1982.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 1–2.


[Postmark: 25 July 1845]

Are you any better today? & will you say just the truth of it? & not attempt to do any of the writing which does harm—nor of the reading even, which may do harm—and something does harm to you, you see—& you told me not long ago that you knew how to avoid the harm .. now did you not? & what could it have been last week which you did not avoid & which made you so unwell?– Beseech you not to think that I am going to aid & abet in this wronging of yourself, for I will not indeed—& I am only sorry to have given you my querulous queries [1] yesterday .. & to have omitted to say in relation to them, too, how they were to be accepted in any case as just passing thoughts of mine for your passing thoughts, .. some, right, it may be .. some wrong, it must be .. & none, insisted on even by the thinker!—just, impressions, & by no means pretending to be judgments—now will you understand?– Also, I intended (as a proof of my fallacy) to strike out one or two of my doubts before I gave the paper to you—so whichever strikes you as the most foolish of them, of course must be what I meant to strike out—(there’s ingenuity for you!——) The poem did, for the rest, as will be suggested to you, give me the very greatest pleasure, & astonish me in two ways .. by the versification, mechanically considered,—& by the successful evolution of pure beauty from all that roughness & rudeness of the son of the boar-pinner—successfully evolved, without softening one hoarse accent of his voice. But there is to be a pause now—you will not write any more—no, nor come here on wednesday .. if coming into the roar of this London should make the pain worse, as I cannot help thinking it must—& you were not well yesterday morning, you admitted. You will take care? And if there shd be a wisdom in going away …!

Was it very wrong of me, doing what I told you of yesterday? [2] Very imprudent, I am afraid—but I never knew how to be prudent—& then, there is not a sharing of responsibility in any sort of imaginable measure,—but a mere giving away of so many thoughts, apart from the thinker, .. or of words, apart from the speaker, .. just as I might give away a pocket-handkerchief to be newly marked & mine no longer. I did not do—& wd not have done, .. one of those papers singly. It wd have been unbecoming of me in every way. It was simply a writing of notes .. of slips of paper .. now on one subject, & now on another .. which were thrown into the great cauldron & boiled up with other matter,—& re-translated from my idiom where there seemed a need for it. And I am not much afraid of being ever guessed at .. except by those Œdipuses who astounded me once for a moment & were after all, I hope, baffled by the Sphinx! .. or ever betrayed,—because besides the black Stygian oaths & indubitable honour of the editor, he has some interest, even as I have the greatest, in being silent & secret. [3] And nothing is mine .. if something is of me .. or from me, rather. Yet it was wrong & foolish, I see plainly—wrong in all but the motives. How dreadful to write against time, & with a side ways running conscience! And then the literature of the day was wider than his knowledge, all round! And the booksellers were barking distraction on every side!– I had some of the mottos to find too!– But the paper relating to you I never was consulted about—or in one particular way it wd have been better,—& as easily it might have been. May God bless you, my dear friend,


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

Postmark: 8NT8 JY25 1845 E.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 34.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 132–134.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. EBB refers to the critical notes she had written on “The Flight of the Duchess.” For the text of these and subsequent notes by EBB on RB’s poems, see Appendix IV.

2. i.e., her participation in Horne’s A New Spirit of the Age.

3. See letter 1598 in which EBB responds to Thomas Westwood’s conjecture that she had collaborated with Horne on A New Spirit.


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