2197.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 42–43.


[4 February 1846][1]

But I did not .. dear dearest .. no indeed, I did not mean any harm about the letter. I wanted to show you how you had given me pleasure—& so, .. did I give you pain? was that my ingenuity? Forgive my unhappiness in it, & let it be as if it had not been. Only I will just say that what made me take [sic, for talk] about ‘the thorn in the flesh’[2] from that letter so long, was a sort of conviction of your having put into it as much of the truth, your truth, as admitted of the ultimate purpose of it, .. & not the least, slightest doubt of the key you gave me to the purpose in question. And so forgive me. Why did you set about explaining, as if I were doubting you?– When you said once that it “did not come & go”, .. was it not enough? enough to make me feel happy as I told you? Did I require you to write a letter like this?—— Now think for a moment, & know once for all, how from the beginning to these latter days & through all possible degrees of crisis, you have been to my apprehension & gratitude, the best, most consistent most noble … the words falter that would speak of it all. In nothing or at no moment have you .. I will not say .. failed to me .. but spoken or acted unworthily of yourself at the highest. What have you ever been to me except too generous?—. Ah—if I had been only half as generous, it is true that I never could have seen you again after that first meeting—it was the straight path perhaps. But I had not courage– I shrank from the thought of it—& then .. besides .. I could not believe that your mistake was likely to last,—I concluded that I might keep my friend.

Why should any remembrance be painful to you? I do not understand. Unless indeed I should grow painful to you .. I myself!—seeing that every remembered separate thing has brought me nearer to you, & made me yours with a deeper trust & love.

And for that letter .. do you fancy that in my memory the sting is not gone from it?—& that I do not carry the thought of it, as the Roman maidens, you speak of, their cool harmless snakes, at my heart always?–[3] So let the poor letter be forgiven—for the sake of the dear letter that was burnt[4] .. forgiven by you .. until you grow angry with me instead .. just till then.

And that you should care so much about the opium—! Then I must care, & get to do with less .. at least– On the other side of your goodness & indulgence (a very little way on the other side, ..) it might strike you as strange that I who have had no pain .. no acute suffering to keep down from its angles .. should need opium in any shape. But I have had restlessness till it made me almost mad—at one time I lost the power of sleeping quite .. & even in the day, the continual aching sense of weakness, <has been intolerable ..>[5] besides palpitation .. as if one’s life instead of giving movement to the body, were imprisoned undiminished within it, & beating & fluttering impotently to get out, at all the doors & windows. So the medical people gave me opium .. a preparation of it, called morphine, & æther—& ever since I have been calling it my amreeta draught,[6] my elixir, .. because the tranquillizing power has been wonderful. Such a nervous system I have .. so irritable naturally, & so shattered by various causes, .. that the need has continued in a degree until now—& it would be dangerous to leave off the calming remedy, Mr Jago[7] says, except very slowly & gradually. But slowly & gradually something may be done—& you are to understand that I never increased upon the prescribed quantity .. prescribed in the first instance—no!– Now think of my writing all this to you!–

And after all the lotus-eaters are blessed beyond the opium-eaters; & the best of lotuses are such thoughts as I know.

Dear Miss Mitford comes tomorrow, & I am not glad enough– Shall I have a letter to make me glad? She will talk, talk, talk .. & I shall be hoping all day that not a word may be talked of .. you:—a forlorn hope indeed! There’s a hope for a day like thursday which is just in the middle between a tuesday & a saturday!

Your head .. is it .. how is it? tell me. And consider again if it could be possible that I could ever desire to reproach you .. in what I said about the letter.

May God bless you, best & dearest. If you are the compensation, blessed is the evil that fell upon me: & that, I can say before God.

Your Ba–

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

Postmark: 10FN10 FE5 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: (111).

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 436–438.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark and EBB’s reference to Miss Mitford’s visit, which occurred on 5 February.

2. II Corinthians 12:7.

3. RB made a similar remark to Fanny Haworth in April 1839 (see letter 689); however, we have been unable to trace the source of this allusion.

4. See letter 1925, note 2.

5. The phrase in angle brackets was added above the line.

6. Amreeta, in Hindu mythology, was a liquor conferring immortality on the drinker. A long note in Southey’s The Curse of Kehama explains that it was produced by churning the ocean with a mountain.

7. Francis Robert Jago (d. 1862, aged 75) had previously provided medical advice to EBB (see letter 849, note 2).


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