Correspondence

2194.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 35–37.

[London]

Saturday– [Postmark: 31 January 1846]

It is a relief to me this time to obey your wish, and reserve further remark on that subject till by and bye .. and, whereas some people, I suppose, have to lash themselves up to the due point of passion, and choose the happy minutes to be as loving in as they possibly can .. (that is, in expression,—the just correspondency of word to fact & feeling,—for it,—the love,—may be very truly there, at the bottom, when it is got at, and spoken out)—quite otherwise, I do really have to guard my tongue and set a watch on my pen .. that so I may say as little as can well be likely to be excepted to by your generosity: dearest, love means love, certainly, and adoration carries its sense with it—and so, you may have received my feeling in that shape—but when I begin to hint at the merest putting into practice one or the other profession, you “fly out”—instead of keeping your throne– So let this letter lie awhile, till my heart is more used to it, and after some days or weeks I will find as cold and quiet a moment as I can, and—by standing as far off you as I shall be able,—see more—“si minus propè stes, te capiet magis”–[1] Meanwhile, silent or speaking, I am yours to dispose of as that glove—not that hand.[2]

I must think that Mr Kenyon sees, and knows, and .. in his goodness .. hardly disapproves—he knows I could not avoid,—escape you—for he knows, in a manner, what you are .. like your American;[3] and, early in our intercourse, he asked me (—did I tell you?—) “what I thought of his young relative”—and I considered half a second—to this effect—“if he asked me what I thought of the Queen-diamond they showed me in the crown of the Czar,[4]—and I answered truly—he would not return,—‘then of course you mean to try and get it to keep’”– So I did tell the truth in a very few words– Well, it is no matter.

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I am sorry to hear of poor Tennyson’s condition—the projected book,[5]—title, scheme, all of it,—that is astounding:—and fairies!—if “Thropès [sic, for Thorpès] and barnes, sheep-pens and dairies—this maketh that there ben no fairies”[6]—locomotives, and the broad or narrow guage must keep the very ghosts of them away– But how the fashion of this world passes,—the forms its beauty & truth take,—if we have the making of such! I went last night, out of pure shame at a broken promise,—to hear Miss Cushman & her sister in “Romeo and Juliet”[7]—the whole play goes .. horribly,—“speak” bids the Poet, and so M. Walladmir[8] moves his tongue and dispenses with his jaws: whatever is slightly touched in, indicated, to give relief to something actually insisted upon and drawn boldly .. here, you have it gone over with an unremitting burnt-stick,—till it stares black forever! Romeo goes whining about Verona by broad daylight: yet when a schoolfellow of mine, I remember, began translating in class Virgil after this mode, “sic fatur—so said Æneas,—lachrymans—a-crying[9] .. our pedagogue[10] turned on him furiously—“D’ye think Æneas made such a noise—as you shall, presently?”– How easy to conceive a boyish half-melancholy, smiling at itself–

Then Tuesday, and not Monday .. and Saturday will be the nearer afterward. I am singularly well to-day—head quite quiet—and yesterday your penholder began its influence and I wrote about half my last act. Writing is nothing nor praise, nor blame, nor living nor dying, but you are all my true life; May God bless you ever–

RB.

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St

Postmark: 8NT8 JA31 1846 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 108.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 428–429.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. “One strikes your fancy more, the less nearer you stand.” A play on “si propius stes, te capiat magis,” “One strikes your fancy more, the nearer you stand” (cf. Horace, Ars Poetica, 361–365, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough).

2. Perhaps a reference to RB’s poem, “The Glove,” of which EBB had expressed approval in letter 2095. It seems more likely, however, that RB is referring to a comment made by EBB in letter 2146.

3. That she is “the Noblest of her Sex,” referring to Poe’s dedication in The Raven.

4. Perhaps a reference to the diamond that was stolen by a French soldier from a Brahmin temple. It was subsequently bought by Prince Orloff and given to Empress Catherine II of Russia.

5. A reference to The Princess.

6. Cf. Chaucer, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” 15–16.

7. RB first mentioned Charlotte Cushman in letter 1995, having met her at Chorley’s. Her Romeo to the Juliet of her sister, Susan Cushman (1822–59), became very popular. The first English performance was given on 29 December 1845, and a review of it, published in The Athenæum for 3 January 1846 (no. 949, pp. 19–20), included the following remarks: “The soliloquy preceding the interview with the apothecary was capitally spoken; and the scene at the tomb of the Capulets replete with power, vigour, and effect. Would that all the tragedy had been as well played; but, with the exception of Mrs. Glover’s Nurse, the rest of the characters were poorly filled. Mr. Holl’s Mercutio was execrable.”

8. Sic, for Valdemar. RB’s remarks refer to Poe’s “The Facts of M. Valdemar’s Case” (see letter 2185, note 3).

9. “Thus he cries weeping” (cf. Æneid, VI, 1, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough).

10. Probably RB’s schoolmaster, Thomas Martin Ready (d. 1866).

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