2178.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 1–3.


Sunday Evening. [18 January 1846] [1]

You may have seen, I put off all the weighty business-part of the letter—but I shall do very little with it now: to be sure, a few words will serve, because you understand me, and believe in enough of me– First then, I am wholly satisfied, thoroughly made happy in your assurance—I would build up an infinity of lives, if I could plan them, one on the other, and all resting on you, on your word– I fully believe in it,—of my feeling, the gratitude, let there be no attempt to speak. And for “waiting”,—“not hurrying”,—I leave all with you henceforth—all you say is most wise, most convincing.

On the saddest part of all,—silence. You understand, and I can understand thro’ you. Do you know, that I never used to dream unless indisposed, and rarely then—(of late I dream of you, but quite of late)—and those nightmare dreams have invariably been of one sort—I stand by (powerless to interpose by a word even) and see the infliction of tyranny on the unresisting—man or beast (generally the last)—and I wake just in time not to die: let no one try this kind of experiment on me or mine! Tho’ I have observed that by a felicitous arrangement, the man with the whip puts it into use with an old horse commonly: I once knew a fine specimen of the boilingly passionate, desperately respectable on the Eastern principle that reverences a madman—and this fellow, whom it was to be death to oppose, (some bloodvessel was to break)—he, once at a dinner party at which I was present, insulted his wife (a young pretty simple believer in his awful immunities from the ordinary terms that keep men in order)—brought the tears into her eyes and sent her from the room .. purely to “show off” in the eyes of his guests .. (all males, law-friends &c he being a lawyer.) This feat accomplished, he, too, left us with an affectation of compensating relentment, to “just say a word and return”—and no sooner was his back to the door than the biggest, stupidest of the company began to remark “what a fortunate thing it was that Mr So & So had such a submissive wife—not one of the women who would resist,—that is, attempt to resist—and so exasperate our gentleman into .. Heaven only knew what!”– I said it was, in one sense, a fortunate thing,—because one of those women, without necessarily being the lion-tressed Bellona, [2] would richly give him his desert, I thought– “Oh, indeed? No—this man was not to be opposed, wait, you might, till the fit was over, and then try what kind argument could do”—and so forth to unspeakable nausea. Presently we went up-stairs—there sate the wife with dried eyes and a smile at the tea table—and by her, in all the pride of conquest, with her hand in his, our friend—disposed to be very good-natured of course– I listened arrectis auribus [3] —and in a minute he said he did not know somebody I mentioned– I told him, that I easily conceived—such a person would never condescend to know him, &c, and treated him to every consequence ingenuity could draw from that text—and at the end marched out of the room,—and the valorous man, who had sate like a post, got up, took a candle, followed me to the door, and only said in unfeigned wonder, “what can have possessed you, my dear B?” —All which I as much expected beforehand, as that the above-mentioned man of the whip keeps it quiet in the presence of an ordinary-couraged dog– All this is quite irrelevant to the case .. indeed, I write to get rid of the thought altogether: but I do hold it the most stringent duty of all who can, to stop a condition, a relation of one human being to another which God never allowed to exist between Him and ourselves– Trees live and die, if you please, and accept will for a law—but with us, all commands surely refer to a previously-implanted conviction in ourselves of their rationality and justice—or why declare that “the Lord is holy, just and good” [4] unless there is recognized and independent conception of holiness and goodness, to which the subsequent assertion is referable? “You know what holiness is, what it is to be good? Then, He is that”—not, “that is so—because he is that”; tho’, of course, when once the converse is demonstrated, this, too, follows, and may be urged for practical purposes– All God’s urgency, so to speak, is on the justice of his judgments, rightness of his rule: yet why? one might ask—if one does believe that the rule is his,—why ask further?– Because, his is a “reasonable service”, [5] once for all–

Understand why I turn my thoughts in this direction—if it is indeed as you fear—and no endeavour, concession, on my part will avail, under any circumstances—(and by endeavour, I mean all heart & soul could bring the flesh to perform)—in that case, you will not come to me with a shadow past hope of chasing–

The likelihood is—I over frighten myself for you, by the involuntary contrast with those here—you allude to them—if I went with this letter downstairs and said simply “I want this taken to the direction to-night—and am unwell & unable to go—will you take it now?” —My father would not say a word,—or rather would say a dozen cheerful absurdities about his “wanting a walk”, “just having been wishing to go out” &c– At night he sits studying my works—illustrating them (I will bring you drawings to make you laugh)—and yesterday I picked up a crumpled bit of paper .. “his notion of what a criticism on this last number ought to be,—none, that have appeared, satisfying him!”– So judge of what he will say!—(And my mother loves me just as much more as must of necessity be–)

Once more, understand all this .. for the clock scares me of a sudden—I meant to say more—far more.

But may God bless you ever—my own dearest, my Ba–

I am wholly your RB. (Tuesday).

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St

Postmark: 12NN12 JA19 1846 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 101.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 398–401.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. The goddess of war and wife of Mars.

3. “With ears pricked.”

4. Cf. Romans 7:12.

5. Romans 12:1.


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