2272.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 177–179.


Wednesday. [Postmark: 25 March 1846]

You were right to bid me never again wish my poor flowers were “diamonds”—you could not, I think, speak so to my heart of any diamonds. God knows my life is for you to take just as you take flowers:—these last please you, serve you best when plucked—and “my life’s rose” [1]  .. if I dared profane that expression I would say,—you have but to “stoop” for it. Foolish, as all words are–

You dwell on that notion of your being peculiarly isolated,—of any kindness to you, in your present state, seeming doubled and quadrupled—what do I, what could any one infer from that but, most obviously, that it was a very fortunate thing for such kindness, and that the presumeable bestower of it got all his distinction from the fact that no better .. however, I hate this and cannot go on. Dearest, believe that under ordinary circumstances, with ordinary people, all operates differently—the imaginary kindness-bestower with his ideal methods of showing and proving his love,—there would be the rival to fear!

Do not let us talk of this—you always beat me, beside, turn my own illustrations into obscurations—as in the notable case of the cards and stakes and risks [2] —I suppose, (to save my vanity!) that if I knew anything about cards, I might go on, a step at least, with my argument. I once heard a dispute in the street between the proprietor of an oyster-stall and one of his customers—who was in the wrong .. that is, who used the clenching argument you shall hear presently, I don’t remember,—but one brought the other to this pass—“Are there three shells to an oyster?”– Just that! If there were not—he would clearly be found in the wrong, that was all!– “Why,” .. began the other: and I regret I did not catch the rest—there was such a clear possibility contained in that “Why .. an oyster might have three shells!”

(Note the adroitness,—(calm heroic silence of the act rather than a merely attempted word),—the mastery with which, taking up Ba’s implied challenge, I do furnish her with both “amusement and instruction”)—moreover I will at Ba’s bidding amuse and instruct the world at large, and make them know all to be known—(for my purposes) about Bells & Pomegranates—yes, it will be better.

I said rather hastily that my head “ached” yesterday, that meant, only that it was more observeable because, after walking, it is usually well—and I had been walking: to-day it is much better .. I sit reading “Cromwell” [3] —and the newspaper—and presently I shall go out—all will be better now, I hope—it shall not be my fault, at least, depend on that—all my work (work!)—well, such as it is, it is done—and I scarcely care how. I shall be prouder to begin one day—(may it be soon!—) with your hand in mine from the beginning—that is a very different thing in its effect from the same hand touching mine after I had begun, with no suspicion such a chance could befall! I repeat, both these things Luria & the other, are manqué, [4] failures—the life-incidents ought to have been acted over again, experienced afresh,—and I had no inclination nor ability. But one day, my siren!–

Let me make haste and correct a stupid error– I spoke to my father last night about that tragedy of the studs [5] —I was wholly out in the story—the sufferer was his uncle,—and the scene should have been laid on the Guinea coast– Àpropos of errors—the copyright matter [6] is most likely a case of copy-wrong by reporters– I never heard of it before—to be sure, I signed a petition of Miss Martineau’s superintending once on a time—but long ago. “I, I, I”—how dear, all important “I” takes care of himself, and issues bulletins, and corrects his wise mistakes, and all this to .. just “one of his readers of the average intelligence”– [7] Are you that, so much as that, Ba?– I will tell you—if you do not write to me all about your dear, dearest self, I shall sink with shame at the recollection of what this letter and its like prove to be; must prove to be! Dear love, tell me—that you walk and are in good spirits—and I will try and write better. —May God bless my own beloved!– Ever her own RB

I think,—am all but sure there is a Mrs Hornblower something! [8]


Just a minute to say your second note has come, and that I do hate hate having to write, not kiss my answer on your dearest mouth– Kindest, dearest—to-morrow I will try—and meantime,—tho’ Ba by the fire will not be cold at heart, cold of heart, at least, and I will talk to her & more than talk– My dearest, dearest one!

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole St.

Postmark: 8NT8 MR25 1846 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 142.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 557–559.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. EBB, “A Thought for a Lonely Death-Bed,” line 13.

2. See letters 2258, 2259, and 2260.

3. Carlyle’s Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches had been published in December 1845.

4. “Unsuccessful.”

5. We take these to be the pair of gold links, engraved with the initials “R.B.,” which sold as lot 1366 in Browning Collections (see Reconstruction, H453). RB’s account here of the origin of the studs is different from his recollection in December 1868 to James T. Knowles, whose record RB corrected in advance of publication in The Spectator (30 January 1869). In the corrected version of Knowles’s written account, RB states that his father’s uncle was killed “in St. Kitts, on his estate,” and he identifies him as the brother of his paternal grandmother, Margaret Browning (née Tittle); see Reconstruction, E506; MS at ABL.

6. RB is responding to EBB’s comment in the third paragraph of letter 2269.

7. See EBB’s comment in the second paragraph of letter 2269.

8. RB may be referring to Jane Elizabeth Hornblower (née Roscoe, 1797–1853), whose Poems received a positive review in the 6 April 1844 issue of The Athenæum (no. 858, pp. 316–317), where she is called Mrs. F. Hornblower.


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