2070. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 132–134.
[21 October 1845]
Even at the risk of teazing you a little I must say a few words, that there may be no misunderstanding between us—& this, before I sleep tonight. Today & before today you surprised me by your manner of receiving my remark about your visits, for I believed I had sufficiently made clear to you long ago how certain questions were ordered in this house & how no exception was to be expected for my sake or even for yours. Surely I told you this quite plainly long ago. I only meant to say in my last letter, in the same track .. (fearing in the case of your wishing to come oftener that you might think it unkind in me not to seem to wish the same) .. that if you came too often & it was observed, difficulties & vexations wd follow as a matter of course, & it would be wise therefore to run no risk. That was the head & front of what I meant to say. The weekly one visit is a thing established & may go on as long as you please—& there is no objection to your coming twice a week now & then .. if now & then merely .. if there is no habit .. do you understand. I may be prudent in an extreme perhaps—& certainly everybody in the house is not equally prudent!—but I did shrink from running any risk with that calm & comfort of the winter as it seemed to come on– And was it more than I said about the cloak? was there any newness in it? anything to startle you? Still I do perfectly see that whether new or old, what it involves may well be unpleasant to you—& that (however old) it may be apt to recur to your mind with a new increasing unpleasantness. We have both been carried too far perhaps, by late events & impulses—but it is never too late to come back to a right place, & I for my part come back to mine, & entreat you my dearest friend, first, not to answer this, & next, to weigh & consider thoroughly “that particular contingency” which (I tell you plainly, I who know) the tongue of men & of angels would not modify so as to render less full of vexations to you. Let Pisa prove the excellent hardness of some marbles!– Judge. From motives of selfrespect, you may well walk an opposite way .. you!. When I told you once .. or twice .. that “no human influence should” &c &c, .. I spoke for myself, quite overlooking you—& now that I turn & see you, I am surprised that I did not see you before .. there. I ask you therefore to consider ‘that contingency’ well—not forgetting the other obvious evils, which the late decision about Pisa has aggravated beyond calculation .. for as the smoke rolls off we see the harm done by the fire. And so,—and now .. is it not advisable for you to go abroad at once .. as you always intended, you know .. now that your book is through the press? What if you go next week? I leave it to you. In any case, I entreat you not to answer this—neither let your thoughts be too hard on me for what you may call perhaps vacillation—only that I stand excused (I do not say justified) before my own moral sense. May God bless you– If you go, I shall wait to see you till your return, & have letters in the meantime—. I write all this as fast as I can to have it over. What I ask of you is, to consider along & decide advisedly .. for both our sakes. If it should be your choice not to make an end now, .. why I shall understand that by your not going .. or you may say ‘no’ in a word .. for I require no ‘protestations’ indeed—and you may trust to me––it shall be as you choose– You will consider my happiness most by considering your own .. & that is my last word.
Wednesday morning. I did not say half I thought about the poems yesterday—& their various power & beauty will be striking & surprising to your most accustomed readers. St Praxed—Pictor Ignotus—the ride—The Duchess!– Of the new poems I like supremely the first & last, .. that “Lost Leader” which strikes so broadly & deep .. which nobody can ever forget—& which is worth all the journalizing & pamphleteering in the world!—& then, the last ‘Thought’ which is quite to be grudged to that place of fragments .. those grand sea-sights in the long lines. Should not these fragments be severed otherwise than by numbers? The last stanza but one of the ‘Lost Mistress’ seemed obscure to me. Is it so really? The end you have put to ‘England in Italy’ gives unity to the whole .. just what the poem wanted. Also you have given some nobler lines to the middle than met me there before. The Duchess appears to me more than ever a new-minted golden coin—the rhythm of it answering to your own description[.]
‘Speech half asleep, or song half awake?’
You have right of trove to these novel effects of rhythm. Now if people do not cry out about these poems, what are we to think of the world?
May God bless you always– Send me the next proof in any case.
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 4Eg4 OC22 1845 A.
Docket, in RB’s hand: 70.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 242–244.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.
2. See letter 2051.
3. Cf. I Corinthians 13:1.
4. i.e., the last of the three numbered verses under the single title “Home-Thoughts, from Abroad.” In the 1849 and 1863 editions of RB’s poetry, this section appeared separately with the title “Home-Thoughts, from the Sea.”
5. EBB’s note on this poem consists of the first four words of the penultimate stanza (see Appendix IV, p. 392). While RB did not alter “The Lost Mistress” in any substantive way, he did change one word, which EBB notes in letter 2086.
6. EBB had referred to this poem as “unfinished” in letter 1998; see also Appendix IV, p. 385.
7. “Garden-Fancies. I.—The Flower’s Name,” line 22.