2188.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 23–25.


Tuesday. [Postmark: 27 January 1846]

Why will you give me such unnecessary proofs of your goodness? Why not leave the books for me to take away, at all events? No—you must fold up, and tie round, and seal over, and be at all the pains in the world with those hands I see now. But you only threaten,—say you “shall send”—as yet, and nothing having come, I do pray you, if not too late, to save me the shame—add to the gratitude you never can now, I think .. only think, for you are a siren, and I don’t know certainly to what your magic may not extend. —Thus, in not so important a matter,—I should have said, the day before yesterday, that no letter from you could make my heart rise within me, more than of old .. unless it should happen to be of twice the ordinary thickness .. and then there’s a fear at first lest the over-running of my dealt out measure should be just a note of Mr Kenyon’s, for instance!– But yesterday the very seal began with “Ba”– [1] Now, always seal with that seal my letters, dearest! Do you recollect Donne’s pretty lines about seals,


Quondam fessus Amor loquens Amato,

Tot et tanta loquens amica, scripsit:

Tandem et fessa manus dedit Sigillum. [2]

And in his own English,


When love, being weary, made an end

Of kind expressions to his friend,

He writ; when hand could write no more,

He gave the seal—and so left o’er.

(By the way, what a mercy that he never noticed the jingle in posse [3] of ending “expressions” and beginning “impressions”–)

How your account of the actors in the “Love’s Labour lost” amused me! I rather like, tho’, the notion of that steady, businesslike pursuit of love under difficulties,—and the sobbing proves something surely! Serjt Talfourd says .. is it not he who says it? .. “All tears are not for sorrow”– [4] I should incline to say, from my own feeling, that no tears were .. they only express joy in me, or sympathy with joy—and so is it with you too, I should think–

Understand that I do not disbelieve in mesmerism—I only object to insufficient evidence being put forward as quite irrefragable—I keep an open sense on the subject—ready to be instructed,—and should have refused such testimony as Miss Martineau’s if it had been adduced in support of something I firmly believed—“non tali auxilio” [5] —indeed, so has truth been harmed, and only so, from the beginning. So, I shall read what you bid me, and learn all I can.

I am not quite so well this week—yesterday some friends came early and kept me at home—for which I seem to suffer a little,—less, already, than in the morning—so I will go out and walk away the whirring .. which is all the mighty ailment. As for Luria I have not looked at it since I saw you—which means, saw you in the body, because last night I saw you, .. as I wonder if you know!

Thursday, and again I am with you—and you will forget nothing .. how the farewell is to be returned? Ah, my dearest, sweetest Ba; how entirely I love you!

May God bless you ever–


2. p.m. Your parcel arrives .. the pen-holder,—now what shall I say? How am I to use so fine a thing even in writing to you? I will give it you again in our Isle, and meantime keep it where my other treasures are—my letters and my dear ringlet–

Thank you—all I can thank–

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St.

Postmark: 8NT8 JA27 1846 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 106.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 423–425.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. EBB had sealed her last letter with the impression “Ba.”

2. These lines are not Donne’s; they are from Herbert’s “In Sacram Anchoram Piscatoris G. Herbert” (from Poems, 1650), lines 10–12, written in reply to Donne’s “To Mr. George Herbert, with my Seal, of the Anchor and Christ” (1650).

3. “Potential.”

4. We have been unable to trace the source of this quotation in Talfourd’s works.

5. “Not such aid” (Æneid, II, 521, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough). In this and subsequent quotations from, or references to, Greek and Latin classical authors, the citations are from the Loeb Classical Library unless otherwise indicated.


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