2093. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 161–163.
Monday. [10 November 1845]
If it were possible that you could do me harm in the way of work, (but it is’nt) it would be possible, not through writing letters & reading manuscripts, but because of a reason to be drawn from your own great line
“What man is strong until he stands alone?”
What man .. what woman? For have I not felt twenty times the desolate advantage of being insulated here & of not minding anybody when I made my poems?—of living a little like a disembodied spirit, & caring less for suppositious criticism than for the black fly buzzing in the pane?– That made me what dear Mr Kenyon calls ‘insolent’,—untimid, & unconventional in my degree,—& not so much by strength, you see, as by separation– You touch your greater ends by mere strength,—breaking with your own hands the hampering threads which, in your position, wd have hampered me.
Still .. when all is changed for me now, & different, it is not possible, .. for all the changing, .. nor for all your line & my speculation, .. that I should not be better & stronger for being within your influences & sympathies, in this way of writing as in other ways– We shall see—you will see. Yet I have been idle lately I confess,—leaning half out of some turret-window of the castle of Indolence & watching the new sunrise—as why not?– Do I mean to be idle always? no!—and am I not an industrious worker on the average of days? Indeed yes! Also I have been less idle than you think perhaps, even this last year, though the results seem so like trifling: and I shall set about the prose papers for the New York people, & the something rather better besides we may hope .. may I not hope, if you wish it? Only there is no ‘crown’ for me, be sure, except what grows from this letter & such letters .. this sense of being anything to One! there is no room for another crown. Have I a great head like Goethe’s that there should be room?—& mine is bent down already by the unused weight—& as to bearing it, .. “will it do,—tell me, .. to treat that as a light effort, an easy matter?”
Now let me remember to tell you that the line of yours I have just quoted, & which has been present with me since you wrote it, Mr Chorley has quoted too in his new novel of “Pomfret.” You were right in your identifying of servant & waistcoat—& Wilson waited only till you had gone on saturday, to give me a parcel & note, .. the novel itself in fact, which Mr Chorley had the kindness to send me ‘some days or weeks,’ said the note, ‘previous to the publication.’ Very goodnatured of him certainly! and the book seems to me his best work in point of sustainment & vigour, & I am in process of being interested in it. Not that he is a maker, even for this prose. A feeler .. an observer .. a thinker even, in a certain sphere—but a maker .. no, as it seems to me .. and if I were he, I would rather herd with the essayists than the novelists where he is too good to take inferior rank & not strong enough to ‘go up higher’. Only it would be more right in me to be grateful than to talk so—now wd’nt it?
And here is Mr Kenyon’s letter back again—a kind good letter .. a letter I have liked to read, (so it was kind & good in you to let me!)—and he was with me today & praising the ride to Ghent, & praising the Duchess, & praising you altogether as I liked to hear him. The Ghent-ride was ‘very fine’—& the
‘Into the midnight they galloped abreast’
drew us out into the night as witnesses. And then, the ‘Duchess’ .. the conception of it was noble, & the vehicle, rhythm & all, most characteristic & individual .. though some of the rhymes .. oh, some of the rhymes did not find grace in his ears .. but the incantation-scene, ‘just trenching on the supernatural,’ that was taken to be ‘wonderful’, .. “showing extraordinary power, .. as indeed other things did, .. works of a highly original writer & of such various faculty!”– Am I not tired of writing your praises as he said them? So I shall tell you, instead of any more, that I went down to the drawing room yesterday (because it was warm enough) by an act of supererogatory virtue for which you may praise me in turn. What weather it is! & how the year seems to have forgotten itself into April.
But after all, how have I answered your letter? & how are such letters to be answered? Do we answer the sun when he shines? May God bless you .. it is my answer—with one word besides .. that I am wholly & ever your
On thursday as far as I know yet—& you shall hear if there shd be an obstacle. Will you walk? If you will not, you know, you must be forgetting me a little– Will you remember me too in the act of the play?—but above all things in taking the right exercise, & in not over-working the head.!– And this for no serpent’s reason.
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmarks: 12NN12 NO11 1845 A; 1AN1 NO11 1845 A.
Dockets, in RB’s hand: 77.; + Thursday Nov. 13 / 3–4½. p.m. .
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 263–265.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.
2. Cf. Colombe’s Birthday, III, line 231. Chorley used this line as a motto in Pomfret (vol. II, ch. viii).
3. See letter 2091, note 2.
4. Pomfret appeared in the “List of New Books” in the 15 November issue of The Athenæum.
5. Luke 14:10.
6. “How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix,” line 6.