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1026.  EBB to Benjamin Robert Haydon

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 6, 107–108.

50 Wimpole Street–

October 17th 1842– [1]

Dear Sir,

My intention was to return by your messenger when he should come for the picture, some expression of my sense of your very great kindness in trusting it with me, together with this sonnet: [2] but having since heard from my sisters that it may be almost as long as I wish (no! it cant be so long) before you send such a messenger, I cannot defer thanking you, beyond today,—lest you shd fancy me either struck dumb with the pleasure you conferred, or .. still worse .. born an ungrateful person– Pray, dear Sir, believe how different is the reality from the last supposition! I have indeed looked at your picture until I lost my obligation to you in my admiration of your work,—but in no other way have I been ungrateful. How could I be so? I have seen the great poet who “reigns over us” [3] twice face to face, [4] —& by you, I see him the third time– You have brought me Wordsworth & Helvellyn into this dark & solitary room—how should I not thank you? Judge for yourself, Mr Haydon–

But you will judge the sonnet too, & will probably not acquit it– [5] It confesses to speaking unworthily & weakly the feeling of its writer,—but she is none the less,

your obliged

Elizabeth Barrett B—

A letter from our mutual dear friend Miss Mitford speaks this morning, very sadly of her father’s state—& I tremble to think what the sacrifice of her filial devotion may cost her in her own health– It is at once admirable & fearful to those who love her.

Mr Lucas had been talking to her (she says)—rapturously of your cartoon, the cartoon,—which I have seen with my ears!—and especially of your Satan– And this rem<inds me tha>t I ought to thank you for the <exhib>ition to which you admitted my sisters– [6]

 

 

Publication: EBB-BRH, pp. 2–4 (as 13 October 1842).

Manuscript: Harvard University.

1. The previous editor has misread the date. In letter 1025, 15 October 1842, EBB said that she had not yet sent the sonnet on Haydon’s portrait of Wordsworth.

2. EBB enclosed the following poem:

Sonnet.

on Haydon’s picture of Mr Wordsworth. 1842

 

Wordsworth upon Helvellyn! Let the cloud

Ebb audibly along the mountain-wind

Then break against the rock, and show behind

The lowland vallies floating up to crowd

The sense with beauty. He with forehead bowed

And humble-lidded eyes, as one inclined

Before the sovran thoughts of his own mind,

And very meek with inspirations proud, ..

Takes here his rightful place as poet-priest

By the high altar, singing prayer & prayer

To the yet higher Heav’ns. A vision free

And noble, Haydon, hath thine Art releast.

No portrait this with Academic air!

This is the poet and his poetry. [7]

 

Elizabeth B Barrett–

3. Cf. the words of the National Anthem.

4. In May 1836, at the time of EBB’s introduction to Miss Mitford, the two of them met Wordsworth at Kenyon’s, and he also accompanied them on the visit to the Duke of Devonshire’s garden at Chiswick (see letter 527, note 3, and letter 546).

5. Beneath the sonnet, Haydon wrote, “Very fine” and signed his name.

6. i.e., the viewing of his cartoon, mentioned in the previous letter, on 8 October (see SD1181). Satan was depicted in Haydon’s “Adam and Eve.” He had recorded in his diary on 22 August 1842: “In the middle of the night, I saw his [Satan’s] large, fiery, cruel rimmed eye” and on 29 August: “to Work & Steamed the Devil. Fixed him, the dog, beyond all Power of escape” (Pope, V, 196, 197).

7. This sonnet was published in The Athenæum, 29 October 1842 (no. 783, p. 932). It was reprinted, with minor changes, in Poems (1844).

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