1983. RB to EBB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 2–4.
Friday Morning. [Postmark: 25 July 1845]
You would let me now, I dare say, call myself grateful to you—yet such is my jealousy in these matters,—so do I hate the material when it puts down, (or tries,) the immaterial in the offices of friendship,—that I could almost tell you I was not grateful,—and try if that way I could make you see the substantiality of those other favours you refuse to recognize, and reality of the other gratitude you will not admit– But truth is truth, and you are all generosity, and will draw none but the fair inference, so I thank you as well as I can for this also—this last kindness. And you know its value, too—how if there were another you in the world, who had done all you have done and whom I merely admired for that,—if such an one had sent me such a criticism, so exactly what I want and can use and turn to good,—you know how I would have told you, my you I saw yesterday,—all about it,—and been sure of your sympathy and gladness:—but the two in one!
For the criticism itself, it is all true, except the overrating—all the suggestions are to be adopted, the improvements accepted: I so thoroughly understand your spirit in this, that, just in this beginning, I should really like to have found some point in which I could coöperate with your intention, and help my work by disputing the effect of any alteration proposed, if it ought to be disputed—that would answer your purpose exactly as well as agreeing with you,—so that the benefit to me were apparent; but this time I cannot dispute one point– All is for best.
So much for this “Duchess”—which I shall ever rejoice in—wherever was a bud, even, in that strip of May-bloom, a live musical bee hangs now– I shall let it lie, (my poem) till just before I print it; and then go over it, alter at the places, and do something for the places where I (really) wrote anyhow, almost, to get done– It is an odd fact, yet characteristic of my accomplishings one and all in this kind, that of the poem, the real conception of an evening (two years ago,—fully)—of that, not a line is written,—tho’ perhaps, after all, what I am going to call the accessories in the story are real though indirect reflexes of the original Idea, and so supersede properly enough the necessity of its personal appearance,—so to speak: but, as I conceived the poem, it consisted entirely of the Gipsy’s description of the life the Lady was to lead with her future Gipsy lover—a real life, not an unreal one like that with the Duke—and as I meant to write it, all their wild adventures would have come out and the insignificance of the former vegetation have been deducible only—as the main subject has become now—of course it comes to the same thing, for one would never show half by half like a cut orange–
Will you write to me? caring, though, so much for my best interests as not to write if you can work for yourself, or save yourself fatigue: I think before writing .. or just after writing,—such a sentence,—but reflection only justifies my first feeling,—I would rather go without your letters, without seeing you at all, if that advantaged you—my dear, first and last friend,—my friend! And now—surely I might dare say you may if you please get well thro’ God’s goodness—with persevering patience, surely—and this next winter abroad—which you must get ready for now, every sunny day, will you not? If I venture to weary you again with all this, is there not the cause of causes, and did not the prophet write that “there was a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the E.B.B. led on to the fortune[”] of
Oh, let me tell you in the bitterness of my heart, that it was only 4 o,clock—that clock I enquired about—and that, .. no, I shall never say with any grace what I want to say .. and now dare not .. that you all but owe me an extra quarter of an hour next time: so in the East you give a beggar something for a few days running—then you miss him; and next day he looks indignant when the regular dole falls and murmurs—“And for yesterday”?– Do I stay too long, I want to know,—too long for the voice and head and all but the spirit that may not so soon tire,—knowing the good it does– If you would but tell me–
God bless you– RB
Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St.
Postmark: 3AN3 JY25 1845.
Docket, in EBB’s hand: 34.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 134–136.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. See letter 1978.
2. i.e., on “The Flight of the Duchess.” See Appendix IV, pp. 376–381.
3. Cf. Julius Cæsar, IV, 3, 218–219. In this and subsequent Shakesperean quotations, the line numbers correspond to those used in The Riverside Shakespeare (Boston, 1974).
4. The extra quarter of an hour was recovered. See RB’s docket to letter 1984.