Correspondence

2065.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 126–127.

[London]

[Postmark: 15 October 1845]

Thank[s] my dearest for the good news—of the fever’s abatement—it is good, too, that you write cheerfully, on the whole: what it is to me that you write so of me .. I shall never say that! Mr Kenyon is all kindness, and one gets to take it as not so purely natural a thing, the showing kindness to those it concerns, and belongs to,—well! On Thursday, then,—to-morrow! Did you not get a note of mine, a hurried note, which was meant for yesterday-afternoon’s delivery?

Mr Forster came yesterday & was very profuse of graciosities: he may have, or must have meant well, so we will go on again with the friendship, as the snail repairs his battered shell–[1]

My poems went duly to press on Monday night—there is not much correctable in them,—you make, or you spoil, one of these things,—that is, I do– I have adopted all your emendations,[2] and thrown in lines and words, just a morning’s business,—but one does not write plays so. You may like some of my smaller things, which stop interstices, better than what you have seen .. I shall wonder to know: I am to receive a proof at the end of the week—will you help me & overlook it. (“Yes” .. she says .. my thanks I do not say!)

While writing this, the “Times” catches my eye (it just came in)—and something from the “Lancet” is extracted, a long article against quackery[3]—and, as I say, this is the first & only sentence I read– “There is scarcely a peer of the realm who is not the patron of some quack pill or potion: and the literati too, are deeply tainted. We have heard of barbarians who threw quacks & their medicines into the sea: but here in England we have Browning a prince of poets, touching the pitch which defiles[4] and making Paracelsus the hero of a poem: Sir E. L. Bulwer writes puffs for the water doctors in a style worthy of imitation by the scribe that does the poetical for Moses & son:[5] Miss Martineau makes a finessing servant girl her physician-general: & Richard Howitt & the Lady aforesaid stand Godfather & mother to the contemptible mesmeric vagaries of Spencer Hall.”[6] —Even the sweet incense to me fails of its effect if Paracelsus is to figure on a level with Priessnitz, and “Jane”!

What weather, now at last! Think for yourself and for me—could you not go out on such days?

I am quite well now—cold, over & gone: Did I tell you my Uncle arrived from Paris on Monday, as they hoped he would—so my travel would have been to great purpose!

Bless my dearest—my own!

RB

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St

Postmark: 3AN3 OC15 1845 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 64.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 236–237.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. See letter 2035, note 2.

2. For the text of EBB’s critical notes, see Appendix IV.

3. Under a column headed “Quacks and Quackery,” The Times for 15 October 1845 extracted a review of Hints on Consumption and its Relief; Gout and its Cure; Indigestion, and the means of avoiding it; Rheumatism and its Cure; with Hints on Diet and Digestion (1845) by the late Henry Halford which had appeared in The Lancet of 11 October 1845 (pp. 396–397).

4. Cf. I Henry IV, II, 4, 412–413.

5. E. Moses & Son, 154 Minories, and 83 Aldgate, were drapers, tailors and outfitters whose newspaper advertisements were often written in very bad verse. An account of Bulwer-Lytton’s treatment by Preissnitz, an Austrian hydropath, entitled “Confessions and Observations of a Water-Patient,” appeared in The New Monthly Magazine for September 1845 (pp. 1–16); it was published as a book in 1846.

6. Spencer Hall was a writer of prose and verse, as well as an amateur mesmerist (see letters 1930 and 1943). His Mesmeric Experiences, which had been published the previous month, contained cases relating to Harriet Martineau and the Howitts. Miss Martineau’s maid, Jane Arrowsmith, was the subject of much controversy regarding her mesmeric skills. Richard Howitt (1799–1869), brother of the author William Howitt, was included in Hall’s Biographical Sketches of Remarkable People (1873).

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