Correspondence

2103.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 180–181.

[London]

Thursday Mg [20 November 1845][1]

Here is the copy of Landor’s verses.[2]

You know thoroughly, do you not, why I brought all those goodnatured letters, desperate praise and all? Not, not out of the least vanity in the world—nor to help myself in your sight with such testimony: would it beseem very extravagant, on the contrary, if I said that perhaps I laid them before your eyes in a real fit of compunction at not being, in my heart, thankful enough for the evident motive of the writers,—and so was determined to give them the “last honours” if not the first, and not make them miss you because, thro’ my fault, they had missed me? Does this sound too fantastical? Because it is strictly true: the most laudatory of all, I skimmed once over with my flesh creeping—it seemed such a death-struggle, that of good nature over——well, it is fresh ingratitude of me, so here it shall end.

I am not ungrateful to you—but you must wait to know that:—I can speak less than nothing with my living lips.

I mean to ask your brother how you are tonight .. so quietly!

God bless you, my dearest, and reward you.

Your RB

Mrs Shelley .. with the “Ricordi.”[3]

Of course, Landor’s praise is altogether a different gift,—a gold vase from King Hiram:[4] beside he has plenty of conscious rejoicing in his own riches, and is not left painfully poor by what he sends away: that is the unpleasant point with some others .. they spread you a board and want to gird up their loins and wait on you there:[5] Landor says “come up higher and let us sit and eat together”–[6] Is it not that?

Now—you are not to turn on me because the first is my proper feeling to you, .. for poetry is not the thing given or taken between us—it is heart and life and myself, not mine, I give—give? That you glorify and change and, in returning then, give me!

Address: Miss Barrett.

Postmark: None. Envelope containing this letter was enclosed in a parcel of books.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 75.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 277–278.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Dated by EBB’s reply of the same day (see letter 2104).

2. The copy in Sarianna Browning’s handwriting is not extant.

3. RB is returning Mrs. Shelley’s Rambles in Germany and Italy, which EBB had sent to him with letter 2015 (see also letter 2026, note 6), and sending with it Mazzini’s memorial to the Bandiera brothers (see letter 2097).

4. i.e., a self-serving gift. A reference to the gift of timber and gold that Hiram, King of Tyre, gave King Solomon, in exchange for which Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities (I Kings 9:11).

5. Cf. Luke 12:37.

6. Luke 14:10.

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