Correspondence

2262.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 163–164.

[London]

Friday [Postmark: 20 March 1846]

I shall be late with my letter this morning because my sisters have been here talking, talking .. & I did not like to say exactly ‘go away that I may write’. Mr Kenyon shortened our time yesterday too by a whole half hour or three quarters—the stars are against us. He is coming on sunday however, he says, & if so, monday will be safe & clear—& not a word was said after you went, about you—he was in a good joyous humour—as you saw, .. & the letter he brought was, oh! so complementary to me .. I will tell you. The writer does’nt see anything “in Browning & Turner”,[1] she confesses … “may perhaps with time & study”, but for the present sees nothing, .. only has wide-open eyes of admiration for EBB .... now is’nt it satisfactory to me? Do you understand the full satisfaction of just that sort of thing .. to be praised by somebody who sees nothing in Shakespeare?—to be found on the level of somebody so flat? Better the bad-word of the Britannia,[2] ten times over!– And best, to take no thought of bad or good words ..!.. except such as I shall have tonight .. perhaps! Shall I?

Will you be pleased to understand in the meanwhile a little about the ‘risks’ I am supposed to run, & not hold to such a godlike simplicity (‘gods & bulls’,[3] dearest!) as you made show of yesterday? If we two went to the gaming-table, & you gave me a purse of gold to play with, should I have a right to talk proudly of “my stakes”? & would any reasonable person say of both of us playing together as partners, that we run “equal risks”? I trow not—& so do you .. when you have not predetermined to be stupid, & mix up the rouge & noir[4] into “one red”[5] of glorious confusion. What had I to lose on the point of happiness when you knew me first?—& if now I lose (as I certainly may according to your calculation) the happiness you have given me, why still I am your debtor for the gift .. now see! Yet to bring you down into my ashes .. that has been so intolerable a possibility to me from the first … Well—perhaps I run more risk than you, under that one aspect– Certainly I never should forgive myself again if you were unhappy– “What had I to do,” I should think, “with touching your life”? And if ever I am to think so, I would rather that I never had known you, seen your face, heard your voice——which is the uttermost sacrifice & abnegation. I could not say or sacrifice any more .. not even for you! You, for you .. is all I can!

Since you left me I have been making up my mind to your having the headache worse than ever, through the agreement with Moxon. I do, do beseech you to spare yourself, & let Luria go as he is, & above all things not to care for my infinite foolishnesses as you see them in those notes.[6] Remember that if you are ill, it is not so easy to say “Now I will be well again”. Ever dearest, care for me in yourself—say how you are– I am not unwell today, but feel flagged & weak rather with the cold .. & look at your flowers for courage & an assurance that the summer is within hearing. May God bless you .. blessing us, beloved!–

Your own

Ba–

Mr Poe has sent me his poems & tales[7]—so now I must write to thank him for his dedication.– Just now I have the book– As to Mr Buckingham, he will go Constantinople & back before we talk of him–

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

Postmark: 8NT8 MR20 1846 E.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 134.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 546–548.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Presumably the painter, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), whose genius for impressionistic landscape paintings was not immediately recognized. We have been unable to trace the letter to which EBB refers.

2. The Britannia, a weekly journal of news, politics and literature, had negatively reviewed Dramatic Romances and Lyrics in the 14 March 1846 issue; for the text, see p. 373.

3. EBB, “A Vision of Poets,” line 312.

4. “Red & black” (see letter 2238, note 5).

5. Macbeth, II, 2, 60.

6. For the text of EBB’s notes on Luria, see vol. 11, pp. 393–399.

7. The Raven and Other Poems (New York, 1845); see Reconstruction, A1876 and A1877. Poe’s volume bore this dedication: “To the Noblest of Her Sex— / To the Author of / ‘The Drama of Exile’— / To Miss Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, / of England, / I Dedicate This Volume, / With the Most Enthusiastic Admiration / and with the Most Sincere Esteem. / E. A. P.” EBB had previously received copies of Poe’s book (see letters 2119, note 7 and 2167, note 5), but this copy of The Raven is bound with a copy of Poe’s Tales, and, according to Thomas Ollive Mabbott’s introduction to The Raven and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe: Reproduced in facsimile from the Lorimer Graham copy of the edition of 1845 with author’s corrections (New York, 1942), “Poe’s personal copy … is also of this form.”

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