1391.  EBB to Mary Russell Mitford

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 7, 348–351.


Begun two days ago. [3–5] Oct. 1843[1]

You are not displeased with me for yesterday, .. are you my beloved friend? I meant no word of extenuation of the kindness of your friends to Araminta, & least of all, that it was not worthy of all polite & cordial acknowledgement on his part. Were he twice Orion, I could not mean either of these things. But really I could not agree with you in your apparent view that he being only Orion & they being people of fortune, a double number of [2] due from him to them—nor could I believe that the failure in his engagement proceeded from anything worse than a shuffle in the fate-cards. You thought it a shuffle, plain. You are a little hard I trow upon Orion. A report reached me the other day, & not from yourself, that “Orion & his harp had found no favor with Miss Mitford”[3] .. & something harder perhaps than that. Well!– The Aramintaisms are undeniable,—but all that I contend for is, that presently & when you come to extend your “experiences” on this subject, (if you ever do!) you will come also to agree with me in the recognition of something better & greater than you can discern from the surface of the manners. And this I say without a philter, as all the witches know! In fact, my philter wd bewitch me to your side—& that, you know full well!–

I want you to tell me my ever dearest friend, whether, if you are bent upon Chapel Street,[4] we can do anything for you in the way of arranging the lodging plan .. choosing & taking the rooms &c—or whether they are predestinated to your use at this moment. You have been so silent about the details, in your announcement of the great fact of a determination to Chapel Street, that I have not an idea of how you can best be served, or whether you can be served at all, in relation to the plan. Would it not be sufficient for every purpose you mentioned to me, that you should have bedrooms there, & come here for your sitting-room? From eleven oclock every morning you shall have a room here, .. either the dining room or back drawing room, .. to receive whatever visitors you please, & to breakfast & dine in alone,—I & my room upstairs being your green room .. or “scrabbled-in-background” of the picture. Now this I think is an improvement on the Chapel Street plan– Just to take a bedroom there .. say a double-room for you & K .. & a little room for Ben,—& thus to have “lodgings of your own” & the independence which is to protect you from the crowd—while the “forty thieves” who are my rivals,[5] could all of them, if you pleased, be received into your sitting room in this house, & nobody in the world aggrieved, unless it be Flush .. and you can make your own personal apologies to him for afflicting him with the voice & tread of strangers. As to Papa, he goes away at twelve or a little after, every day to the city; & we dont see him again until seven. So does George– So does Sette——not to the city indeed, but to Chambers. Stormie, I fear, “will know you & flee you”[6] as the elements did Kehama—& from my other three brothers & two sisters, I promise you free ground & no molestation. Ah! you are frightened of us I see!—we produced an “impression” on you when you came here last,—and our infantry is worthy, you think, of being ridden away fast from!—— Try to forgive us this once, &, on condition of ‘free ground’, accept at least this proposition of the sitting room & the eating & drinking. You shall have your tray—& your room—& your forty thieves by turns—& a full broad liberty in lodgings, besides. Now tell me that you want only a bedroom in Chapel Street, & that we may take it for you soon. Will you, dearest friend?

Ah, but I have ill news for you of dear Mr Kenyon. When I told him of your coming to London late in October or early in November, .. he said “I shall be away—I shall be away”. He is going into Devonshire immediately almost, he seemed to think; he had been drawn there all the summer, through the bands of his brother’s presence here & his own laying down of carpets,[7]—& now the magnet had him, & he was going. My face grew longer & longer—half a yard, for me, & a yard & a half for you, .. because it was very vexatious that you shd come here again & for a brief visit, & miss Mr Kenyon. And his face was long in proportion also,—but I saw unalterable necessities in his eyes, & that there was no use in murmuring. Perhaps however he may not go so soon—“something may happen” as we say when we talk futurities—and if he does go, he may come back again either before you come or after you come; & I do hope you may see him,—& I do hope he may see you,—& I do hope I may see you together. The Garrows have left Devonshire, & are on the continent for a few years—therefore it is not in them, that the magnet lies. Mr Bezzi indeed is there still—& Mr Bezzi is one object certainly. Mr Kenyon loves Mr Bezzi heart to heart—& there must be something loveable in a man, nay, admirable in a man, who is loved so. It is always evidence with me of love-worthiness .. this love from without. It is one of your many crowns, my beloved friend.

Now I am going to ask a boon of you, before a word more. Will you bring me, or send me, a few autographs of ‘Pen & ink people,’ you, who receive tribute from the ends of the world? I promised Mary Hunter, who is a collector, to procure some for her—& perhaps I may grant a few to Sette on the road. I have autographs of your own (a few) but I want Mrs Hemans’s & Mrs Howitt’s .. & I wd not scorn others in which you must abound. Do you smile contempt upon all collectors of autographs? In my mind they are wise people—I was a collector once myself. I have a bump of veneration .... do you not know? … and the creed of Hero-worshipping bears a distinct testimony to the ‘worshipping of relics’—and “give me your autograph” is a petition in my litany. So do grant this boon of mine—which though from me, is not for me in fact.

How are you, my dearest friend? May I hear that you really really are better. The colder weather will probably agree better with you than the very hot & unequal temperature of the late summer. I long for a letter—long for it. Oh!—my brothers have returned in safety,[8] I thank God,—& George shines through the incrustation of Law, with a thousand brightnesses of splendid memories caught from the wonders of the world at which he has lately looked. You are astonished that people go abroad .. I am astonished that they stay at home. Who, with strength & opportunity, should pass into the world of spirits, without a glance at the Jungfrau?[9] without looking upward to the mountains & downward to the rivers, .. or standing in the shadow of the pines?– Who should pass away from this form of Nature, without reading its Shakespeare? Not I, willingly! Would you be such a one!– Would you? ‘Oh, for health & liberty, & three years of wandering![’]–[10] They shd not be all wandering; for I wd settle in some German town for the summer, & in Rome for the winter, & diverge—& share the intermediate time between various shrines of pilgrimage. What! you wd not like it? Can you say so?

Ever your EBB.

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

Publication: EBB-MRM, II, 317–320.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Inclusive date provided by EBB’s reference to the previous letter and the postmark of 6 October 1843.

2. EBB has left a space for eight or nine characters here. This she explains in letter 1395 as a “chasm” left for lack of knowing how to spell the Chinese salutation, “kowtow.”

3. Possibly via Kenyon.

4. i.e., meaning to lodge there during her pending visit to London.

5. EBB equates the visitors who will vie with her for Miss Mitford’s time with “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” in The Arabian Nights.

6. Cf. Southey, The Curse of Kehama (1810), II, 14, 12. See letter 1105 for an earlier reference to Storm’s shyness.

7. A reference to Kenyon’s giving up his house to his brother and sister-in-law and moving to new quarters himself (see letter 1234).

8. i.e., from their journey up the Rhine (see letter 1364).

9. The dominant peak (13,667 ft.) in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland.

10. We have not located the source of this quotation.


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