Correspondence

1920.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 224–226.

[London]

Saturday. [Postmark: 17 May 1845]

I shall be ready on tuesday I hope, but I hate & protest against your horrible “entomology.” Beginning to explain, wd thrust me lower & lower down the circles of some sort of an “Inferno”; only with my dying breath I wd maintain that I never could, consciously or unconsciously, mean to distrust you,—or, the least in the world, to Simpsonize you.[1] What I said, … it was you that put it into my head to say it—for certainly, in my usual disinclination to receive visitors, such a feeling does not enter. There, now! There, I am a whole ‘giro’[2] lower! Now, you will say perhaps that I distrust you, & nobody else!. So it is best to be silent, & bear all the “cutting things” with resignation!—that is certain.

Still I must really say, under this dreadful incubus-charge of Simpsonism, .. that you, who know everything, or at least make awful guesses at everything in one’s feelings & motives, & profess to be able to pin them down in a book of classified inscriptions, .. should have been able to understand better, or misunderstand less, in a matter like this—. Yes! I think so. I think you shd have made out the case in some such way as it was in nature——viz. that you had lashed yourself up to an exorbitant wishing to see me, .. (you who could see, any day, people—who are a hundredfold & to all social purposes, my superiors!—) because I was unfortunate enough to be shut up in a room & silly enough to make a fuss about opening the door,—& that I grew suddenly abashed by the consciousness of this. How different from a distrust of you!—how different!–

Ah—if, after this day, you ever see any interpretable sign of distrustfulness in me, you may be “cutting” again, & I will not cry out. In the meantime here is a fact for your ‘entomology.’ I have not so much distrust, as will make a doubt, as will make a curiosity for next tuesday. Not the simplest modification of curiosity enters into the state of feeling with which I wait for tuesday—: and if you are angry to hear me say so, .. why, you are more unjust than ever.

(Let it be three instead of two—if the hour be as convenient to yourself[.])[3]

Before you come, try to forgive me for my “infinite kindness” in the manner of consenting to see you. Is it ‘the cruellest cut of all’[4] when you talk of infinite kindness, yet attribute such villainy to me? Well!—but we are friends till tuesday—& after, perhaps!

Ever yours

EBB.

If on tuesday you should be not well, pray do not come– Now, that is my request to your kindness.

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

Postmark: PD 8NT MY17 1845 A.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 13.; + Tuesday, May 20, 1845. / 3–4½. p.m. [1].[5]

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 68–70.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. See previous letter.

2. “Circle,” i.e., one of the levels in Dante’s Inferno.

3. EBB has squeezed this in between the paragraphs above and below.

4. Cf. Julius Cæsar, III, 2, 184.

5. After calling on EBB for the first time, RB began the practice of making an additional docket on the envelope of EBB’s most recent letter, recording the date and duration of the meeting. As a result, we know that RB called on EBB a total of 91 times prior to their marriage. Commencing with the 37th meeting, RB adds the number of the meeting to his docket. Until then we provide the meeting number in square brackets, without editorial comment, as an integral part of the docket. A few discrepancies occur and these are noted editorially. See the chronology for a summary of the poets’ meetings.

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