1945.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 266–267.


Monday. [16 June 1845] [1]

Yes, I quite believe as you do that what is called the ‘creative process’ in works of Art, is just inspiration & no less—which made somebody say to me not long since,—“And so, you think that Shakespeare’s Othello was of the effluence of the Holy Ghost”?—rather a startling deduction, .. only not quite as final as might appear to somebodies perhaps. At least it does not prevent my going on to agree with the saying of Spiridion .. do you remember? .. “Tout ce que l’homme appelle inspiration, je l’appelle aussi revelation,” [2]  .. if there is not something too selfevident in it after all—my sole objection! And is it not true that your inability to analyze the mental process in question, is one of the proofs of the fact of inspiration?—as the gods were known of old by not being seen to move their feet, .. coming & going in an equal sweep of radiance.– And still more wonderful than the first transient great light you speak of .. & far beyond any work of reflection, except in the pure analytical sense in which you use the word, .. appears that gathering of light on light upon particular points, as you go (in composition) step by step, till you get intimately near to things, & see them in a fulness & clearness, & an intense trust in the truth of them which you have not in any sunshine of noon (called real!) but which you have then .. & struggle to communicate—: an ineffectual struggle with most writers (oh, how ineffectual!) & when effectual, issuing in the “Pippa passes”s, & other master pieces of the world.

You will tell me what you mean exactly by being jealous of your own music? You said once that you had had a false notion of music, or had practised it according to the false notions of other people: but did you mean besides that you ever had meant to despise music altogether—because that, it is hard to set about trying to believe of you indeed. And then, you can praise my verses for music?—— Why, are you aware that people blame me constantly for wanting harmony––from Mr Boyd who moans aloud over the indisposition of my “trochees” .. to no less a person than Mr Tennyson, who said to somebody who repeated it, that, in the want of harmony lay the chief defect of the poems .. “although it might verily be retrieved, as he cd fancy that I had a[n] ear by nature.” [3] Well—but I am pleased that you shd praise me—right or wrong—I mean, whether I am right or wrong in being pleased!—and I say so to you openly—although my belief is that you are under a vow to our Lady of Loretto [4] to make giddy with all manner of high vanities, some-head, .. not too strong for such things, but too low for them, .. before you see again the embroidery on her divine petticoat. Only there’s a flattery so far beyond praise .. even your praise—as where you talk of your verses being liked &c &c, & of your being happy to bring them here, .. that it is scarcely a lawful weapon,—& see if the Madonna may not signify so much to you!—— Seriously, .. you will not hurry too uncomfortably, or uncomfortably at all, about the transcribing? Another day, you know, will do as well—& patience is possible to me, if not “native to the soil.”

Also I am behaving very well in going out into the noise,—not quite out of doors yet, on account of the heat—& I am better as you say, without any doubt at all, & stronger—only my looks are a little deceitful,—& people are apt to be heated & flushed in this weather, one hour, to look a little more ghastly an hour or two after. Not that it is not true of me that I am better, mind!– Because I am.

The “flower in the letter” was from one of my sisters—from Arabel—(though many of those poems are ideal .. will you understand?) & your rose came quite alive & fresh, though in act of dropping its beautiful leaves because of having to come to me instead of living on in your garden, as it intended. But I thank you—for this, & all, my dear friend.


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

Postmark: KR 17JU17 1845.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 22.; + Wedn. Ju. 18. / 3–4½. [5].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 96–98.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. This letter is postmarked 17 June 1845, a Tuesday.

2. “All that mankind calls inspiration, I call it also revelation.” George Sand’s Spiridion was published in 1838.

3. See letter 1743.

4. Loreto, near the Adriatic city of Ancona, is the site of the Sancta Casa, reputedly the house in which Mary, Joseph, and Jesus lived in Nazareth, which was supposed to have been transported by angels from the Holy Land in order to save it from destruction by the infidels. The image of the Virgin in the church is an elaborate carving made of cedar of Lebanon and is richly adorned with jewels.


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