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2259.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 159–160.

[London]

Tuesday evening [17 March 1846] [1]

Ah well—we shall see– Only remember that it is not my fault if I throw the double sixes, & if you, on <some sunshiny day, (a day too late to help yourself) stand face to face with a milkwhite unicorn> [2] – Ah—do not be angry!– It is ungrateful of me to write so—I put a line through it to prove I have a conscience after all. I know that you love me .. & I know it so well that I was reproaching myself severely not long ago, for seeming to love your love more than you– Let me tell you how I proved that, or seemed. For ever so long, you remember, I have been talking finely about giving you up for your good & so on. [3] Which was sincere as far as the words went—but oh, the hypocrisy of our souls!—of mine, for instance! ‘I would give you up for your good’—but when I pressed upon myself the question whether (if I had the power) I would consent to make you willing to be given up, by throwing away your love into the river, in a ring like Charlemagne’s, [4]  .... why I found directly that I would throw myself there sooner. I could not do it in fact—I shrank from the test. A very pitiful virtue of generosity, is your Ba’s! Still, it is not possible, I think, that she should “love your love more than you”. There must be a mistake in the calculation somewhere—a figure, dropt. It would be too bad for her!.

Your account of your merchantmen, though with Venice in the distance, will scarcely be attractive to a confirmed invalid, I fear—& yet the steamers will be found expensive beyond his means. The sugar-vessels, which I hear most about, give out an insufferable smell & steam—let us talk of it a little on thursday. On monday I forgot.

For Landor’s ‘Julian’ [5]  .. oh no, .. I cannot fancy it to be probable that those Parisians should know anything of Landor, even by a mistake. Do you not suppose that the play is founded (confounded) on Shelley’s poem? .. as the French use materials .. by distraction, into confusion. The ‘urn by the Adriatic’ (which all the French know how to turn upside down) fixes the reference to Shelley—does it not?

Not a word of the head!—what does that mean, I wonder. I have not been down stairs today—the wind is too cold .. but you have walked? .. there was no excuse for you. God bless you, ever dearest– It is my last word till thursday’s first. A fine queen you have, by the way!—a queen Log, whom you had better leave in the bushes! [6] Witness our hand ..

Ba—Regina–

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

Postmark: 10FN10 MR18 1846 D.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 133.; + Thursday, March 19. / 3¼–5¼ p.m. (53.)

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 544–545.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. EBB has lightly crossed out the passage in angle brackets. For an explanation of the use of “unicorn” as a symbol for EBB, see letter 2218, note 4.

3. See letter 2191.

4. One of the legends of Charlemagne involves a magic ring, which causes the Emperor to fall in love with whomever is wearing it: man or woman, dead or alive. The resulting farcical situations often end with the ring being thrown into a body of water, near which Charlemagne builds his palace at Aix-la-Chapelle.

5. See note 6 in the preceding letter.

6. Perhaps an allusion to Æsop’s fable of the frogs desiring a king.

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