Correspondence

2006.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 39–41.

[London]

Thursday 7. o’clock. [Postmark: 21 August 1845]

I feel at home, this blue early morning, now that I sit down to write (or speak, as I try & fancy) to you, after a whole day with those “other friends”—dear good souls whom I should be so glad to serve, & to whom service must go by way of last will & testament, if a few more hours of “social joy,” “kindly intercourse” &c fall to my portion: my friend the Countess began proceedings (when I first saw her, not yesterday) by asking “if I had got as much money as I expected by any works published of late?”—to which I answered, of course,—“exactly as much”—è grazioso![1] (all the same, if you were to ask her, or the like of her, “how much the stone-work of the Coliseum would fetch, properly burned down to lime?”—she would shudder from head to foot and call you “barbaro” with good Trojan heart.) Now you suppose—(watch my rhetorical figure here)—you suppose I am going to congratulate myself on being so much for the better, en pays de connaîssance,[2] with my “other friend,” E.B.B. number 2,—or 200, why not?– Whereas I mean to “fulmine over Greece,”[3] since thunder frightens you, for all the laurels,[4]—and to have reason for your taking my own part and lot to yourself. I do, will, must, and will, again, wonder at you, and admire you, and go onto the climax. It is a fixed, immoveable thing: so fixed that I can well forego talking about it—but if to talk you once begin, “the King shall enjoy (or receive quietly,) his own again.” <I wear no bright weapon out of that Panoply .. or>[5] Panoplite, as I think you call Nonnus, nor ever, like Leigh Hunt’s “Johnny, ever blythe & bonny, went singing Nonny, nonny”[6] and see, tomorrow, what a vengeance I will take for your “mere suspicion in that kind”! But to the serious matter .. nay, I said it yesterday, I believe. Keep off that Burgess—he is stark staring mad,—mad, do you know? The last time I met him he told me he had recovered I forget how many of the lost books of Thucydides—found them imbedded in Suidas (I think) and had disengaged them from his Greek, without loss of a letter, “by an instinct he, Burgess, had”—(I spell his name wrongly to help the proper hiss at the end) then, once on a time, he found in the “Christus Patiens,”[7] an odd dozen of lines, clearly dropped out of the “Prometheus,” and proving that Æschylus was aware of the invention of gunpowder: he wanted to help Dr Leonhard Schmitz in his “Museum”[8]—and scared him, as Schmitz told me. What business has he, Burges, with English verse—and what on earth or under it, has Miss Thomson to do with him—if she must displease one of two, why is Mr B. not to be thanked and “sent to feed,” as the French say prettily? At all events, do pray see what he has presumed to alter .. you can alter at sufficient warrant, profit by suggestion, I should think! But it is all Miss Thomson’s shame & fault: because she is quite in her propriety, saying to such intermeddlers, gently for the sake of their poor weak heads, “very good, I dare say, very desireable emendations, only the work is not mine, you know, but my friend’s, and you must no more alter it without her leave, than alter this sketch, this illustration, because you think you could mend Ariadnes face or figure,—Fecit Tizianus, scripsit E.B.B.”[9] Dear friend, you will tell Miss Thomson to stop further proceedings, will you not?<…>[10] There! only, do mind what I say!

And now—till tomorrow! It seems an age since I saw you. I want to catch our first post .. (this phrase I ought to get stereotyped—I need it so constantly)[.] The day is fine .. you will profit by it, I trust. “Flush, wag your tail and grow restless & scratch at the door!”

God bless you,—my one friend, without an “other”—bless you ever–

RB

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St

Postmark: 3AN3 AU21 1845 A.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 44.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 164–166.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. “You are most gracious.”

2. “In an understanding way,” or “in a knowledgeable region.”

3. Cf. Paradise Regained (1671), IV, 270.

4. An allusion to Pliny’s statement that “the emperor Tiberius used to put a wreath from this tree [i.e., the laurel] on his head when there was a thunderstorm as a protection against danger from lightning” (Natural History, XV, xl, trans. H. Rackham).

5. The bracketed passage was written above what RB originally wrote and crossed out: “I know nothing about all the heap of marvels in.”

6. Cf. Leigh Hunt, “To J** H**, Four Years Old” (Foliage; or poems original and translated, 1818), lines 1–3.

7. Doubtless RB is referring to the scene from the Bacchae which Burges contributed to The Gentleman’s Magazine of September and December 1832 (pp. 195–199 and 522–524). EBB had written to Boyd about this in letter 932 (see note 2). Christus Patiens is attributed to Gregory Nazianzen. In “Some Account of the Greek Christian Poets” in The Athenæum of 5 March 1842, EBB ascribed authorship to Apollonaris the Younger.

8. i.e., The Classical Museum (1844–49), a quarterly journal of philology and of ancient history and literature which was started and edited by Leonhard Schmitz (1807–90), an historical writer and educator.

9. “Made by Titian, signed by E.B.B.”

10. RB wrote and crossed out: “I could talk on it.”

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