1988.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 9–11.


Thursday. [31 July 1845][1]

Let me write one word .. not to have it off my mind .. because it is by no means heavily on it; but lest I shd forget to write it at all by not writing it at once. What could you mean, … I have been thinking since you went away,— .. by applying such a grave expression as having a thing ‘off your mind’ to that foolish subject of the stupid book, (mine)[2] & by making it worth your while to account logically for your wish about my not mentioning it to Mr Kenyon?. You could not fancy for one moment that I was vexed in the matter of the book? or in the other matter of your wish? .. Now just hear me. I explained to you that I had been silent to Mr Kenyon, first because the fact was so,—& next & a little, because I wanted to show how I anticipated your wish by a wish of my own .. though from a different motive. Your motive I really did take to be (never suspecting my dear kind cousin of treason) to be a natural reluctancy of being convicted (forgive me!) of such an arch-womanly curiosity. For my own motive .. motives .. they are more than one .. you must trust me,—& refrain as far as you can from accusing me of an over-love of Eleusinian mysteries when I ask you to say just as little about your visits here & of me as you find possible, .. even to Mr Kenyon— .. as to every other person whatever. As you know … & yet more than you know, … I am in a peculiar position—& it does not follow that you should be ashamed of my friendship or that I should not be proud of yours, if we avoid making it a subject of conversation in high places, or low places. There! that is my request to you—or commentary on what you put ‘off your mind’ yesterday—probably quite unnecessary as either request or commentary,—yet said on the chance of its not being so, because you seemed to mistake my remark about Mr Kenyon.

And your head? how is it? And do consider if it would not be wise & right on that account of your health, to go with Mr Chorley?[3] You can neither work nor enjoy while you are subject to attacks of the kind—& besides, & without reference to your present suffering & inconvenience, you ought not to let them master you & gather strength from time & habit,—I am sure you ought not. Worse last week than ever, you see!– And no prospect, perhaps, of bringing out your bells this autumn, without paying a cost too heavy!– Therefore .. the therefore is quite plain & obvious!–

Friday/ Just as it is how anxious Flush & I are, to be delivered from you, .. by these sixteen heads of the discourse of one of us, written before your letter came. Ah, but I am serious .. & you will consider .. will you not?—what is best to be done, & do it. You could write to me, you know, from the end of the world,—if you could take the thought of me so far–

And for me, .. no—& yet yes, .. I will say this much,—that I am not inclined to do you injustice, but justice, when you come here .. the justice of wondering to myself how you can possibly, possibly, care to come– Which is true, enough to be unanswerable, if you please .. or I should not say it. [‘]‘As I began, so I shall end”–[4] Did you, as I hope you did, thank your sister for Flush & for me? When you were gone, he graciously signified his intention of eating the cakes—brought the bag to me & emptied it without a drawback, from my hand, cake after cake. And I forgot the basket once again–

And talking of Italy & the cardinals, & thinking of some cardinal points you are ignorant of, did you ever hear that I was one of


‘those schismatiques

of Amsterdam’[5]

whom your Dr Donne wd have put into the dykes?—unless he meant the Baptists, instead of the Independents, the holders of the Independent church principle. No—not “schismatical,” I hope—hating as I do from the roots of my heart, all that rending of the garment of Christ, which Christians are so apt to make the daily week-day work of this Christianity so called—& caring very little for most dogmas & doxies in themselves—too little, as people say to me sometimes, (when they send me ‘new testaments’ to learn from, with very kind intentions—) & believing that there is only one church in heaven & earth, with one divine High Priest to it, .. let exclusive religionists build what walls they please & bring out what chrisms– But I used to go with my father always, when I was able, to the nearest dissenting chapel of the congregationalists—from liking the simplicity of that praying & speaking without books—& a little too from disliking the theory of state churches. There is a narrowness among the dissenters which is wonderful,—an arid, grey Puritanism in the clefts of their souls: but it seems to me clear that they know what the “liberty of Christ”[6] means, far better than those do who call themselves ‘churchmen’,—& stand altogether as a body, on higher ground. And so, you see, when I talked of the sixteen points of my discourse, it was the for[e]shadowing of a coming event, & you have had it at last in the whole length & breadth of it. But it is not my fault if the wind began to blow so that I could not go out—as I intended—as I shall do tomorrow, .. & that you have received my dulness in a full libation of it, in consequence. My sisters said of the roses you blasphemed, yesterday, that they “never saw such flowers anywhere—anywhere here in London”—& therefore if I had thought so myself before, it was not so wrong of me. I put your roses, you see, against my letter, to make it seem less dull——& yet I do not forget what you say about caring to hear from me—I mean, I do not affect to forget it.

May God bless you, far longer than I can say so–


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

Postmarks: 1845 AU2 8Mg8 B; 10FN10 AU2 1845.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 36.; + Wednesday Aug. 6 / 3–4½. [12].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 139–141.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. i.e., An Essay on Mind.

3. Presumably Chorley invited RB to travel to Italy with him.

4. Cf. Julius Cæsar, V, 3, 24.

5. Cf. Donne, “The Will” (1633), lines 20–21.

6. Cf. Galatians 2:4.


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