2071.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 134–136.


[Postmark: 23 October 1845]

But I must answer you, and be forgiven, too, dearest– I was (to begin at the beginning) surely not “startled” .. only properly aware of the deep blessing I have been enjoying this while, and not disposed to take its continuance as pure matter of course, and so treat with indifference the first shadow of a threatening intimation from without, the first hint of a possible abstraction from the quarter to which so many hopes & fears of mine have gone of late: in this case, knowing you, I was sure that if any imaginable form of displeasure could touch you without reaching me, I should not hear of it too soon—so I spoke—so you have spoken—and so now you get “excused”? .. no .. wondered at, with all my faculty of wonder for the strange exalting way you will persist to think of me; now, once for all, I will not pass for what I make no least pretence to: I quite understand the grace of your imaginary self-denial, and fidelity to a given word, and noble constancy,—but it all happens to be none of mine, none in the least. I love you because I love you,—I see you “once a week” because I cannot see you all day long,—I think of you all day long, because I most certainly could not think of you once an hour less, if I tried, or went to Pisa, or “abroad” (in every sense) in order to “be happy” .. a kind of adventure which you seem to suppose you have in some way interfered with: do, for this once, think, and never after, on the impossibility of your ever .. (you know I must talk your own language, so I shall say …) hindering any scheme of mine, stopping any supposeable advancement of mine: do you really think that before I found you, I was going about the world seeking whom I might devour, [1] —that is, be devoured by, in the shape of a wife .. do you suppose I ever dreamed of marrying?—what would it mean for me, with my life I am hardened in,—considering the rational chances,—how the land is used to furnish its contingent of Shakespeare’s-women: or by “success,” “happiness” &c &c you never, never can be seeing for a moment with the world’s eyes and meaning “getting rich” & all that? Yet, put that away, and what do you meet at every turn, if you are hunting about in the dusk to catch my good, but yourself?

I know who has got it, caught it, & means to keep it on his heart [2] —the person most concerned—I, dearest, who cannot play the disinterested part of bidding you forget your “protestation” .. what should I have to hold by, come what will, thro’ years, thro’ this life, if God shall so determine, if I were not sure, sure that the first moment when you can suffer me with you “in that relation”,—you will remember and act accordingly .. I will, as you know, conform my life to any imaginable rule which shall render it possible for your life to move with it and possess it, all the little it is worth–

For your friends .. whatever can be “got over,” whatever opposition may be rational, will be easily removed, I suppose: you know when I spoke lately about the “selfishness” I dared believe I was free from, I hardly meant the low faults of .. I shall say, a different organization to mine—which has vices in plenty, but not those: beside half a dozen scratches with a pen make one stand up an apparent angel of light, from the lawyer’s parchment; and Doctors’ Commons [3] is one bland smile of applause– The selfishness I deprecate is one which a good many women & men, too, call “real passion”—under the influence of which, I ought to say “be mine, what ever happens to you”—but I know better, and you know best—and you know me, for all this letter, which is no doubt in me, I feel, but dear entire goodness and affection, of which God knows whether I am proud or not—and now you will ‘let me be,’ will not you? Let me have my way, life [sic, for live] my life, love my love

whose I am, praying God

to bless her ever


Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St.

Postmark: 12NN12 OC23 1845.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 67.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 245–246.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Cf. I Peter 5:8.

2. Cf. The Merchant of Venice, I, 1, 3.

3. Comprising several law courts, including the one dealing with marriage settlements.


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