2127. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 220–222.
[Postmark: 4 December 1845]
Why of course I am pleased. I should have been pleased last year, for the vanity’s sake of being reviewed in your company. Now, as far as that vice of vanity goes … shall I tell you?, .. I would infinitely prefer to see you set before the public in your own right solitude & supremacy, apart from me or anyone else, .. this, as far as my vice of vanity goes, .. & because, vainer I am of my poet than of my poems .. pour cause. But since, according to the Quarterly regime, you were to be not apart but with somebody of my degree, I am glad, pleased, that it should be with myself:—and since I was to be there at all, I am pleased, very much pleased that it should be with you .. oh, of course I am pleased!—I am pleased that the “names should be read together” as you say, .. & am happily safe from the apprehension of that ingenious idea of yours about [‘]‘my leading you &c” .... quite happily safe from the apprehension of that idea’s occurring to any mind in the world, except just your own—. Now if I “find fault” with you for writing down such an extravagance, such an ungainly absurdity, (oh, I shall abuse it just as I shall choose!) can it be “to your surprise”?—can it? Ought you to say such things, when in the first place they are unfit in themselves & inapplicable, & in the second place, abominable in my eyes?– The qualification for Hanwell Asylum is different peradventure from what you take it to be—we had better not examine it too nearly. You never will say such words again? It is your promise to me?– Not those words—& not any in their likeness.
Also .. nothing is my work .. if you please! What an omen you take in calling anything my work! If it is my work, woe on it—for everything turns to evil which I touch. Let it be God’s work & yours, & I may take breath & wait in hope—& indeed I exclaim to myself about the miracle of it far more even than you can do. It seems to me (as I say over & over .. I say it to my own thoughts oftenest) it seems to me still a dream how you came here at all, .. the very machinery of it seems miraculous. Why did I receive you & only you? Can I tell? no, not a word.
Last year I had such an escape of seeing Mr Horne,—and in this way it was. He was going to Germany he said, for an indefinite time, & took the trouble of begging me to receive him for ten minutes before he went. I answered with my usual ‘no,’ like a wild Indian—whereupon he wrote me a letter so expressive of mortification & vexation .. “mortification” was one of the words used, I remember, .. that I grew ashamed of myself & told him to come any day (of the last five or six days he had to spare) between two & five. Well!—he never came. Either he was overcome with work & engagements of various sorts & had not a moment, (which was his way of explaining the matter & quite true I dare say) or he was vexed & resolved on punishing me for my caprices. If the latter was the motive, I cannot call the punishment effective, .. for I clapped my hands for joy when I felt my danger to be passed—& now of course, I have no scruples .. I may be as capricious as I please, .. may I not? Not that I ask you. It is a settled matter. And it is useful to keep out Mr Chorley with Mr Horne & Mr Horne with Mr Chorley, & the rest of the world with those two. Only the miracle is that you should be behind the enclosure .. within it .. & so!——
That is my side of the wonder! of the machinery of the wonder, .. as I see it!– But there are greater things than these.
Speaking of the portrait of you in the ‘Spirit of the age’ .. which is not like .. no!—which has not your character, in a line of it .. something in just the forehead & eyes & hair, .. but even that, thrown utterly out of your order, by another bearing so unlike you.! speaking of that portrait .. shall I tell you?—— Mr Horne had the goodness to send me all those portraits, & I selected the heads which, in right hero-worship, were anything to me, & had them framed after a rough fashion & hung up before my eyes,—Harriet Martineau’s .. because she was a woman & admirable, & had written me some kind letters—& for the rest, Wordsworth’s, Carlyle’s, Tennyson’s & yours. The day you paid your first visit here, I, in a fit of shyness not quite unnatural, .. though I have been cordially laughed at for it by everybody in the house .. pulled down your portrait, .. (there is the nail, under Wordsworth!—) & then pulled down Tennyson’s in a fit of justice—because I would not have his hung up & your’s away. It was the delight of my brothers to open all the drawers & the boxes & whatever they could get access to, & find & take those two heads & hang them on the old nails & analyze my “absurdity” to me, day after day,—but at last I tired them out, being obstinate, & finally settled the question one morning by fastening the print of you inside your Paracelsus. Oh no, it is not like—& I knew it was not, before I saw you, though Mr Kenyon said, “Rather like!”
By the way Mr Kenyon does not come. It is strange that he should not come:—when he told me that he would not see me ‘for a week or a fortnight,’ he meant it, I suppose.
So it is to be on saturday? And I will write directly to America—the letter will be sent by the time you get this. May God bless you ever–
It is not so much a look of “ferocity”, .. as you say, .. in that head, as of expression by intention. Several people have said of it what nobody would say of you .. “How affected-looking”! Which is too strong—but it is not like you, in any way, & there’s the truth.
So until Saturday. I read Luria & feel the life in him. But walk & do not work! do you?
Wholly your EBB.
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 5Ev5 DE4 1845 A.
Docket, in RB’s hand: 86. .
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 304–306.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. “With reason.”
2. See letter 1659.
3. This likeness is reproduced in vol. 3, facing p. 164.
4. Unfortunately EBB’s copies of these portraits have not survived.
5. RB rarely failed to record a visit to EBB on the envelope of her most recent letter but apparently did so here. Most probably he visited EBB on 6 December: the visit is anticipated in this letter, as well as 2125, and it is recalled in letter 2131. In addition, RB’s running total of visits, which begins with his docket on the envelope of 2149, includes one that is unaccounted for by earlier dockets.