1888.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 165–166.


Tuesday night. [15 April 1845] [1]

I heard of you, dear Miss Barrett, between a Polka and a Cellarius [2] the other evening, of Mr Kenyon: how this wind must hurt you! And yesterday I had occasion to go your way—pass, that is, Wimpole Street, the end of it,—and, do you know, I did not seem to have leave from you to go down it yet, much less count number after number till I came to yours,—much least than less, look up when I did come there. So I went on to a viperine she-friend of mine [3] who, I think, rather loves me she does so hate me, and we talked over the chances of certain other friends who were to be balloted for at the “Athenæum” last night, [4] —one of whom, it seems, was in a fright about it—“to such little purpose” said my friend—“for he is so inoffensive—now, if one were to style you that!”– —“Or you”—I said—and so we hugged ourselves in our grimness like tiger-cats. Then there is a deal in the papers to-day about Maynooth, [5] and a meeting presided over by Lord Mayor Gibbs, and the Reverend Mr Somebody’s speech– And Mrs Norton has gone and book-made at a great rate about the Prince of Wales, [6] pleasantly putting off till his time all that used of old to be put off till his mother’s time—altogether, I should dearly like to hear from you, but not till the wind goes, and sun comes—because I shall see Mr Kenyon next week and get him to tell me some more. By the way, do you suppose anybody else looks like him? If you do, the first room full of real London people you go among you will fancy to be lighted up by a saucer of burning salt & spirits of wine in the background!

Monday [7] —Last night when I could do nothing else I began to write to you, such writing as you have seen—strange! The proper time & season [8] for good sound sensible & profitable forms of speech—when ought it to have occurred, and how did I evade it in these letters of mine? For people begin with a graceful skittish levity, lest you should be struck all of a heap with what is to come—and that is sure to be the stuff and staple of the man, full of wisdom and sorrow,—and then again comes the fringe of reeds and pink little stones on the other side, that you may put foot on land, and draw breath, and think what a deep pond you have swum across. But you are the real deep wonder of a creature,—and I sail these paper-boats on you rather impudently. But I always mean to be very grave one day,—when I am in better spirits and can go fuori di me. [9]

And one thing I want to persuade you of, which is, that all you gain by travel is the discovery that you have gained nothing, and have done rightly in trusting to your innate ideas—or not rightly in distrusting them, as the case may be: you get, too, a little .. perhaps a considerable, good, in finding the world’s accepted moulds every where, into which you may run & fix your own fused metal,—but not a grain Troy-weight do you get of new gold, silver or brass. After this, you go boldly on your own resources, and are justified to yourself, that’s all. Three scratches with a pen, even with this pen,—and you have the green little Syrenusæ where I have sate and heard the quails sing. One of these days I shall describe a country I have seen in my soul only, fruits, flowers, birds and all.


Ever yours, dear Miss Barrett–

R Browning.

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St

Postmarks: 3AN3 AP16 1845 B; 4Eg4 AP16 1845 C.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 7.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 45–47.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. A form of the waltz-mazurka devised by the eminent dance teacher Henri Cellarius. The polka, a dance invented sometime during the 1830’s, was introduced to England about 1844. EBB mentions the “cellarius” in Aurora Leigh, I, 424.

3. Unidentified.

4. Eight persons were balloted and successfully elected on 14 April 1845: Sir George Smart, Henry Reeve Esq., James Dickinson Esq., Acton Warburton Esq., Charles Kean Esq., Robert Graham Esq., J.C. Gooden Esq., and John Fraser Esq. (as identified by the Librarian of The Athenæum), but we are unable to determine to which of these RB is referring.

5. An article in The Times for 15 April 1845 which reported on the Maynooth College Bill then being debated in the House. The subject of funding for the Irish Catholic seminary in Maynooth had aroused great controversy and debate, but the bill eventually passed on 21 April 1845.

6. The Child of the Islands was reviewed in The Athenæum for 12 April 1845.

7. Sic, for Wednesday.

8. Cf. Daniel 2:21.

9. “Outside myself.”


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