Correspondence

2195.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 37–39.

[London]

Saturday– [31 January 1846][1]

Well—I have your letter—& I send you the postscript to my last one, written yesterday you observe .. & being simply a postscript in some parts of it, so far it is not for an answer. Only I deny the ‘flying out’—perhaps you may do it a little more .. in your moments of starry centrifugal motion.

So you think that dear Mr Kenyon’s opinion of his “young relative” .. (neither young nor his relative .. not very much of either!) is to the effect that you could’nt possibly “escape” her—? It looks like the sign of the Red Dragon, put so .. & your burning mountain is not too awful for the scenery–

Seriously .. gravely .. if it makes me three times happy that you should love me, yet I grow uneasy & even saddened when you say infatuated things such as this & this .. unless after all you mean a philosophical sarcasm on the worth of Czar diamonds—! No—do not say such things!– If you do, I shall end by being jealous of some ideal Czarina who must stand between you & me .. I shall think that it is not I whom you look at .. & pour cause.[2] “Flying out,” that wd be![3]

And for Mr Kenyon, I only know that I have grown the most ungrateful of human beings lately, & find myself almost glad when he does not come, certainly uncomfortable when he does—yes, really I would rather not see him at all & when you are not here. The sense of which, & the sorrow for which, turn me to a hypocrite, & make me ask why he does not come &c .. questions which never came to my lips before .. till I am more & more ashamed & sorry. Will it end, I wonder, by my ceasing to care for any one in the world, except .. except …? or is it not rather that I feel trodden down by either his too great penetration or too great unconsciousness, both being overwhelming things from him to me. From a similar cause I hate writing letters to any of my old friends—I feel as if it were the merest swindling to attempt to give the least account of myself to anybody, & when their letters come & I know that nothing very fatal has happened to them, scarcely I can read to an end afterwards through the besetting care of having to answer it all. Then I am ignoble enough to revenge myself on people for their stupidities .. which never in my life I did before nor felt the temptation to do .. & when they have a distaste for your poetry through want of understanding, I have a distaste for them .. cannot help it—& you need not say it is wrong, because I know the whole iniquity of it, persisting nevertheless. And for dear Mr Kenyon, with whom we began, & who thinks of you as appreciatingly & admiringly as one man can think of another, .. do not imagine that, if he should see anything, he can ‘approve’ of either your wisdom or my generosity, .. he, with his large organs of caution, & his habit of looking right & left, & round the corner a little way– Because, you know, .. if I should be ill before .. why there, is a conclusion!– But if afterward .. what? You, who talk wildly of my generosity, whereas I only & most impotently tried to be generous, must see how both suppositions have their possibility—— Nevertheless you are the master to run the latter risk– You have overcome .. to your loss perhaps—unless the judgement is revised. As to taking the half of my prison .. I could not even smile at that if it seemed probable .. I should recoil from your affection even, under a shape so fatal to you .. dearest!– No! There is a better probability before us I hope & believe—in spite of the possibility which it is impossible to deny. And now we leave this subject for the present.——

Sunday/ You are “singularly well–” You are very seldom quite well, I am afraid—yet Luria seems to have done no harm this time, as you are singularly well the day after so much writing. Yet do not hurry that last act .. I wont have it for a long while yet–

Here I have been reading Carlyle upon Cromwell & he is very fine, very much himself, it seems to me, everywhere. Did Mr Kenyon make you understand that I had said there was nothing in him but manner .. I thought he said so—& I am confident that he never heard such an opinion from me, for good or for evil, ever at all. I may have observed upon those vulgar attacks on account of the so-called mannerism, the obvious fact .. that an individuality, carried into the medium, the expression, is a feature in all men of genius .. as Buffon teaches .. “Le style, c’est l’homme.”[4] But if the whole man were style .. if all Carlyleism were manner .. why there would be no man, no Carlyle, worth talking of—— I wonder that Mr Kenyon should misrepresent me so. Euphuisms there may be to the end of the world .. affected parlances .. just as a fop at heart may go without shoestrings to mimic the distractions of some great wandering soul—although that is a bad comparison, seeing that what is called Carlyle’s mannerism, is not his dress, but his physiognomy .. or more than that even.

But I do not forgive him for talking here against the “ideals of poets” .. opposing their ideal by a mis-called reality, which is another sort, a baser sort, of ideal after all. He sees things in broad blazing lights .. but he does not analyze them like a philosopher .. do you think so? Then his praise for dumb heroic action as opposed to speech & singing,[5] what is that—when all earnest thought, passion, belief, & their utterances, are as much actions surely as the cutting off of fifty heads by one right hand. As if Shakespeare’s actions were not greater than Cromwell’s!–

But I shall write no more. Once more .. may God bless you. Wholly & only

your Ba

Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.

Postmark: 10FN10 FE2 1846 A.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 110.;[6] + Tuesday, Feb. 2 [sic, for 3]. / 3–5. p.m. (44.)

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 431–434 (as [31 January 1846]).

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. “For good reason.”

3. See the preceding letter.

4. “The style is the man” (cf. Georges Louis Leclerc de Buffon, Discours sur le Style, 1753); see letter 1812. In the introduction to Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches (1845), Carlyle wrote: “He that works and does some Poem, not he that merely says one, is worthy of the name of Poet” (p. 74).

5. The references in this paragraph are to the introduction to Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches, p. 13 and p. 116.

6. RB assigned one sequence number for this letter and letter 2192, which were enclosed in the same envelope.

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