgotten—& if it were not (which occurs to my fancy as the probable solution) if it were not you who were amreeta & all & took off the attention “rapt ere it was ’ware,’[’][5] from your own business comprising Mr March’s iniquities. The vision in red & yellow tanned me through your description of it. Such another, & I shall lie here an Æthiopian![6] You amused me very much—and as to George he quite blushed with the pleasure of your having called him “your friend”. No answer to his fierce legal letter—not a word,—& he went to the Temple this morning with the intention of writing another to the same address, by way of appearing tolerably in earnest. Mr Horne sent me his[7] to show how strong it was—but he fears more than legal people like George & me think it in the least necessary to do—having an idea that your receiving payment for any MS makes over to the paying party full right of copy—unless a paper passes between you to a contrary effect. Now George according to the acts of various kings & queens & anno dominis, denies this altogether, & is of opinion that you are secure of compensation in the present case, & are wrong for being in the least degree uneasy about it .. Have you heard from Mr Horne? Have you heard from Mr March? Dearest Miss Mitford, if you have very good or very bad news, if you are unwell or anything goes wrong, just write one word before the fortnight ends—so that I may be as easy as I can in the new silence. I cannot bear, much as it costs me, to be a burden on you in addition to the necessary ones. May God bless you my beloved friend.

Yet I must not forget to speak of your reminding me about the Ballads. I had not ‘forgotten’ them—because Love does all sorts of harm except that of forgetting. I had not forgotten them, & shall notice the subject to explain the impossibility of entering upon it, before I have done with my poets.[8] Do you not see the difficulty, the impossibility in fact, of reviewing the anonymous & onymous ballads within the brief limits which are permitted to me? I insisted upon a paper apart for the dramatists because that class is so important & influential that I cd not be just to my general subject without distinguishing it; but otherwise I have had no room for distinguishing classes—it has scarcely been more than a sketch. And for my own particular part if Mr Dilke had not desired a Survey of the poets, in à propos-ition to the Book of the poets, I shd not have chosen to marry the two offices of reviewer & poetical historian after this manner. It seems to me an awkward business to say the best of it. Mr Dilke himself however was the suggestor—& he expected me to achieve it all in two papers—whereas I took a third, & then a fourth! He thinks me the most long-winded of his contributors of course, but has forborne the natural reproaches with much courtesy—only Athenæum room failed & the papers are interrupted, perhaps until next saturday, & perhaps until after the British association which is about to ‘revisit the glimpses of the moon’.[9] This accounts for the absence of your last number. Oh! be sure that your own love for the ballad writers cannot pass mine! only the means—the room—for being just to them! I am much more afrai<d> of differing with you, in relation to my doxies about Dryden & his dynasty.[10] My pleasure in reading Dryden has never been equal to his genius.

Mr Luscombe is very kind[11]—and I am very glad of course & naturally, of those “golden opinions”[12] which the benignity of your kindness picks up for me! May I deserve them better some time! In the meantime I am more than content, I am proud, of owing many of them to you.

They have brought me a strawberry cream ice,—& Flushie has been helping me to eat it. Oh! he likes it very much indeed! His opinion is that I have had more than my share—rather—& that he ought to have a whole one to himself. Does your Flushie prefer ice creams to the legitimate bone? Would he, if he were asked?– In regard to the harp I wont believe with you & Ben that my Flush, that a person of his general refinement, can possibly dislike music. At any rate & whatever the first feeling might have been, he listens to it with absolute calmness now, & goes to sleep by its modulations. No! the emotion seemed to arise less from the sound itself than from the observations Crow & I were making about it! “Beautiful” I said! & never looked at him! and then came Flushie squeezing & coaxing & kissing after his fashion—& looking as like Othello as possible![13]

Dearest dearest friend! I meant to be very brief today—and you & Mr Dilke see what my brevities are! I have been twenty five of the visitors all in one!–

How beautiful the garden must be!—quite beautiful enough to excuse the multitude of beholders—even if you did not sit among the roses! Thank you too for letting me look thro’ your eyes at the grand azalea show—& for the bit of royal gossip—& for every in & out of your delightful letter. I shall read it again for comfort before the end of the fortnight.

May God bless you. Try to look to the bright side of everything for my sake. It is summer now! I am not to see you yet, I feel too clearly—but it is summer now, & it is something for me to think of you in your garden room enjoying the triumphs of your flowers. And that reminds me how Nelly Bordman came to see me yesterday & brought me a nosegay from her garden containing some blossoms from your seeds—& how she told me all sorts of good news of those seeds, & of the full sturdy prosperity of ‘the Miss Barrett’ & other cuttings. “Do” she said “tell Miss Mitford.” So I tell her.

Your own EBB–

Publication: EBB-MRM, I, 425–428.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. “Those who come to see me do me honour—those who do not come give me pleasure.”

2. Cf. Twelfth Night, II, 4, 114.

3. EBB makes numerous references to Flush’s cowardice (see, for example, letter 801).

4. The Amreeta was a liquor conferring immortality on the drinker. A long note to Southey’s The Curse of Kehama explains how it was produced by churning the ocean with a mountain. We cannot clarify Talfourd’s silence; the obvious assumption is that he had declined to interest himself in Miss Mitford’s copyright problems, but EBB’s reference to “wine” makes such a conclusion questionable.

5. Cf. Romeo and Juliet, II, 2, 103.

6. Cf. Jeremiah, 13:23. March’s “iniquities” refer to the disputed copyright (see letter 967).

7. i.e., the letter written in response to 967.

8. In the final part of EBB’s notice of The Book of the Poets (The Athenæum, 13 August) she said “Our literature is rich in ballads, a form … often vocal when no other music is astir; and to give a particular account of which would take us far across our borders” (p. 729).

9. Cf. Hamlet, I, 4, 53. As indicated in note 6 to the previous letter, the proceedings of the British Association occupied considerable space in The Athenæum.

10. See letter 976, note 5.

11. Not positively identified; possibly Henry Harmood Luscombe, whose father, Bishop Matthew Henry Thornhill Luscombe (1776–1846), one of the founders of The Christian Remembrancer, held the curacy of Clewer, Berkshire.

12. Macbeth, I, 7, 33.

13. i.e., jealous.


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