Correspondence

2229.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 108–110.

[London]

Thursday evening. [26 February 1846][1]

If all third persons were as foolish as this third person of yours, ever dearest, first & second persons might follow their own devices without losing much in the way of good counsel– But you are unlucky in your third person as far as the wits go—he talks a great deal of nonsense .. & Flush, who is sensible, will have nothing to do with him, he says, any more than you will with Sir Moses:[2]—he is quite a third person singular for the nonsense he talks!–

So, instead of him, you shall hear what I have been doing today– The sun, which drew out you & the hawthorns, persuaded me that it was warm enough to go down stairs .. & I put on my cloak as if I were going into the snow, & went into the drawingroom & took Henrietta by surprise as she sate at the piano singing. Well—I meant to stay half an hour & come back again .. for I am upon ‘Tinkler’s ground’ in the drawing room & liable to whole droves of morning visitors—& Henrietta kept me, kept me, because she wanted me, besought me, to stay & see the great sight of Capt Surtees Cook .. plus his regimentals .. fresh from the royal presence at St James’s .. & I never saw him in my life, though he is a sort of cousin. So, though I hated it as you may think, .. not liking to be unkind to my sister, I stayed & stayed one ten minutes after another, till it seemed plain that he was’nt coming at all (as I told her) & that Victoria had kept him to dinner, enchanted with the regimentals. And half laughing & half quarrelling, still she kept me by force, until a knock came most significantly .. & “There, is Surtees” said she .. “now you must & shall stay! So foolish ..” (I had my hand on the door-handle to go out)—“he, your own cousin too! who always calls you Ba .. except before Papa”– Which might have encouraged me perhaps, but I cant be sure of it, as the very next moment apprized us both that no less a person than Mrs Jameson was standing out in the passage– The whole 36th regiment could scarcely have been more astounding to me– As to staying to see her in that room, with the prospect of the military descent in combination, .. I could’nt have done it for the world! .. so I made Henrietta, who had drawn me into the scrape, take her up stairs, & followed myself in a minute or two––& the corollary of this interesting history is, that being able to talk at all after all that ‘fuss’, & after walking “up stairs & down stairs” like the ancestor of your spider,[3] proves my gigantic strength—now does’nt it?

For the rest, ‘here be proofs’[4] that the first person can be as foolish as any third person in the world– What do you think?

And Mrs Jameson was kind beyond speaking of, & talked of taking me to Italy .. what do you say? It is somewhere about the fifth or sixth proposition of the sort which has come to me– I shall be embarrassed, it seems to me, by the multitude of escorts to Italy– But the kindness .. one cannot laugh at so much kindness.

I wanted to hear her speak of you, & was afraid– I could not name you. Yet I did want to hear the last ‘Bell’ praised—.

She goes to Ireland for two months soon, but prints a book first .. a collection of essays.[5] I have not seen Mr Kenyon, with whom she dined yesterday .. The Macreadys were to be there—& he told me a week ago that he very nearly committed himself in a “social mistake” by inviting you to meet them–[6]

Ah my hawthorn spray!– Do you know, I caught myself pitying it for being gathered, with that green promise of leaves on it! There is room too on it for the feet of a bird!– Still I shall keep it longer than it would have stayed in the hedge .. that is certain!

The first you ever gave me was a yellow rose sent in a letter[7]—and shall I tell you what that means .. the yellow rose ..? “Infidelity”, says the dictionary of flowers. You see what an omen, .. to begin with!–

Also you see that I am not tired with the great avatar today—the ‘fell swoop’ rather .. mine, into the drawing room, & Mrs Jameson’s on me

And I shall hear tomorrow again, .. really? I “let” you. And you are best, kindest, dearest, everyday. Did I ever tell you that you made me do what you choose? I fancied that I only thought so. May God bless you. I am your own–

Shall I have the “Soul’s tragedy” on saturday? any of it? But do not work—I beseech you to take care.

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

Postmark: 10FN10 FE27 1846 A.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 122.; + Feb. 28. Saty / 3–5¼. p.m. (49.)

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 497–499.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. i.e., Moses Haim Montefiore (see letter 2223, note 5).

3. Probably an allusion to RB’s “spirited & sly” spider mentioned in letter 1851.

4. Cf. Measure for Measure, II, 1, 127 (see also letter 1926, note 10).

5. Memoirs and Essays, Illustrative of Art, Literature and Social Morals (1846).

6. Macready’s handling of A Blot in the ’Scutcheon in 1843 had offended RB and caused a lasting breach between the two.

7. In letter 1944. In an 1845 edition of The Handbook of the Language and Sentiment of Flowers, by Robert Tyas, published as The Sentiment of Flowers in 1836, the yellow rose is listed under the heading “Infidelity,” with the explanation that “it is well known that yellow is the colour of infidelity. The yellow rose also seems to appertain to the unfaithful in love or friendship” (p. 127).

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