2053.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 109–110.


Saturday. [4 October 1845][1]

Tuesday is given up in full council. The thing is beyond doubting of as George says & as you thought yesterday. And then George has it in his head to beguile the Duke of Palmella[2] out of a smaller cabin, so that I might sail from the Thames on the twentieth—and whether he succeeds or not, I humbly confess that one of the chief advantages of the new plan if not the very chief (as I see it) is just in the delay.

Your spring-song is full of beauty as you know very well—& “that’s the wise thrush,” so characteristic of you, (& of the thrush too) that I was sorely tempted to ask you to write it “twice over,”[3] .. & not send the first copy to Mary Hunter notwithstanding my promise to her. And now when you come to print these fragments, would it not be well if you were to stoop to the vulgarism of prefixing some word of introduction, as other people do, you know, .. a title .. a name? You perplex your readers often by casting yourself on their intelligence in these things—and although it is true that readers in general are stupid & cant understand, it is still more true that they are lazy & wont understand … & they dont catch your point of sight at first unless you think it worth while to push them by the shoulders & force them into the right place. Now these fragments … you mean to print them with a line between .. & not one word at the top of it .. now dont you? And then people will read


“Oh, to be in England”[4]

& say to themselves .. “Why who is this? .. who’s out of England?” Which is an extreme case of course,—but you will see what I mean .. & often I have observed how some of the very most beautiful of your lyrics have suffered just from your disdain of the usual tactics of writers in this one respect.

And you are not better, still—you are worse instead of better .. are you not? Tell me– And what can you mean about ‘unimportance’, when you were worse last week .. this expiring week .. than ever before, by your own confession? And now?– And your mother?

Yes—I promise!– And, … so, … Elijah will be missed instead of his mantle[5] .. which will be a losing contract after all. But it shall be as you say. May you be able to say that you are better! God bless you–

Ever yours

Never think of the ‘White Slave’.[6] I had just taken it up. The trash of it is prodigious—far beyond Mr Smythe.[7] Not that I can settle upon a book just now, in all this wind, to judge of it fairly–

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

Postmarks: 1845 OC6 8Mg8 A; 10FN10 OC6 1845 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 62.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 221–223.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Pedro de Sousa-Holstein (1781–1850). See letter 2062 in which EBB says he “takes the whole vessel for the 20th.”

3. Both quotations here are from “Home-Thoughts, from Abroad,” line 14. RB sent the autograph in response to EBB’s request in letter 2051.

4. “Home-Thoughts,” line 1.

5. See letter 2051, note 6.

6. The White Slave; or, The Russian Peasant Girl by Charles Frederick Henningsen was advertised in The Athenæum of 6 September 1845 as “Just Published … by the Author of ‘Revelations of Russia’.”

7. Probably George Augustus Frederick Smythe, later (1855) 7th Viscount Strangford (1818–57) whose Historic Fancies (1844) EBB described in letter 1736 as “clever, with less indication of power in it, than I had imagined beforehand.”


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