Correspondence

1925.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 232–233.

[London]

Friday evening– [23 May 1845][1]

I intended to write to you last night & this morning, & could not,—you do not know what pain you give me in speaking so wildly–[2] And if I disobey you my dear friend, in speaking, (I for my part) of your wild speaking, I do it, not to displease you, but to be in my own eyes & before God, a little more worthy, or less unworthy, of a generosity from which I recoil by instinct & at the first glance, yet conclusively,—& because my silence wd be the most disloyal of all means of expression, in reference to it. Listen to me then in this. You have said some intemperate things ..... fancies—which you will not say over again, nor unsay, but forget at once, & for ever, having said at all,—& which (so) will die out between you & me alone, like a misprint between you & the printer. And this you will do for my sake who am your friend,—(& you have none truer)—& this I ask, because it is a condition necessary to our future liberty of intercourse. You remember,—surely you do,—that I am in the most exceptional of positions,—& that, just because of it, I am able to receive you as I did on tuesday,—& that, for me to listen to “unconscious exaggerations”, is as unbecoming to the humilities of my position, as unpropitious (which is of more consequence) to the prosperities of yours– Now, if there shd be one word of answer attempted to this,—or of reference,—I must not .. I will not see you again—& you will justify me later in your heart– So for my sake you will not say it—I think you will not—& spare me the sadness of having to break through an intercourse just as it is promising pleasure to me,—to me who have so many sadnesses & so few pleasures. You will—! & I need not be uneasy—& I shall owe you that tranquillity, as one gift of many– For, that I have much to receive from you in all the free gifts of thinking, teaching master-spirits, .. that, I know!—it is my own praise that I appreciate you, as none can more. Your influence & help in poetry will be full of good & gladness to me—for with many to love me in this house, there is no one to judge me .. now– Your friendship & sympathy will be dear & precious to me all my life, if you indeed leave them with me so long or so little– Your mistakes in me .. which I cannot mistake (.. & which have humbled me by too much honoring ..) I put away gently, & with grateful tears in my eyes,—because all that hail will beat down & spoil crowns, as well as “blossoms.”

If I put off next tuesday to the week after,—I mean your visit, .. shall you care much?– For the relations I named to you, are to be in London next week,—& I am to see one of my aunts[3] whom I love, & have not met since my great affliction—& it will all seem to come over again, & I shall be out of spirits & nerves. On tuesday week you can bring a tomahawk & do the criticism, & I shall try to have my courage ready for it– Oh, you will do me so much good—and Mr Kenyon calls me “docile” sometimes I assure you,—when he wants to flatter me out of being obstinate—and in good earnest, I believe I shall do everything you tell me. The Prometheus is done—but the monodram is where it was—& the novel, not at all.[4] But I think of some half promises half given, about something I read for ‘Saul’—& the Flight of the Duchess——where is she?

You are not displeased with me? no—that wd be hail & lightning together– I do not write as I might, of some words of yours—but you know that I am not a stone, even if silent like one– And if in the unsilence, I have said one word to vex you, pity me for having had to say it—& for the rest, may God bless you far beyond the reach of vexation from my words or my deeds!–

Your friend in grateful regard,

EBB.

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

Postmark: 10FN10 MY24 1845 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 15.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 72–73.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. As EBB indicates, RB’s sixteenth letter, written either on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, caused offence. In the following letter, RB asked to have it returned, and he destroyed it as he explained in a letter of 6 November 1845. Without question it contained a declaration of love.

3. Jane Hedley, sister of EBB’s mother (see letter 1923).

4. See letter 1852.

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