Correspondence

2196.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 40–41.

[London]

Tuesday [sic, for Wednesday] Morning. [Postmark: 4 February 1846]

You ought hardly,—ought you, my Ba?—to refer to that letter or any expression in it–[1] I had .. and have, I trust .. your forgiveness for what I wrote, meaning to be generous or at least just, God knows: that, and the other like exaggerations were there to serve the purpose of what you properly call a crisis– I did believe, .. taking an expression, in the note that occasioned mine, in connection with an excuse which came in the postscript for not seeing me on the day previously appointed, I did fully believe that you were about to deny me admittance again unless I blotted out,—not merely softened down,—the past avowal. All was wrong, foolish, but from a good motive I dare to say. And then, that particular exaggeration you bring most painfully to my mind—that does not, after all, disagree with what I said and you repeat—does it, if you will think? I said my other “likings” (as you rightly set it down) used to “come & go”, and that my love for you did not—and that is true, the first clause as the last of the sentence—for my sympathies are very wide and general,—always have been—and the natural problem has been the giving unity to their object, concentrating them instead of dispersing– —I seem to have foretold, foreknown you in other likings of mine, now here .. when the liking “came” .. and now elsewhere .. when as surely the liking “went”: and if they had stayed before the time would that have been a comfort to refer to? On the contrary, I am as little likely to be led by delusions as can be,—for Romeo thinks he loves Rosaline, and is excused on all hands—whereas I saw the plain truth without one mistake, and “looked to like, if looking liking moved—and no more deep did I endart mine eye”[2]—about which, first I was very sorry, and after rather proud—all which I seem to have told you before– —And now, when my whole heart and soul find you, and fall on you, and fix forever,—I am to be dreadfully afraid the joy cannot last, seeing that

.. it is so baseless a fear that no illustration will serve! Is it gone now, dearest, ever-dearest?–

And as you amuse me sometimes, as now, by seeming surprised at some chance expression of a truth which is grown a veriest commonplace to me (—like Charles Lamb’s “letter to an elderly man whose education had been neglected”[3]—when he finds himself involuntarily communicating truths above the capacity and acquirements of his friend, and stops himself after this fashion– “If you look round the world, my dear Sir .. (for it is round!”—)—so I will make you laugh at me, if you will, for my inordinate delight at hearing the success of your experiment with the opium; I never dared, nor shall dare inquire into your use of that—for, knowing you utterly as I do, I know you only bend to the most absolute necessity in taking more or less of it—so that increase of the quantity must mean simply increased weakness, illness, and diminution, diminished illness– And now there is diminution! Dear, dear Ba—you speak of my silly head and its ailments .. well, and what brings on the irritation? a wet day or two spent at home; and what ends it all directly?—just an hour’s walk! So with me: now,—fancy me shut in a room for seven years[4] .. it is—no, do’nt see, even in fancy, what is left of me then! But you, at the end; this is all the harm! I wonder .. I confirm my soul in its belief in perpetual miraculousness .. I bless God with my whole heart that it is thus with you! And so, I will not even venture to say,—so superfluous it were, tho’ with my most earnest, most loving breath,—(I who do love you more at every breath I draw,—indeed, yes dearest,)—I will not bid you,—that is, pray you—to persevere!– You have all my life bound to yours– Save me from myseven years”—and God reward you.

Your own RB.

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St.

Postmark: 8NT8 FE4 1846 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 109.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 434–436.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. i.e., letter 1926, which was occasioned by EBB’s response to the letter RB wrote after their first meeting, the same letter that he later burned. RB’s mention here of EBB’s reference to it alludes to her comments in letter 2192.

2. Cf. Romeo and Juliet, I, 3, 97–98.

3. Lamb’s “Letter to an Old Gentleman Whose Education has been Neglected,” dated 1 April 1823, was published in the January 1825 issue of The London Magazine, pp. 95–99. While it was signed “Elia,” it was not collected with that famous series of essays, although it does appear in an 1869 Leipzig edition of The Essays of Elia and Eliana (pp. 342–347).

4. In A New Spirit of the Age (1844), Horne claimed that EBB had been “confined entirely to her own apartment, and almost hermetically sealed,” and that she had endured this for “six or seven years” (II, 134 and see our vol. 8, p. 342). She contradicted this claim in letter 1562 saying that it had been closer to “four or five.” At the time of this letter, however, two years after A New Spirit, she seems not to disagree with “six or seven.”

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