2276. RB to EBB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 185–186.
Friday– [Postmark: 27 March 1846]
“Qui laborat, orat,”—so they used to say, and in that case I have been devotional to a high degree this morning. Seven holes did I dig (to keep up inversions of style)—seven rose-trees did I plant—(“Brennus”—and “Madame Laffarge”! are two names I remember,—very characteristic of old Gaul and young France)—and, for my pains, the first fruits, first blossoms some two or three months hence, will come, & will go to dearest Ba who first taught me what a rose really was, how sweet it might become with superadded memories of the room and the chair and the vase, and the cutting stalks and pouring fresh water .. ah, my own Ba!– And did you think to warn me out of the Flush-simile by the hint of Amine’s privelege which it would warrant? If the “ever so much whipping” should please you! … and beside it was, if I recollect, for the creatures’ good, those poor imprisoned sisters, all the time. —Moreover, I was “born” all this and more, that you will know, at least—and only walked glorious & erect on two legs till dear Siren,—an old friend of, and deep in the secrets of Circe,—sprinkled the water .. perhaps on those roses– No, before that!–
Well, to-morrow comes fast now—and I shall trust to be with you, my beloved—and, first, you are to show me the portrait, remember–
I am glad you like Mrs Jameson—do not I like her all the better, much the better! But it is fortunate I shall not see her by any chance just now—she would be sure to begin and tell me about you—and if my hands did not turn cold, my ear-tips would assuredly turn red! I dare say that St. Cecilia is the beautiful statue above her tomb at Rome,—covered with a veil—affectingly beautiful,—I well remember how she lies–
Now good bye,—and to-morrow!– Bless you, ever dear, dearest Ba–
Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole St
Docket, in EBB’s hand: 144.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 566–567.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. “He who labours, prays.” This variation of the ancient motto of the Benedictine Order, “Laborare est orare,” is attributed to St. Augustine.
2. For Mme. Laffarge, see letter 2189, note 7. Brennus was the Gallic occupier of Rome in the fourth century B.C.; his story is told in Vergil’s Æneid, VIII, and RB refers to him in Sordello, III, 572–576.
3. See note 2 in the preceding letter.
4. See letter 2270.
5. RB refers to the statue of St. Cecilia under the altar in the Church of St. Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome. The sculpture, completed in 1601 by Stefano Maderno (1576–1636), depicts the patron saint of music on her side with knees slightly drawn up, the head turned down and away and obscured by a heavy veil. This work is illustrated in Mrs. Jameson’s Sacred and Legendary Art (1848, II, 206 and 207).