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1230.  EBB to Julia Martin

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 7, 105–107.

[London]

May 3d 1843.

My dearest Mrs Martin, if you promised (which you did) I ought to have promised—& therefore we may ask each other’s pardon. I was very glad indeed to have your letter, with an account of Mrs Hanford so much better than I hoped for—& the easier in my inward thoughts, for your opinion of dear Cissy, [1] of whom however Bummy does not write to us half enough in detail– It is May & very warm—(I keep saying that to myself as a destructive from the East wind which cuts through the sunshine like a scythe)—and I do trust that soon all the invalids in the world, not forgetting me, may hold up their heads high enough to look the sun in the face. My dearest Mrs Martin—your hand trembled, & your spirits did too, when you wrote to me .. I cd see it very plainly– But you will revive presently, even if you are not better already—you, who have the right of an unselfish & sympathizing person, to the flowers in the basket next to you—and besides, I do trust that your late anxiety about Mrs Hanford is quite ‘late’ by this time, quite obsolete & past,—& I know that the removal of it will be as good as a joy to you .. better than a new joy!– How is the dog? and how does dear Mr Martin find himself in Arcadia? [2] Do we all stand in his recollection like a species of fog .. or a concentrated essence of brick wall? How I wish—and since I said it aloud to you I have often wished it over in a whisper, .. that you wd put away your romance, or cut it in two, & spend six months of the year in London with us!– Miss Mitford believes that wishes, if wished hard enough, realize themselves—but my experience has taught me a less chearful creed. Only if wishes, do realize themselves ..!

Miss Mitford is at Bath where she has spent one week & is about to spend two, & then goes on her way into Devonshire. She amused me so the other day by desiring me to look at the date of Mr Landor’s poems in their first edition—because she was sure that it must be fifty years since, & she finds him at this 1843, the very Lothario of Bath, enchanting the wives, making jealous the husbands & ‘enjoying’, altogether, the worst of reputations. I suggested that if she proved him to be seventy five, as long as he proved himself enchanting, it wd do no manner of good in the way of practical ethics—and that, besides, for her to travel round the world to investigate gentleman’s ages, was invidious, & might be alarming as to the safe inscrutability of ladies’ ages– She is delighted with the scenery of Bath—which certainly, take it altogether, marble & mountains, is the most beautiful town I ever looked upon. Cheltenham, I think, is a mere commonplace to it—altho’ the avenues are beautiful to be sure!

O dearest Mrs Martin—think of Lady Margaret Cocks being in London!– She wrote to me from Worcester to say that she wd be here on tuesday—and “would I see her?” Would I? Can I help it? There is not a possibility of escape for me—not a keyhole to crawl out of, I very much fear– How unkind it looks now it is written!– But it is not really unkind. I have a regard for Lady Margaret—and if it is not an affection, the fault is not so much mine as her’s, who writes to me “dear Miss Barrett,” yet has known me & seemed to like me a little too, ever since I was three years old!–

Well—I must see her. That is written in letters of fire– [3] And you who cannot guess notwithstanding your power of observation, what a morbid condition of nerve & feeling I lie in here, must think me childish, selfish, irresolute .. what word can be bad enough?

My dearest Mrs Martin, you are not to be “jealous”—because, you see, there really is nobody whom George likes to visit, as he likes to visit you & dear Mr Martin. He has said so to me oftener than once or twice. But Law is paramount—and Law commanded (or at least he fancied so) that he shd come home directly instead of prolonging his holidays—and he wd as soon think of disobeying Law as of undertaking something impossible. For me, he wdnt stay away a day from those chambers, if I had the eloquence of all the angels & besought him with it. You do not know George– At one time, we fancied that it was the novelty of his profession which made him so resolute in his adhesions .. but he does not give .. he is just the same as ever. If he ever marries, his wife may well be “jealous” of the goddess Law—dear dear Georgie!–

Mrs Southey complains that she has lost half her income by her marriage—and her friend Mr Landor is anxious to persuade, by the means of intermediate friends, Sir Robert Peel, to grant her a pension– [4] She is said to be in London now—& has at least left Keswick for ever– It is not likely that Wordsworth shd come here this year—which I am sorry for now—altho’ I shd certainly be sorry if he did come.

A happy state of contradiction, not confined either to that particular movement or no-movement, .. inasmuch as I was gratified by his sending me the poem you saw, & yet read it with such extreme pain as to incapacitate me from judging of it– [5] Such stuff we are made of!– [6]

This is a long letter—& you are tired, I feel by instinct!–

May God bless you my dearest Mrs Martin.

Give my love to Mr Martin—& think of me as

your very affectionate

Ba–

Henry & Daisy have been to see the lying in state, as lying stark & dead is called whimsically,—of the good Duke of Sussex. [7] It was a fine sight, they say–

Publication: LEBB, I, 137–138 (in part).

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. EBB’s cousin, Arabella (“Cissie”) Butler, who died of consumption later in the year, aged 16.

2. A reference to Mr. Martin’s enjoyment of gardening (see letter 1144). Arcadia was a place of pastoral simplicity and happiness, the abode of Pan.

3. Possibly a reference to “letters of fire and sword,” mandates issued by the Scottish Privy Council, prior to the 1707 Act of Union, authorizing a sheriff to proceed against a delinquent by any means at his disposal.

4. See the previous letter.

5. i.e., Grace Darling.

6. Cf. The Tempest, IV, 1, 156–157.

7. Victoria’s uncle, Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (b. 1773), sixth son of George III, had died on 21 April. The lying-in-state took place at Kensington Palace on 3 May, the day before the interment at Kensal Green Cemetery.

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