1914. RB to EBB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 213–215.
Tuesday morning. [Postmark: 13 May 1845]
Did I thank you with any effect in the lines I sent yesterday, dear Miss Barrett? I know I felt most thankful, and, of course, began reasoning myself into the impropriety of allowing a “more” or a “most” in feelings of that sort towards you. I am thankful for you, all about you—as, do you not know?
Thank you, from my soul.
Now, let me never pass occasion of speaking well of Horne, who deserves your opinion of him,—it is my own, too. He has unmistakeable genius, and is a fine, honest, enthusiastic chivalrous fellow—it is the fashion to affect to sneer at him, of late, I think—the people he has praised fancying that they “pose” themselves sculpturesquely in playing the Greatly Indifferent, and the other kind shaking each other’s hands in hysterical congratulation at having escaped such a dishonour: I feel grateful to him, I know, for his generous criticism, and glad & proud of in any way approaching such a man’s standard of poetical height. And he might be a disappointed man, too—for the players trifled with and teazed out his very earnest nature, which has a strange aspiration for the horrible tin-and-lacquer “crown” they give one from their clouds (of smooth-shaven deal done over blue)—and he don’t give up the bad business yet, but thinks a “small” theatre would somehow not be a theatre, and an actor not quite an actor, .. I forget in what way, but the upshot is, he bates not a jot of hope in that rouged wigged, padded, empty headed, heartless tribe of grimacers that came and canted me; not I, them,—a thing he cannot understand—so, I am not the one he would have picked out to praise, had he not been loyal. I know he admires your poetry properly. God help him, and send some great artist from the country, (who can read & write beside comprehending Shakspeare, and who “exasperates his H’s,” when the feat is to [be] done)—to undertaker [sic] the part of Cosmo, or Gregory, or what shall most soothe his spirit! The subject of your play is tempting indeed—& reminds one of that wild Drama of Calderon’s which frightened Shelley just before his death—also, of Fuseli’s theory with reference to his own Picture of Macbeth in the witches’ cave .. wherein the apparition of the armed head from the cauldron is Macbeth’s own.
“If you ask me, I must ask myself”—that is, when I am to see you. I will never ask you! You do not know what I shall estimate that permission at,—nor do I, quite—but you do—do not you? know so much of me as to make my “asking” worse than a form. I do not “ask” you to write to me—not directly ask, at least.
I will tell you—I ask you not to see me so long as you are unwell, <or mistrustful of>
No, no, that is being too grand! Do see me when you can, and let me not be only writing myself
A kind, so kind, note from Mr Kenyon came. We, I & my sister, are to go in June instead .. I shall go nowhere till then; I am nearly well—all save one little wheel in my head that keeps on its
—That you are better I am most thankful.
“Next letter” to say how you must help me with all my new Romances and Lyrics, and Lays & Plays, and read them and heed them and end them and mend them!
Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St
Postmark: 8NT8 MY13 1845 B.
Docket, in EBB’s hand: 13 [altered from “14”].
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 62–64.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. A reference to the negative reception of Horne’s A New Spirit.
2. We have been unable to locate the source of this quotation. As previously noted (letter 1619, note 5), Horne’s plays were never acted in his lifetime.
3. i.e., El embozado, ó el encapotado by Calderón de le Barca, which Shelley had been reading shortly before his fateful voyage to Leghorn. The story had such an effect on Shelley that he had a nightmare. He said he saw a vision, in which a ghost revealed itself as an illusion of Shelley himself, as happens to the protaganist in Calderón’s story. The incident is recorded in Medwin’s Memoir of Shelley, as published in The Athenæum for 18 August 1832 (no. 251, p. 536).
4. See The Life and Writings of Henry Fuseli (3 vols., 1830), edited by John Knowles, I, 189–190 (see also Reconstruction, A1004).
5. RB struck through this phrase.