1573.  EBB to John Kenyon

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 8, 263–265.


March 21. 1844.

No, you never sent me back Miss Martineau’s letter, my dear cousin, .. but you will be sure, .. or rather Mr Crabbe Robinson will, .. to find it in some too safe place,—& then I shall have it. In the meantime here are the other letters back again. You will think that I was keeping them for a deposit, a security .. till I “had my ain again”[1]—but I have only been idle & busy together. They are the most interesting that can be, & have quite delighted me. By the way, I, who saw nothing to object to in the ‘Life in the Sick room,” object very much to her argument in behalf of it, .. an argument certainly founded on a miserable misapprehension of the special doctrine referred to in her letter.[2] There is nothing so elevating & en[n]obling to the nature & mind of man, as the view which represents it raised into communion with God Himself, by the justification & purification of God Himself. Plato’s dream brushed by the gate of this doctrine, when it walked highest, & won for him the title of ‘Divine.’[3] That it is vulgarized sometimes by narrowminded teachers, in theory,—& by hypocrites, in action, might be an argument (if admitted at all) against all truth, poetry, & music!

On the other hand, I was glad to see the leaning on the Education question,—in which all my friends the dissenters did appear to me so painfully wrong; & so unworthily wrong, at once.

And Southey’s letters![4] I did quite delight in them! They are more personal than any I ever saw of his,—& have more warm everyday life in them.

The particular Paul Pry[5] in question (to come down to my life) never “intrudes.” It is his peculiarity. And I put the stop exactly where I was bid,—& was going to put Gabriel’s speech—only, .. with the pen in my hand to do it, .. I found that the angel was a little too exclamatory altogether, & that he had cried out “o ruined earth” & “o miserable angel” just before—approaching to the habit of a mere caller of names. So I altered the passage otherwise,—taking care of your full stop after “despair”.[6] Thank you my dear Mr Kenyon.

Also I sent enough m∙s. for the first sheet, and a note to Moxon yesterday, last night, .. thanking him for his courtesy about Leigh Hunt’s poems,—& following your counsel on every point. “Only last night,” .. you will say! But I have had such a headache,—and some very painful vexation in the prospect of my maid’s leaving me,[7] .. who has been with me throughout my illness; so that I am much attached to her, with the best reasons for being so—while the idea of a stranger is scarcely tolerable to me under my actual circumstances.

The ‘Palm Leaves’ are full of strong thought & good thought, expressed excellently well: but of poetry, in the true sense, & of imagination in any, I think them bare & cold, .. somewhat wintry leaves to come from the East, surely, surely!–[8]

May the change of air be rapid in doing you good—the weather seems to be softening on purpose for you. May God bless you, dear Mr Kenyon—I never can thank you enough. When you return I shall be rustling my ‘proofs’ about you, to prove my faith in your kindness.

Ever affectionately yours


Publication: LEBB, I, 169–171.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

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

2. Letter 1564.

3. Plato held that the human mind, an emanation of the Deity, could never be satisfied with anything unworthy of its lofty origin. He himself was so respected that he was distinguished by the appellation “divine.”

4. These letters were contained in A Memoir of … the Late William Taylor of Norwich …, the loan of which EBB acknowledged in letter 1571; she mentions this book again in letter 1594.

5. The idle, meddlesome protagonist of John Poole’s 1825 comedy.

6. Kenyon had apparently suggested changes to “A Drama of Exile” (see letter 1576); EBB refers to lines 88–93.

7. In an ironic parallel with Miss Mitford’s maid, EBB’s maid, Crow, had secretly married the butler, William Treherne, and was having to leave EBB’s service. EBB discusses the situation in more detail in letter 1585.

8. Monckton Milnes’s new volume, mentioned in the previous letter.


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