2278.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 188–190.


Sunday evng [29 March 1846] [1]

Dearest I have been trying your plan of thinking of you instead of writing, today, & the end is that I am driven to the last of the day & have scarcely room in it to write what I would. Observe if you please, how badly “the system works”, as the practical people say. Then Mr Kenyon came & talked, .. asked when I had seen you, .. & desired, “if ever I saw you again,” (ah, what an “if ever”!) that I would enquire about the “blue lilies” .. which I satisfied him were of the right colour, on your authority. [2]

But, to go to the Tragedy—. I am not to admire it .. am I? And you really think that anyone who can think .. feel .. could help such an admiration, or ought to try to help it? Now just see– It is a new work with your mark on it. That is .. it would make some six or sixteen works for other people, if “cut up into little stars” [3] —rolled out .. diluted with rain-water. But it is your work as it is—& if you do not care for that, I care, & shall remember to care on. It is a work full of power & significance—& I am not at all sure (not that it is wise to make comparisons but that I want you to understand how I am impressed!) I am not at all sure that if I knew you now first & only by these two productions, .. Luria & the Tragedy, .. I should not involuntarily attribute more power & a higher faculty to the writer of the last– I should, I think—yet ‘Luria’ is the completer work .. I know it very well. Such thoughts, you have, in this second part of the Tragedy! a ‘Soul’s tragedy’ indeed! No one thinks like you—other poets talk like the merest women in comparison. Why it is full of hope for both of us, to look forward & consider what you may achieve with that combination of authority over the reason & the passions, .. & that wonderful variety of the plastic power.! But I am going to tell you … Certainly I think you were right (though you know I doubted & cried out) I think now you were right in omitting the theological argument you told me of, from this second part. [4] It would clog the action .. & already I am half inclined to fancy it a little clogged in one or two places—but if this is true even, it would be easy to lighten it– Your Ogniben [5] (here is my only criticism in the way of objection) seems to me almost too wise for a crafty worldling—tell me if he is’nt! Such thoughts, for the rest, you are prodigal of! [6] That about the child, .. do you remember how you brought it to me in your first visit, nearly a year ago—. [7]

Nearly a year ago! how the time passes! If I had “done my duty” like the enchanted fish leaping on the gridiron, [8] & seen you never again after that first visit, you would have forgotten all about me by this day– Or at least, “that prude” I should be! Somewhere under your feet, I should be put down, by this day!– Yes! And my enchanted dog would be coursing “some small deer” [9]  .. some unicorn of a “golden horn,” (not the Kilmansegg gold!) [10]  .. out of hearing if I should have a mind to whistle ever so, .. but out of harm’s way perhaps besides–

Well—I do think of it sometimes as you see. Which proves that I love you better than myself by the whole width of the Heavens,—the sevenfold Heavens. Yet I think again how He of the Heavens & earth brought us together so wonderfully, holding two souls in His hand—. If my fault was in it, my will at least was not. Believe it of me, dear dearest, that I who am as clear-sighted as other women, .. & not more humble, .. (as to the approaches of common men) .. was quite resolutely blind when you came– I could not understand the possibility of that. It was too much .. too surpassing. And so it will seem to the end. The astonishment, I mean, will not cease to be. It is my own especial fairy-tale .. from the spells of which, may you be unharmed ..! How one writes & writes over & over the same thing! But day by day the same sun rises, .. over & over, & nobody is tired– May God bless you, dearest of all, & justify what has been by what shall be, .. & let me be free of spoiling any sun of yours! Shall you ever tell me in your thoughts, I wonder, to get out of your sun? No—no. Love keeps love too safe! & I have faith, you see, as a grain of mustardseed! [11]

Your own Ba–

Say how you are .. mind!

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

Postmark: PD10FN MR30 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 140.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 569–571.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Kenyon’s query was on behalf of Mrs. Coleridge (see letters 2237, note 2, and 2253, note 7).

3. Cf. Romeo and Juliet, III, 2, 22.

4. RB explained he had done so in letter 2260; he refers to it again in letter 2286.

5. In A Soul’s Tragedy, the Pope’s legate who encourages Chiappino to believe that he will become Provost, and then exposes him as a charlatan. RB describes Ogniben’s character in letter 2286.

6. For EBB’s critical notes on A Soul’s Tragedy, see vol. 11, p. 399.

7. Perhaps EBB is referring to lines 394–399 in A Soul’s Tragedy.

8. Cf. the question of the beautiful lady to the fish in the “Story of the Fisherman” in The Arabian Nights: “Fish, fish, are you in your duty?” (Jonathan Scott’s 1811 translation, 1, 107).

9. Cf. King Lear, III, 4, 138.

10. See EBB’s comment in letter 2205, note 9; and for the unicorn, see letter 2218, note 4.

11. Cf. Matthew 17:20.


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