1436.  EBB to Mary Russell Mitford

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 8, 50–51.


Nov. 18. 1843.

My beloved friend how can I thank you enough! You came—you went away[1] .. like a dream—and as if it were a real dream, I never expressed or tried to express all the thankfulness & sense of your great goodness, which penetrated me through & through. You will let me thank you now,—will you not?—& you will believe in the earnestness of the thoughts which revert to that day & go forward to you?– It was so kind, so kind! And I, feeling myself so unworthy .. so incapable of giving any sort of equivalent (except in love) for the fatigues of your journey—what am I to say? I thank you my very dear friend.

And I thank you too for the crown you have set upon the head of this, to me, happy day .. (“cheerful”—oh how cd I be otherwise than cheerful in being with you!) by the assurance, in your note of this morning, that you have not been fatigued into illness by it. Now I can enjoy my memories:—and look back & smile, as last week I looked forwards & smiled .. only with a shade less of jubilee.

Dearest friend,—you put extravagances into one’s head by your extravagant kindness to me— I confess that I think to myself in my soliloquies, of the possibility of your coming again (perhaps, perhaps), in the same way … before May. Oh unreasonable Imagination of mine, how can I make excuses for it?——

Yes—you did me good rather than harm—& although I confess to not having slept the night after, that proves the excitement of the joy & not the weariness from it. May God bless you, my dearest friend!–

The worst of it is—(after your perversity about never touching a crumb of bread—& shunning the salt like Ld Byron’s Dervise),[2]—the worst of it is, that I can count twenty subjects I wanted to talk to you on, & yet forgot all about them. It is always so I believe, in the meeting with a dear friend. One grows bewitched,—& one’s thoughts (except of Her) fly away on wings of the lark.

For one subordinate point, I wanted to ask you if you know a Miss P. Maurice who dates from Wellington Place, Reading, & is helping a clergyman, she says, to compile a volume of poems for the use of the sick & suffering,—& wrote to ask me both for permission to print several short poems from the Seraphim, & for any mss suitable to the occasion I might have by me. I was unwilling to refuse any help I cd, to such an object, & therefore sent her four ms sonnets. Do you know anything at all of her? The compilation is to be sold for the benefit of some charity.[3]

I am proud of Flushie. He acted towards you like a Flush as he is!– Not quite so good was he last night, when because Henrietta had a little musical party, & there was the scent of maccaroons in the housekeeper’s room, he positively refused to go to bed even at half past twelve at night,—and was sitting straight up on my bed at half past one, with his eyes growing larger & larger & not a thought of sleep in them,—in very manifest discontent because I wdnt let him run down stairs again. This was a tolerable sense of dissipation, for a hermit. Oh I had to scold him I assure you. And then he stretched himself up (not down) quite muscularly stiff, & would not let his head be pulled towards my pillow. Flush & I had a serious “misunderstanding”.

Kiss your Flush between the ears for me– I do wish you had brought him!

I write in haste today, & cannot write at large. But now I shall begin to look for my “regular allowance” of letter paper from Three Mile Cross, & no more Lacedemonian letters—“briefs” as George might say.*

Papa asked a multitude of questions—& everybody admires you to the top of admiration.

In that, & true affection & gratitude

I am ever your EBB.

*By the way .. George felt it to be honor when he cd be useful to you. You might as well thank him, in twenty years, for wearing a silk gown.

Papa left your parcel himself at Mrs Dupuy’s. Did you say that Mr Horne had £500 for Napoleon or the new work?

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

Publication: EBB-MRM, II, 340–342.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Miss Mitford finally paid her one-day visit on 16 November.

2. “What ails thee, Dervise? eat—dost thou suppose / This feast a Christian’s? or my friends thy foes? / Why dost thou shun the salt? that sacred pledge, / Which, once partaken, blunts the sabre’s edge” (The Corsair, 1814, II, iv, 117–120).

3. See letter 1433, note 2. Priscilla Maurice edited Sacred Poems for Mourners (1846), a collection of poetry by Southey, Longfellow, Milton, Wordsworth and others, but with no contribution by EBB, and two prose works, Sickness, Its Trials and Blessings (1850) and Prayers for the Sick and Dying (1853). If EBB’s poems were used, the volume must have appeared anonymously or under the name of the unidentified clergyman on whose behalf the contributions were sought.


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