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2247.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 142–144.

[London]

Tuesday evening. [10 March 1846] [1]

You find my letter I trust—for it was written this morning in time: & if these two lines should not be flattery .. oh, rank flattery! .. why happy letter is it, to help to bring you home ten minutes earlier, when you never ought to have left home—no, indeed! I knew how it would be yesterday, & how you would be worse & not better– You are not fit to go out, dear dearest, to sit in the glare of lights & talk & listen, & have the knives & forks to rattle all the while & remind you of the chains of necessity. Oh—should I bear it, do you think? I was thinking, when you went away—after you had quite gone. You would laugh to see me at my dinner .. Flush & me—Flush placing in me such an heroic confidence, that, .. after he has cast one discriminating glance on the plate, &, in the case of ‘chicken,’ wagged his tail with an emphasis, .. he goes off to the sofa, shuts his eyes & allows a full quarter of an hour to pass before he returns to take his share. Did you ever hear of a dog before, who did not persecute one with beseeching eyes at mealtimes? And remember, .. this is not the effect of discipline. Also, if another than myself happens to take coffee or break bread in the room here, he teazes straightway with eyes & paws, .. teazes like a common dog & is put out of the door before he can be quieted by scolding. But with me, he is sublime! Moreover he has been a very useful dog in his time,—(in the point of capacity)—causing to disappear supererogatory dinners & impossible breakfasts .. which, to do him justice, is a feat accomplished without an objection on his side, always.

So, when you write me such a letter, I write back to you about Flush. Dearest beloved, but I have read the letter & felt it in my heart, through & through! & it is as wise to talk of Flush foolishly, as to fancy that I could say how it is felt .. this letter! Only .. when you spoke last of breaking off with such & such recollections .. it was the melancholy of the breaking off which I protested against … was it not? & not the insufficiency of the recollection. There might have been something besides in jest .. Ah .. but you remember, if you please, that I [2] was the first to wish (wishing for my own part, .. if I could wish exclusively) to break off in the middle the silken thread, [3]  .. & you told me, not .. you forbade me .. do you remember? For, as happiness goes, the recollections were enough, .. are enough, for me! I mean that I should acknowledge them to be full compensation for the bitter gift of life, such as it was, to me! if the subject matter were broken off here!—‘Bona verba,’ [4] let me speak nevertheless. You mean, you say, to run all risks with me, & I dont mean to draw back from my particular risk of .... what was I to do to you hereafter to make you vexed with me? What is there in marriage to make all these people on every side of us, (who all began, I suppose, by talking of love, ..) look askance at one another from under the silken mask .. & virtually hate one another through the tyranny of the stronger & the hypocrisy of the weaker party. It never could be so with usI know that. But you grow awful to me sometimes with the very excess of your goodness & tenderness, .. & still, I think to myself, if you do not keep lifting me up quite off the ground, by the strong faculty of love in you, I shall not help falling short of the hope you have placed in me—it must be “supernatural” of you, to the end! .. or I fall short & disappoint you. Consider this, beloved– Now if I could put my soul out of my body, just to stand up before you & make it clear!——

I did go to the drawingroom today … would .. should .. did. The sun came out, the wind changed .. where was the obstacle? I spent a quarter of an hour in a fearful solitude, listening for knocks at the door, as a ghost-fearer might at midnight, .. & ‘came home’ none the worse in any way. Be sure that I shall ‘take care’ better than you do .. & there, is the worst of it all .. for you let people make you ill, & do it yourself upon occasion.

You know from my letter how I found you out in the matter of the ‘Soul’s Tragedy’– Oh! so bad .. so weak, so unworthy of your name!– If some other people were half a quarter as much the contrary ..!

And so, goodnight dear dearest– In spite of my fine speeches about ‘recollections,’ I should be unhappy enough to please you, with only those .. without you beside—! I could not take myself back from being your own–

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

Postmark: 10FN10 MR11 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 129.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 528–530.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Underscored twice.

3. Cf. Romeo and Juliet, II, 2, 180.

4. “Good words” (Ovid, Fasti, I, 72, trans. James George Frazer).

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