Correspondence

2000.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 31–32.

[London]

Saturday– [Postmark: 16 August 1845]

But what likeness is there between opposites; & what has “M. l’Italien” to do with the said “elderly German”?—See how little!—— For to bring your case into point, somebody should have been playing on a Jew’s harp for the whole of the orchestra,—& the elderly German should have quoted something about “Harp of Judah” to the Venetian behind him! And there, you wd have proved your analogy!– Because you see my dear friend, it was not the expression, but the thing expressed, I cried out against—the exaggeration in your mind. I am sorry when I write what you do not like—but I have instincts & impulses too strong for me when you say things which put me into such a miserably false position in respect to you—as for instance, when in this very last letter (oh, I must tell you!) you talk of my “correcting your verses”!– My correcting your verses!!!– Now is that a thing for you to say!?– And do you really imagine that if I kept that happily imagined phrase in my thoughts, I should be able to tell you one word of my impressions from your poetry, ever, ever again?– Do you not see at once what a disqualifying, & paralysing phrase it must be, of simple necessity?– So it is I who have reason to complain, .. it appears to me, .. & by no means you—& in your ‘second consideration,’ you become aware of it I do not at all doubt–

As to ‘Consuelo’ I agree with nearly all that you say of it,—though George Sand, we are to remember, is greater than Consuelo & not to be depreciated according to the defects of that book, nor classified as ‘femme qui parle’, .. she who is man & woman together, .. judging her by the standard of even that book in the nobler portions of it. For the inconsequency of much in the book, I admit it of course—& you will admit that it is the rarest of phenomena when men .. men of logic .. follow their own opinions into their obvious results—nobody, you know, ever thinks of doing such a thing: to pursue one’s own inferences is to rush in where angels .. perhaps .. do not fear to tread,[1] .. but where there will not be much other company– So the want of practical logic shall be a human fault rather than a womanly one .. if you please––: & you must please also to remember that Consuelo is only “half the orange,”[2] —& that when you complain of its not being a whole one, you overlook that hand which is holding to you the ‘Comtesse de Rudolstadt’ in three volumes.! Not that I, who have read the whole, profess a full satisfaction about Albert & the rest—& Consuelo is made to be happy by a mere clap-trap at last: & Mdme Dudevant has her specialities, .. in which, other women, I fancy, have neither part nor lot, .. even here!—— Altogether, the book is a sort of rambling Odyssey, a female Odyssey, if you like, but full of beauty & nobleness, let the faults be where they may. And then, I like those long, long books, one can live away into .. leaving the world & above all one’self, quite at the end of the avenue of palms![3]—quite out of sight & out of hearing!– Oh, I have felt something like that so often—so often!—& you never felt it, & never will, I hope——

But if Bulwer had written nothing but the Ernest Maltravers books, you wd think perhaps more highly of him. Do you not think it possible now? It is his most impotent struggling into poetry, which sets about proving a negative of genius on him—that, which the Athenæum praises as “respectable attainment in various walks of literature”!![4] like the Athenæum,—is’nt it? & worthy praise, to be administered by professed judges of art? What is to be expected of the public, when the teachers of the public teach so?—–

When you come on tuesday, do not forget the m∙s. if any is done—only dont let it be done so as to tire & hurt you—mind! And goodbye until tuesday

from EBB.

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

Postmark: 8NT8 AU16 1845 E.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 41.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 159–160.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Cf. Pope, An Essay on Criticism (1711), line 625.

2. EBB is quoting RB from the penultimate paragraph in letter 1983.

3. See letter 1650 for EBB’s remarks to Miss Mitford regarding Consuelo and La Comtesse de Rudolstadt.

4. We have been unable to trace the source of this quotation in The Athenæum for 1844 and 1845.

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