Correspondence

2010.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 48–49.

[London]

Wednesday morning. [Postmark: 27 August 1845]

But your Saul is unobjectionable as far as I can see, my dear friend. He was tormented by an evil spirit—but how, we are not told .. & the consolation is not obliged to be definite, .. is it? A singer was sent for as a singer—& all that you are called upon to be true to, are the general characteristics of David the chosen, standing between his sheep & his dawning hereafter, between innocense & holiness, & with what you speak of as ‘the gracious gold locks’[1] besides the chrism of the prophet, on his own head—and surely you have been happy in the tone & spirit of these lyrics .. broken as you have left them. Where is the wrong in all this? For the right & beauty, they are more obvious—& I cannot tell you how the poem holds me & will not let me go untill it blesses me .. & so, where are the ‘sixty lines’ thrown away? I do beseech you .. you who forget nothing, .. to remember them directly, & to go on with the rest .. as directly (be it understood) as is not injurious to your health–[2] The whole conception of the poem, I like .. & the execution is exquisite up to this point—& the sight of Saul in the tent, just struck out of the dark by that sunbeam, “a thing to see” .. not to say that afterwards when he is visibly ‘caught in his pangs’[3] like the king serpent, .. the sight is grander still. How could you doubt about this poem …

At the moment of writing which, I receive your note– Do you receive my assurances from the deepest of my heart that I never did otherwise than “believeyou .. never did nor shall do .. & that you completely misinterpreted my words if you drew another meaning from them. Believe me in this—will you? I could not believe you any more for anything you could say, now or hereafter—and so do not avenge yourself on my unwary sentences by remembering them against me for evil. I did not mean to vex you .. still less to suspect you—indeed I did not!—and moreover it was quite your fault that I did not blot it out after it was written, whatever the meaning was.[4] So you forgive me (altogether) for your own sins—you must!

For my part, though I have been sorry since to have written you such a gloomy letter, the sorrow unmakes itself in hearing you speak so kindly– Your sympathy is precious to me I may say. May God bless you. Write & tell me among the ‘indifferent things’ something not indifferent, .. how you are yourself, I mean .. for I fear you are not well & thought you were not looking so yesterday.

Dearest friend I remain yours

EBB.

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

Postmark: 8NT8 AU27 1845 E.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 45.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 173–174.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. EBB refers to line 21 in “Saul” which was published as: “On thy gracious gold hair.”

2. RB published the first nine sections in November 1845, and the completed poem was published in Men and Women (1855).

3. EBB’s comments refer to lines 43–64. For her critical notes on these lines, see Appendix IV, p. 389.

4. EBB’s remarks here and in the following letter are in response to RB’s objection in letter 1991 to her blotting out “whole lines, not to say words.”

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