1959.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 282–284.


Monday. [30 June 1845] [1]

I send back the prize poems [2] which have been kept far too long even if I do not make excuses for the keeping—but our sins are not always to be measured by our repentance for them. Then I am well enough this morning to have thought of going out till they told me it was not at all a right day for it .. too windy .. soft & delightful as the air seems to be—particularly after yesterday, when we had some winter back again in an episode. And the roses do not die,—which is quite magnanimous of them considering their ‘reverses’,—& their buds are coming out in most exemplary resignation—like birds singing in a cage. Now that the windows may be open, the flowers take heart to live a little in this room.

And think of my forgetting to tell you on saturday that I had known of a letter being received by somebody from Miss Martineau, who is at Ambleside at this time & so entranced with the lakes & mountains as to be dreaming of taking or making a house among them, to live in for the rest of her life. [3] Mrs Trollope, you may have heard, had something of the same nympholepsy—no, her daughter was ‘settled’ in the neighbourhood—that is the more likely reason for Mrs Trollope! [4] & the spirits of the hills conspired against her the first winter & almost slew her with a fog & drove her away to your Italy where the Oreadocracy [5] has gentler manners. And Miss Martineau is practising mesmerism & miracles on all sides she says, & counts on Archbishop Whately [6] as a new adherent. I even fancy that he has been to see her in the character of a convert. All this from Mr Kenyon.

There’s a strange wild book called the Autobiography of Heinrich Stilling [7]  .. one of those true devout deep[-]hearted Germans who believe everything, &, so, are nearer the truth, I am sure, than the wise who believe nothing,—but rather over-German sometimes, & redolent of saurkraut—& he gives a tradition .. somewhere between mesmerism & mysticcism [sic], .. of a little spirit with gold shoebuckles, who was his familiar spirit & appeared only in the sunshine I think .. mottling it over with its feet, perhaps, as a child might, snow. Take away the shoe-buckles & I believe in the little spirit——dont you? But these English mesmerists make the shoebuckles quite conspicuous & insist on them broadly,—& the Archbishops Whately may be drawn by them (who can tell?) more than by the little spirit itself. How is your head today?– Now really, & nothing extenuating?– I will not ask of poems, till the ‘quite well’ is authentic. May God bless you always! my dear friend!


After all the book must go another day .. I live in chaos do you know? & I am too hurried at this moment .. yes it is here.

Address: Robert Browning Esqre

Postmark: None. Presumably a cover sheet, now missing, enclosed this letter and the “prize poems.”

Docket, in RB’s hand: 28.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 108–109.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Dated by EBB’s reference to RB’s visit on the previous Saturday.

2. See letter 1941.

3. Construction on Harriet Martineau’s Ambleside house, The Knoll, was begun in late 1845 and completed in the spring of 1846 (Autobiography, I, 502ff).

4. EBB refers to Carlton Hill, overlooking Brougham Castle, near Penrith. It was the house Frances Trollope had built in 1842 so she could be near her daughter Cecilia, who had married John Tilley in 1839. Finding both the weather and neighbours disagreeable, she decided in 1843 to go to Florence for at least a year.

5. i.e., a society of mountain inhabitants (see also EBB’s “The Dead Pan,” viii, line 51).

6. Richard Whately (1787–1863), Archbishop of Dublin, was a prolific theological writer. His promotion of social reform causes would have interested Harriet Martineau in him as “a convert.”

7. By Johann Heinrich Jung-Stilling, German physician and friend of Goethe. It first appeared in English in 1835–36; a third English edition was published in 1844.


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