2273.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 179–181.


Wednesday evening. [25 March 1846][1]

But if people half say things, .. intimate things .. as when your disputant in the street (you are felicitous, I think, in your street-experiences) suggested the possible case of the “three oyster shells to an oyster,” .. why you must submit to be answered a little, & even confuted at need. Now just see——


… “Got all his distinction from the fact that no better” ....

That is precisely the fact .. so .. as you have stated it, & implied, … “The fact that no better” .. is to be found in the world—no better .. none. There, is the peculiar combination. The isolation on one side, & the best in the whole world, coming in for company! And I “dwell” upon it, never being tired .. & if you are tired already, you must be tired of me, because the ‘dwelling’ has grown to be a part of me & I cannot put it away. It is my especial miracle á moi.[2] “No better”?– No, indeed! not in the seven worlds![3] and just there, lies the miraculous point.

But you mean it perhaps otherwise. You mean that it is a sort of “pis aller”[4] on my part … A “pis aller” along the Via lactea[5] .. is that what you mean?

Shall I let you off the rest, dearest, dearest? though you deserve ever so much more, for implying such monstrous things, & treading down all my violets, so & so– What did I say to set you writing so? I cannot remember at all. If I ‘dwell’ on anything, beloved, it is that I feel it strongly, be sure—& if I feel gratitude to you with the other feelings, you should not grudge what is a happy feeling in itself, & not dishonoring (I answer for that) to the object of it.

Now I shall tell you. I had a visitor today .. Mrs Jameson,—& when she went away she left me ashamed of myself .. I felt like a hypocrite … I, who was not born for one, I think. She began to talk of you .. talked like a wise woman, which she is .. led me on to say .. just what I might have said if I had not known you, .. (she, thoroughly impressed with the notion that we two are strangers! ..) & made me quite leap in my chair with a sudden consciousness, by exclaiming at last .. “I am really glad to hear you speak so—— Such appreciation” &c &c … imagine what she went on to say. Dearest—I believe she rather gives me a sort of credit for appreciating you without the jealousy ‘de metier.’[6] Good Heavens .. how humiliating some conditions of praise are!– She approved me with her eye—indeed she did. And this, while we were agreeing that you were the best .. none “better” .. none so good .. of your country & age– Do you know, while we were talking, I felt inclined both to laugh & to cry, .. & if I had “given way” the least, she would have been considerably astounded– As it was, my hands were so marble-cold when she took leave of me, that she observed it & began making apologies for exhausting me. Now here is a strip of the ‘world’, .. see what colour it will turn to presently!! We had better, I think, go farther than to your siren’s island—into the desert .. shall we say? .. Such stories there will be! For certain .., I shall have seen you just once out of the window!. Shall you not be afraid?– Well—& she talked of Italy too .. it was before she talked of you .. & she hoped I had not given up the thoughts of going there. To which I said, that “I had not .. but that it seemed like scheming to travel in the moon”. She talked of a difference, & set down the moon-travelling as simple lunacy. “And simply lunatical,” .. I said, .. “my thoughts, if chronicled, would be taken to be, perhaps”–– “No, no, no!,” .. she insisted .. “as long as I kept to the earth, everything was to be permitted to me”–

How people talk at cross-purposes in this world .. & act so too!– It’s the very spirit of worldly communion– Souls are gregarious in a sense, but no soul touches another, as a general rule.– I like Mrs Jameson nevertheless– I like her more. She appreciates you—& it is my turn to praise for that, now. I am to see her again tomorrow morning, when she has the goodness to promise to bring some etchings of her own, her illustrations of the new essays,[7] for me to look at.

Ah, your ‘failures’ in Luria & the Tragedy!– Proud, we should all be, to fail exactly so.

Dearest, are you better indeed? Walk .. talk to the Ba in the chair .. go on to be better, ever dearest. May God bless you! Ah .. the I’s! You do not see that the ‘I’s,’ as you make them, .. all turn to “yous” by the time they get to me. The “I’s” indeed! How dare you to talk against my eyes?– For me, I was going down stairs today, but it was wet & windy & I was warned not to go– If I am in bad or good spirits, judge from this foolish letter—foolish & wise, both!,—but not melancholy, anywise. When one drops into a pun, one might as well come to an end altogether—it cant be worse with one.

Nor can it be better than being

Your own—

No better”!!!.

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

Postmark: 10FN10 MR26 1846 D.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 138.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 560–562.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. “To me,” or “belonging to me.”

3. See letter 2181, note 9.

4. “Last resort.”

5. “Milky Way.”

6. “Of profession.”

7. See letters 2275 and 2276.


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