1976.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 312–313.


[?18] [July 1845] [1]

I shall just say, at the beginning of a note as at the end, I am yours ever, and not till summer ends & my nails fall out, and my breath breaks the bubbles,—ought you to write thus having restricted me as you once did, and do still? You tie me, like a Shrove-Tuesday fowl to a stake and then pick the thickest cudgel out of your lot, and at my head it goes– I wonder whether you remembered having predicted exactly the same horror once before. “I was to see you—and you were to understand”– Do you? do you understand, my own friend—with that superiority in years, too! For I confess to that—you need not throw that in my teeth:—as soon as I read your “Essay on Mind” (which of course I managed to do about 12 hours after Mr K’s positive refusal to keep his promise, and give me the book) [2] from preface to the Vision of Fame at the end, and reflected on my own doings about that time, 1826, I did indeed see, and wonder at, your advance over me in years—what then? I have got nearer you considerably—(if only nearer—) since then,—and prove it by the remarks I make at favorable times—such as this, for instance, which occurs in a poem you are to see—written some time ago—which advises nobody who thinks nobly of the Soul, to give, if he or she can help, such a good argument to the materialist as the owning that any great choice of that Soul, which it is born to make and which—(in its determining, as it must, the whole future course and impulses of that soul)—which must endure for ever, [(]even tho’ the object that induced the choice should disappear)—owning, I say, that such a choice may be scientifically determined and produced, at any operator’s pleasure, by a definite number of ingredients, so much youth, so much beauty, so much talent &c &c with the same certainty and precision that another kind of operator will construct you an artificial volcano with so much steel filings and flower of sulphur and what not: there is more in the soul than rises to the surface and meets the eye; whatever does that, is for this world’s immediate uses; and were this world all, all in us would be producible and available for use, as it is with the body now—but with the soul, what is to be developed afterward is the main thing, and instinctively asserts its rights—so that when you hate (or love) you shall not be so able to explain [“]why.” (“You” is the ordinary creature enough of my poem—he might not be so able.)

There, I will write no more. You will never drop me off the golden hooks, I dare believe—and the rest is with God—whose finger I see every minute of my life. Alexandria! Well, and may I not as easily ask leave to come “tomorrow at the Muezzin” as next Wednesday at 3?

God bless you—do not be otherwise than kind to this letter which it costs me pains, great pains to avoid writing better, as truthfuller—this you get is not the first begun. Come, you shall not have the heart to blame me; for, see, I will send all my sins of commission with Hood—blame them, tell me about them, and meantime let me be, dear friend,

yours RB.

Address: Miss Barrett. 50 Wimpole St

Postmark: None. Presumably sent with a parcel containing copies of RB’s poems which had appeared in Hood’s Magazine. It is unclear whether they were in manuscript or printed form.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 32.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 128–130.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. This letter is a reply to no. 1795, and was presumably enclosed with copies of poems which had appeared in Hood’s Magazine sent on Friday the 18th or the day following.

2. RB has interpolated this parenthetical passage between the lines and in the margin.


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