1210.  EBB to Mary Russell Mitford

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 7, 69–72.


[11] April 1843[1]

My dearest friend I am ‘innocent of the knowledge’[2] of these degrees of interest, just to the probable amount of your own opinion of my wisdom. I spoke after Mr Kenyon’s wisdom, not mine—& he told me that he & Mr Harness both believed that for every deposit of a thousand pounds, you might have from the annuities one hundred a year– He said besides that in these times no private security was a safe one—& that to receive five per cent for one’s money shd not be hazarded by any woman—& that he himself through an endeavor to procure that precise interest, was suffering, at the present moment, the loss of five hundred a year. He is very anxious, certainly, for you to secure the annuity—and if Mr Blandy were proved to him twice over all that you describe, in principle, intelligence, grace & floriculture, I wont promise you that he would be persuaded to think you quite right in leaving the money in his hands. Why at any rate, in what are called the Long Annuities, they will give you eight per cent whatever your age, fifteen or fifty—and he was calculating to me the other day or at least communicating a calculation, (for the use of a friend of mine who had asked me to consult him upon the best means of placing money .. ) that by putting by half of the interest .. that is, four per cent, .. you recover your principle at the end of twenty years. I am writing in Chinese on the philosophy of Confucius[3] .. writing in the dark .. dont expose me to Mr Blandy. But I am so anxious that you shd make this money serve you to its utmost, that I dont mind trailing my vanity in the gold-dust & running the great risk of exposing my ignorance. You will ask Mr Harness .. wont you? before you quite decide? Or …, are you angry with me at last?

Fie! Cannibal Flush!!– To eat a rabbit unanealed … uncooked! And you to stand by & encourage that animal ferocity!!!—— After all, my Flush has far more refinement of taste & spirituality of constitution. The most savage acts ever perpetrated by my Flush, were the pulling out of three of the feathers of the dove’s tail, & the involuntary slaying of a little tender unbearded mouse which he pulled too roughly out of its nest, & mourned afterwards in remorseful shame. Did I ever tell you how he was once affronted by a piece of raw meat being thrown at him in charity? Why if his chicken & partridge are not cut up infinitesimally, he turns away his head & wont touch anything on the plate! My Flush is crême de la crême!– What!—eat a rabbit? uncooked? in the fields?– My Flush wdnt eat even his favorite diet, spunge cake, out of doors .. nor in a shop—not for the whole world?– Now .. you become aware of our superiority I hope!– You will never think of rivalling us any more. We are whole centuries before you in civilization manifestly & victoriously—‘your hands are the hands of Esau’,[4] & ours are redolent of almond milk. The Chesterfields & the Nimrods can scarcely stand together.[5]

‘Pan’ is very different from either of them, & I betake myself to the business of explanation to which you exhort me. Be sure in the first place, that I have not printed a book & sent it about to everybody but you, calling it “Pan is dead’[’]. The case was just this. Dear Mr Kenyon asked me one day to show him some of the ms poetry I had in my writing case. I smiled at first, rather naughtily than gratefully, & said .. “Ah! what if I took you at your word, & sent you a quire of verses!—what wd you do then?” And that was said wisely as well as naughtily, because altho’ I know his kindness, I also know how little reading time he has .. & because besides, I am almost always on my guard against visiting people, according to the sin of my kind, with locust-swarms of ms verses! I, above all rhymers, should beware of it, since the ms-form adds a superfluous mystery to the mysterious—& my poetry in ms .. must be rather like Sanscrit translated into hieroglyphics.– Nevertheless Mr Kenyon put aside my scruples & insisted on being taken at his word—and I sent him, without more ado, besides one or two sonnets, this aforesaid ‘Pan is dead,’ long enough to be a judgement on him, & yet tempting me to send it because he did in fact suggest the composition of it by his paraphrase, published in the last Book of Beauty, on Schiller’s ‘Gods of Greece.’[6] Schiller’s poem you have possibly & probably too, seen a translation of, even if you have not read Mr Kenyon’s paraphrase. It consists of an eloquent Lament for the Gods of Greece & the ancient mythology .. for all that luminous effluence from antique Souls which beautified Life & Creation to the Greeks. I take the contrary side of the question; & think the false Gods well gone, & stand up for that best Beauty which is in Truth. I do not follow Schiller’s poem, mind .. I only take the opposite view to his view, & look at it with my own eyes—and for a basement to my poem I refer to that mystic story of Plutarch’s which relates that, at the time of the Crucifixion, a wail was heard by voyagers over the Ægæan, crying ‘Pan is dead, Pan is dead’!–[7] Pan signifies ‘all’, besides his individual goat-godship: & the tradition is that the “oracles were dumb”[8] from the moment of the Cry .. which conveyed that the whole Dynasty of Heathen Gods perished from the earth then! Now you understand!– Dear Mr Kenyon has adopted the poem into his especial kindnesses & has been doing it all honor in various ways[9]—& if it were only the obligation I confess to him for the improvement achieved for it by the stripe of his criticisms, that were enough for gratitude—although he says “You will never do anything better than this” .. which I like to receive rather as praise than as prophecy. It is a long poem for lyrical stanzas .. between two & three hundred lines, I believe—and I am afraid to think whether or not you are likely to be pleased with it.

How entertaining I am about myself!! If you are overwhelmed, accept it from me as vengeance for spoiling your letter this morning by leaving out one sheet of it. What is “the request” in rapport to Mr Henry Chorley? Do tell me directly. The break occurs just where it is particularly necessary to the sense & interest to have the written information: & no imagination in the world will help anybody to do without it. Send me the third volume of my romance, if you please my dearest Miss Mitford, by the quickest post.

Are you aware that Miss Martineau’s friends are about to set about a subscription for her?[10] I am glad.

I confess my perversity of fancifulness,—& promise as I used to do years ago (& more availingly I hope) “not to do so no more”– In the meantime, dont write to me! Send the dropt-out missing leaf, if you find it—but dont write any more—& if it shd be lost, leave me to the imaginations of my heart.

May God bless you my dearest friend. You do not go—& you ought to go–[11] Do, whenever you can. Be as brief as possible in giving your directions about the house—& go, go– Shake the dust of us all, from your feet[12]—& go—& be better!

Ever your attached


Address: Miss Mitford / Three Mile Cross / Near Reading.

Publication: EBB-MRM, II, 204–206.

Manuscript: Eton College Library and Wellesley College.

1. Day provided by postmark (12 April 1843) and the following letter.

2. Macbeth, III, 2, 44.

3. The Chinese philosopher and teacher, who flourished in the 6th century B.C.

4. Cf. Genesis, 27:22.

5. EBB feels that her Flush resembles Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773), politician, wit, and friend of Pope, who personified the ideal 18th-century gentleman, while Miss Mitford’s Flush is like Nimrod, the mighty hunter of Genesis, 10:9.

6. See letter 959, note 7.

7. See letter 1187, note 1.

8. Milton, “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” (1645), line 173.

9. See letters 1179 and 1180 for EBB’s reaction to Kenyon’s suggestions for changes to her draft.

10. Miss Martineau had been offered a government pension by Lord Melbourne, but had declined it; her reasons for doing so are outlined in letters contained in Appendix C of her Autobiography (1877, II, 499–507). The Westminster Review, December 1843 (p. 522) announced that the public subscription raised £1,358 8s. 10d., and printed a letter from her thanking contributors for “the honour and independence” they had conferred upon her.

11. To Bath and Devon.

12. Cf. Matthew, 10:14.


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