2111.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 196–198.


Monday. [Postmark: 24 November 1845]

But what unlawful things have I said about ‘kindness’? I did not mean any harm—no, indeed! And as to thinking .. as to having ever thought, that you could ‘imitate’ (can this word be ‘imitate’?) an unfelt feeling or a feeling unsupposed to be felt .. I may solemnly assure you that I never, never did so. ‘Get up’—‘imitate’!! But it was the contrary .. all the contrary! From the beginning, now did I not believe you too much? Did I not believe you even in your contradiction of yourself .. in your yes & no on the same subject, .. & take the world to be turning round backwards & myself to have been shut up here till I grew mad, .. rather than disbelieve you either way? Well! you know it as well as I can tell you, & I will not, any more. If I have been ‘wrong’, it was not so .. nor indeed then .. it is not so, though it is now, perhaps.

Therefore .. but wait!—I never gave away what you ask me to give you, to a human being, except my nearest relatives & once or twice or thrice to female friends, [1]  .. never, though reproached for it! and it is just three weeks since I said last to an asker that I was “too great a prude for such a thing”!!—it was best to anticipate the accusation!– And, prude or not, I could not—I never could—something would not let me. And now .. what am I to do .. [‘]‘for my own sake & not yours.”? Should you have it, or not? Why I suppose .. yes. I suppose that “for my own sense of justice & in order to show that I was wrong” (which is wrong—you wrote a wrong word there .. ‘right,’ you meant!) “to show that I was right & am no longer so”, .. I suppose you must have it, “Oh, you’[’], who have your way in everything!

Which does not mean .. Oh, vous, qui avez toujours raison ..! [2] far from it.

Also … which does not mean that I shall give you what you ask for, tomorrow:——because I shall not .. & one of my conditions is (with others to follow) that not a word be said tomorrow,—you understand– Some day I will send it perhaps .. as you knew I should .. ah, as you knew I should .. notwithstanding that ‘getting up’ .. that “imitation” .. of humility!—as you knew too well I should!

Only I will not teaze you as I might perhaps; & now that your headache has begun again—the headache again! the worse than headache! See what good my wishes do!– And try to understand that if I speak of my being “wrong” now in relation to you .. of my being right before, & wrong now, .. I mean wrong for your sake, & not for mine .. wrong in letting you come out into the desert here to me, you whose place is by the waters of Damascus. [3] But I need not tell you over again—you know– May God bless you till tomorrow & past it for ever. Mr Kenyon brought me your note yesterday to read about the ‘order in the button-hole’ [4] ——ah!——or ‘oh, you,’ may I not re-echo? It enrages me to think of Mr Forster,—publishing too as he does, at a moment, the very sweepings of Landor[’]s desk! Is the motive of the reticence to be looked for somewhere among the cinders?– Too bad it is– So, till tomorrow! & you shall not be ‘kind’ any more.

Your EBB.

But how, ‘a foolish comment’? Good & true rather! And I admired the writing .. worthy of the reeds of Jordan! [5]

Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.

Postmark: PD 8NT NO24 1845 B.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 82.; + Nov. 25. 1845 / 3¼–4½ p.m. [31].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 289–291.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Giving RB a lock of her hair is the subject of sonnet XVIII in Sonnets from the Portuguese.

2. “Oh, you, who are always right.”

3. An allusion to II Kings 5:12.

4. See letter 2107.

5. The reference is to the passage from Proverbs that RB wrote in Hebrew on the verso of Landor’s letter to Forster. See letter 2108, note 5, as well as the final paragraph of the preceding letter.


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