1395.  EBB to Mary Russell Mitford

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 7, 358–360.


Oct. 7. 1843.

Ah my beloved friend, how grieved I am that you should be suffering so!—that you should have suffered so, let me rather say!—for you were a shade better when you wrote, & I do trust earnestly, that the betterness was more decided before your letter reached my hands. To be so ill—and for me to have no second-thought of such a thing!! Indeed your silence only inspired my foolishness with the fear that you were displeased with me, .. that I might peradventure have thrown my Aramintaisms into an abrupt form & offended you by the force of them—anything I conjectured rather than the sad truth of your illness. But you are better—you are very very much better––I will hope till I hear again. Some oysters go to you as a hieroglyphic of my constant thoughts of you, & will make themselves acceptable, if not duller than oyster-dull. And you are taking care of yourself,—eschewing draughts, & avoiding to stand still in the garden, or lean from the window without a bonnet? To go out for exercise & with sufficient clothing, probably would not injure you—it is that delightful wandering about in thin shoes & a bonnetless head with one’s hair flapping in one’s eyes, that gives the cold & brings about the danger—and of such sins I cannot altogether believe you innocent. Have you & K. tried antimonial wine taken in something hot at night? I persecute my sisters with it whenever they catch cold,—& my persecutions make me more persecutive, because they prove by their effect the puissance of the “remedial force” of them.

I am selfish too about this illness! I think to myself .. ‘What if she fall out of spirits & take an aversion to coming to London?’ Why if you dont come after all, think of the disappointment to me & the forty!– [1] Think of being buoyed up for months & months as I have been, with the fancy of an approaching avatar,—& then of the vision being suddenly darkened! How shall I bear it .. I, who do not pique myself on my philosophy? Dearest dearest Miss Mitford, take care of your spirits, & save them for us, & yourself for us! We must have you this autumn—we must indeed! & we wont be disappointed.

My uncle James Clarke has come to see us, .. you will think us prodigal, in this house, of uncles. Did I tell you that my cousin Leonard Clarke (of the Kinnersley Castle Clarkes .. younger brother of Mr Eagles’s son in law) was going to be married last May to my cousin Isabel Butler a daughter of Sir Thomas Butler’s?– The bridal-array was chosen, & the orange-blossoms fixed in their wreath, when the pretty little bride put up her lip & sware by yea & nay [2] that she did’nt like the bridegroom & wouldn’t marry him for the world. He fell into a distraction, & cried like a child,—and she locked herself in her bedroom, & would never see him again. The consequence was a great scandal, & the precipitate flight of the Rejected from the neighbourhood of his lady’s bower. All this chanced last May—& loud & wild was the outcry on all sides of course, in & out of the family, at conduct of such cold caprice—and if I didnt tell you, it was because I was in a foam of indignation about it, & could not talk of my fair lady cousin without calling her names. A curious consequence of it, was a similar event in Mr Wordsworth’s family, whose son was engaged to be married to his cousin a Miss Monkhouse an heiress. Miss Monkhouse was paying a visit in Herefordshire to her friends the Dews, at the time when poor Leonard’s misfortune was a general subject of conversation. Upon learning the details, she suddenly appeared much affected & declared to Miss Dew that Miss Butler’s case was precisely hers, .. that she was engaged to marry her cousin whom she did not love & could not make happy, & that she would, in consequence, follow the late example & break off her engagement. The engagement was broken accordingly—and the Wordsworths I believe, have been consoled for the vexation, by the symptoms of a strangeness approaching insanity, ‘in the order of the going’. [3] Not so however, is the case of my cousins.

A week ago Leonard arrived in town, radiant. He had been recalled. In a letter which he had some accidental occasion to write to my aunt Lady Butler, he wrote cursorily in lover’s phrase .. “I feel for Isabel as I always did, & shall”. The mother showed the letter to her daughter,—& the daughter said that if he was unchanged she was so also .. that she had “thought him cool”, & that that was the reason of her coolness to him; but that she was ready to marry him now if he liked it. And thus it is all arranged back again. Leonard is generous & a lover—and Isabel is, to my mind, either capricious & silly, or weak & a victim—for I cannot help fancying that she has been persuaded or scolded into the palinodia. The marriage takes place instantly—in the course of the present month [4] —and .. poor Leonard, I say still!

You must have thought me a little mad the other day, when I sent you a letter with a chasm in it. The truth is, I wanted to write the word for a Chinese salutation (speaking of Mr Horne & the Walters’s) & doubting whether it was spelt Kitow or Kitou or Keeto, [5] I left the space & waited to acquire the information. Afterwards I forgot all about it until too late, & let the letter go!– Curiously obscure, even for me, must that sentence have appeared. I will spell wrong next time.

May God bless you my dearest friend!– Let me hear how you are—do!

Ever your


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

Publication: EBB-MRM, II, 320–322.

Manuscript: Eton College Library and Wellesley College.

1. A further reference to Miss Mitford’s anticipated London visitors as the forty thieves (see letter 1391).

2. Cf. Love’s Labour’s Lost, I, 1, 53–54.

3. Cf. Macbeth, III, 4, 118. Edward Quillinan, Wordsworth’s son-in-law, wrote to Henry Crabb Robinson on 7 February 1843, telling him in confidence that Willy Wordsworth “has proposed to & been accepted by Mary Monkhouse. She is a nice girl enough—just of age, & has a pretty good fortune—I believe not less than £20,000 besides what she will have from her uncle Monkhouse.... it is an excellent match” (The Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson With the Wordsworth Circle (1808–1866), ed. Edith J. Morley, 1927, I, 476). However, in less than two months, she had broken off the engagement (see William Wordsworth of Rydal Mount by Frederika Beatty, 1939, pp. 73–74).

Mary Elizabeth Monkhouse was the daughter of Mrs. Wordsworth’s cousin Tom Monkhouse; she subsequently married the Rev. Henry Dew of Whitney Court in Herefordshire; Willy Wordsworth married Fanny Eliza Graham in 1847.

4. The marriage took place on 1 November, but was unfortunately short-lived, as the bride died in 1846.

5. This explains the mysterious gap left in letter 1391.


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