Correspondence

2217.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 84–85.

[London]

[Postmark: 19 February 1846]

Best & kindest of all that ever were to be loved in dreams, & wondered at & loved out of them, you are indeed! I cannot make you feel how I felt that night when I knew that to save me an anxious thought you had come so far so late[1] .. it was almost too much to feel, & is too much to speak. So let it pass. You will never act so again ever dearest—you shall not. If the post sins, why leave the sin to the post,—& I will remember for the future, will be ready to remember, how postmen are fallible & how you live at the end of a lane—& not be uneasy about a silence if there should be one unaccounted for. For the tuesday coming, I shall remember that too .. who could forget it? .. I put it in the niche of the wall, one golden lamp more of your giving, to throw light purely down to the end of my life—I do thank you. And the truth is, I should have been in a panic, had there been no letter that evening—I was frightened the day before, then reasoned the fears back & waited: & if there had been no letter after all— .. But you are supernaturally good & kind. How can I ever “return” as people say .. (as they might say in their ledgers) .. any of it all? How indeed can I … who have not even a heart left of my own, to love you with?–

I quite trust to your promise in respect to the medical advice, if walking & rest from work do not prevent at once the recurrence of those sensations—it was a promise, remember. And you will tell me the very truth, of how you are—& you will try the music, & not be nervous, dearest– Would not riding be good for you .. consider. And why should you be ‘alone’ when your sister is in the house? How I keep thinking of you all day—you cannot really be alone with so many thoughts .. such swarms of thoughts, if you could but see them, drones & bees together!

George came in from Westminster Hall after we parted yesterday & said that he had talked with the junior counsel of the wretched plaintiffs in the Ferrers case, & that the belief was in the mother being implicated, although not from the beginning.[2] It was believed too that the miserable girl had herself taken step after step into the mire, involved herself gradually, .. the first guilt being an extravagance in personal expenses, which she lied & lied to account for in the face of her family. “Such a respectable family” said George, “the grandfather in court looking venerable, & everyone indignant upon being so disgraced by her”.! But for the respectability in the best sense, I do not quite see– That all those people should acquiesce in the indecency (according to every standard of English manners in any class of society) of thrusting the personal expenses of a member of their family on Lord Ferrers, she still bearing their name .. & in those peculiar circumstances of her supposed position too .. where is the respectability? And they are furious with her,––which is not to be wondered at after all. Her counsel had an interview with her previous to the trial, to satisfy themselves of her good faith, .. & she was quite resolute & earnest, persisting in every statement. On the coming out of the anonymous letters, Fitzroy Kelly said to the juniors .. that if anyone could suggest a means of explanation, he would be eager to carry forward the case, .. but for him he saw no way of escaping from the fact of the guilt of their client. Not a voice could speak for her– So George was told. There is no ground for a prosecution for a conspiracy, he says—but she is open to the charge for forgery, of course, & to the dreadful consequences, though it is not considered at all likely that Lord Ferrers could wish to disturb her beyond the ruin she has brought on her own life–

Think of Miss Mitford’s growing quite cold about Mr Chorley who has spent two days with her lately, .. & of her saying in a letter to me this morning that he is very much changed & grown to be “a presumptuous coxcomb”. He has displeased her in some way .. that is clear. What changes there are in the world.

Should I ever change to you, do you think, .. even if you came to “love me less”——not that I meant to reproach you with that possibility. May God bless you dear dearest. It is another miracle (beside the many) that I get nearer to the mountains yet still they seem more blue. Is not that strange?–

Ever & wholly your Ba.

Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey; [in postal clerk’s hand: Missent to Mitcham].

Postmarks: 8NT8 FE19 1846 A; 12NN12 FE20 1846; 1AN1 FE20 1846 C.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 117.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 475–477.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. To hand deliver his letter and a parcel (see letter 2215).

2. EBB’s account of the case of Mary Elizabeth Smith vs. Washington Sewallis Shirley, Earl Ferrers, for breach of promise is an accurate description of the short-lived but notorious trial, which received wide coverage in the press. The proceedings began on 14 February but were suddenly halted on the 18th when Mary Smith admitted to having forged the letters that were brought as evidence against the Earl. The Annual Register for 1846 outlined the trial (pp. 349–363).

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