1030.  EBB to Mary Russell Mitford

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 6, 114–116.


Oct. 21. 1842–

I feel for you to the bottom of my heart my beloved friend. My dearest friend, I pity & pray for you tenderly. Surely there can be few states of trial more hard & heavy than yours—and yet the Divine blessing is strong to penetrate all its folds & gladden you through grief. If it were not so, we might die in our places, & no one wonder! May God bless you, my beloved friend.

Oh I understand so well,—understand without the experience of it, .. the feeling you have about not being recognized—about another’s being taken for you. But consider, & keep close upon your mind, that it is you & only you who are present actually to the wandering spirit—you in your perfect identity, in your perfect love, in all your fulfilled duty through the forgone years. If another suggests you,—it is still you who are suggested: it is not that another has taken your place. Consider & remember this my beloved friend, & do not grieve more than can be helped. And besides I must, I must indeed, entreat you, not to remain in that room continually. Rather go in & out, than remain there—for if you insist on doing so, the result is as plain to my reason as to my fears, that you will be ill & that probably your constitution will not recover from the consequence of breathing constantly that dreadful atmosphere. Remember the influence is worse for you than for others, because your grief renders you more susceptible of the evil. Mr May will tell you so, I am sure. Not that I wd say a word if there was a duty to be performed,—I honor you too much to say it under such circumstances. But when he is unconscious of your presence,—when you can do nothing more than another—when you stand there only to have your heart rent, .. I hold that you are not justified in an unavailing self-sacrifice. Your letter has deeply affected me—and certainly it wd move any heart in the world,—even if the love of you did not beat there.

Will you answer me one or two questions? Have you the best salts, smelling salts? They wd be of use to you individually I think—but too strong for your dear sufferer. Did you like the last choccolate [sic] I sent you, & are you able to take it? or is it taken? The outside of it did not look to me so good as what I sent before– Shall you be ready for the grapes on thursday or friday or saturday? Mention the day.

I will make you acquit Mr Kenyon next,—altho’ you can have little thought to spend away in acquittals or condemnations. But indeed he did nothing wrong, nothing in the world otherwise than kind, in that ‘no’ he said to the king.[1] He had heard me talk, & my sisters talk still more, of the harm it did me to be excited by seeing people or by any other exciting cause—and once, not long before, he asked me whether he might not bring Mr Browning who kindly wished to see me,—and I answered “oh no, no! I cannot indeed”.[2] And my sisters explained to him how it was that directly I saw anybody, my heart stopped short, & I left off sleeping. So you see when Mr Wordsworth had the goodness to propose what he did, Mr Kenyon acted considerately as he always does in answering what he answered. Only if I had known at the moment, I[3] could not, as I told Mr Kenyon afterwards, have articulated the ‘no’. I wd have seen Mr Wordsworth—if I never were to go to sleep any more!–

Ah!—spine complaints,—and mine are very different. The horse-racing which has gone on in my blood wd astonish people used to mortal pulses. And altho’ I am far quieter, tranquillized wonderfully in every way, of late, yet I shd not be so well, even now, if people came often to see me. I am excitable by nature, excitable by illness—& not as strong in spirits as in days gone for ever. This winter I must be quiet—and when we are together again I will listen to all your wise counsel & take every shred of it I can—provided you dont advise me to go away from Papa again.

And that reminds me, how astonished he wd be if I had Mr Horne & Mr Browning up stairs in my bedroom!! He wd certainly open his eyes & set me down among the inclined-to-be-“good-for-nothing poetesses”. I for my own part, might be very well [‘]inclined’ to do it, .. if I were equal to it otherwise—for I absolutely agree with you that it wd be not only innocent, but what is quite another thing, proper. You do not speak of the ‘Damned tragedies’ of Fraser, by the way.[4]

And by the way again, I do not mean to praise ‘Strafford’. I praise ‘Paracelsus’—I praise ‘Pippa passes’—I cannot indeed wish the poet of either, in another metier: & I shall be renowned at last for my supreme obstinacy—shall I not?–

Do I vex & trouble you instead of distracting you, my beloved friend? Perhaps so. But then, you will put the letter away when you are not equal to reading it, & it will be sure to be silent in a drawer. I wish I cd look at your face one moment, to know whether you are killing yourself or not. I am uneasy about you my beloved friend.

Of the Kenyons married or unmarried I have not heard one word. They may be divorced again for aught that I have heard. Only certainly somebody said .. I think it was Trippy .. Miss Trepsack,—that she had seen, a vision of a carriage with Kenyon arms on it. Your account of the sequence to the other bridal is scarcely more satisfactory to me than the beginning was to the bell ringers. Yes! those clergymen who are magistrates & sportsmen, I wd ‘unfrock’ if I were queen Elizabeth: and what are we to say to those clergymen who are waltzers? anything better? Ah but! I do hope that your lovely friend may be happier than the stars seem to shine promises for.[5]

May God bless & comfort you! And do you, my beloved friend, take all the earthly comfort you can, from the sense of general sympathy & of fulfilled duty! In regard even to the delirium, there is this stronghold for comfort, .. that while he talks so he cannot suffer.

Your own attached EBB–

I am sure you must want, or will soon, more pastilles? & dont let me again forget to say, I am sorry to hear that Dr Cowan can be so foolish—being inclined to admire him you know[6] <***>

Publication: EBB-MRM, II, 54–56.

Manuscript: Folger Shakespeare Library and Wellesley College.

1. i.e., conveying to Wordsworth EBB’s refusal to see him (see letter 1028).

2. EBB had told George Moulton-Barrett in March of RB’s wish to meet her (see letter 934).

3. Underscored twice.

4. EBB had drawn this article to Miss Mitford’s attention in letters 996, 999 and 1008.

5. A further reference to Miss Mitford’s doubts about the marriage of her young friend Lucy Anderdon to the Rev. Mr. Partridge (see letter 1013).

6. Miss Mitford had presumably responded to EBB’s query as to whether she was personally acquainted with Dr. Cowan. EBB’s admiration of him derived from her approval of the speech he gave on 31 August (see letter 1008).


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