2187. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 21–23.
Monday. [26–27 January 1846]
You have had my letter & heard about the penholder– Your fancy of “not seeming grateful enough”, is not wise enough for you, dearest,—when you know that I know your common fault to be the undue magnifying of everything that comes from me, & I am always complaining of it outwardly & inwardly. That suddenly I should set about desiring you to be more grateful, .. even for so great a boon as an old penholder, .. would be a more astounding change than any to be sought or seen in a prime minister.
Another mistake you made concerning Henrietta & her opinion—& there’s no use nor comfort in leaving you in it. Henrietta, say[s] that the “anger would not be so formidable after all!”! Poor dearest Henrietta, who trembles at the least bending of the brows .. who has less courage than I, & the same views of the future.!! What she referred to, was simply the infrequency of the visits .. “Why was I afraid,” she said—“where was the danger? who would be the informer”?—— Well! I will not say any more. It is just natural that you, in your circumstances & associations, should be unable to see what I have seen from the beginning—only you will not hereafter reproach me, in the most secret of your thoughts, for not having told you plainly. If I could have told you with greater plainness I should blame myself (& I do not:) because it is not an opinion I have, but a perception. I see, I know. The result .. the end of all .. perhaps now & then I see that too .. in the “lucid moments” which are not the happiest for anybody. Remember, in all cases, that I shall not repent of any part of our past intercourse,—& that, therefore, when the time for decision comes, you will be free to look at the question as if you saw it then for the first moment, without being hampered by considerations about “all those yesterdays”.
For him .. he would rather see me dead at his foot than yield the point: & he will say so, & mean it, & persist in the meaning.
Do you ever wonder at me .. that I should write such things, & have written others so different? I have thought that in myself very often. Insincerity & injustice may seem the two ends, while I occupy the straight betwixt two—& I should not like you to doubt how this may be!– Sometimes I have begun to show you the truth, & torn the paper,—I could not– Yet now again I am borne on to tell you, .. to save you from some thoughts which you cannot help perhaps.
There has been no insincerity .. nor is there injustice. I believe, I am certain, I have loved him better than the rest of his children .. I have heard the fountain within the rock, & my heart has struggled in towards him through the stones of the rock .. thrust off .. dropping off .. turning in again & clinging!—knowing what is excellent in him well, loving him as my only parent left, & for himself dearly, notwithstanding that hardness, & the miserable ‘system’ which made him appear harder still– I have loved him & been proud of him for his high qualities, for his courage & fortitude when he bore up so bravely years ago under the wor[l]dly reverses which he yet felt acutely .. more than you & I could feel them—but the fortitude was admirable. Then came the trials of love—then, I was repulsed too often, .. made to suffer in the suffering of those by my side .. depressed by petty daily sadnesses & terrors, from which it is possible however for an elastic affection to rise again as fast—. Yet my friends used to say “you look broken-spirited”—& it was true. In the midst, came my illness, & when I was ill he grew gentler & let me draw nearer than ever I had done—& after that great stroke .. you know .. though that fell in the middle of a storm of emotion & sympathy on my part, which drove clearly against him, … God seemed to strike our hearts together by the shock,—& I was grateful to him for not saying aloud what I said to myself in my agony, ‘If it had not been for you” ..! And comparing my selfreproach to what I imagined his selfreproach must certainly be, (for if I had loved selfishly, he had not been kind) I felt as if I could love & forgive him for two .. (I knowing that serene generous departed spirit, & seeming left to represent it,) .. & I did love him better than all those left to me to love in the world here. I proved a little my affection for him, by coming to London at the risk of my life rather than diminish the comfort of his home by keeping a part of my family away from him– And afterwards for long & long, he spoke to me kindly & gently, & of me affectionately & with too much praise,—& God knows that I had as much joy as I imagined myself capable of again, in the sound of his footstep on the stairs & of his voice when he prayed in this room,—my best hope, as I have told him since, being, to die beneath his eyes. Love is so much to me naturally—it is, to all women!—& it was so much to me to feel sure at last that he loved me—to forget all blame .. to pull the weeds up from that last illusion of life—& this, till the Pisa-business, which threw me off, far as ever, again—farther than ever—when George said “he could not flatter me” & I dared not flatter myself. But do you believe that I never wrote what I did not feel: I never did. And I ask one kindness more .. do not notice what I have written here. Let it pass– We can alter nothing by ever so many words. After all, he is the victim. He isolates himself—& now & then he feels it .. the cold dead silence all round, which is the effect of an incredible system. If he were not stronger than most men, he could not bear it as he does. With such high qualities too!—so upright & honorable—you would esteem him, you would like him, I think. And so .. dearest .. let that be the last word.
I dare say you have asked yourself sometimes, why it was that I never managed to draw you into the house here, so that you might make your own way– Now that is one of the things impossible to me. I have not influence enough for that. George can never invite a friend of his own even. Do you see? The people who do come here, come by particular license & association .. Capt Surtees Cook being one of them. Once .. when I was in high favour too .. I asked for Mr Kenyon to be invited to dinner—he an old college friend, & living close by & so affectionate to me always—I felt that he must be hurt by the neglect, & asked. It was in vain. Now, you see—!
May God bless you always! I wrote all my spirits away in this letter yesterday & kept it to finish today .. being yours everyday, glad or sad, ever beloved!.
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 8NT8 JA27 1846 A.
Dockets, in RB’s hand: 108.; Thursday Jan. 29. / 3–5. p.m. (43.)
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 420–423.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark and EBB’s last paragraph.
2. Cf. Macbeth, V, 5, 23.
3. Perhaps an allusion to Psalm 114:8.
4. i.e., Bro’s death.
5. See letter 846.