2271.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 175–177.


Tuesday evening. [24 March 1846] [1]

Ah,—if I ‘do’ .. if I ‘should’ .. if I shall .. if I will .. if I must .. what can all the ‘ifs’ prove, but a most hypothetical state of the conscience? And in brief, I beg you to stand convinced of one thing, .. that whenever the ‘certain time’ comes for you to “hate writing to me” confessedly, “avowedly”, .. (oh what words!) I shall not like it at all .. not for all the explanations .. & the sights in gondola chairs, which the person seen is none the better for!– The ειδωλον [2] sits by the fire—the real Ba is cold at heart through wanting her letter. And that’s the doctrine to be preached now, .. is it? I “shrink”, shrink from it– That’s your word!—& mine! Dearest, I began by half a jest & end by half-gravity, .. which is the fault of your doctrine & not of me I think. Yet it is ungrateful to be grave, when practically you are good & just about the letters, & generous too sometimes, .. & I could not bear the idea of obliging you to write to me, .. even once .. when … Now do not fancy that I do not understand– I understand perfectly, on the contrary. Only do you try not to dislike writing when you write, or not to write when you dislike it .. that, I ask of you,—dear dearest—& forgive me for all this over-writing & teazing & vexing which is foolish & womanish in the bad sense– It is a way of meeting, .. this meeting in letters, .. & next to receiving a letter from you, I like to write one to you .. &, so, revolt from thinking it lawful for you to dislike .. Well! the Goddess of Dulness herself could’nt have written this better, anyway, nor more characteristically.

I will tell you how it is: You have spoilt me just as I have spoilt Flush. Flush looks at me sometimes with reproachful eyes ‘à fendre le cœur’, [3] because I refuse to give him my fur cuffs to tear to pieces. And as for myself, I confess to being more than half jealous of the ειδωλον in the gondola chair, who is’nt the real Ba after all, & yet is set up there to do away with the necessity “at certain times” of writing to her. Which is worse than Flush. For Flush, though he began by shivering with rage & barking & howling & gnashing his teeth at the brown dog in the glass, has learnt by experience what that image means, .. & now contemplates it, serene in natural philosophy. Most excellent sense, all this is!—& dauntlessly ‘delivered’!

Your head aches, dearest. Mr Moxon will have done his worst, however, presently, & then you will be a little better I do hope & trust—& the proofs, in the meanwhile, will do somewhat less harm than the manuscript. You will take heart again about Luria .. which I agree with you, is more diffuse .. that is, less close, than any of your works, .. not diffuse in any bad sense, .. but round, copious, .. & another proof of that wonderful variety of faculty which is so striking in you, & which signalizes itself both in the thought & in the medium of the thought. You will appreciate Luria in time—or others will do it for you. It is a noble work under every aspect. Dear Luria! Do you remember how you told me of Luria last year, in one of your early letters? [4] Little I thought that ever, ever, I should feel so, while Luria went to be printed!– A long trail of thoughts, like the rack in the sky, follows his going– Can it be the same Luria, I think, that “goldenhearted Luria”, whom you talked of to me, when you complained of keeping “wild company”, in the old dear letter? [5] And I have learnt since, that “goldenhearted” is not a word for him only, or for him most. May God bless you, best & dearest! I am your own to live & to die–


Say how you are. I shall be down stairs tomorrow if it keeps warm.

Miss Thomson wants me to translate the Hector & Andromache scene from the Iliad, for her book; & I am going to try it.– [6]

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

Postmarks: 12NN12 MR25 1846 A; 1AN1 MR25 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 137.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 556–557.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. “Image.” See letter 1816, in which EBB discusses the ειδωλον in an artist’s work.

3. “Which could break your heart.”

4. RB had first mentioned Luria to EBB in letter 1837.

5. In letter 1851.

6. See letter 2267.


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