1301. EBB to Mary Russell Mitford
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 7, 208–209.
June 28. 1843.
My dearest friend I am wondering how it happens that I do not hear from you. Is anything the matter? Oh .. I trust not. You are not unwell in this delightful weather, which allows nobody an excuse for being unwell? I, for my part, am going down stairs again, & can write nothing but questions, & have no time for the crookedest of answers.
I must tell you however that Mr Horne if he has not written to you himself, of which I know nothing, was at least as overcome as was natural by your “true & amiable hospitality.” Overcome however is the wrong word. “It did him good” he said. He cannot, it seems, go to you immediately, but talks of doing so “early in the next month” which is almost immediately .. this day being the 28th
My next news is sadder to tell & hear. Our poor friend Mr Haydon has no prize for either of his cartoons. He told me of his disappointment in a hurried note this morning. I am very very sorry.
For the rest, Orion is in the fourth edition, with a raised price—to a shilling; & a particular advertisement from the publisher,—to the effect, that this edition for a shilling is in no manner or degree superior to the three preceding ones for a farthing—also that when Orion shall come to be worth half a crown, the paper, printing, & visible form altogether, will be certainly as bad as ever. Do you read the riddle at all? Make Mr Horne confess when you get him under the bay tree, .. you, who can make him do anything, even to a cession of twentyfive copies of epic into your right hand!– For my part, I see only fog—& a phenomenon among booksellers. I discern however a possibility that, after all, the epic may pay its own expences & more, besides increasing manifoldly its poet’s reputation: & these facts will go far to justify the eccentricity among the uneccentric. Think of three large editions passing away in a fortnight,—& this in spite of the obstacles cast in cartloads before the feet of purchasers! The difficulty I have had to procure a few copies, you wd scarcely believe. Because George went twice & was recognized, he was rejected as a buyer the second time—& yet he certainly did not look as if he was going to desecrate Orion by baking a tart upon him. Dear George (this reminds me to tell you) is away on law business, & wont be at home for weeks– More’s the melancholy.
Tell me if you are doing a book .. or receiving company .. or why I dont hear from you. When your letters pause, it’s like a melody ceasing suddenly, which breaks one’s thoughts into fragments. I wonder why I dont hear. Perhaps I shd rather wonder at my own insolence of imagination in expecting to hear!
Your late visitor shd be put into a cage for a curiosity. You “wdnt do it to a mere common young lady” .. oh no, to be sure you wdnt!– I suggest that the wooden thimble be impaled forthwith on a stick, the same to be fixed into the ground two yards & a half to the outside of your hall-door, so that when the owner comes to enquire for it, it will be ready for her to take & depart, without the additional trouble of opening the door. You wdnt do that either, to a mere common young lady– She will be delighted. As to the Bath ‘Powers’, they will come. Peradventure they are come .. & are preventing you from writing to me.
It is lovely weather .. wood-weather! putting into one’s head a dream of living for a month in a green wood with a silent Robin Hood & no little John, .. to eat drink & sleep & write ballads under a beech tree, or “birken boughs”! Will you come?
Publication: EBB-MRM, II, 256–258.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. See letter 1298, note 6.
2. Miss Brabazon.
3. Miss Mitford was apparently expecting visits from some of the people she had met during her trip to Bath and Bristol.
4. On first meeting Robin Hood, John Little fought and thrashed him, but subsequently joined Robin’s band and became his chief lieutenant. He was then renamed Little John (see “Robin Hood and Little John,” verse 33, in Robin Hood, by Joseph Ritson, 1795, p. 206).
5. Cf. Beaumont and Fletcher, The Knight of the Burning Pestle (1613), act IV, scene 1.