1944. RB to EBB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 264–265.
[Postmark: 14 June 1845]
When I ask my wise self what I really do remember of that Prize-poem—the answer is—both of Chapman’s lines a-top, quite worth any prize for their quoter—then, the good epithet of “green Europe” contrasting with Africa—then, deep in the piece, a picture of a vestal in a vault, where I see a dipping & winking lamp plainest, and last of all the ominous “all was dark” that dismisses you: I read the poem many years ago, and never since—tho’ I have an impression that the versification is good. Yet from your commentary I see I must have said a good deal more in its praise than that. But have you not discovered by this time that I go on talking with my thoughts away?
I know, I have always been jealous of my own musical faculty (I can write music.)– Now that I see the uselessness of such jealously [sic], and am for loosing & letting it go, it may be cramped possibly. Your music is more various & exquisite than any modern writer’s to my ear. One should study the mechanical part of the art, as nearly all that there is to be studied—for the more one sits and thinks over the creative process, the more it confirms itself as “inspiration” nothing more nor less– Or, at worst, you write down old inspirations, what you remember of them—but with that it begins: “Reflection” is exactly what it names itself—a re-presentation, in scattered rays from every angle of incidence, of what first of all became present in a great light, a whole one. So tell me how these lights are born, if you can! But I can tell anybody how to make melodious verses—let him do it therefore—it should be exacted of all writers.
You do not understand what a new feeling it is for me to have someone who is to like my verses or I shall not ever like them after! So far differently was I circumstanced of old, that I used rather to go about for a subject of offence to people,—writing ugly things in order to warn the ungenial & timorous off my grounds at once. I shall never do so again, at least! As it is, I will bring all I dare, in as great quantities as I can—if not next time, after then—certainly. I must make an end, print this Autumn my last four “Bells,” Lyrics, Romances, The Tragedy & Luria, and then go on with a whole heart to my own Poem .. indeed, I have just resolved not to begin any new song, even, till this grand clearance is made. I will get the tragedy transcribed to bring–
“To bring!” Next wednesday—if you knew how happy you make me! may I not say that, my dear friend, when I feel it from my soul?
I thank God that you are better: do pray make fresh endeavours to profit by this partial respite of the weather! All about you must urge that: but even from my distance some effect might come of such wishes. But you are better .. look so & speak so! God bless you!
Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole Street.
Postmark: 8NT8 JU14 1845 A.
Dockets, in EBB’s hand: 22.; June 14 1845.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 94–96.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. See letter 1941, note 2.
2. Tennyson, “Timbuctoo,” line 3. Although attributed to “Chapman” by Tennyson, the lines in the epigraph to “Timbuctoo” have never been identified in George Chapman’s works. See The Poems of Tennyson (1969) ed. Christopher Ricks, p. 171n.
3. See letter 1837 in which RB says: “I never have begun, even, what I hope I was born to begin and end, —‘R.B. a poem’.”
4. The reference is to “A Flower in a Letter” in EBB’s Poems (1844).
5. “Here it is.” The rose remained with the letter until it was removed by Fannie Browning in 1912. It is now in the Armstrong Browning Library (see Reconstruction, H565).