Correspondence

1319.  EBB to Mary Russell Mitford

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 7, 235–237.

[London]

June [sic, for July] 11– 1843.[1]

Forgive me my ever dearest Miss Mitford!—I write only to say so! yes, & to forgo besides my purpose “of teazing you”, which may, I very much fear,—(crossing such a letter as to-day’s)—quite seriously teaze you, & make you displeased with me in good earnest. Forgive me up to the capacity of your mercy, .. & I will not teaze you any more. See how it is—I never doubted the honesty of your dislike to pen & ink people & pen & ink estate & pen & ink drudgery—but I thought that, notwithstanding this, by writing at intervals & a little at a time, you would not put yourself to discomfort,––you would on the contrary make yourself a continual subject of interest, .. while you were satisfying that claim of the world which persons of your power must be resigned to recognize. In my impertinence, I wanted to prevent the drudgery of the labour, by coaxing you to take up the work in play-hours, that it might be achieved as a play. My “zeal for pen-and-ink” my beloved friend, shd rather be called my zeal for you——for your fame & future gratification, .. both of which are very dear to me & important. Not that I have not also ‘zeal for pen & ink’––I do not deny it, .. I am proud of it, .. to be honest. But my love for you & my eager interest in your happiness & reputation are things apart; & had the ground all to themselves when I was writing naughtily as I did! I will not be naughty again– As the children say, “I wont do so no more.” That you should loath to such an extent the exercise of a natural gift, may & does certainly surprise me—but that the loathing is a strong argument against my wishing you to exercise the gift .. be sure of this! And then it consoles me more than I care to say, for the loss of new Villages, that if you wrote them you would not write to me for months & months––not ‘yes’ or ‘no’––not a word! I am wonderfully consoled already––more than you wd think!—and I wont teaze you ever again though all the world should, in my place!—take my promise of it!–[2]

As for any necessity, I hope that none such in a strong sense is likely to arise. In the ordinary course of events, none can be likely to arise, I should think,—and the most tenderly selfish of reading publics could not wish for it’s occurrence. And so, now, I consign you over to Mr Chorley & his hypothetical instigations. May you be happy, .. is all I say! You are famous enough already for most aspiring intents & purposes. May you be happy now in turn––and may those thirty visitors a day not gradually put you to death! Oh! I never was so inconsequent, I beg to explain, as to think of your writing or doing almost anything else, while you were exposed to that irruption. I[3] would not bear it .. remember I said!– I would dyke them & dam them (in a strictly rural or rather rivulet sense,) & hedge & ditch them up in the limits of certain days & hours– Thirty visitors a day wd bring me to an untimely end, long before my strawberries, though they were such crême de la crême as you give to them, I do not doubt, with their sugar. I wd rather live in a cave without Flush, than in a crowd from three oclock in the afternoon—and indeed, my very dear friend, you cannot regard with more astonishment my “zeal for pen & ink” than I do your long suffering of tea-drinkers .. we stare at each other!

Ah—but you have forgiven me? You are not even the very least bit inclined to be cross with me? Think of the motive! Think besides .. in a soliloquy .. “Most of these good for nothing poet-asses[4] wd teaze me not to write .. or at least be a little glad to have my shining out of the way– Glow-worms do not say ‘O moon, shine’, unless they have a strong personal affection for the moon .. stronger than any individual self interest whatever”. Well—that is soliloquy enough for you! you never talked such bêtises[5] before .. not you!– You must forgive me my beloved friend, & there, an end of it all!–

Well done, Ben! I applaud him for his choice of a name for the seedling!–

I can do no more however, today! It is so late! Only .. poor Bishop Baines! I feared you wd be a good deal affected by his sudden removal. May God bless you!

Ever your attached

EBB–

My Flush has no sons nor daughters that I know of. Yours seems to increase & multiply by a very rapid course of arithmetic, indeed. Was Lily my Flush’s mother? Not that I am jealous of the new puppies! Dont let them flatter themselves so!–

Publication: EBB-MRM, II, 267–269.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Dated by the death of Bishop Baines on 6 July 1843.

2. Miss Mitford had apparently been upset by letter 1313.

3. Underscored twice.

4. Cf. Sir Philip Sidney’s “poet-apes” (see letter 1128, note 5).

5. “Absurdities.”

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