1978. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 315–316.
Monday– [Postmark: 21 July 1845]
But I never did strike you or touch you—& you are not in earnest in the complaint you make–––& this is nearly all I am going to say today. What I said before was wrung from me by words on your part, which you know far too well how to speak so as to make them go deepest, & which sometimes it becomes impossible or overhard to bear without deprecation:——as when, for instance, you talk of being “grateful” to me!!– Well! I will try that there shall be no more of it—no more provocation of generosities—& so, (this once) as you express it, I ‘will not have the heart to blame’ you.—
—except for reading my books against my will, which was very wrong indeed. Mr Kenyon asked me, I remember, (he had a mania of sending my copybook literature round the world to this person & that person,—& I was roused at last into binding him by a vow to do so no more) I remember he asked me .. “Is Mr Browning to be excepted,”—to which I answered that nobody was to be excepted—& thus he was quite right in resisting to the death .. or to dinnertime .. just as you were quite wrong after dinner– Now, could a woman have been more curious? Could the very author of the book have done worse? But I leave my sins & yours gladly, to get into the Hood poems which have delighted me so—& first to the St Praxede which is of course the finest & most powerful .. & indeed full of the power of life .. & of death. It has impressed me very much. Then the ‘angel & child,’ with all its beauty & significance!—and the ‘Garden Fancies’ .. some of the stanzas about the name of the flower, with such exquisite music in them, & grace of every kind—& with that beautiful & musical use of the word ‘meandering,’ which I never remember having seen used in relation to sound before. It does to mate with your ‘simmering quiet’ in Sordello, which brings the summer air into the room as sure as you read it– Then I like your burial of the pedant so much!—you have quite the damp smell of funguses & the sense of creeping things through & through it. And the Laboratory is hideous as you meant to make it:—only I object a little to your tendency .. which is almost a habit .. & is very observable in this poem I think, .. of making lines difficult for the reader to read .. see the opening lines of this poem. Not that music is required everywhere, nor in them certainly, but that the uncertainty of rhythm throws the reader’s mind off the rail .. & interrupts his progress with you & your influence with him. Where we have not direct pleasure from rhythm, & where no peculiar impression is to be produced by the changes in it, we shd be encouraged by the poet to forget it altogether,—should we not? I am quite wrong perhaps—but you see how I do not conceal my wrongnesses where they mix themselves up with my sincere impressions. And how cd it be that no one within my hearing ever spoke of these poems? Because it is true that I never saw one of them—never!—except the Tokay, which is inferior to all,—& that I was quite unaware of your having printed so much with Hood—or at all, except this Tokay, & this Duchess! The world is very deaf & dumb, I think—but in the end, we need not be afraid of its not learning its lesson.
Could you come—for I am going out in the carriage, & will not stay to write of your poems even, any more today—could you come on thursday or friday (the day left to your choice) instead of on wednesday? If I could help it I wd not say so—it is not a caprice. And I leave it to you, whether thursday or friday– And Alexandria seems discredited just now for Malta—& ‘anything but Madeira,’ I go on saying to myself. These Hood poems are all to be in the next Bell of course—of necessity?
May God bless you my dear friend—my ever dear friend!——
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: PD 8NT JY21 1845 B.
Dockets, in RB’s hand: 33.; + Thursday 24 July. / 3–4¼. p.m. .
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 130–131.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. An unusual break in the text occurs here.
2. RB’s “Garden Fancies: I, The Flower’s Name; II, Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis” appeared in Hood’s Magazine, July 1844, pp. 45–48; “The Tomb at St. Praxed’s (Rome, 15___.),” March 1845, pp. 237–239; “The Boy and the Angel,” August 1844, pp. 140–142; and “The Laboratory (Ancien Régime)” and “Claret and Tokay,” June 1844, pp, 513–514, and p. 525, respectively. These poems all subsequently appeared in Bells and Pomegranates, No. VII, sub-titled Dramatic Romances and Lyrics, published by Edward Moxon in November 1845.
3. Sordello, I, 910.