2130.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 226–228.


Sunday Night. [7 December 1845] [1]

Well, I did see your brother last night .. and very wisely neither spoke nor kept silence in the proper degree, but said that “I hoped you were well”—from the sudden feeling that I must say something of you .. not pretend indifference about you now .. and from the impossibility of saying the full of what I might,—because other people were by—and after, in the evening, when I should have remedied the first imperfect expression, I had not altogether the heart. So, you, dearest, will clear me with him if he wonders, will you not?– But it all hangs together,—speaking of you,—to you,—writing to you—all is helpless and sorrowful work by the side of what is in my soul to say and to write– Or is it not the natural consequence? if these vehicles of feeling sufficed—there would be the end!—and that my feeling for you should end!– For the rest, the headache which kept away while I sate with you, made itself amends afterward, and as it is unkind to that warm Talfourd to look blank at his hospitable endeavours, all my power of face went à qui de droit [2]

Did your brother tell you .. yes, I think .. of the portentous book, lettered II, and thick as a law-book, of congratulatory letters on the appearance of “Ion”?—and how under the B’s in the Index came “Miss Barrett” and, woe’s me, “RB.”! [3] I don’t know when I have had so ghastly a visitation: there was the utterly forgotten letter, in the as thoroughly disused handwriting, in the .. I fear .. still as completely obsolete feeling .. no, not so bad as that—but at first there was all the novelty, and social admiration at the friend .. it is surely not right to pluck all the rich soil from the roots and hold them up clean and dry as if they came so, from all you now see, which is nothing at all .. like the Chinese air-plant! Do you understand this? And surely “Ion” is a very, very beautiful and noble conception, and finely executed,—a beautiful work—what has come after, has lowered it down by grade after grade .. it don’t stand apart on the hill, like a wonder, now it is built up to by other attempts; but the great difference is in myself .. another maker of another Ion, finding me out and behaving as Talfourd did, would not find that me,—so to be behaved to, so to be honoured—tho’ he should have all the good will! Ten years ago!

And ten years hence!

Always understand that you do not take me as I was at the beginning .. with a crowd of loves to give to something and so get rid of their pain & burthen: I have known what that ends in—a handful of anything may be as sufficient a sample, serve your purposes and teach you its nature, as well as whole heaps—and I know what most of the pleasures of this world are—so that I can be surer of myself, and make you surer, on calm demonstrated grounds, than if I had a host of objects of admiration or ambition yet to become acquainted with: you say, “I am a man and may change”– I answer, yes—but, while I hold my senses,—only change for the presumeable better .. not for the experienced worst

Here is my uncle’s foot on the stair [4]  .. his knock hurried the last sentence .. here is by me!– Understand what this would have led to, how you would have been proved logically my own, best, extreme want, my life’s end—yes, [5] dearest! Bless you ever–

Your RB

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St

Postmark: PD 10FN DE8 1845.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 83.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 307–308.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. “To one of the law,” i.e., George.

3. RB’s letter to Talfourd has not survived (see List of Absent Letters in vol. 3). For EBB’s, see letter 523. For details of the Brownings’ association with Talfourd, see vol. 3, pp. 323–324.

4. Probably Reuben Browning, but perhaps William Shergold Browning (see letter 2061, note 5).

5. Underscored four times.


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