2176. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 11, 321–323.
Thursday Night. [15 January 1846]
Ever dearest—how you can write touching things to me,—& how my whole being vibrates, as a string, to these! How have I deserved from God & you all that I thank you for? Too unworthy I am of all! Only, it was not, dearest beloved, what you feared, that was “horrible”, .. it was what you supposed, rather! It was a mistake of yours. And now we will not talk of it any more.
For the rest, I will think as you desire: but I have thought a great deal, & there are certainties which I know; & I hope we both are aware that nothing can be more hopeless than our position in some relations & aspects, though you do not guess perhaps that the very approach to the subject is shut up by dangers, & that from the moment of a suspicion entering one mind, we should be able to meet never again in this room, nor to have intercourse by letter through the ordinary channel. I mean, that letters of yours, addressed to me here, would infallibly be stopped & destroyed——if not opened. Therefore it is advisable to hurry on nothing—on these grounds it is advisable. What should I do if I did not see you nor hear from you, without being able to feel that it was for your happiness? What should I do for a month even? And then, I might be thrown out of the window or its equivalent– I look back shuddering to the dreadful scenes in which poor Henrietta was involved who never offended as I have offended .. years ago which seem as present as today. She had forbidden the subject to be referred to until that consent was obtained—& at a word she gave up all—at a word. In fact she had no true attachment, as I observed to Arabel at the time: a child never submitted more meekly to a revoked holiday. Yet how she was made to suffer– Oh, the dreadful scenes!—and only because she had seemed to feel a little. I told you, I think, that there was an obliquity .. an eccentricity—or something beyond .. on one class of subjects. I hear how her knees were made to ring upon the floor, now! she was carried out of the room in strong hysterics, & I, who rose up to follow her, though I was quite well at that time & suffered only by sympathy; fell flat down upon my face in a fainting-fit. Arabel thought I was dead.
I have tried to forget it all—but now I must remember—& throughout our intercourse I have remembered. It is necessary to remember so much as to avoid such evils as are evitable, & for this reason I would conceal nothing from you. Do you remember besides, that there can be no faltering on my “part”, & that, if I should remain well, which is not proved yet, I will do for you what you please & as you please to have it done. But there is time for considering!
Only .. as you speak of ‘counsel’, I will take courage to tell you that my sisters know—. Arabel is in most of my confidences, & being often in the room with me, taxed me with the truth long ago—she saw that I was affected from some cause—& I told her. We are as safe with both of them as possible—& they thoroughly understand that if there should be any change it would not be your fault .. I made them understand that thoroughly. From themselves I have received nothing but the most smiling words of kindness & satisfaction (—I thought I might tell you so much:) they have too much tenderness for me to fail in it now. My brothers, it is quite necessary not to draw into a dangerous responsibility– I have felt that from the beginning & shall continue to feel it—though I hear, & can observe that they are full of suspicions & conjectures, which are never unkindly expressed. I told you once that we held hands the faster in this house for the weight over our heads. But the absolute knowledge would be dangerous for my brothers: with my sisters it is different, & I could not continue to conceal from them what they had under their eyes—and then, Henrietta is in a like position– It was not wrong of me to let them know it?—no?–
Yet of what consequence is all this to the other side of the question? What, if you should give pain & disappointment where you owe such pure gratitude——. But we need not talk of these things now. Only you have more to consider than I, I imagine, while the future comes on.
Dearest, let me have my way in one thing: let me see you on tuesday instead of on monday—on tuesday at the old hour– Be reasonable & consider– Tuesday is almost as near as the day before it; & on monday, I shall be hurried at first, lest Papa should be still in the house, (no harm, but an excuse for nervousness! & I cant quote a noble Roman as you can, to the praise of my conscience!) & you will be hurried at last, lest you should not be in time for Mr Forster. On the other hand, I will not let you be rude to the Daily News,––no, nor to the Examiner– Come on tuesday, then, instead of monday, & let us have the usual hours in a peaceable way, .. & if there is no obstacle, … that is, if Mr Kenyon or some equivalent authority should not take note of your being here on tuesday, why you can come again on the saturday afterwards .. I do not see the difficulty. Are we agreed? On tuesday, at three oclock. Consider, besides, that the monday arrangement would hurry you in every manner, & leave you fagged for the evening—no, I will not hear of it. Not, on my account, not on yours!–
Think of me on monday instead, & write before. Are not these two lawful letters? And do they not deserve an answer?
My life was ended when I knew you, & if I survive myself it is for your sake:—that resumes all my feelings & intentions in respect to you. No “counsel” could make the difference of a grain of dust in the balance. It is so, & not otherwise. If you changed towards me, it would be better for you I believe—& I should be only where I was before. While you do not change, I look to you for my first affections & my first duty—& nothing but your bidding me, could make me look away.
In the midst of this, Mr Kenyon came, & I felt as if I could not talk to him. No—he does not “see how it is”. He may have passing thoughts sometimes, but they do not stay long enough to produce .. even an opinion. He asked if you had been here long.
It may be wrong & ungrateful, but I do wish sometimes that the world were away .. even the good Kenyon-aspect of the world.
And so, once more .. may God bless you!
I am wholly yours–
Tuesday, remember! And say that you agree.
Postmark: None. This letter and envelope enclosed in letter 2175.
Docket: None. Since this letter was received at the same time as no. 2175, RB assigned only one sequence number.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 393–396.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. This letter and the preceding letter were written on the same day.
2. EBB is referring to Henrietta’s involvement with Surtees Cook.