2133.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 232–234.


Tuesday Mg [Postmark: 9 December 1845]

Well then, I am no longer sorry that I did not read either of your letters .. for there were two in the collection: [1] I did not read one word of them—and hear why: when your brother & I took the book between us in wonderment at the notion—we turned to the index, in large text-hand, and stopped at “Miss B.”—and he, indeed read them, or some of them, but holding the volume at a distance which defied my shortsighted eye— all I saw was the faint small charactery—and, do you know .. I neither trusted myself to ask a nearer look .. nor a second look .. as if I were studying unduly what I had just said was most unfairly exposed to view!—so I was silent, and lost you (in that)—then, and forever, I promise you, now that you speak of vexation it would give you. All I know of the notes is, that one is addressed to Talfourd in the third person—and when I had run thro’ my own .. not far off .. (BA-BR)—I was sick of the book altogether– You are generous to me—but, to say the truth, I might have remembered the most justifying circumstance in my case .. which was, that my own “Paracelsus,” printed a few months before, had been as dead a failure as “Ion” a brilliant success—for, until just before .. ah, really I forget!—but I know that until Forster’s notice in the “Examiner” appeared, every journal that thought worth while to allude to the poem at all, treated it with entire contempt .. beginning, I think, with the “Athenæum” which then made haste to say, a few days after its publication, “that it was not without talent but spoiled by obscurity and only an imitation of—Shelley!”—something to this effect, in a criticism of about three lines among their “Library Table” notices: [2] and that first taste was a most flattering sample of what the “craft” had in store for me—since my publisher [3] and I had fairly to laugh at his “Book”—(quite of another kind than the Serjeant’s—) in which he was used to paste extracts from newspapers & the like—seeing that, out of a long string of notices, one vied with its predecessor in disgust at my “rubbish,” as their word went: but Forster’s notice altered a good deal—which I have to recollect for his good. Still, the contrast between myself and Talfourd was so utter,—you remember the world’s-wonder “Ion” made,—that I was determined not to pass for the envious piece of neglected merit I really was not—and so!–

But, dearest, why should you leave your own especial sphere of doing me good for another than yours? Does the sun rake and hoe about the garden as well as shine steadily over it? Why must you, who give me heart and power, as nothing else did or could, to do well—concern yourself with what might be done by any good, kind ministrant only fit for such offices? Not that I feel, even, more bound to you for them—they have their weight, I know .. but what weight beside the divine gift of yourself? Do not, dear, dearest, care for making me known: you know me!—and they know so little, after all your endeavour, who are ignorant of what you are to me—if you .. well, but that will follow, .. if I do greater things one day—what shall they serve for, what range themselves under, of right?–

Mr Mathews sent me two copies of his poems [4] —and, I believe, a newspaper, “when time was”, [5] about the “Blot in the ’Scutcheon”—and also, thro’ Moxon:—(I believe it was Mr M.)—a proposition for reprinting—to which I assented, of course—and there was an end to the matter. [6]

And might I have stayed till five?—dearest, I will never ask for more than you give—but I feel every single sand of the gold showers .. spite of what I say above! I have an invitation for Thursday which I had no intention of remembering (it admitted of such liberty)—but now ..

<…> [7]

(Something I will say!)

“Polka,” forsooth!—one lady whose head could not, and another whose feet could not, dance! —But I talked a little to your brother whom I like more and more: it comforts me that he is yours.

So, Thursday,—thank you from the heart! I am well, and about to go out. This week I have done nothing to “Luria”—is it that my ring [8] is gone? There surely is something to forgive in me—for that shameful business—or I should not feel as I do in the matter: but you did forgive me–

God bless my own, only love—ever–

Yours wholly


N.B. An antiquarian friend of mine in old days picked up a non-descript wonder of a coin .. I just remember he described it as Rhomboid in shape—cut, I fancy, out of church-plate in troubled times. What did my friend do but get ready a box, lined with velvet, and properly compartmented, to have always about him, so that the next such coin he picked up, say in Cheapside, he might at once transfer to a place of safety .. his waistcoat pocket being no happy receptacle for the same. I saw the box—and encouraged the man to keep a vigilant eye.

Parallel. R.B. having found an unicorn ......

Do you forgive these strips of paper? I could not wait to send for more—having exhausted my stock. [9]

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St

Postmark: 8NT8 DE9 1845.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 82.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 312–314.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Letter 523 (as previously noted in letter 2130) and letter 642 which EBB had written in the third person.

2. For the text of these two reviews of Paracelsus, see vol. 3, pp. 350–352.

3. After both Moxon and Saunders & Otley had declined to publish Paracelsus, W.J. Fox was instrumental in persuading the more liberal Effingham Wilson to publish it, though RB’s father met the expenses of publication.

4. Presumably a reference to Poems on Man (1843).

5. The Tempest, II, 2, 139.

6. There is no record of an American reprint of A Blot in the ’Scutcheon. A newspaper called The Pathfinder (1 April 1843) contained a review of RB’s play; for the text, see our volume 7, pp. 396–397).

7. RB obliterated one and a half lines at the beginning of the next paragraph.

8. i.e., the one EBB had given him containing a lock of her hair (see letter 2119, note 4). RB had evidently taken it to a jeweller to have it sized (see letter 2138).

9. RB has written his letter on two halves of one of his regular sheets of stationery.


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