1734.  EBB to John Kenyon

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 9, 176–178.


Tuesday. Oct. 8 1844–

Thank you, my dearest cousin, for your kind little note which I run the chance of answering by that Wednesday’s post you think you may wait for. So (viâ your table!) I set about writing to you—and the first word of course must be an expression of my contentment with the Examiner review. Indeed I am more than contented .. delighted with it. I had some dread, vaguely fashioned, about the Examiner—the very delay looked ominous. And then, I thought to myself, though I did not say, that if Mr Forster praised the verses on Flush to you, it was just because he had no sympathy for anything else.[1] But it is all the contrary, you see,—and I am the more pleased for the want of previous expectation—and I must add that if you were so kind as to be glad of being associated with me by Mr Forster’s reference, I was so human as to be very, very glad of being associated with you by the same. Also you shall criticise Geraldine exactly as you like—mind, I do not think it all so rough as the extracts appear to be, .. and some variety is attained by that playing at ball with the pause, which causes the apparent roughness … still you shall criticise Geraldine exactly as you like. I have a great fancy for writing some day a longer poem of a like class, .. a poem comprehending the aspect & manners of modern life, .. and flinching at nothing of the conventional. I think it might be done, with good effect– You said once that Tennyson had done it in Locksley Hall, & I half agreed with you. But looking at Locksley Hall again, I find that not much has been done in it that way, noble & passionate & full as the poem is in other ways. But there is no story,—no manners,—no modern allusion, except in the grand general adjuration to the “Mother-age,”[2] .. & no approach to the treatment of a conventionality– But Crabbe,[3] as you say, has done it—and Campbell in his “Theodric”[4] in a few touches was near to do it—but Hayley clearly apprehended the species of poem in his “Triumphs of Temper” & “Triumphs of Music”,[5] & so did Miss Seward, who called it the “poetical novel.”[6] Now I do think that a true poetical novel, modern, & on the level of the manners of the day, might be as good a poem as any other, & much more popular besides. Do you not think so?

I had a letter from dear Miss Mitford this morning, with yours,—but I can find nothing in it that you will care to hear again. She complains of the vagueness of ‘Coningsby,’ & praises the French writers, .. a sympathy between us, that last, which we wear hidden in our sleeves for the sake of propriety! Not a word of coming to London, though I asked. Neither have I heard again from Miss Martineau.

Yes; but I must tell you! You asked not long ago about the “Critic”.[7] Well! I have received from the conductors of the Critic a request to send them a copy of the poems, that they might be “reviewed by an impartial reviewer.” This note I enclosed to Mr Moxon, leaving it to his discretion to send or not to send; & he writes to tell me that he has sent,—and he adds that Mr Forster’s review “will do as much good, .. more good than if it had appeared two months ago.”

Now you will write to me from Paris, will you not? Whenever you do not feel a decided boredom in writing, do write! It will be such pleasure to me!

Ever most affectionately & gratefully yours


After some pause & disinclination to pursue you to the borders of England with “applications,” .. I decide on asking you at once (lest delay might be fatal to my request) to give your vote at the ‘Adult Orphan Institution’ to the niece of Mrs Orme, our old governess.[8] Will you? and will you persuade Mr Curteis? She is the youngest daughter of Capt. Scarman who died at the taking of Fort Kurnool after many years service.[9]

Docket, in Kenyon’s hand, along left-hand margin of first page: a small writing table I lately gave her.

Publication: LEBB, I, 203–205 (in part).

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. EBB refers to Forster’s review of her Poems (1844) in The Examiner; for the text, see pp. 345–348.

2. Tennyson, “Locksley Hall” (1842), line 108.

3. Crabbe’s writings are known for their detailed portraits of contemporary rural life and landscapes, e.g., The Village (1783) and The Borough (1810).

4. See letter 1635, note 11.

5. The Triumphs of Temper (1804) and The Triumphs of Music (1804) by William Hayley.

6. Louisa, a Poetical Novel, in Four Epistles (1784) by Anna Seward.

7. A review of EBB’s Poems (1844) appeared in the 1 November issue of The Critic; for the text, see pp. 369–373.

8. The Adult Orphan Institution, founded in 1820 for educating as governesses the orphan daughters of clergymen and military and naval officers, was dependent on voluntary contributions. Evidently, Kenyon and his brother-in-law, Mr. Curteis, were subscribers, and thus would have had votes which EBB is asking Kenyon to cast in favor of Mrs. Orme’s niece.

9. Henry Clarence Scarman began his military career in 1812. His regiment (the Queen’s 39th foot) was present when the fort of Karnaul (in the Deccan) surrendered on 6 October 1839, without a fight. A few days later, the British attacked the Rajah’s camp nearby, and Captain Scarman was presumably one of the officers killed, since his death is recorded as 12 October 1839. He had married Christina Johnstone on 1 August 1809 and they had one son, Thomas, born in 1825; and a daughter, Christina, born 13 April 1829 in Sydney, New South Wales, for whom EBB is appealing.


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