1811.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 17–18.

New Cross, Hatcham, Surrey.

[Postmark: 10 January 1845]

I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett,—and this is no off-hand complimentary letter that I shall write,—whatever else, no prompt matter-of-course recognition of your genius and there a graceful and natural end of the thing: since the day last week when I first read your poems, [1] I quite laugh to remember how I have been turning and turning again in my mind what I should be able to tell you of their effect upon me—for in the first flush of delight I thought I would this once get out of my habit of purely passive enjoyment, when I do really enjoy, and thoroughly justify my admiration—perhaps even, as a loyal fellow-craftsman should, try and find fault and do you some little good to be proud of hereafter!—but nothing comes of it all—so into me has it gone, and part of me has it become, this great living poetry of yours, not a flower of which but took root and grew .. oh, how different that is from lying to be dried and pressed flat and prized highly and put in a book with a proper account at top and bottom, and shut up and put away .. and the book called a “Flora,” besides! After all, I need not give up the thought of doing that, too, in time; because even now, talking with whoever is worthy, I can give a reason for my faith in one and another excellence, the fresh strange music, the affluent language, the exquisite pathos and true new brave thought—but in this addressing myself to you, your own self, and for the first time, my feeling rises altogether. I do, as I say, love these Books with all my heart—and I love you too: do you know I was once not very far from seeing .. really seeing you? Mr Kenyon said to me one morning “would you like to see Miss Barrett?”—then he went to announce me,—then he returned .. you were too unwell—and now it is years ago—and I feel as at some untoward passage in my travels—as if I had been close, so close, to some world’s-wonder in chapel or crypt, .. only a screen to push and I might have entered—but there was some slight .. so it now seems .. slight and just-sufficient bar to admission, and the half-opened door shut, and I went home my thousands of miles, and the sight was never to be! [2]

Well, these Poems were to be—and this true thankful joy and pride with which I feel myself

Yours ever faithfully,

Robert Browning.

Address: Miss Barrett / 50 Wimpole St.

Postmark: 8NT8 JA10 1845 A.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 1. [3]

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 3–4.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Kenyon had given a copy of EBB’s Poems (1844) to RB’s sister, Sarianna, in December 1844 (see Reconstruction, A348). RB had departed for Italy the day before EBB’s Poems was published in August 1844, and had only recently returned. (In some notes relating to the Brownings’ courtship correspondence, we have drawn on Elvan Kintner’s The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, 2 vols., Harvard, 1969; and Daniel Karlin’s Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett: The Courtship Correspondence 1845–1846, Oxford, 1989. We here record our debt to their scholarship.)

2. See letter 934, in which EBB relates to her brother George that Kenyon had proposed to introduce the two poets.

3. Throughout her correspondence with RB, EBB has indicated his letter sequence on the envelope, usually on the verso. We have recorded this information as a docket. Irregularities occur and these are noted editorially. EBB preserved her letters from RB in a collapsible leather case, dark green in colour with gold-tooling (see Reconstruction, H589).


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