2230.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 110–112.


[Postmark: 27 February 1846]

To be sure my “first person” was nonsensical, and, in that respect, made speak properly, I hope—only he was cut short in the middle of his performance by the exigencies of the post. So, never mind what such persons say, my sweetest, because they know nothing at all,—quod erat demonstrandum. [1] But you, love, you speak roses, and hawthorn-blossoms when you tell me of the cloak put on, and the descent, and the entry, and staying and delaying– I will have had a hand in all that .. I know what I wished all the morning, and now thus much came true! But you should have seen the regimentals, if I could have so contrived it, for I confess to a Chinese love for bright red—the very names “vermilion” “scarlet” warm me,—yet in this cold climate nobody wears red to comfort one’s eye save soldiers and fox hunters, and old women fresh from a Parish Christmas distribution of cloaks. To dress in floating loose crimson silk, I almost understand being a cardinal! Do you know anything of Nat Lee’s Tragedies? In one of them a man angry with a Cardinal, cries


Stand back, and let me mow this poppy down,

This rank red weed that spoils the Churches’ corn! [2]

Is not that good? and presently, when the same worthy is poisoned, (that is, the Cardinal)—they bid him,—“now, Cardinal lie down and roar!


“Think of thy scarlet sins!” [3]

Of the justice of all which, you will judge with no Mrs Jameson for guide when we see the Sistina together, I trust!– By the way, yesterday I went to Dulwich to see some pictures, “by old Teniers, Murillo, Gainsborough, Rafaelle”, [4] —then twenty names about, and last but one, as if just thought of—“Correggio.” —The whole collection, including “a divine picture by Murillo,” and Titian’s Daughter (hitherto supposed to be in the Louvre)—the whole I would, I think, have cheerfully given a pound or two for the privelege of not possessing—so execrable as sign-paintings even! Are there worse poets in their way than painters? Yet the melancholy business is here—that the bad poet—goes out of his way, writes his verses in the language he learned in order to do a hundred other things with it, all of which he can go on and do afterward—but the painter has spent the best of his life in learning even how to produce such monstrosities as these—and to what other good do his acquisitions go? This short minute of life, our one chance, an eternity on either side! and a man does not walk whistling and ruddy by the side of hawthorn hedges in spring, but shuts himself up and comes out after a dozen years with “Titian’s Daughter” and, there, gone is his life, let somebody else try!

I have tried—my trial is made, too–

To-morrow you shall tell me, dearest, that Mrs Jameson wondered to see you so well,—did she not wonder? Ah, to-morrow! there is a lesson from all this writing and mistaking and correcting and being corrected: and what, but that a word goes safely only from lip to lip, dearest? See how the cup slipped from the lip and snapped the chrystals, you say! But the writing is but for a time—“a time and times and half a time” [5] —would I knew when the prophetic weeks end! Still, one day, as I say, no more writing, (and great scandalization of the third person, peeping thro’ the fringes of Flush’s ears!)– Meanwhile, I wonder whether if I meet Mrs Jameson I may practise diplomacy and say carelessly “I should be glad to know what Miss B. is like”—no, that I must not do, something tells me, “for reasons, for reasons”–

I do not know—you may perhaps have to wait a little longer for my “divine Murillo” of a Tragedy– My sister is copying it as I give the pages, but—in fact my wise head does ache a little—it is inconceivable! As if it took a great storm to topple over some stone, and once the stone pushed from its right place, any bird’s foot, which would hardly bend the hawthorn spray, may set it trembling! The aching begins with reading the presentation-list at the Drawing-room quite naturally and without shame at all! But it is gentle, well-behaved aching now, so I do care, as you bid me, Ba, my Ba, whom I call Ba to my heart but could not, I really believe, call so before another, even your sister, if—if—

But Ba, I call you boldly here, and I dare kiss your dear, dear eyes, till to-morrow. Bless you, my own!–


Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole St

Postmark: 8NT8 FE27 1846 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 125.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 499–501.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. “Which was to be proved” (Euclid, Elements, bk. I, theorem 2, proposition 5).

2. Cf. Nathaniel Lee, Caesar Borgia (1680), I, i, 376–377. RB uses these lines in a slightly altered form in The Ring and the Book, II, 939–940.

3. Cf. Caesar Borgia, V, ii, 230.

4. As RB reports in letter 2236, these were “to be sold at the Greyhound Inn, Dulwich.”

5. Revelation 12:14.


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