1413.  EBB to Julia Martin

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 8, 12–14.


Oct. 30. 1843.

My dearest Mrs Martin

All last week I was on the very edge of writing to you, & yet had so much writing to do that there was nothing for me but to think of you in a very perfect silence. It was with earnest sympathy that I had heard of your having more trouble in addition to your old heavy anxiety in respect to poor Mrs Hanford,—& that you had no sufficient reason yet to be happier on her account. Yet as she remains a little better, my knowledge of the peculiarities of chest-affections, does encourage me with a hope that you may be spared a friendship & communion so dear, for a longer time than you have heart to hope at this moment. A friend of mine, Miss Dowglass, has been ill with the occasional breaking of blood vessels on the lungs, for nearly twenty years,—& was sent to Rome two years ago with the confident assurance of the first medical men here, that ulceration had taken place & that she cd not recover. She is sometimes better & sometimes worse,—but alive still. If the strength keeps up, it is wonderful how for years & years the life will wrestle against deseases of a fatal character—& often, in deseases of the chest, the strength, that is, the essential vital energies, .. will keep up long. Kind Dr Scully used to hold up to me as an example, the instance of the clergyman at Chelsea .. I forget his name at this moment,—but you will remember it—the man whose lectures upon Lent, made him somewhat famous. He went down to Torquay dying, sinking hopelessly, everybody thought,—was confined to his bed there, & lost the power of walking; & at one time his death was apprehended every hour. After all, he rallied,—& now,—years after, although not in health, & beyond the possibility of ever being in health,—he can preach once a day, & looks out to longevity. [1] Do be as hopeful as you can, my dearest Mrs Martin—for hope is for the most part, wise,—while the ‘preparation of the gospel of peace’, [2] under all events, is necessary. It must be pleasant for you to be as near home as Malvern, even when you are with your poor patient—although I shd rather fear the sharp pure mountain air of the place, for lungs so delicate as hers. The Malvern air is bright as steel, & stabs like it, in some cases. Did I tell you that Storm & George had been spending the latter’s vacation among the Swiss mountains, & that they came home, … that is, .. George came home, .. delighted as by a wonderful dream? Stormie was more pleased to be at home, I believe secretly, .. than with any sight beheld from the Righi. [3] George tried to persuade him to return by Paris,—but no, it wdnt do—he had too many friends & relations there! a curious but absolutely impregnable objection. [4]

From dear Bummy we have not lately heard; & what we hear of her, does by no means satisfy us upon the head of her recovered spirits. Mr Butler had arrived, the last intelligence said,—& she had been much (& how naturally!) affected in seeing him. But I do trust that for poor Arlette’s sake she will struggle up against the influence of the past, instead of bowing down to meet it. The least use of active occupation is its immediate end—& its greatest, perhaps, the bracing of the energies of the mind in the shock of Life. For my own part & experience, .... I do not say it as a phrase or in exaggeration, but from very clear & positive conviction, … I do believe that I should be mad at this moment, if I had not forced back … damned [sic] out, .. the current of rushing recollections, by work, .. work, .. work. I shd like to have made dear Bummy travel, instead of sitting down in Paris——but still, she is near her sister & the children,—& I trust that uncle James takes a worse view of her depression than there is need to do.

He is in Ireland—at Ballintemple; to preside over the marriage which takes place today, between Isabel Butler & Leonard Clarke. [5] Afterwards the bride & bridegroom are to pass a little of the moonlight of their honeymoon at the Vale of Ovoca [6] —which is the only point of sentiment in the whole affair—& which the elements wd fain make a joke of,—this incessant rain seeming to prove the non-necessity of going very far to find a “Meeting of the waters.” [7] I shake my head a little, I confess, over this marriage– I feel sorry for Leonard, & sorry for Isabel. If the course of true love never runs smooth, [8] it does not (if I may express a speculative opinion) run rough in that precise manner– Does it, do you think? you, who have a right to an opinion!

Half of this is written in twilight & the other half in the dark– My pen is a groper—& all the stops are made in blind space. I will not ‘try at it’ any more now. May God bless you & make you happy my dearest Mrs Martin. Give my love to Mr Martin, & ever believe me

Your affectionate


Address: Mrs Martin / Colwall / near Ledbury.

Publication: None traced.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. We have not been able to identify this preacher; he was probably the author of the anonymous Lent Lectures Preached at Christ Church, Chelsea (1844).

2. Ephesians, 6:15.

3. The Rigi is a mountain (5,906 ft.) north of Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.

4. A further reference to her brother’s shyness (see, for example, letter 1105).

5. EBB told Miss Mitford of their broken engagement and subsequent reconciliation in letter 1395.

6. In Co. Wicklow, on the east coast of Ireland.

7. “The Meeting of the Waters” was included in Moore’s Irish Melodies and Songs (1807); it referred to the confluence of the rivers Avon and Avoca.

8. Cf. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I, 1, 134.


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