Correspondence

2149.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 266–267.

[London]

Saturday. [Postmark: 27 December 1845]

Yes indeed, I have “observed that way in” you, & not once, & not twice, & not twenty times, but oftener than any, .. & almost every time .. do you know, .. with an uncomfortable feeling from the reflection that that is the way for making all sorts of mistakes dependent on & issuing in exaggeration. It is the very way!—the highway–

For what you say in the letter here otherwise, I do not deny the truth .. as partial truth:—I was speaking generally quite. Admit that I am not apt to be extravagant in my ‘esprit de sexe’: the Martineau doctrine of intellectual equality &c, I gave them up, you remember, like a woman—most disgracefully, as Mrs Jameson would tell me. But we are not on that ground now—we are on ground worth holding a brief for!—& when women fail here .. it is not so much our fault. Which was all I meant to say from the beginning.

It reminds me of the exquisite analysis in your Luria, this third act, of the worth of a woman’s sympathy,—indeed of the exquisite double-analysis of unlearned & learned sympathies. Nothing could be better, I think, than this, .....

 

“To the motive the endeavour, the heart’s self

Your quick sense looks; you crown & call aright

The soul of the purpose ere ’tis shaped as act

Takes flesh i’ the world, & clothes itself a king—”[1]

except the characterizing of the ‘learned praise,’[2] which comes afterwards in its fine subtle truth. What would those critics do to you, to what degree undo you, who would deprive you of the exercise of the discriminative faculty of the metaphysi[ci]ans? As if a poet could be great without it! They might as well recommend a watchmaker to deal only in faces, in dials, & not to meddle with the wheels inside! You should tell Mr Fo[r]ster so–

And speaking of ‘Luria,’ which grows on me the more I read, .. how fine he is when the doubt breaks on him—I mean, where he begins .. ‘why then, all is very well’.[3] It is most affecting, I think, all that process of doubt—& that reference to the friends at home (which at once proves him a stranger, & intimates, by just a stroke, that he will not look home for comfort out of the new foreign treason) is managed by you with singular dramatic dexterity ....

 

‘so slight, so slight

And yet it tells you they are dead & gone’!–[4]

And then, the direct approach ..

 

‘You now, so kind here, all you Florentines,

What is it in your eyes?––[’][5]

Do you not feel it to be success, .. ‘you now’? I do, from my low ground as reader. The whole breaking round him of the cloud, & the manner in which he stands, facing it, .. I admire it all thoroughly. Braccio’s vindication of Florence strikes me as almost too poetically subtle for the man—but nobody could have the heart to wish a line of it away—that would be too much for critical virtue!–

I had your letter yesterday morning early. The postoffice people were so resolved on keeping their Christmas, that they would not let me keep mine– No post all day, after that general post before noon, which never brings me anything worth the breaking of a seal.

Am I to see you on monday? If there should be the least, least crossing of that day, .. anything to do, anything to see, anything to listen to—remember how tuesday stands close by, & that another monday comes on the following week. Now I need not say that every time, & you will please to remember it—Eccellenza!–

May God bless you–

Your EBB–

From the New Monthly Magazine, “The admirers of Robert Browning’s poetry, & they are now very numerous, will be glad to hear of the issue by Mr Moxon of a seventh series of the renowned Bells & delicious Pomegranates, under the title of Dramatic Romances & Lyrics.”[6]

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

Postmark: PD 8NT DE27 1845 B.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 95.; + Monday Dec. 29. 1845. / 3–4¾. p.m. (37.)

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 346–347.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Luria, III, 66–69. For EBB’s critical notes on Act III, see pp. 396–397.

2. The reference is to Luria, III, 80–87.

3. Luria, III, 99.

4. Luria, III, 108–109.

5. Luria, III, 112–113.

6. This appears in the “Miscellaneous” column in The New Monthly Magazine for December 1845 (p. 500).

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