1890.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 169–171.


Thursday morning. [17 April 1845] [1]

If you did but know dear Mr Browning how often I have written .. not this letter I am about to write, but another better letter to you, .. in the midst of my silence, .. you wd not think for a moment that the east wind, with all the harm it does to me, is able to do the great harm of putting out the light of the thought of you to my mind,—for this, indeed, it has no power to do. I had the pen in my hand once to write,—& why it fell out, I cannot tell you. And you see, .. all your writing will not change the wind! .. You wished all manner of good to me one day as the clock struck ten,—yes, & I assure you I was better that day—& I must not forget to tell you so though it is so long since. But therefore, I was logically bound to believe that you had never thought of me since .. unless you thought east winds of me! That was quite clear,—was it not?—or wd have been,—if it had not been for the supernatural conviction, I had above all, of your kindness, which was too large to be taken in the hinge of a syllogism. In fact I have long left off thinking that logic proves anything––it does’nt, you know.

But your Lamia has taught you some subtle ‘viperine’ [2] reasoning & motiving, for the turning down one street instead of another. It was conclusive.

Ah—but you will never persuade me that I am the better, or as well, for the thing that I have not. We look from different points of view, & your’s is the point of attainment. Not that you do not truly say that, when all is done, we must come home to place our engines, & act by our own strength. I do not want material as material,—no one does. But every life requires a full experience, a various experience—& I have a profound conviction that where a poet has been shut from most of the outward aspects of life, he is at a lamentable disadvantage. Can you, speaking for yourself, separate the results in you from the external influences at work around you, that you say so boldly that you get nothing from the world? You do not directly, I know—but you do indirectly & by a rebound. Whatever acts upon you, becomes you .. & whatever you love or hate, whatever charms you or is scorned by you, acts on you & becomes you– Have you read the ‘Improvisatore’? or will you?– The writer seems to feel, just as I do, the good of the outward life,—& he is a poet in his soul. It is a book full of beauty & had a great charm to me.

As to the Polkas & Cellariuses, .. I do not covet them of course .. but what a strange world you seem to have, to me at a distance—what a strange husk of a world! How it looks to me like mandarin-life or something as remote; nay, not mandarin-life but mandarin manners, .. life, even the outer life, meaning something deeper, in my account of it– As to dear Mr Kenyon I do not make the mistake of fancying that many can look like him or talk like him or be like him. I know enough to know otherwise. When he spoke of me he shd have said that I was better notwithstanding the east wind. It is really true—I am getting slowly up from the prostration of the severe cold, & feel stronger in myself.

But Mrs Norton discourses excellent music [3] ––& for the rest, there are fruits in the world so over-ripe, that they will fall, .. without being gathered. Let Maynooth witness to it!—if you think it worth while!

Ever yours

Elizabeth B Barrett.

And is it nothing to be “justified to one’s self in one’s resources”? “That’s all,” indeed!. For the ‘soul’s country’ we will have it also—& I know how well the birds sing in it. How glad I was (by the way) to see your letter!

Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.

Postmark: 1AN1 AP18 1845 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 8.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 47–49.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. i.e., RB’s “viperine she-friend” mentioned in letter 1888. EBB used this as the name of the villainess of Aurora Leigh, VII, 147.

3. See letter 1888, note 6.


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