2080. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 147–148.
[31 October 1845]
All today, friday, Miss Mitford has been here! She came at two & went away at seven—and I feel as if I had been making a five-hour speech on the corn laws in Har[r]iet Martineau’s parliament, .. so tired I am. Not that dear Miss Mitford did not talk both for me & herself, .. for that, of course she did. But I was forced to answer once every ten minutes at least—& Flush, my usual companion, does not exact so much—& so I am tired & come to rest myself on this paper– Your name was not once spoken today,—a little from my good fencing: when I saw you at the end of an alley of associations, I pushed the conversation up the next—because I was afraid of questions such as every moment I expected, with a pair of woman’s eyes behind them,—& those are worse than Mr Kenyon’s, when he puts on his spectacles. So your name was not once spoken: not thought of, I do not say—perhaps when I once lost her at Chevy Chase & found her suddenly with Isidore the queen’s hairdresser, my thoughts might have wandered off to you & your unanswered letter while she passed gradually from that to this—I am not sure of the contrary. And Isidore they say, reads Berenger, & is supposed to be the most literary person at court—& was’nt at Chevy Chase one must needs think.
One must needs write nonsense rather—for I have written it there. The sense, & the truth is, that your letter went to the bottom of my heart, & that my thoughts have turned round it ever since & through all the talking today—. Yes indeed, dreams! But what is not dreaming is this & this—this reading of these words—this proof of this regard—all this that you are to me in fact, & which you cannot guess the full meaning of, dramatic poet as you are .. cannot .. since you do not know what my life meant before you touched it, .. o my angel at the gate of the prison!– My wonder is greater than your wonders, .. I who sate here alone but yesterday, so weary of my own being that to take interest in my very poems I had to lift them up by an effort & separate them from myself & cast them out from me into the sunshine where I was not—feeling nothing of the light which fell on them even—making indeed a sort of pleasure & interest about that factitious personality associated with them .. but knowing it to be all far on the outside of me .. myself .. not seeming to touch it with the end of my finger .. & receiving it as a mockery & a bitterness when people persisted in confounding one with another. Morbid it was if you like it—perhaps very morbid—but all these heaps of letters which go into the fire one after the other, & which, because I am a woman & have written verses, it seems so amusing to the letter-writers of your sex to write & see “what will come of it”, .. some, from kind good motives I know, .. well, .. how could it all make for me even such a narrow strip of sunshine as Flush finds on the floor sometimes, & lays his nose along, with both ears out in the shadow? It was not for me .. me .. in any way! it was not within my reach– I did not seem to touch it as I said. Flush came nearer, & I was grateful to him .. yes, grateful .. for not being tired! I have felt grateful & flattered .. yes flattered .. when he has chosen rather to stay with me all day than go down stairs. Grateful too, with reason, I have been & am to my own family for not letting me see that I was a burthen. Those are facts. And now how am I to feel when you tell me what you have told me—& what you “could would & will” do, & shall not do? .. but when you tell me ..?
Only remember that such words make you freer & freer—if you can be freer than free—just as everyone makes me happier & richer—too rich by you, to claim any debt. May God bless you always– When I wrote that letter to let you come the first time, do you know, the tears ran down my cheeks .. I could not tell why: partly it might be mere nervousness. And then, I was vexed with you for wishing to come as other people did, & vexed with myself for not being able to refuse you as I did them.
When does the book come out? Not on the first, I begin to be glad.
Ever yours EBB
I trust that you go on to take exercise—& that your mother is still better. Occy’s worst symptom now is too great an appetite .. a monster-appetite indeed–
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 3AN3 NO1 1845 A.
Dockets, in RB’s hand: 74.; + Monday, Nov. 3. / 3–4¼. p.m. .
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 254–256.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark and EBB’s reference to “friday.”
2. A reference to Harriet Martineau’s opinions in favour of women’s right to an equal voice in lawmaking, as well as her support for the repeal of the Corn Laws, both of which are well documented in her Autobiography, 1877 (I, 399–402 and II, 257–264).
3. Pierre Jean Béranger (1780–1857) was a French poet whose works EBB had discussed in her correspondence with Miss Mitford; e.g., see letters 1063, 1658, and 1817.
4. Cf. Acts 5:19.
5. Cf. Hamlet, I, 5, 176.