1045.  EBB to Benjamin Robert Haydon

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 6, 143–145.

50 Wimpole Street.

Nov. 6th 1842.

My dear Mr Haydon,

Your letter interests me very much– The strong will of genius is indomptible [sic]—& I do not doubt that you are intended to perform the thing you aspire towards. There is nothing nobler to me than resolute genius—nothing nobler in the world! And for the persecution, the oppression, the misconception, these things are constituent conditions of the final triumph, & necessary to the crown– They are natural too. The world is fallen,—and Beauty which is the visible form of Good, cannot enter without struggle near the Evil. Nevertheless you have done much already as Wordsworth is here to testify[1]—and even if you do not do all, you may well repress any feverish impatience with the consideration that earth is not a place for full realization even of the Arts. And who knows? There may be grand aerial fresco’s for archangelic halls, in which thro’ the great hereafter, you may let out your soul. In the meantime, may it have full scope in the English Houses of Parliament![2]

Dear Mr Haydon, I shall be very glad to look through the translation which you speak of and to give you my opinion as far as that is worth anything– I am a true lover of Plato & shall be naturally interested in the translation.[3] But for selling .. why, without looking at the m∙s. I can tell you “my thought” as well as if I looked stedfastly .. for I do fear that it wont sell. It would be best of course to submit that question to a bookseller; and I anticipate his answer that it wont sell. Plato is too spiritual for the Christians of England just now, I am afraid– Will you be angry with me for saying so? Ah, but it is true, I fear, that Jeremy Bentham is fitter for us as a people. Do send me the translation. Shelley was a great poet, .. but he could not translate Plato, we have more than sufficient evidence.[4]

I congratulate you on having sons to add honor to you—and a daughter, as I understand farther, to realize the visions of your Art.[5]

Alas, no! I do not indeed go out. You must not fancy me a hypochondriac nor even saddened into all my solitude. Some three or four years since, I broke a blood-vessel on the chest, & altho’ I have rallied at different times & very much for the last year, it is only within these two months that there is evidence of its healing. And even now, I am so weak as to stagger like a drunken man when I attempt to walk without assistance. This however is strength comparatively speaking—since at one time, I could not be carried from the bed to the sofa without dead fainting fits in which it was apprehended that I might pass away. But I believe I am gradually reviving—I think so. And with care & heat during the winter, I have hope for next summer. And I tell you all this lest you should think me sulking in my corner away from the sight of your fresco & your Curtius, & your Alexander & the serpent to come![6]

I have had a letter from our dear Miss Mitford today,—& her father lingers still. It is a strange prolongation of life in death—and her spirits, so elastic ordinarily, seem to fail & falter. My dear admirable friend! May God sustain her to the last, & into the solitude beyond it!–

I am glad I did not talk nonsense (quite) about the fresco. I am glad you like the Germans.[7] I am gladdest of all that you deny the alleged obscurity of my poems.

I shall be glad too if you will let me remain, with much estimation,

faithfully yours

Elizabeth Barrett B–

My sisters desire their remembrances to you–

Publication: EBB-BRH, pp. 10–12.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. i.e., Haydon’s portrait of Wordsworth.

2. Haydon entered cartoons of “Adam and Eve” and “The Black Prince Entering London in Triumph” in the competition for frescos to decorate the new Houses of Parliament. Both were included in the exhibition of entries in Westminster Hall in June 1843; neither was chosen.

3. The translation of Gorgias was by Haydon’s stepson, Orlando Bridgeman Hyman (1814–78), Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, 1835–78. See letter 1053 for EBB’s comments on it.

4. For EBB’s criticism of Shelley’s translation of Plato, see letter 731.

5. Five of Haydon’s children had died young. The three survivors were Frank Scott Haydon (1822–87), at this time attending Jesus College, Cambridge; Mary Mordwinoff Haydon (1824–64) and Frederic Wordsworth Haydon (1827–86), a naval midshipman.

6. Haydon was currently working on “Curtius Leaping into the Gulf” and “Alexander’s Combat with the Lion.” We take “the serpent to come” to refer to “Adam and Eve.”

7. As Haydon criticized the influence of German painters at Court, EBB’s remark probably referred to his current correspondence with the archæologist Karl Friedrich von Rumohr (1785–1843) and perhaps to German authors generally and in particular to Goethe, who had taken an interest in Haydon’s work.


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