Correspondence

1516.  EBB to Mary Russell Mitford

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 8, 180–181.

[London]

Thursday. [1 February 1844][1]

I do not hear from you & I am uneasy my dearest friend. What wd I give for a flash of clairvoyance & a vision of you for two moments! Do write & let me know what you are doing. For my own part I am “perplext in the extreme”[2] with preparations for my book, & tire myself so every day with writing in an out-of-breath haste to get ready in time for the primroses & printers together, that I talk of walling up the door for a fortnight or so, & being dug out only at the end of it. You will say I “make a fuss” about my book, & so I do .. in this room. To have or to fancy something necessary to be done, & then to have no strength to half do it,—to feel flagged against one’s will, & unwilling in the face of a necessity—this sets one making a fuss, & grumbling against oneself, body & soul. Oh, what it is, to lead an oyster’s life—not being an oyster!– Reading Marivaux on the sofa, was Gray’s notion of paradise;[3] but making books on the sofa is a different thing. I will do it, however, this spring .. & will tire you as little as possible in the process of it, by lamentations over the aching of my right hand.

I want to know of something more important .. how you are .. what your present arrangements are; & whether there is room for hoping that a marriage may take place after all. I cant fancy that Ben, when he sees you resolved to part with him, will not yield the point. Have you the new maid with you now? And how does she suit you?—how do you lean to like her? Let me know a little,—as much as I may, .. my beloved friend! I am so anxious about you.

There is dear Mr Kenyon confined to his house by influenza! The whole of last week he never left the house; & the message in reply to my enquiry the day before yesterday, was, that he was better, but shd not be able to come out for two or three days. The weather in the meanwhile is fit for April,—mild delightful weather. Frost is rococo. Tell me how the poor Walters[e]s are. I was afraid to approach Mr Horne with a word upon general subjects; but I had a note from him yesterday, so much in his usual manner, that I cannot but infer that you went rather fast in your romance, & that his impression was of a different character from the one suggested by a certain quick imagination.[4] He has warm feelings, & strong & excitable sympathies,—& I do not doubt his being moved by a very tender pity & interest (quite apart from love) on the occasion in question. If it was love .. he has recovered as fast as he was taken by the malady,—and that, I cd not suppose possible of a person of his sensibility.

This house has been full of cousins for a month—Barretts & cousins of Papa’s. We, you know, number our cousins after the tribes of Israel[5] .. not that we see as much as we count of them. One of my brothers has been forced to emigrate from his bedroom, & everybody else, except Papa & me, is packed too tight not to be “rumpled”. Flush expresses his disapprobation of all this, by barking emphatically—and I hope that care may make him rather thinner—for he grows too fat & it is a matter of calculation with me just now, what means I shall try to make him thinner. He eats very very little! & .. for instance, yesterday .. he wd not touch meat, & had nothing except two finger-biscuits & some muffin, & a small cup of milk, from morning to night. What is to be done to prevent him from growing too fat? He is not so now—but he distends visibly day by day, like a balloon, not to speak it disrespectfully.

May God bless you, my dearest friend! Write to me when you can.

Yes, Mr Hunter might pay less for his rooms,—& he does, in fact, pay extravagantly.[6] It is possible to have a sitting room & bedroom in this neighbourhood at the rate of a guinea a week—or less.

Ever your affectionate EBB.

Publication: EBB-MRM, II, 378–380.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. This letter falls between no. 1509, in which EBB mentions Kenyon’s influenza, and no. 1517, in which she reports his recovery; the intervening Thursday was 1 February.

2. Othello, V, 2, 346.

3. “Now as the paradisaical pleasures of the Mahometans consist in playing upon the flute and lying with Houris, be mine to read eternal new romances by Marivaux and Crebillon” (Letter to Richard West, Correspondence of Thomas Gray, 1935, II, 192).

4. EBB had not shared Miss Mitford’s conviction that Horne’s interest in Miss Walter, who had just died, was serious. (See, for example, her comments in letter 1446.)

5. Cf. Joshua, 4:5. See letter 1464 for a prior reference to the Barretts.

6. EBB had told Miss Mitford in letter 1491 that Hunter was paying “above sixty guineas” for his lodgings.

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