Correspondence

1875.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 141–142.

[London]

Monday Mg [Postmark: 31 March 1845]

When you read Don Quixote, my dear romance-reader, do you ever notice that flower of an incident of good fellowship where the friendly Squire of Him of the Moon, or the Looking glasses, (I forget which) passes to Sancho’s dry lips,[1] (all under a cork-tree one morning)—a plump wine-skin,—and do you admire dear brave Miguel’s knowledge of thirsty nature when he tells you that the Drinker, having seriously considered for a space the pleiads, or place where they should be, fell, as he slowly returned the shrivelled bottle to its donor, into a deep musing of an hour’s length, or thereabouts, and then .. mark, .. only then, fetching a profound sigh, broke silence with .. such a piece of praise as turns pale the labours in that way of Rabelais and the Teian (if he wasn’t a Byzantine Monk, alas!)[2] and our Mr Kenyon’s stately self—(since my own especial poet à moi,[3] that can do all with anybody, only “sips like a fly,”[4] she says, and so cares not to compete with these behemoths that drink up Jordan)[5]—Well, then .. (oh, I must get quick to the sentence’s end; & be brief as an oracle-explainer!)—the giver is you and the taker is I, and the letter is the wine, and the stargazing is the reading the same, and the brown study is—how shall I deserve and be grateful enough to this new strange friend of my own, that has taken away my reproach among men,[6] that have each and all their friend, so they say (.. not that I believe all they say—they boast too soon sometimes, no doubt,—I once was shown a letter wherein the truth stumbled out after this fashion “Dere Smith,—I calls you “dere” .. because you are so in your shop!”)[7]—and the great sigh is,—there is no deserving nor being grateful at all,—and the breaking silence is, and the praise is .. ah, there, enough of it!

This sunny morning is as if I wished it for you—10 strikes by the clock now—tell me if at 10 this morning you feel any good from my heart’s wishes for you—I would give you all you want out of my own life and gladness and yet keep twice the stock that should by right have sufficed the thin white face that is laughing at me in the glass yonder at the fancy of its making anyone afraid .. and now, with another kind of laugh, at the thought that when its owner “travels” next, he will leave off Miss Barrett along with port-wine—Dii meliora piis[8] and, among them to,

Yours every where, and at all times yours

R Browning.

I have all to say yet—next letter!

Address: Miss Barrett / 50 Wimpole St

Postmark: 3AN3 MR31 1845 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 9 [altered from “8”].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 44–45.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha (pt. II, chaps. 12–13).

2. i.e., Anacreon, known as the Teian Muse because he was born at Teus in Asia Minor.

3. “To me, (of) mine, my own.”

4. Cf. EBB’s “Wine of Cyprus,” line 4.

5. Job 40:23.

6. Cf. Luke 1:25.

7. Many years later, in 1887, in a letter to Mrs. Bronson, RB would recall this same letter, except the addressee was “Tunnicliff,” not “Smith” (More than Friend, ed. Michael Meredith, 1985, p. 72).

8. “Heaven grant a happier lot to the good” (Vergil, Georgics, III, 513, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough).

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