Correspondence

2281.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 192–194.

[London]

Monday evening [30 March 1846][1]

Ah now, now, you see! Held up in that light, it is “a foolish fancy”, & unlawful, besides! [‘]‘Not on any pretence” will you do without letters .. you! And you count it among the imaginations of your heart that I could do without them better perhaps .. I .. to whom they are sun, air, & human voices, .. at the very lowest calculation? Why seriously you dont imagine that your letters are not a thousand times more to me, than letters ever in the world were before, .. since “Heaven first brought them to some wretch’s aid”?[2] If you do, that is the foolishest fancy of all–

So foolish as to be unspeakable. We will “have done with it,” as you say. I only “revert” & innocently,—I do not reproach, even ignorantly:—I am grateful rather. What you said in the letter this morning made me grateful, .. & oh, so glad! so glad!—what you said, I mean, of writing to me on every day that we did not meet on otherwise. That promise seemed to bring us nearer, (see how I think of letters!) nearer than another word could, though you went for it to the end of the universe, .. that other word. So I accept the promise as a promise of pure gold, & thank you, as pure gold too, which you are, or rather far above. Only my own dearest, you shall not write long letters .. long letters are out of the agreement .. I never feel the need of length as long as the writing is there .. just the little shred of the Koran, to be gathered up reverently .. (Inshallah!)[3]—and then, you shall not write at all when you are not well .. no, you shall not. So remember from henceforth! Shall I whip my enchanted dog[4] when he is so good & true?—not to say that the tags of the lashes (do you call them tags?) would swing round & strike me on the shoulders? Dearest, you are the best, kindest in the world—such a very, very, very “little lower than the angels”![5] If ever I could take advantage of your goodness & tenderness, to teaze & vex you, .. what should I be, I have been seriously enquiring today, head on hand, when I had sent away Luria. For I sent it away, & the Tragedy with it,[6] & I hope you will have all tomorrow morning at the furthest, .. before you get this letter. There was a note too in the parcel.[7]

As to dedications … believe me that I would not have them if I could .. that is, even if there were no dangers. I could not bear to have words from you which the world might listen to .. I mean, that to be commended of you in that way .. on that ground, .. would make me feel cold to the heart. Oh no, no, no!– It is better to have the proofsheet as I had it this morning: it is the better glory .. as glory!

“Not worthy of my pains” .. you are right! But infinitely worthy of my pleasures—such pleasure as I could gather from nothing else, except from your letters & your very presence– Do you think that anything beside in the whole world, could bring pleasure to me, as pleasure goes, .. anything like reading your poetry—? My “pains” indeed! It is a felicitous word—‘je vous en fais mon compliment.’[8]

And all this time, while I write lightly, you are not well perhaps—you were unwell when you wrote to me: you were unwell .. a little .. yesterday even. Say how you are tomorrow .. do not forget. For the cause of the unwellness, I see it, if you do not. It was the proof-correcting– I expected that you would be unwell—it is no worse than was threatened to my thoughts. The comfort is that all this wrong work is coming to an end, & that it is covenanted between us for you to rest absolutely from henceforth– Say how you are, dearest, dearest. And walk, walk– For me, I have not been down stairs. It has been cold—too cold for that, I thought.

Oh—but I wanted to say one thing! That wonderful picture, which is not much like a unicorn, or even ‘a whale’[9] .. but rather more perhaps than like me, .. you may keep for weeks or months, if you choose, .. if it continues ‘not to make you cross’.[10] Because it does not flatter, & because you do not flatter, (in such equal proportions!) the sympathy accounts for the liking .. or absence of dislike—on your part.

Now I must end. Thursday is our day, I think:—and it is easier to say ‘thursday’ on monday than on saturday .. a discovery of mine, that, as good as Faraday’s last![11]

Say how you are. Do not forget. I had to say ..... What I cannot, tonight–

But I am your own Ba

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

Postmark: 10FN10 MR31 1846 H.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 142.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 573–575.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Cf. Pope, “Eloisa to Abelard” (1717), line 51.

3. “If Allah wills!” or “God willing!”

4. See letter 2278, as well as letter 2275.

5. Psalm 8:5.

6. See note 2 in the preceding letter.

7. The parcel is described at the beginning of letter 2280.

8. “I congratulate you for it.”

9. Hamlet, III, 2, 381; for the unicorn, see letter 2218, note 4.

10. See RB’s comment in the fourth paragraph of letter 2277.

11. Michael Faraday (1791–1867) had recently discovered “the magnetic rotation of the plane of polarized light” and “the properties of diamagnetic bodies” (Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed.).

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