2241. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 131–133.
Thursday. [5 March 1846]
Ever dearest I lose no time in writing, you see, so as to be written to at the soonest—and there is another reason which makes me hasten to write .. it is not all mercantile calculation– I want you to understand me.
Now listen! I seem to understand myself: it seems to me that every word I ever said to you on one subject, is plainly referable to a class of feelings of which you could not complain .. could not– But this is my impression,—& yours is different:—you do not understand .. you do not see by my light—& perhaps it is natural that you should not, as we stand on different steps of the argument– Still I, who said what I did, for you, & from an absorbing consideration of what was best for you, cannot consent, even out of anxiety for your futurity, to torment you now, .. to vex you by a form of speech which you persist in translating into a want of trust in you .. (I, want trust in you!!—) into a need of more evidence about you from others .. (could you say so?) & even into an indisposition on my part to fulfil my engagement—— No, dearest dearest, it is not right of you. And therefore, as you have these thoughts reasonably or unreasonably, I shall punish you for them at once, & “chain” you .. (as you wish to be chained) chain you, rivet you—do you feel how the little fine chain twists round & round you? do you hear the stroke of the rivetting?—& you may feel that too. Now, it is done—now, you are chained—βια has finished the work .. I, Ba!—(observe the anagram!) and not a word do you say, O Prometheus, though you have the conscience of it all, I dare say. Well! you must be pleased, … as it was “the weight of too much liberty” which offended you: & now you believe, perhaps, that I trust you, love you, & look to you over the heads of the whole living world, without any one head needing to stoop,—you must, if you please, because you belong to me now & shall believe as I choose. There’s a ukase for you!– Cry out .. repent .. and I will loose the links, & let you go again– Shall it be “My dear Miss Barrett”?
Seriously, you shall not think of me such things as you half said, if not whole-said, today. If all men were to speak evil of you, my heart would speak of you the more good—that would be the only result with me. Do I not know you, soul to soul? should I believe that any of them would know you as I know you? Then for the rest, .. I am not afraid of ‘toads’ now, not being a child any longer .. I am not inclined to mind, if you do not mind, what may be said about us by the benevolent world .. nor will other reasons of a graver kind affect me otherwise than by the necessary pain– Therefore the whole rests with you—unless illness should intervene—and you will be kind & good (will you not?) & not think hard thoughts of me ever again—no– It was the sense of being less than you had a right to pretend to, which made me speak what you disliked—for it is I who am ‘unworthy,’ & not another .. not certainly that other!!–
I meant to write more tonight of subjects farther off us, but my sisters have come up stairs & I must close my letter quickly. Beloved, take care of your head! Oh, do not write poems, nor read, nor neglect the walking, nor take that shower bath. Will you, instead, try the warm bathing? Surely the experiment is worth making for a little while. Dearest beloved do it for your own
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 10FN10 MR6 1846 M.
Docket, in RB’s hand: 126.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 517–518.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.
2. “Force,” who assists Strength and Hephæstus in chaining Prometheus to the rock at the beginning of Prometheus Bound.
3. Wordsworth, “Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent’s Narrow Room” (1807), line 13.
4. Underscored four times.