1374.  EBB to Hugh Stuart Boyd

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 7, 316–317.


Septr 6– 1843.

My very dear friend,

I ask you humbly not to fancy me in a passion whenever I happen to be silent. For a woman to be silent is ominous I know,—but it need not be significant of anything quite so terrible as ill humour. And yet it always happens so––if I do not write I am sure to be cross in your opinion! You set me down directly as “hurt” .. which means irritable; or “offended” which means sulky! your ideal of me having in fact ‘its finger in its eye’ [1] all day long!

I on the contrary, humbled as I was by your hard criticism of my soft rhymes about Flush, waited for Arabel to carry a message for me, begging to know whether you would care at all to see my ‘Cry of the children,’ before I sent it to you. But Arabel went without telling me that she was going—twice she went to St John’s wood & “made no sign”: [2] and now I find myself thrown on my own resources– Will you see the ‘Cry of the Human’ [3] or not? It will not please you probably. It wants melody– The versification is eccentric to the ear, & the subject (the factory miseries) is scarcely an agreeable one to the fancy. Perhaps, altogether, you had better not see it—because I know you think me to be deteriorating, & I dont want you to have further hypothetical evidence of so false an opinion. Humbled as I am, I say .. “so false an opinion.” Frankly if not humbly, I believe myself to have gained power since the time of the publication of the Seraphim, & lost nothing except happiness. Frankly if not humbly!!

With regard to the ‘House of Clouds’ I disagree both with you & Miss Mitford—thinking it, comparatively with my other poems, neither so bad nor so good as you two account it. It has certainly been singled out for great praise both at home & abroad,—&, only the other day, Mr Horne wrote to me to reproach me for not having mentioned it to him, [4] —because he came upon it accidentally & considered it “one of my best productions.” Mr Kenyon holds the same opinion. As for Flush’s verses, they are what I call cobweb verses, thin & light enough,—& Arabel was mistaken in telling you that Miss Mitford gave the prize to them. Her words were “They are as tender & true as anything you ever wrote—but nothing is equal to the House of Clouds.” Those were her words, or to that effect—and I repeat them to you, not for the sake of Flush’s verses, which really do not appear even to myself their writer, worth a defence,—but for the sake of your judgment of her accuracy in judging.

Lately I have received two letters from the profoundest woman thinker in England, Miss Martineau––letters which touched me deeply while they gave me pleasure I did not expect.

My poor Flush has fallen into tribulation. Think of Catiline, the great savage Cuba bloodhound belonging to this house, attempting last night to worry him just as the first Catiline did Cicero! [5] Flush was rescued, but not before he had been wounded severely,—and this morning he is on three legs & in great depression of spirits. My poor, poor Flushie! He lies on my sofa & looks up to me with most pathetic eyes!

Where is Annie? If I send my love to her, will it ever be found again?

May God bless you both.

Dearest Mr Boyd’s affectionate & grateful


Address: H S Boyd Esqr / 24 (a) Grove End Road / St John’s Wood.

Publication: LEBB, I, 152–154 (as 8 September 1843).

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Cf. The Comedy of Errors, II, 2, 204.

2. Cf. II Henry VI, III, 3, 29.

3. Evidently a slip of the pen for “Children.”

4. In letter 1361.

5. Catiline, when refused the consulship of Rome, plotted against the city and planned the murder of Cicero, the consul.


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