2167. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 301–303.
Friday morning [Postmark: 9 January 1846]
You never think, ever dearest, that I ‘repent’—why what a word to use! You never could think such a word for a moment! If you were to leave me even, .. to decide that it is best for you to do it, & do it, .. I should accede at once of course, but never should I nor could I ‘repent’ .. regret anything .. be sorry for having known you & loved you .. no! Which I say simply to prove that, in no extreme case, could I repent for my own sake– For yours, it might be different.
Not out of ‘generosity’ certainly, but from the veriest selfishness, I choose here before God, any possible present evil, rather than the future consciousness of feeling myself less to you, on the whole, than another woman might have been.
Oh, these vain & most heathenish repetitions!—do I not vex you by them, you whom I would always please, & never vex? Yet they force their way because you are the best noblest & dearest in the world, & because your happiness is so precious a thing.
Cloth of frieze, be not too bold,
Though thou’rt matched with cloth of gold!–
.. that, beloved, was written for me. And you, if you would make me happy, .. always will look at yourself from my ground & by my light, as I see you, & consent to be selfish in all things. Observe, that if I were vacillating, I shd not be so weak as to teaze you with the process of the vacillation: I should wait till my pendulum ceased swinging. It is precisely because I am your own, past any retraction or wish of retraction, .. because I belong to you by gift & ownership, & am ready & willing to prove it before the world at a word of yours,––it is precisely for this, that I remind you too often of the necessity of using this right of yours, not to your injury .. of being wise & strong for both of us, & of guarding your happiness which is mine– I have said these things ninety & nine times over, & over & over have you replied to them, .. as yesterday! & now, do not speak any more. It is only my preachment for general use, & not for particular application,—only to be ready for application. I love you from the deepest of my nature—the whole world is nothing to me beside you—& what is so precious, is not far from being terrible. “How dreadful is this place”.
To hear you talk yesterday, is a gladness in the thought for today, .. it was with such a full assent that I listened to every word. It is true, I think, that we see things (things apart from ourselves) under the same aspect & colour—& it is certainly true that I have a sort of instinct by which I seem to know your views of such subjects as we have never looked at together. I know you so well, (yes, I boast to myself of that intimate knowledge) that I seem to know also the idola of all things as they are in your eyes—so that never, scarcely, I am curious, .. never anxious, to learn what your opinions may be– Now, have I been curious or anxious? It was enough for me to know you.
More than enough! You have “left undone” .. do you say? On the contrary, you have done too much .. you are too much– My cup, .. which used to hold at the bottom of it just the drop of Heaven-dew mingling with the absinthus, .. has overflowed with all this wine—& that makes me look out for the vases, which would have held it better, had you stretched out your hand for them.
Say how you are .. & do take care & exercise—& write to me, dearest!
Ever your own–
How right you are about Ben Capstan,—& the illustration by the yellow clay. That is precisely what I meant, .. said with more precision than I could say it. Art without an ideal is neither nature nor art. The question involves the whole difference between Madame Tussaud & Phidias.
I have just received Mr Edgar Poe’s book—& I see that the deteriorating preface which was to have saved me from the vanity-fever produceable by the dedication, is cut down & away—perhaps in this particular copy only!–
Tuesday is so near, as men count, that I caught myself just now being afraid lest the week should have no chance of appearing long to you!– Try to let it be long to you—will you? My consistency is wonderful.
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 8NT8 JA9 1846 A.
Docket, in RB’s hand: 100.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 372–374.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. As previously noted (see letter 594, note 3), the last couplet of a four-line verse attributed to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, at the time of his marriage to Mary Tudor. The lines were quoted by Horace Walpole in Anecdotes of Paintings in England (1762), vol. 1, ch. 4, p. 54; and, according to Leigh Hunt, the verse was woven into the saddle-cloth of a horse Brandon rode at a tournament (Leigh Hunt’s London Journal, Supplement No. 5, 1835, p. xxxiii). It also appeared in a portrait of Mary Tudor (Richard Davey, The Sisters of Lady Jane Grey and Their Wicked Grandfather, 1911, p. 56).
2. Genesis 28:17.
4. In letter 2163.
5. As previously noted (in letter 2119, note 7), there is no evidence that the preface ever appeared. This was not the inscribed presentation copy of The Raven and Other Poems EBB would eventually receive. We have been unable to trace this copy, or identify with certainty which issue of Poe’s book this was. For an account of the publication of the poem, see Thomas Ollive Mabbott’s introduction to The Raven and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe: Reproduced in facsimile from the Lorimer Graham copy of the edition of 1845 with author’s corrections (New York, 1942), pp. xiii–xviii.