2210. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 70–73.
Saturday evening. [14 February 1846]
Ever dearest, though you wanted to make me say one thing displeasing to you today, I had not courage to say two instead .. which I might have done indeed & indeed!– For I am capable of thinking both thoughts of “next year”, as you suggested them:—because while you are with me I see only you, & you being you, I cannot doubt a power of yours nor measure the deep loving nature which I feel to be so deep—so that there may be ever so many ‘mores’, & no ‘more’ wonder of mine!—but afterwards, when the door is shut & there is no ‘more’ light nor speaking until thursday, why then, that I do not see you but me, .. then, comes the reaction, .. the natural lengthening of the shadows at sunset, .. & then, the “less, less, less” grows to seem as natural to my fate, as the “more” seemed to your nature .. I being I!
Well! you are to try to forgive it all! And the truth, over & under all, is, that I scarcely ever do think of the future .. scarcely ever farther than to your next visit––& almost never beyond, except for your sake & in reference to that view of the question which I have vexed you with so often, in fearing for your happiness. Once it was a habit of mind with me to live altogether in what I called the future—but the tops of the trees that looked towards Troy, were broken off in the great winds, & falling down into the river beneath, where now after all this time, they grow green again, I let them float along the current gently & pleasantly– Can it be better I wonder!—and if it becomes worse, can I help it? Also the future never seemed to belong to me so little—never! It might appear wonderful to most persons, it is startling even to myself sometimes, to observe how free from anxiety I am … from the sort of anxiety which might be well connected with my own position here .. & which is personal to myself. That is all thrown behind .. into the bushes—long ago it was, .. & I think I told you of it before. Agitation comes from indecision—and I was decided from the first hour when I admitted the possibility of your loving me really.– Now, .. as the Euphuists used to say .. I am “more thine than my own” .. it is a literal truth—& my future belongs to you: if it was mine, it was mine to give, and if it was mine to give, it was given, .. and if it was given .. beloved .... So you see!
Then I will confess to you that all my life long I have had a rather strange sympathy & dyspathy—the sympathy having concerned the genus jilt (as vulgarly called) male & female—and the dyspathy the whole class of heroically virtuous persons who make sacrifices of what they call ‘love’ to what they call ‘duty’. There are exceptional cases of course—but, for the most part, I listen incredulously or else with a little contempt to those latter proofs of strength .. or weakness .. as it may be:—people are not usually praised for giving up their religion .. for unsaying their oaths .. for desecrating their ‘holy things’—while believing them still to be religious & sacramental. On the other side I have always & shall always understand how it is possible for the most earnest & faithful of men & even of women perhaps, to err in the convictions of the heart as well as of the mind, to profess an affection which is an illusion, and to recant & retreat loyally at the eleventh hour, on becoming aware of the truth which is in them– Such men are the truest of men .. & the most courageous for the truth’s sake, .. & instead of blaming them I hold them in honour, for one, & always did & shall.
And while I write, you are “very ill”—very ill!—how it looks, written down so!– When you were gone yesterday & my thoughts had tossed about restlessly for ever so long, I was wise enough to ask Wilson how she thought you were looking, .. & she “did not know” .. she “had not observed” .. “only certainly Mr Browning ran upstairs instead of walking as he did the time before”–
Now promise me dearest, dearest—not to trifle with your health .. not to neglect yourself .. not to tire yourself .. & besides to take the advice of your medical friend as to diet & general treatment—because there must be a wrong & a right in everything, & the right is very important under your circumstances .. if you have a tendency to illness– It may be right for you to have wine for instance. Did you ever try the putting your feet into hot water at night, to prevent the recurrence of the morning headache .. for the affection of the head comes on early in the morning .. does it not? .. just as if the sleeping did you harm. Now I have heard of such a remedy doing good—and could it increase the evil?—mustard mixed with the water,—remember– Everything approaching to congestion is full of fear– I tremble to think of it .. & I bring no remedy by this teazing neither! But you will not be “wicked” nor “unkind,” nor provoke the evil consciously—you will keep quiet & forswear the going out at nights, the excitement & noise of parties, & the worse excitement of composition—you promise– If you knew how I keep thinking of you, & at intervals grow so frightened!– Think you, that you are three times as much to me as I can be to you at best of greatest, .. because you are more than three times the larger planet .. & because too, you have known other sources of light & happiness .. but I need not say this—and I shall hear on monday, & may trust to you every day .. may I not? Yet I would trust my soul to you sooner than your own health.
May God bless you, dear, dearest– If the first part of the ‘Soul’s Tragedy’ should be written out, I can read that perhaps, without drawing you in to think of the second. Still it may be safer to keep off altogether for the present—& let it be as you incline. I do not speak of Luria.
If it were not for Mr Kenyon, I should say .. almost .. wednesday, instead of thursday .. I want to see you so much, & to see for myself about the looks & spirits—only it would not do if he found you here on wednesday. Let him come tomorrow or on tuesday, & wednesday would be safe—shall we consider? what do you think?
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 10FN10 FE16 1846 D.
Docket, in RB’s hand: 115.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 456–459.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.