1947.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 268–269.


Thursday evening. [19 June 1845] [1]

If on Greek literature or anything else it is your pleasure to cultivate a reputation for ignorance, I will respect your desire—& indeed the point of the deficiency in question being far above my sight I am not qualified either to deny or assert the existence of it,—so you are free to have it all your own way.

About the “flattery” however, there is a difference,—& I must deny a little having ever used such a word—: as far as I can recollect, & I have been trying to recollect, .. as that word of flattery. Perhaps I said something about your having vowed to make me vain by writing this or that of my liking your verses & so on—& perhaps I said it too lightly .. which happened because when one does’nt know whether to laugh or to cry, it is far best, as a general rule, to laugh– But the serious truth is that it was all nonsense together what I wrote, or that, instead of talking of your making me vain, I shd have talked (if it had been done sincerely) of your humbling me—inasmuch as nothing does humble anybody so much as being lifted up too high. You know what vaulting Ambition did once for himself: [2] —and when it is done for him by another, his fall is still heavier. And one moral of all this general philosophy is, that if when your poems come, you persist in giving too much importance to what I may have courage to say of this or of that in them, you will make me a dumb critic & I shall have no help for my dumbness– So I tell you beforehand—nothing extenuating nor exaggerating nor putting down in malice! [3] I know so much of myself as to be sure of it. Even as it is, the “insolence” which people blame me for & praise me for, .. the ‘recklessness’ which my friends talk of with mitigating countenances .. seems gradually going & going—& really it would not be very strange (without that) if I who was born a hero worshipper & have so continued, & who always recognized your genius, should find it impossible to bring out critical doxies on the workings of it. Well– I shall do what I can—as far as impressions go, you understand—& you must promise not to attach too much importance to anything said—. So that is a covenant, my dear friend!–

And I am really gaining strength—& I will not complain of the weather. As long as the thermometer keeps above sixty, I am content for one; & the roses are not quite dead yet, which they wd have been in the heat. And last & not least .. may I ask if you were told that the pain in the head was not important (or was) in the causes .. & was likely to be well soon? or was not? I am at the end.


<Upon second or third thoughts, is’nt it true that you are a little suspicious of me? .. suspicious at least of suspiciousness?> [4]

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

Postmark: 5Ev5 JU20 1845 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 23.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 98–100.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Cf. Macbeth, I, 7, 27–28.

3. Cf. Othello, V, 2, 342–343.

4. EBB has written her postscript at the top of the first page.


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