Correspondence

2044.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 99–100.

[London]

Friday evening. [26 September 1845][1]

I had your letter late last night, everyone almost, being out of the house by an accident, so that it was left in the letter box, and if I had wished to answer it before I saw you, it had scarcely been possible.

But it will be the same thing—for you know as well as if you saw my answer, what it must be, what it cannot choose but be, on pain of sinking me so infinitely below not merely your level but my own, that the depth cannot bear a glance down. Yet, though I am not made of such clay as to admit of my taking a base advantage of certain noble extravagances, (& that I am not I thank God for your sake) I will say, I must say, that your words in this letter have done me good & made me happy, .. that I thank & bless you for them, .. & that to receive such a proof of attachment from you,[2] not only overpowers every present evil but seems to me a full & abundant amends for the merely personal sufferings of my whole life. When I had read that letter last night I did think so. I looked round & round for the small bitternesses which for several days had been bitter to me, & I could not find one of them. The tear-marks went away in the moisture of new, happy tears. Why how else could I have felt? how else do you think I could? How would any woman have felt .. who could feel at all .. hearing such words said (though “in a dream”[3] indeed) by such a speaker.?

And now listen to me in turn. You have touched me more profoundly than I thought even you could have touched me—my heart was full when you came here today– Henceforward I am yours for everything but to do you harm—and I am yours too much, in my heart, ever to consent to do you harm in that way.—–. If I could consent to do it, not only should I be less loyal .. but in one sense, less yours. I say this to you without drawback & reserve, because it is all I am able to say, & perhaps all I shall be able to say. However this may be, a promise goes to you in it that none except God & your will, shall interpose between you & me,––I mean, that if He should free me within a moderate time from the trailing chain of this weakness, I will then be to you whatever at that hour you shall choose .. whether friend or more than friend .. a friend to the last in any case. So it rests with God & with you– Only in the meanwhile you are most absolutely free .. “unentangled” (as they call it) by the breadth of a thread—& if I did not know that you considered yourself so, I would not see you any more, let the effort cost me what it might. You may force me to feel: .. but you cannot force me to think contrary to my first thought .. that it were better for you to forget me at once in one relation– And if better for you, can it be bad for me?—which flings me down on the stone-pavement of the logicians.[4]

And now if I ask a boon of you, will you forget afterwards that it ever was asked?– I have hesitated a great deal—but my face is down on the stone-pavement—

<…>[5]

—no—I will not ask today– It shall be for another day—& may God bless you on this & on those that come after, my dearest friend.

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

Postmark: 10FN10 SP27 1845 B.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 59.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 215–216.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Underscored three times.

3. The Tempest, I, 2, 487.

4. Perhaps an allusion to the “stoa,” the Greek name for the colonnade or porch of a temple or gymnasium. It was in the stoa of the market place in Athens where Zeno and his followers expounded the philosophy that came to be known as “stoicism.”

5. EBB has deleted about two lines. From the context here and in the next few letters, it is evident that EBB deleted a request for the return of RB’s letter written shortly after the first visit. See letter 2084, in which she asks, and letter 2085, in which RB explains that he had destroyed it.

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